Hyperion Records

Cantata on the accession of Emperor Leopold II, WoO88
composer
circa 1790
author of text
probable librettist

Recordings
'Beethoven: Early Cantatas' (CDH55479)
Beethoven: Early Cantatas
Pre-order CD by post £5.50 CDH55479  Helios (Hyperion's budget label) August 2014 Release  
Details
No 1. Recitativo con coro: Er schlummert … schlummert!
Track 8 on CDH55479 [4'19] Helios (Hyperion's budget label) August 2014 Release
No 2. Aria: Fliesse, Wonnezähre, fliesse!
No 3. Recitativo: Ihr staunt, Völker der Erde!
Track 10 on CDH55479 [0'42] Helios (Hyperion's budget label) August 2014 Release
No 4. Recitativo – Terzetto: Wie bebt mein Herz vor Wonne! – Ihr, die Joseph ihren Vater nannten
No 5. Coro: Heil! Stürzet nieder, Millionen

Cantata on the accession of Emperor Leopold II, WoO88
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Leopold was elected Holy Roman Emperor on 30 September 1790 and crowned at Frankfurt on 9 October, with the Elector Maximilian Franz in attendance; thus the ‘Leopold’ Cantata must date from this period. Like its companion, it was never performed in Beethoven’s lifetime; but the aria ‘Fliesse, Wonnezähre, fliesse!’, with its obbligato flute and cello parts and its virtuoso vocal line, was clearly written with specific performers in mind. Throughout the 1780s in Bonn Beethoven had the opportunity to hear a wide range of opera, and this aria—by far the most substantial number in the cantata—is evidently his interpretation of the full-dress heroic opera seria coloratura aria, complete with large-scale orchestral ritornelli. It was presumably also his operatic experience that led him, in this Cantata, to include an ensemble number for the three soloists.

The subject matter of the ‘Leopold’ Cantata necessarily dictated a different overall plan to that of the ‘Joseph’ work; in particular, the structural prop of a framing chorus of mourning was not an option here. The ‘Leopold’ Cantata opens with a recitative narrating the death of Joseph and the emergence of Leopold as his successor. Although harmonically wide ranging, this recitative moves from A flat to C major and thus relates directly to the overall key (C minor) of the ‘Joseph’ Cantata. In fact one might argue plausibly for a tonal ‘narrative’ progression (C minor to C major) equating to the textual narrative that links the two works; such a reading inevitably calls again to mind the Fifth Symphony, with its identical tonal progression from C minor to major. The relatively underplayed opening to the Cantata—it begins as it were in medias res—allowed for considerable weight to accrue to the final chorus of praise. Here Beethoven chose the traditionally bright, celebratory key of D for a multisectional finale (Un poco allegro e maestoso – Allegro vivace – Allegro non tanto) that begins and ends in the relatively uncommon 12/8 metre. Not only in its multisectional nature, its key, and its role as the culminating point in a psychological progression from doubt and sorrow to hope and joy, but also in its attempt to find musical expression for universal rejoicing (note particularly the ungrateful setting—twice!—of ‘Erschallet Jubelchöre, dass laut die Welt es höre!’ to a repeated soprano high A), this finale seems prophetic of that of the Ninth Symphony. And in setting there Schiller’s words ‘Ihr stürzt nieder, Millionen?’ would not Beethoven, by that time unquestionably the greatest living composer, have remembered putting music to ‘Stürzet nieder, Millionen, an dem rauchenden Altar!’ an artistic lifetime ago in Bonn?

from notes by Nicholas Marston © 1997

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