Day 264: Arias

BeethovenCD69jpgThe first time I listened to this CD of arias I said – and I quote – “Ugh.”

The second time, I said, “Ugh.”

The third time, I said, “Ugh.”

By the fourth or fifth time I said, “Ugh” and “Hmmm.”

I doubt I’ll ever like arias. The voices are like fingernails on a chalk board.

German fingernails on a chalkboard.

But after a half dozen or so listens, I got used to it.

I won’t say I appreciated it. But I got used to it.

Well, maybe I appreciated it.


The performers on today’s CD:

Hanne-Lore Kuhse soprano

Eberhard Buchner tenor

Siegfried Vogel bass

Staatskapelle Berlin

Arthur Apelt conductor

Day 262: The Creatures of Prometheus, Ritterballett

BeethovenCD67The Creatures of Prometheus?

The heck is that?

Or, the heck are they?

I swear, the titles of Beethoven’s compositions are getting truly interesting, if not bizarre.

I’ll let my fingers do the Googling to find out what this 19-track CD is all about.

Here’s what its entry on Wikipedia has to say:

The Creatures of Prometheus (German: Die Geschöpfe des Prometheus), Op. 43, is a ballet composed in 1801 by Ludwig van Beethoven following the libretto of Salvatore Viganò. The ballet premiered on 28 March 1801 at the Burgtheater in Vienna and was given 28 performances.

The overture to the ballet is part of the concert repertoire. Beethoven based the fourth movement of his Eroica symphony and his Eroica Variations (piano) on the main theme of the last movement of the ballet.

A ballet. That means no singing, right?

According to the back of the CD sleeve, these are the performers on today’s CD:

Tracks 1-11

Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra
David Zinman conductor

Tracks 12-19

Staatskapelle Berlin
Gunther Herbig conductor

The music is excellent.

Yet, I cannot figure out what the creatures of Prometheus are. Or why that is this ballet’s title.

And why have a ballet called “The Creatures of Prometheus,” anyway? Sounds kind of like dancing to The Creature From the Black Lagoon to me.

But what do I know?

Beethoven was 31 when he composed this delightful ballet.

That’s what I know.

Track 3 (“Maestoso andante – Adagio – Andante quasi allegretto”) is beautiful. Nice harp playing. Beautiful melody. A very fine piece of music using instruments I haven’t heard much of so far.

The second part of today’s CD is Continue reading

Day 261: Egmont


That’s an interesting title.

Or is it a name?

Time to let my fingers do the Googling.

Here’s what I discovered on Wikipedia:

Egmont, Op. 84, by Ludwig van Beethoven, is a set of incidental music pieces for the 1787 play of the same name by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. It consists of an overture followed by a sequence of nine additional pieces for soprano, male narrator and full symphony orchestra. (The male narrator is optional; he is not used in the play, and he does not appear in all recordings of the complete incidental music.) Beethoven wrote it between October 1809 and June 1810, and it was premiered on 15 June 1810.

The subject of the music and dramatic narrative is the life and heroism of a 16th-century Dutch nobleman, the Count of Egmont. It was composed during the period of the Napoleonic Wars, at a time when the French Empire had extended its domination over most of Europe. Beethoven had famously expressed his great outrage over Napoleon Bonaparte’s decision to crown himself Emperor in 1804, furiously scratching out his name in the dedication of the Eroica Symphony. In the music for Egmont, Beethoven expressed his own political concerns through the exaltation of the heroic sacrifice of a man condemned to death for having taken a valiant stand against oppression. The Overture later became an unofficial anthem of the 1956 Hungarian revolution.


The Overture (“Ouverture,” as it’s listed on the back of the CD) is amazing music. Dynamic. Heroic. Melodic.

The performers on today’s CD are:

Elisabeth Breul soprano

Horst Schulze speaker

Staatskapelle Berlin

Heinz Bongartz conductor

Unfortunately, as soon as the singing begins, Egmont loses me. Elisabeth Breul’s voice is the kind of soprano I don’t particularly enjoy. Clearly, she is very talented. But her tone rubs me the wrong way.

The music is superb, however. It would be a tremendously enjoyable CD if not for the singing and speaking parts. The speaker’s voice is fine. It’s just German. And I don’t speak German.

The recording was made in 1970. But it’s crystal clear and vibrant.

Beethoven was 39 going on 40 when he composed Egmont.