In our concert tomorrow night we feature Beethoven's powerful Egmont Overture. With a stately orchestral opening and a dramatic and powerful finale so typical of Beethoven, it is no wonder the Egmont Overture is so well-known and loved by audiences around the world, but not everyone is quite as familiar with the story behind the music.
The piece is derived from incidental music he wrote for Goethe’s play of the same name, which tells the story of Count Egmont, a statesman and general in the Spanish Netherlands in the 1500s. Count Egmont was arrested and executed for his part leading the resistance to the Inquisition; the uprising that followed eventually led to the independence of the Netherlands. John Suchet beautifully describes the way Beethoven’s music so exquisitely depicts the story in his article on the Classic FM website:
“Triple piano, slowly building to a massive fortissimo, an exhilarating passage in the major key which tells us that Count Egmont’s spirit, and all he fought for, lives on; that the people of the Netherlands ultimately threw out the rapacious invader. That – as in so much of Beethoven’s work – darkness has given way to light, freedom has triumphed over oppression.”
The Egmont Overture is one of several compositions which illustrate Beethoven's enduring passion for the concepts of freedom and social justice. There is of course the famous story of Beethoven withdrawing his dedication of his Eroica symphony to Napoleon on learning that Napolean had declared himself Emperor.
Both Schubert and Beethoven were based in Vienna, although had very different lives and little contact with each other. Unlike Schubert, Beethoven was celebrated in Vienna and across Germany and held concerts for aristocratic patrons and the public alike. His piano concertos and symphonies were held in high regard during his lifetime. Around death there was some connection between the two composers; Schubert, 27 years the junior, is said to have visited Beethoven on his deathbed, when Beethoven saw some of Schubert’s songs he said “He has a divine spark”. Schubert was a torchbearer at Beethoven’s funeral, attended by an estimated 20,000 people, and it was only a year later that he himself died aged just 31, and was buried next to Beethoven.
The New Forest Orchestra will be performing Beethoven's Egmont Overture in their concert at 7.30pm on Saturday 30 March at All Saints' Church in Milford on Sea.