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3rd Symphony Violin Concerto Triple Concerto Chorale Fantasy Missa Solemnis String Quartet 14 Overture Egmont
Overtures Leonore and Fidelio Fidelio: the complete text of the 2 acts Piano sonata 28 Piano sonatas 30 and 32 Eroica variations Diabelli Variations Tarpeja Triumphal March

TitleThe overtures for Leonore and Fidelio, by Jean-François Lucarelli

Beethoven wrote just one opera, but for this opera he wrote at least five overtures, of which only four remain.

The score of FidelioThe overture Leonore n°1, published under the number opus 138, but written in 1804, would, without doubt, have been the one which opened the first performance of the opera. As was practised at the time, the overture would set the mode of the work which was to follow. However Beethoven placed, between the exposition of the theme and the reprise, a short adagio, in the place of the development, which picked up the famous theme of Florestan in his dungeon. This theme is common to three of the Leonore overtures.

The composer was not, however, satisfied with this overture - the contrasts were not sufficiently indicated. It was judged by the critics as «too simple and too far from the theme of the work». It was very rich music, bursting with energy and originality.

The overture begins with a sombre chord and a long, slow introduction. But we don't find, as in the two following overtures, the tragic descent into Florestan's dungeon. An impressive crecendo drives and accelerates without ceasing, towards the principal theme. Florestan's theme therefore enters in the guise of a development, following the reprise of the allegro. Also note, at the beginning of the coda, a crecendo on the principal theme, which was no doubt to later influence Rossini.

The Second Overture, written immediately afterwards and published, like the opera, under the number opus 72, marks the arrival of new conceptions. It corresponds exactly with the rolling of action. Situated in the development, the culminating points of dramatic evolution reflect exactly the souls of the two principal characters, and exault in the coda, after which the trumpet call introduces the radiant and heroic characters in the Florestan theme.

The reprise was a failure because, in respecting the theme of the opera, there was no question of going back to the ambience of the exposition. Wagner really liked this overture, but it wasn't appreciated by the public at the time.

V. R. Grüner, 1815...To appreciate this music, one has to ignore the overture number 3. The musical material is identical, but the number 2 is overall a dramatic masterpiece, an opera without words and, if compared, can seem like a draft for the number 3.

Without the reprise, the sections are elongated: the introduction is marked with impressive contrasts and particularly long silences. And in the development, the form takes on the complexity comment to the great works of this Master.

When Beethoven reshuffled this work which became opus 72 b, re-established equality of form. This magnificent work became a melodic and poetic variation of the previous.

We now find, after the trumpet call, a reprise of the allegro, which debarks like an irrepresible surge towards the gaiety of the presto. Without a doubt one of the composer's most beautiful works.

More must be said of the principal theme of the exposition, where the melody is played 'piano', and simply by the violins and cellos, but with an extraordinary force - «strong like the 'piano' of Leonore 3», as once said a great conductor.

Mendelssohn introduced this overture in the second act of the opera. This practise has been conserved right up until today.

Much later in 1814, on the occasion of the reshuffling of the complete opera, Beethoven re-wrote the overture of « Fidelio ». Napoleon beaten, Paris occupied by the allies of the Emperor, Fidelio seemed to be a symbol of a victorious fight over tyrranny: the patriotic euphoria of Vienna explosed in this definitive overture, which took not a single theme from the opera but which left the public with the happy question of drama. The calls of the wind section, much re-inforced in this version, convinced the crowds of a festival of liberty. This announced the finale of the 9th symphony.

Although sometimes considered as unimportant, Beethoven's overtures allowed the composer to introduce new ideas and ambiences into his music. And whether in Leonore or Florestan, or indeed Egmont or Coriolan, it's without doubt that in these overtures Beethoven expressed himself.

Jean-François Lucarelli

- Le Monde de la Musique, edition Le Sphinx, Brussels
- Hubert Daschner, les ouvertures de Beethoven by Karajan
- Philippe Mougeot, les ouvertures de Beethoven by Daniel Harding.

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