Marlis Petersen / Maximilian Schmitt / René Jacobs / Freiburger Barockorchester

Beethoven: Leonore

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Beethoven's sole opera Fidelio, Op. 72, is known primarily in a version from 1814, but it actually had its premiere in 1805, under the title Leonore, in French-occupied Vienna. This first attempt was given for an audience of French soldiers who did not speak German, and unsurprisingly it bombed. Beethoven took the advice of friends and made major cuts, while also experimenting with several different overtures that have all been deployed in the opera and performed as independent orchestral works. This is not the first performance of the 1805 Leonore, but it's hardly common. John Eliot Gardiner conducted the opera in the 1990s with his Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, and here historical-performance conductor René Jacobs argues that it is the preferred version of the opera. Historical instruments (on this recording the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra) with their typically quick tempos work well here. The opera is in three acts (cut to two in all subsequent versions), and Jacobs catches the large lines holding each act together. The singers, led by Marlis Petersen in the title role and Maximilian Schmitt as Florestan, are not powerhouses but fit the performance nicely. The whole ensemble just seems to get the mood of the music and its links to Mozart's Die Zauberflöte, K. 620, whose impresario also commissioned Leonore. Perhaps less desirable is the "modernization" of the libretto, from Jacobs' pen, complete with contemporary jokes. The recording is from a live performance at the Philharmonie de Paris; the same performers had done the music before, and the ensemble work is confident and strong. A definite must for the perfect Beethovenian.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
Leonore
1 11:51 Amazon
2 01:57 Amazon
3 03:20 Amazon
4 00:35 Amazon
5 03:58 Amazon
6 01:57 Amazon
7 02:59 Amazon
8 01:20 Amazon
9 03:27 Amazon
10 00:45 Amazon
11 02:30 Amazon
12 01:49 Amazon
13 06:23 Amazon
14 01:33 Amazon
15 01:33 Amazon
16 03:03 Amazon
17 00:43 Amazon
18 04:45 Amazon
19 00:45 Amazon
20 05:09 Amazon
21 02:07 Amazon
22 07:28 Amazon

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
Leonore
1 06:22 Amazon
2 04:27 Amazon
3 04:50 Amazon
4 09:41 Amazon
5 05:34 Amazon
6 02:48 Amazon
7 05:14 Amazon
8 01:01 Amazon
9 05:13 Amazon
10 08:59 Amazon
11 00:27 Amazon
12 15:13 Amazon
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