Overture to The Creatures of Prometheus Op. 43 (1801)
Ludwig von Beethoven (1770 – 1827)
Beethoven wrote his first ballet as a ghost writer for Count Waldstein. His second, The Creatures of Prometheus, was his first real work for the stage and appeared after his first two piano concertos and first symphony in which he had demonstrated the dramatic potential of musical language. So, when the celebrated Neapolitan choreographer Salvatore Viganò was commissioned to write a ballet for the empress Maria Theresa, rather than writing the music himself he commissioned Beethoven to prepare a suitably dramatic score. Based on the Greek myth of Prometheus, the ballet depicts two animated statues who receive instruction in the arts, music, tragedy, comedy and dance. Initially well received, today the ballet is rarely performed, with only the overture being regularly heard.
The striking opening dissonant chords set the scene for the subsequent sudden changes in both key and dynamics that provide the work’s dramatic impact.
Performed: 6 & 13 Sep 2015, 11 Nov 2015