BEETHOVEN Egmont Incidental Music. The Consecration of the House
It is something of an irony that Goethe conceived his five-act prose tragedy Egmont to include music but provided none, while the incidental music that Beethoven later provided (with Goethe’s knowledge and approval) has always struggled to find a life beyond the play.
Even on record, chances to hear anything other than the famous Overture have tended to be few and far between. For many years the field was held by George Szell’s 1969 Vienna Philharmonic recording with soprano Pilar Lorengar and the celebrated Burgtheater actor Klausjürgen Wussow narrating a shortened version of the Goethe-derived text which Grillparzer added in 1834 to provide context for Beethoven’s music (Decca, 10/70 – nla).
This new Alpha Classics recording is the first to offer both a German version of the Grillparzer re enactment and an English one. For though the sung interludes remain in German (the CD book has full texts and translations) the narration itself is a new Grillparzer- and Goethe-derived English adaptation by Christopher Hampton. At its first outing at the Granada Festival in 2015, Charles Dance was the narrator; here it is the mighty, no-holds-barred John Malkovich.
Martin Haselböck and the period instrumentalists of his splendid Orchester Wiener Akademie give an appropriately vibrant and battle-hardened account of music which Beethoven wrote in 1809 10 when Vienna, like Count Egmont’s 16th-century Brussels, was an occupied war-zone. Bernarda Bobro, who was clearly born to sing such roles as Beethoven’s Marzelline and Johann Strauss’s Adele, is delightful in Klärchen’s two brief but engagingly worked solo numbers.
The recordings were made in Vienna’s Josefstadt Theatre, for whose re-opening in 1822 Beethoven wrote his ceremonious and dashing Consecration of the House Overture. It makes a rousing end to a very collectable disc.