Ludwig van Beethoven: Coriolan Overture

Context

Composed in 1807, Ludwig van Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture was used in Heinrich Joseph von Collin’s tragedy of the same name. The overture received its concert premiere in 1807 at a private concert for Prince Franz Joseph von Lobkowitz. At the same concert Beethoven also premiered his Fourth Symphony and Fourth Piano Concerto.

The Music

In an attempt to not give away too much of the plot, Beethoven depicts some of the overarching themes in the overture. The main theme represents Coriolanus’s resolve and war-like character, whereas the opposing lyrical theme represents the feelings of his mother. Coriolanus, unable to battle his mother’s pleas, gives in to her tenderness. However, he cannot turn back having led an army to the gates of Rome, so instead he kills himself. This differs from Shakespeare’s story on the same person, where he is murdered.

The opening Beethovian chords are striking and bold, which represents the war element of the story. Beethoven’s rich build up of textures and his dramatic use of dynamics makes the overture an intense experience. The opposing lyrical theme in Eb sees Beethovem’s softer side prevail, before Coriolanus’ voice is heard once more.

Predominantly led by the strings, the brass can be heard supporting the loud sections. The woodwinds are also used as solo instruments, as they decorate the main melodies. Beethoven’s orchestrations for this overture showcases his creativity and ability to keep you engaged for 9 minutes.

The opening chords are repeated again towards the end of the overture and then the dynamic drops and very surprisingly the overture ends quietly.

 

Final Thoughts

Ludwig van Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture covers themes of war, love, family and tragedy. Although it doesn’t give too much away for the show, it certainly gives you a good indication of what might be to come.

 

Happy Reading!

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You might also enjoy… Ludwig van Beethoven: Egmont Overture

 

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