Music with Ease > Classical Music > Concert Guide: Classical Era > Overture to Coriolanus. Op. 62 (Beethoven)
Overture to Coriolanus. Op. 62
Ludwig Van Beethoven
The overture to "Coriolanus" was writen in 1807 and was first public performed in Vienna in December of the same year. It was not composed as a prelude to Shakespeare's tragedy of "Coriolanus," but to a drama by the German poet, Heinrich Josef von Collin, to whom the overture is dedicated. The story, only one passage of which is illustrated in the overture, follows history, the main incidents being the alliance which the defiant Roman patrician, Coriolanus, made against the city after his banishment, the pleading of his mother, wife, and children that he should return to his allegiance, his abandonment of the allies, and his tragic death.
The overture is written in a single movement and without an introduction. It opens with a unison in the strings, followed by a sharply sounded chord in full orchestra. After a double repetition and two more chords, the principal theme is announced, indicative of the heroic character of Coriolanus and the spirit of unrest which has possessed him. It is given out by the violins and violas and after a somewhat brief development is followed by a beautiful second theme which typifies the gentler and tenderer attributes. Later on, a third theme enters, a fugue in the violins worked up with an arpeggio in the violas and cellos, the development of which closes the first section of the movement. The second consists of a repetition of the same materials with some variations. The development leads to an intensively passionate and dramatic Coda, descriptive of the death of Coriolanus. There have been a few, if any, more finals than tragic ending of this overture, with its fragmentary allusion to the opening theme, its gradual ebbing away, and, at the last, those three soft notes which clearly are the last pulsations of the dying hero.