The 25 Essential Beethoven Recordings: The Overtures

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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
Available at