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Hyperion Records

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The Coronation of Leopold II (1747-1793) at Bratislava (1790).
Austrian School, 18th century, Mestske Galerie, Bratislava / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDH55479
Recording details: September 1995
Blackheath Concert Halls, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Antony Howell & Julian Millard
Release date: February 1997
Total duration: 6 minutes 52 seconds

'A great joy … a fervour of sustained inspiration. A disc which, given the chance, is likely to prove itself the quarter's best investment' (Gramophone)

'There are some lovely performances here, especially from Corydon Singers themselves … this is a fascinating disc' (BBC Record Review)

'Arguably Beethoven's first major masterpiece … superb performance, at once fresh and incisive and deeply moving' (The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs)

'It's always wonderful to come across some unfamiliar piece and relish unsuspected, undiscovered beauties … Hyperion's enterprising disc of two early cantatas is thoroughly to be recommended. A marvellous disc' (The Daily Telegraph)

'Corydon Singers and the Corydon Orchestra and five soloists all cover themselves with glory and the recording is fine' (Daily Mail)

'This issue matches its venturesome contents with well-balanced sound and fine performances' (Hi-Fi News)

'A revelatory issue, strongly recommended' (Raidió Teilifís Éireann, Ireland)

'A unique disc which Beethoven lovers will find magnetic' (Soundscapes, Australia)

Opferlied, Op 121b
author of text

Introduction  EnglishDeutsch
Although C minor may justifiably be regarded as a key that Beethoven made peculiarly his own, that of E major also seems to have had particular connotations for him. Instrumental movements such as the slow movement of the second ‘Razumovsky’ Quartet and the variation theme in the Piano Sonata, Op 109, may be placed alongside songs such as Sehnsucht, WoO146, and Abendlied unterm gestirnten Himmel, WoO150, to suggest that Beethoven turned to E major when he wished to conjure a partly religious, contemplative mood tinged with an element of melancholy or nostalgia. Thus it is not surprising to find him choosing this key for his setting of Matthisson’s Opferlied. Beethoven was evidently fascinated by this poem: in addition to the version dating from 1824 that is recorded here, there exists an 1822 version for soprano, alto and tenor soloists, chorus, and clarinets, horn, and strings, as well as an earlier independent setting for voice and piano (WoO126, composed 1794/5 but revised in 1801/2); furthermore, two canons of 1823 and 1825 set the closing words, ‘Das Schöne zu dem Guten!’. The evocation of a religious mood is obvious in the hymnic setting, and the intensity of expression required is emphasized by the performance direction ‘Langsam mit innigster Andacht’, one of many from Beethoven’s late period that face ‘inward’. But many listeners may be immediately struck by a more external reference, to yet another work in E major: Fiordiligi’s great rondo ‘Per pietà’ in Mozart’s Così fan tutte, to the opening of which Beethoven seems to make a very direct allusion at the outset. Whether or not this was intentional is impossible to say.

from notes by Nicholas Marston 1997

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