Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Beethoven - The Menuhin Festival Orchestra ‎– The Creatures Of Prometheus, Op. 43

This is my post from this week's Tuesday Blog.

This week’s Cover 2 Cover share is a 1970 Angel LP of Beethoven’s 1801 ballet music for Die Geschöpfe des Prometheus (The Creatures of Prometheus), following the libretto of Salvatore Viganò. It is the only full length ballet by Beethoven.

The original scenario of the ballet is lost, making it difficult to establish the precise context of many of the sixteen numbers of the score and leading to different treatments of the music by various choreographers since. Nevertheless a broad outline of the story can be gathered from a surviving theatre-bill for the first performance at the Hofburgtheater on 28th March 1801:

The basis of this allegorical ballet is the fable of Prometheus. The Greek philosophers, by whom he was known, allude to him thus—they depict him as a lofty soul who drove ignorance from the people of his time, and gave them manners, customs, and morals. As the result of this conception, two statues that have been brought to life are introduced… and these, through the power of harmony, are made sensitive to the passions of human life. Prometheus leads them to Mount Parnassus in order that Apollo, the deity of the arts, may instruct them. Apollo gives them as teachers Amphion, Arion and Orpheus to instruct them in music; Melpomene to teach them tragedy; Thalia, comedy; Terpsichore and Pan, the latest Shepherd’s Dance which the latter has invented, and Bacchus, the Heroic Dance of which he was the originator.
The punishment of Prometheus, who had stolen fire from Olympus to bring to life his “creations” and was, at the command of Zeus, the King of the Gods, chained to a rock in the Caucasus, where his liver was daily eaten by vultures, is omitted.

Rarely performed as a complete ballet, we are familiar with the overture and Bacchus’ Heroic dance in the finale - which Beethoven reused later as the “theme” for the fourth movement of his Eroica symphony and his Eroica Variations for piano.

As I’ve opined before in these pages, ballet music sometimes stands alone well in the concert hall without dancers, though many composers typically assemble suites of highlights from their ballets for concert use. Maybe Beethoven should have followed that model; as a stand-alone piece of concert music, Prometheus lies somewhere between a curiosity and a piece of programmatic music (in the romantic vein) with a hard-to-follow story line.

Still, it’s worth the 50-odd minute investment. The performance is light and velvety, which is in itself something of a departure from the traditional German sound we typically associate with this composer.

Happy Listening!

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770–1827) 
Die Geschöpfe des Prometheus, op. 43
Ballet in two acts with an overture, after Greek mythology

The Menuhin Festival Orchestra
Yehudi Menuhin, conducting
Angel Records - S-36641
Format: Vinyl, LP, Stereo

Details - https://www.discogs.com/Beethoven-Ye...elease/3386479

Internet Archivehttps://archive.org/details/TheCreaturesOfPrometheusBallet

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