Magazine article Musical Times

Letters

Magazine article Musical Times

Letters

Article excerpt

Beethoven and Hérold Listening to a new CD of Herold 'sLa Somnambule recently, I was astonished to discover that in Act 2, at the point where Thérèse wakes up in Saint-Rambert's bed, Hérold uses flute and strings to quote the 'Dance of Pan' from Beethoven's Die Geschöpfe des Prometheus (where it figures on oboe and clarinet). This is altogether mysterious, since Beethoven was a closed book to Parisians at the time. Even Cherubini, more learned than most, described the symphonies as 'devergondage' and professed himself bored by the late style. If the passage in question had been a 'melodie parlante', it would have needed an accompanying text or at least some narrative relevance to the situation in hand. The resurrection of Prometheus after his stabbing by Melpomene doesn't fit the bill at all, unlike the preceding allusion to a romance entitled 'Dormez done, mes cheres amours'.

It has occurred to me that the 'Dance of Pan' might have been detached from the ballet and fitted with French words; or that Beethoven might have used a French folksong at that point of his score. If anybody versed in the romances of the 19th century could explain this, I should be most grateful. …

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