L.V. Beethoven: Overture to Egmont

Lionel Stoleru will join me in a special concert July 7th 2014 in the Henry Crown Auditorium in Jerusalem where he will conduct Beethoven’s Egmont Overture and the Israel Premiere of his own composition “The Jewish Symphony” in the first half of the concert and |I will conduct Haydn’s Theresa Mass, on the second half. I have invited him to write about Beethoven’s Egmont overture.


After the graceful  genius of Mozart came the passionate genius of Beethoven, which opened the century of  romantism all over Europe.

Romantic composers frequently found their inspiration in romantic littérature ; Beethoven, whos not very interested in opera or theater,made an exception when he discovered the theater play of Goethe, « Egmont », for which he wrote a complete stage music.He sent it to Goethe in 1811 with these words « Your magnificent Egmont, which I thought through you,has moved me as soon as I read it »

Goethe did not pay any attention to Beethoven : he received him once in 1812, from the request of one friend, and the meeting was very « cold ». Later on, when Beethoven sent him his composition «  Quiet sea, happy journey » from one of his poems, Goethe did not even answer.

History  made the revenge : nobody plays any more the theater play of Goethe, and everybody plays the Beethoven overture of Egmont !

There is a reason for that : it seems to me that this piece is, in ten minutes, the synthesis of all Beethoven : emotion, passion, love hope, the sequence of all these feelings can be followed. Technically speaking, we also find the two characteristics of Beethoven’s compositions

       - contrasts , with piano subito, forte subito, fortissimo , sforzando, forte piano

       -lengthy crescendos, which cover a great number of bars from pianissimo to fortissimo

Introduction, solemn, powerful, rythmic, sets the stage of the drama. Between the ff bars, the woods complain pianissimo six notes. What do they mean ?

The answer comes in the Allegro : these six notes become a passionate theme in the cellos first, in all the strings afterwards : the flemish citizens with the Count Egmont  fight against the spanish dictature of the Duke of Alba.

Then comes one piece of Beethoven characteristic style : two bars,dolce, for the clarinet, two bars, dolce for the flute, two bars, dolce, for oboe and flute, and then, suddenly, one fortissimo tutti. When I conduct it, I try, instead of preparing the orchestra to the contrast , to stay dolce until the very, very last second before the ff, in order to keep the surprise effect.

The drama goes on in the music, Egmont is made prisoner  and sentenced to death : a single note ff from the strings tells that his head is cut. Then, a silence.

The final Coda is more optimistic : at some time, freedom will win : that is what trumpets and trombones are announcing.


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חוויה קלאסית בינלאומית

ADA PELLEG, conductor

Israeli conductor Ada Pelleg, Music director of the Galilee Music Center is an inspiring and powerful voice on the Israeli music scene who passionately believes in music as a vehicle for bringing the different ethnic groups of Israel together.

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Ada pelleg
Address: Zfat, Israel
E: info@adapelleg.com

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