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Beyond the 9th symphony: 5 Beethoven plays you should know

In the year of the "genius of Bonn" we reviewed 5 distinctive works that go beyond the traditional choral symphony.

Beethoven portrait.

Beethoven portrait. / Photo: Pixabay - Reference Image

LatinAmerican Post | Luis Liborio

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Leer en español: 5 obras de Beethoven que van más allá de la 9ª sinfonía

Talking about Beethoven means talking about an important character not only in the history of music, but in the universal history. The so-called "genius of Bonn" lived just 57 years, enough to immortalize his name as one of the most important composers, a reference for other great geniuses of the nineteenth and twentieth century.

Despite the size of his work, Ludwig van Beethoven is usually recognized for very specific works, like his symphonies, especially the ninth and some of his piano sonatas.

Therefore, within the framework of the "Year of Beethoven", which celebrates 250 years of his birth, we propose to listen to 5 works "less famous" but important in the work of the composer. And as we mentioned at the beginning of the paragraph, his work is enormous, so the amount of "less known" works is even greater.


1. Fidelio

Finding an opera in Beethoven's catalog may come as a surprise to many, Fidelio was his only work in this genre. The work has several versions, the first released in 1805 that did not have the expected success and the last in 1814 that had better acceptance.

The story was famous before Beethoven decided to musicalize it, Léonore ou l'amor conjugal ( Leonora or conjugal love) was turned into an opera by the German Johann Simon Mayr and the Italian Ferdinando Päer. Although they had different librettos, the origin of the three operas is the same, the text of Nicolas Bouilly, as highlighted by the Spanish newspaper ABC.

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Beethoven had to resort to various revisions of the score until he reached his final version. Among the changes he made is the title, going from Leonora or conjugal love, then to Leonora and finally to Fidelio. This opera was created in an important period for the composer, a stage of stylistic changes that led him from classicism to what would be known as romanticism and what better way to do it through a story based on a real event, in later moments to the French revolution.


2. Christ on the Mount of Olives

In Beethoven's sacred work, this oratory stands out, a hybrid between various operatic styles and other musical forms such as the Mass. Gramophone magazine highlights similarities with fragments of Fidelio, The Magic Flute, and even opera bufa.

The publication allocates these characteristics to the speed with which the work was composed, but also highlights the spirit that Beethoven wanted to print to the work, a powerful reflection on destiny through Jesus, who accepts his role in God's plan. Jesus is represented by a tenor, the seraph by a soprano and Peter by a bass, in addition to the complete choir and orchestra, shows how intimate the work is.


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3. Große Fuge

Possibly the most revolutionary work of Beethoven. Towards the end of his life, he received the commission of various string quartets, with which he apparently became obsessed, for he wrote more than those requested.

According to information from the Kennedy Center, the Great Escape was destined to be part of the quartet no. 13 in B flat major as the sixth movement. After its premiere, critics and the editor agreed that this movement did not match stylistically with the rest of the quartet, so Beethoven yielded to the pressures and wrote a new movement for quartet 13.

In the end, the movement was published separately, in addition to creating an arrangement for four hands of it. For generations after Beethoven, the work was a watershed. The visionary of its construction, the mastery of the technique of the strings and the counterpoint, taken to the extreme (of its time), were little understood at the time, but demonstrate the advance of the composer's thinking in the last part of his life.

Currently, there are different versions of the Great Escape either as an original part of Quartet 13, as an independent piece or arrangements such as Felix Weingartner for string orchestra, which highlights the Kennedy Center .


4. Concerto for violin and orchestra in D major

Beethoven was an outstanding pianist, like most of the great composers of romanticism, so much of his musical production was linked to this instrument. Therefore, the Concerto for violin and orchestra in D major excels in his work.

According to Classic FM, the concert was written in a few weeks in 1806 and was premiered by the prominent violinist Franz Clement, becoming in a short time one of the classical concerts of the repertoire for violin to this day. Almost all the great violinists of the 20th century have recorded this work.

In this version, we present Anne-Sophie Mutter with the Berlin Philharmonic directed by Herbert von Karajan.


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5. The creatures of Prometheus

This work is another curiosity in Beethoven's work, because it is a ballet. This work reinforces the image of the revolutionary Beethoven and ahead of his time, his romantic ideals are seen more clearly in this prolific stage of his life.

Prometheus was undoubtedly one of the most contemplated characters in this era of transformation at all levels of society and art, so it is not surprising that Beethoven was interested in creating music around this myth in the form of dance.

According to the Cleveland Orchestra, Beethoven together with Italian choreographer Salvatore Viganó, shaped the work knowing how to read the moment that Vienna lived as a center of music, with a special ballet boom.

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