Academic journal article The Beethoven Journal

Fidelio in England from 1832-1851: J. Wrey Mould's and Henry Chorley's Contemporary Accounts

Academic journal article The Beethoven Journal

Fidelio in England from 1832-1851: J. Wrey Mould's and Henry Chorley's Contemporary Accounts

Article excerpt

Editor's Preface: The following essay, "An Account of Beethoven's Fidelio," by J. Wrey Mould is one of two found at the beginning of the T. Boosey piano-vocal score of Fidelio published ca. 1850 in London. The first essay is a brief life-and-works survey of Beethoven; this second essay reports on and critiques the first performances of Fidelio in England. Original spellings and capitalization have been maintained.

THIS LYRICAL DRAMA, WHICH, AS BEFORE STATED, ALMOST exclusively engaged its great Author's attention during the years 1804 and 1805, may justly be regarded as one of the grandest monuments of his genius, bequeathed to us. It stands alone at the head of the few but select master-pieces of the German Operatic Stage; and, whether we regard the pathos of the melody, the grandeur of the treatment, or the scientific richness of the instrumentations, we may fearlessly cite it as being of itself pre-eminent.

The originally French libretto was translated into German by Joseph Sonnleithner, and afterwards modified by Friedrich Treitschke. The plot is exceedingly simple, a quality which may be considered as a high recommendation to an Opera; but though somewhat meagre in incident, there are many fine points of dramatic effect, which the Composer has worked up to the highest pitch of interest. It is as follows - Don Florestan, a Spanish nobleman, is secretly immured in the dungeons of a State-Prison near Seville, by his enemy, the Governor Don Pizarro. Florestan's wife, Leonora, who, under the assumed name of Fidelio, and in male attire, hires herself as a servant to Rocco the gaoler, first discovers his place of confinement, and is subsequently the means of restoring him to liberty. The Prisoner was supposed to be dead, but the Minister of State being informed he still lives, resolves to inspect the Prison, for the purpose of ascertaining that fact. Pizarro has no chance of escaping the detection of his villainy, but by the murder of Florestan, which he accordingly determines on, and Rocco is directed to dig a grave for him. For this purpose the gaoler descends into the subterranean dungeons of the Prison, accompanied by Leonora, who offers to assist him in the performance of his task. Pizarro enters disguised, and attempts to stab Florestan; Leonora throws herself before her husband, and averts the blow. A flourish of trumpets announces the arrival of the Minister, and the denouement consists in the disgrace of Pizarro, and the deliverance of Florestan.

The fortunes which befel this extraordinary Work and its author till it was rounded into the form in which we now enjoy it, were more singular than perhaps any production of this kind before or since, ever experienced. It was the Overture in the first place that put Beethoven into a painful situation. It was finished, but the Composer himself was not thoroughly satisfied with it, and therefore agreed that it should be first tried by a small Orchestra, at Prince Lichnowsky's. There, it was unanimously pronounced by a knot of connoisseurs to be too light, and not sufficiently expressive of the nature of the Work; consequently it was laid aside, and never made its appearance again in Beethoven's life-time. M. Tobias Haslinger, of Vienna, to whom this Overture was transferred, among other things, by his predecessor, published it some years since numbered Op. 138. The second Overture (in C Major, like the first) with which the Opera was first performed upon the stage, is indisputably the greatest of the four Overtures that Beethoven wrote to Fidelio, the one best characterizing the subject. But it was too difficult in the part of the Wind-instruments, which always executed their task to the vexation of the Composer; it was therefore obliged to give way to a third (that published by Breitkopf and Härtel), which has the same Motivo in the Introduction as also in the Allegro movements with small variations: but upon the whole, is totally different from the second composed in 1806. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.