The 25 Essential Beethoven Recordings: The Overtures

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

If you like your Beethoven played by a big, modern orchestra – and most people still do – then you could do a lot worse than with the Vienna Philharmonic. The composer has been a staple of this institution since its founding in 1842, and in the 1980s, the ensemble was hitting a stride under the direction of Claudio Abbado.

Abbado was officially the music director of the Vienna State Opera, the VPO’s sister organization, when these overtures were recorded. He brought a certain Italian tinge to this most quintessentially Austrian of orchestras and the pieces are captured with a sense of operatic drama.

The recording features all four overtures that Beethoven wrote for the opera Fidelio, including a lyrical reading of Leonore Overture, No. 3. There are also off-the-beaten-track nuggets – the Creatures of Prometheus Overture, the Ruins of Athens Overture with its Turkish march, and the Zur Namensfeier Overture, Op. 115, a seldom-played work whose theme is related to that of the “Ode to Joy."

Beethoven: The Overtures
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Claudio Abbado, conductor
Deutsche Grammophon
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Comments [4]

So from New york, NY

I vote this piece!! Thank you WQXR for celebrating Beethoven Awareness Month!!

Nov. 21 2012 09:56 AM
Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

Beethoven's universal scope in symphonies, concertos, sonatas, overtures, chamber music generally, and song literature is so pervasive and his world consciousness and basic humanity construct an icon unparalled to and past his own era. At Juilliard, I studied his oeuvre and , in those days, all singers learned the concert rep of Beethoven , Schubert , Schumann, Wolf and Grieg, whether they would be opera singers or concert singers. So much of our treasured masterpiece, vocal and instrumental, are unknown quantities to most Americans. THANK YOU WQXR FOR CELEBRATING BEETHOVEN !!! Beethoven's symphonies are the ABCs of most essential single composers' oeuvre of the symphonic literature. Who ever having heard the Waldstein well performed can ever forget its beauty and nuanced scope of emotions. Wagner and his contemporaries and their successors all recognized the epic achievement of Beethoven. I am a romantischer Wagnerian heldentenor and director of the Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute at 418A Main Street, Boonton, NJ .I have sung four solo concerts in four solo concerts in the Isaac Stern Auditorium of Carnegie Hall. As part of my Ten Language Solo Debut concert at the Isaac Stern Auditorium of Carnegie Hall, I sang the Gott ! welch dunkel hier ! aria of Fidelio. it can be heard from the live performance on my three websites. It received rave critical notices in newspapers and magazines.

Nov. 12 2012 08:28 AM
steve lerit from morris township, NJ

Karajan recorded a wonderful set of the complete overtures in the mid- sixties before he started to get fussy about his recordings. Klemperer recorded some of the overtures which are included in his complete set of the symphonies.

Nov. 06 2012 08:20 PM
Andrew from Lower Merion, PA

Interesting pick. Other notable sets of the Beethoven overtures with modern orchestras are by conductors Kurt Masur, Nikolas Harnoncourt and David Zinman. Each of these conductors, like Abbado, recorded a complete cycle of the Beethoven symphonies as well.

Nov. 06 2012 10:00 AM

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About Beethoven Awareness Month

No composer impacted the course of Western music like Ludwig van Beethoven. The events of his life are the stuff of Romantic legend, his works permeate concert halls and he remains a cultural icon outside of classical music, turning up in movies, TV soundtracks, commercials and pop songs. Throughout November, WQXR celebrates Beethoven's work through concert broadcasts, multimedia projects, marathons and other features.