February 16, 2018
Ludwig van Beethoven: Coriolan Overture, Op. 62
Ludwig van Beethoven Born in Bonn, Germany, December 15 or 16, 1770; died in Vienna, Austria, March 26, 1827
Coriolan Overture, op. 62
This is the first great work in a genre now known as the ‘concert overture.’ It was a new genre in 1807 when Beethoven wrote the piece for a popular Viennese play called Coriolan by the Austrian Heinrich Joseph von Collin. It filled the need he perceived in his own catalogue for a concert opener and was, indeed, first performed at a subscription concert in March of that year. Beethoven’s overture – like the Egmont overture – is a psychological portrait of an individual of towering power and complexity. Beethoven’s Coriolanus is “a man of untameable force, unsuited for a hypocrite’s humiliation,” Wagner acutely noted after hearing the overture. As it begins, the music roars, and Beethoven is in his most C minor of moods. But he does far more than portray a one-dimensional hero. Coriolanus is filled with inner conflict and we hear this in the music as the Coriolanus theme comes into conflict with a new theme associated with Volumnia, his mother. Beethoven identifies with the pride and inner contradiction within Coriolanus, and with his ultimately tragic decision.
- Program note © 2018 Keith Horner