LANSDOWNE

SYMPHONY

ORCHESTRA

Beethoven Egmont Overture Program Notes

We  can’t  appropriate  Beethoven’s  exact  politics  (although  thousands  have  tried),  but  we  can  be  certain  he  identified  with  the  concept  of  freedom  (setting  Schiller’s  Ode  to  Joy,  with  its  defeat  to  the  lying  brood  of  undeserving  crowns).  Egmont  is  no  exception,  Beethoven  enthusiastically  writing  incidental  music  for  the  1809  Vienna  production  of  Goethe’s  1788  play.  The  Dutch  Count  Egmont  attempts  to  overthrow  the  Spanish,  but  is  betrayed.    Aside  from  the  music’s  frequently  somber  but  heroic  tone,  there  are  several  things  to  listen  for.    The  Overture’s  opening  rhythm  is  actually  that  of  the  Sarabande,  a  traditional  Spanish  Dance  (as  representing  cultural  oppression  of  the  Dutch).      Following  Egmont’s  execution  (depicted  with  vehemence  after  the  last  of  the  Sarabande  rhythms),  a  short  prayer-like  woodwind  passage  leads  into  a  glorious  ending,  perhaps  signifying  his  ultimate  success,  since  his  execution  led  to  the  eventual  overthrow  of  Holland’s  Spanish  rulers.