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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Symphony No. 10 and late overtures

Symphony No. 10 (1st movement)
Gratulations-Menuett WoO 3
Overture ‘The Ruins of Athens’ Op. 113
Overture ‘Nameday’ Op.115
Overture ‘King Stephen’ Op. 117
Overture ‘Fidelio’ Op. 72
Funeral march from ‘Leonora Prohaska’ WoO 96
Overture ‘The Consecration of the House’ Op. 124
Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra/Douglas Bostock
Rec. The House of Music, Padubice, Czech Republic, 5-6 April 2003 DDD

The ClassicO label have released a recording of Beethoven’s late orchestral works which features the first movement of the Symphony No.10 as realised by Dr. Barry Cooper.

During Beethoven’s later years he composed several orchestral works which, with the exception of the symphonies, are largely unknown. Virtually all the orchestral pieces composed during the period of his last three symphonies from 1811 to 1827 are contained on this release; the exception being Wellington’s Victory Op. 91. The majority of these have associations with works that Beethoven wrote for the stage.

We are told that whilst composing his ‘Choral’ Symphony No. 9 Beethoven also wrote several motifs for his projected Symphony No. 10 (1st movement) later adding more sketches up to his death in 1827. It appears that Beethoven’s assorted sketches became scattered at various locations. The work was virtually ignored until the 1980s when musicologist Dr. Barry Cooper arranged and realised the sketches with the primary intention of providing a performing version of what Beethoven had in mind.

The Gratulations-Menuett WoO 3 was sketched by Beethoven in 1822 as a possible finale for a symphony and he later re-worked the music into a short orchestral Minuet. Composed for a one-act singspiel the Overture ‘The Ruins of Athens’ Op. 113 was composed in 1811. The overture is a portrayal of Mercury and Minerva lamenting the loss of culture in nineteenth century Athens as compared with the Athens of ancient Greece. The Overture ‘Nameday’ Op.115 is Beethoven’s only concert-overture. He composed the work over several years and described the score as an ‘overture for any occasion’. In 1811 Beethoven composed the Overture ‘King Stephen’ Op. 117 for the opening of a Budapest theatre. The singspiel celebrates the victory of Hungary’s great benefactor, King Stephen, over the nation’s enemies.

By the time Beethoven had completed his only opera Fidelio in 1814 he had already composed three overtures for the score (Leonora Nos. 1-3). The Overture ‘Fidelio’ Op. 72 became the fourth overture to the opera but it was not quite ready in time for first performance. In 1815 Beethoven composed some incidental music for Friedrich Duncker’s stage work Leonora Prohaska. Ironically the work never reached the stage and is now lost. The Funeral march from ‘Leonora Prohaska’ WoO 96 from the incidental music is an orchestral arrangement that Beethoven made from a movement originally written for his Piano Sonata Op. 26. The final work on this release is the Overture ‘The Consecration of the House’ Op. 124 composed in 1822. This is a reworking of his Overture ‘The Ruins of Athens’ Op. 113. With many noticeable influences of Handel the work celebrates the opening of the Josephstadt Theatre in Vienna.

The Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra give really fine performances. Under their principal guest conductor Douglas Bostock the orchestra offer an abundance of enthusiasm and undoubted energy. In Dr. Cooper’s realisation of the Symphony No. 10 (1st movement) the players are particularly successful in contrasting the gentle and lyrical episodes against the stormy and exuberant passages. I would single out the Overture ‘The Ruins of Athens’ Op. 113 which is given a strong and vital performance by the Czech Chamber Philharmonic that really brings out the sense of celebration in the score.

The recorded sound is acceptable and the concise annotation from Barry Cooper is interesting and informative. Fascinating and rewarding late orchestral works from Beethoven. Worth exploring!

Michael Cookson

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