About this Recording
2.110328 - MUSICAL JOURNEY (A) - ITALY: A Musical Tour of Tuscany, Rome and Perugia (NTSC)
English 

A Musical Visit to Arezzo, Montalcino, Lake Bracciano, Perugia and Rome
With music by Ludwig van Beethoven

 

CHAPTER 1

Arezzo: Landscape

The site of an earlier Etruscan settlement, Arezzo is built on a hill that overlooks countryside of vineyards, woods and fields, some fifty miles south-east of Florence and watered by the Arno. The town itself was the birthplace of Maecenas, friend of the Emperor Augustus and patron of the arts.

Music Beethoven: Symphony No 7 in A major, Op 92 – I. Poco sostenuto – Vivace

Beethoven completed his Symphony No 7 in A major in the spring of 1812, but sketches for some of the material used occur as early as 1809, the year of Haydn’s death. In spite of his deafness Beethoven, in his forties, was at the height of his powers, but the new symphony was greeted by some contemporary critics as the work of a drunkard. At the first performance, however, in December 1813, the work was received with considerable enthusiasm. The occasion was a patriotic one, a concert organized by Maelzel, inventor of the new metronome, in aid of the wounded at the battle of Hanau, and the programme included Beethoven’s new Battle Symphony, Wellington’s Victory, a programme piece in which some of the most distinguished musicians of the day took part. Repetitions of the same programme proved much less successful, although the Seventh Symphony was popular enough in Vienna. It is scored for pairs of flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, trumpets and drums, with strings. The first movement of the symphony opens with a massive introduction, recalling the beginning of Mozart’s Symphony No 39. A Vivace follows that has all the exuberance of a peasant dance.

CHAPTER 2

Toscana (Tuscany): Landscape

Toscana (Tuscany) is the central region of Italy. The hillsides have proved fertile ground for the cultivation of grapes, producing wines like Chianti. The region also produces olives and corn. It is seen here partly through the morning mists.

Music Beethoven: Symphony No 7 in A major, Op 92 – II. Allegretto

The slow movement of Symphony No 7, marked Allegretto, suggests in its pervasive dactylic rhythmic figure, the rhythm so often favoured by Beethoven’s younger contemporary, Franz Schubert. Here, however, the hints of a sombre march suit well the patriotic mood of Vienna in 1812.

CHAPTER 3

Montalcino: Landscape

The walled town of Montalcino overlooks a fertile landscape of gently sloping hills. It is famous for its wine, Brunello.

Music Beethoven: Symphony No 7 in A major, Op 92 – III. Presto

The F major Scherzo is again dominated by a particular rhythmic figure, modified in the contrasting Trio, which is repeated a second time and seems about to emerge once more, to be interrupted by the brusque final chords of the movement.

CHAPTER 4

Rome: Lake Bracciano

Lago di Bracciano (Lake Bracciano) is some twenty miles north-east of Rome and is second in size only to Lake Bolsena. The lake itself is volcanic in origins.

Music Beethoven: Symphony No 7 in A major, Op 92 – IV. Allegro con brio

The final Allegro con brio is in the original key of A major, but with harmonic surprises. The whole movement moves to a great climax, a mighty conclusion to a symphony that had made astonishingly powerful use to relatively limited and conventional resources.

CHAPTER 5

Rome and Landscape

Glimpses of Rome show classical and Christian monuments, figures of Marcus Aurelius and of Hadrian’s beloved Antinous and his villa at Tivoli. Characteristic sights in Rome are the River Tiber, and the bridge crossing to the Castel Sant’Angelo, intended as the mausoleum of Hadrian. Outside the city are the hills and fields of Lazio (Latium).

Music Beethoven: Overture: Coriolanus, Op 62

In 1807 Beethoven wrote an overture to the play Coriolan, the work of the dramatist Heinrich von Collin, brother of the philosopher employed as tutor to Napoleon’s son, the Duke of Reichstadt. Collin’s verse plays on historical subjects enjoyed considerable popularity in Vienna, where their topical patriotism found a ready response. In Coriolan he treated the story of the Roman general Coriolanus, victorious in war, but contemptuous of the common people. Failing to win election to the consulship, he is dissuaded from attacking and destroying his own country by the pleading of his wife and his mother. The treatment of the same subject by Shakespeare is, of course, much better known than Heinrich von Collin’s play, a work that achieved only ephemeral success. The first performances of Coriolan in Vienna had been given in 1801, with music arranged by the Abbé Stadler from Mozart’s Idomeneo. Beethoven’s overture does not seem to have been used for the only recorded performance of the play in Vienna in 1807, but was certainly played in that year. Its first theme suggests Coriolanus himself, its second the pleading of his wife.

CHAPTER 6

Perugia

An important political, artistic and commercial centre, the ancient city of Perugia was an Etruscan foundation, eventually yielding to Rome. During the Renaissance it was the centre of Umbrian painting. The cathedral dates from the 15th century and has an outside pulpit, constructed in 1425 for St Bernardine, and a bronze statue of Pope Julius III. The city has many historical churches and public buildings and characteristic structures line some of its narrow streets.

Music Beethoven: Overture: The Consecration of the House, Op 124

The Overture, The Consecration of the House, was commissioned for the opening of the Josefstadt Theater in 1822, under the management of Beethoven’s friend Carl Friedrich Hensler. The plan was to use the music for The Ruins of Athens, which Beethoven had written, after all, for the opening of a theatre, but in Pesth, for which it had been designed, it had been the second part of a double bill. A new overture was therefore needed and Beethoven’s music, written in Handelian style, with the traditional Baroque contrapuntal element, was handed to the musicians on the afternoon of the performance, leaving relatively little time for necessary rehearsal and correction. On this occasion Beethoven himself, though now completely deaf, and eccentric in his isolation from society, conducted from the keyboard, assisted by the Josefstadt Kapellmeister on one side of him and his pupil and friend Schindler on the other. The event, the composer’s last association with the theatre, was not a musical success, although Beethoven was greeted with great enthusiasm by a public that had begun to recognise something of his achievement.

Keith Anderson

Recordings

Symphony No 7: Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra cond. Richard Edlinger [Naxos 8.550180]
Overtures: Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra cond. Stephen Gunzenhauser [Naxos 8.550072]


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