The Coriolan Overture (German: Ouvertüre Coriolan, Op. 62) is a composition written by Ludwig van Beethoven in 1807 for Heinrich Joseph von Collin's 1804 tragedy Coriolan, about the ancient Roman leader Gaius Marcius Coriolanus, and not, as is sometimes claimed, for William Shakespeare's play Coriolanus.
The structure and themes of the overture follow the play very generally. The main C minor theme represents Coriolanus' resolve and war-like tendencies (he is about to invade Rome), while the more tender E-flat major theme represents the pleadings of his mother to desist. Coriolanus eventually gives in to tenderness, but since he cannot turn back having led an army of his former enemies to Rome's gates, he kills himself. (In Shakespeare's play, on the other hand, he is murdered.)
The overture was premiered in March 1807 at a private concert of the home of Prince Franz Joseph von Lobkowitz. The Symphony No. 4 in B-flat and the Piano Concerto No. 4 in G were premiered in that same concert.
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Two of the most highly regarded recordings are of Wilhelm Furtwängler conducting the Berliner Philharmoniker (1943) and Fritz Reiner conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1959. Sir Roger Norrington has created a notable period performance version with his recording of the overture with the London Classical Players.
Other notable recordings include those by Herbert von Karajan with the Berlin Philharmonic, Karl Böhm with the Vienna Philharmonic, Carlos Kleiber conducting the Bavarian State Orchestra and Bruno Walter conducting the Columbia Symphony. The work was a staple of Arturo Toscanini's repertoire, and six recordings under Toscanini's baton are extant as well as one recording of rehearsal excerpts.
- Steinberg, Michael. "The Symphony: a listeners guide". p. 19-24. Oxford University Press, 1995.
- Furtwängler conducts Beethoven: Album site from MusicandArts.com
- Album microsite from Deutschegrammophon.com
- Joseph Kerman/Alan Tyson, "Ludwig van Beethoven", Grove Music Online, ed. L. Macy (Accessed 21 August 2007), (subscription access)
- Coriolan Overture: Free scores at the International Music Score Library Project (includes original manuscript)
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