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.