Ludwig van Beethoven

Fidelio, overture, Op. 72c

    Description by John Palmer

    The premiere of Fidelio, at the Theater an der Wien on the evening of November 20, 1805, took place only seven days after Napoleon's army had entered Vienna. Members of the Austrian nobility, who typically supported Beethoven, had fled the city, which means that not many people attended the first performance. Poor attendance and unfavorable reviews led to the withdrawal of the opera after only three performances. Beethoven's subsequent revision, combining the first two acts into one (resulting in a two-act format), premiered on March 29, 1806, but there was only one performance. However, Napoleon's subsequent losses throughout Europe in 1812-1814 emboldened the Viennese, and in this atmosphere of triumph the Kärntnertor-Theater in Vienna requested a revival of the opera. Beethoven made numerous changes to the score and composed a new overture. Beethoven's third version of Fidelio was first performed May 23, 1814; however, the overture would not be heard until the second performance on May 26. This overture, the fourth that Beethoven composed for the opera, has remained as the standard overture since its composition. The Leonore Overture No. 2, performed for the first version of the opera, is a successful curtain raiser, but its anticipation of the climax of the second act proved destructive to the drama. Leonore Overture No. 3 is a revision of No. 2, while the overture Leonore No. 1, Op. 138, was found among Beethoven's papers after his death; it is not linked to either of the first two productions, and may have been written for a projected Prague performance of 1807. Unlike Leonore Overtures 2 and 3, this work does not anticipate the music of the drama.

    Cast in sonata form, it opens with a fortissimo outburst that is a fragment of the first theme. This gives way to the main theme, played by the horn, a moment later. The secondary theme, for a combination of horn and strings, is even more forceful than the first, and the exposition moves to the development without repeat. Brief and intense, the development section almost imperceptibly becomes the recapitulation, and the return of the opening measures marks the beginning of a triumphant coda. The choice of E major for the overture of an opera in C major may seem curious, especially when all three Leonore overtures are in C major. But E major is a bright key, anticipating the liberation of Florestan without actually quoting the music, and it is the same key as Leonore's aria, "Komm, Hoffnung" ("Come, hope").

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2018 MDG Gold MDG 3072072
    2018 Warner Classics
    2018 Sony Classical 19075861862
    2017 Warner Classics 0190295886691
    2017 Berlin Classics 0300926 BC
    2017 LPO LPO 0096
    2017 Nimbus Records NI 1713
    2016 Exton 68
    2016 RCA Red Seal 88875169792
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 4796314
    2016 Berlin Classics 0300715 BC
    2016 Naxos 8509003
    2016 Warner Classics 0825646487332
    2015 K-Tel 136153
    2015 AAO Music MCRP 2688012
    2014 Warner Classics 2564627829
    2014 Decca / Eloquence
    2014 Philips / Universal 4758147
    2013 Brilliant Classics 94630
    2013 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler PH 13038
    2013 Naxos 8501204
    2012 EMI / EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099932736
    2012 Decca 4783494
    2012 Teldec Classics International / Warner Classics / Warner Classics International 61890
    2012 Bella Musica / Zebralution
    2012 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099997991
    2012 Deutsche Grammophon 002894770055
    2011 Deutsche Grammophon
    2011 Deutsche Grammophon
    2011 Bella Musica / Zebralution
    2011 Brilliant Classics 94052
    2011 Warner Classics
    2011 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099909794
    2011 Decca
    2011 Warner Classics 63779
    2011 PentaTone Classics 5186148
    2011 Decca
    2011 Decca 4782721
    2011 Music & Arts CD-797
    2011 Challenge Classics CC72383
    2010 Denon Records
    2010 Warner Classics
    2010 Royal Philharmonic Masterworks / RPO 28160
    2010 Laserlight Digital / Zebralution
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Bella Musica / Zebralution
    2009 Elatus 49004
    2009 Eloquence 4800397
    2009 Archipel 0452
    2008 Medici Arts 27-2
    2008 SOMM 70
    2008 Nimbus Records 7089
    2008 Deutsche Grammophon / Digital / Universal Music
    2008 Landscape Classics / Zebralution
    2008 Universal Classics & Jazz
    2007 Brilliant Classics 93525
    2007 Rhino
    2007 Delta Distribution 18251
    2007 Apex
    2007 Deutsche Grammophon 4776690
    2007 EMI Classics 3777672
    2007 EMI Classics 87739
    2007 Decca 4759090
    2007 Opus KURA 2065
    2007 Music & Arts CD1192
    2006 EMI Classics / Warner Classics
    2006 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 0946371462
    2006 Warner Music 63779
    2006 Deutsche Grammophon
    2006 Apace 29
    2006 Edel Classics 2202
    2006 Pando Classical 341000
    2006 Music & Arts 978
    2005 SPJ Music 5653
    2005 Arte Nova 578310
    2005 Cyberchambermusic
    2005 Divine Art 25029
    2005 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler 4052
    2005 EMI Classics
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    2005 EMI Classics 5866142
    2005 Silverline Records 2842102
    2005 Teldec / Warner Classics / Warner Music 4618902
    2005 Document 221790
    2005 Radiance Records 17486
    2004 Accent 10034
    2004 Universal Classics 000173902
    2004 Silverline Records 288264
    2004 Brilliant 92387
    2004 Sony Music Distribution 92480
    2004 St. Clair 93852
    2004 Beechwood Music 09
    2004 St. Clair 93872
    2004 Laserlight 14503
    2004 Intersound 5727
    2003 Golden Classics / Madacy 3360
    2003 SPJ Music 8856
    2003 Artemis Classics 1192
    2003 Naxos Historical 8110856
    2003 Classico 472
    2003 Deutsche Grammophon 474018
    2003 Berlin Classics 0090452
    2003 Living Stage 35168
    2003 EMI Classics
    2003 Caprice Records 22052
    2003 Decca 1113
    2003 Deutsche Grammophon 4744002
    2002 Testament 1271
    2002 Gebhardt 45
    2002 Sony Music Distribution 87885
    2002 Naxos 555360
    2002 Deutsche Grammophon 469 322-2GP2
    2002 Sony Classical 89958
    2001 BCI-Eclipse Distribution 40026
    2001 St. Clair 7347
    2001 Capriccio Records 51003
    2001 JVC Compact Discs 6
    2001 Eclipse Classics 64452
    2000 Teldec 28144
    2000 Sony Music Distribution 65951
    2000 Teldec 25249
    2000 Tring 026
    2000 St. Clair 30112
    2000 Laserlight 40003
    2000 Preiser Records 90389
    2000 Amadis 7020
    2000 EMI Music Distribution 67335
    2000 St. Clair 30672
    2000 Laserlight 24466
    1999 Lifestyles 1751
    1999 CPO CPO999 658-2
    1999 Masterpiece 90033
    1999 Virgin 45364
    1999 Seraphim Classics 7243573424
    1999 Brilliant 99093
    1999 Laserlight 14624
    1999 Madacy 9506
    1999 Concerto 2803
    1999 Music & Arts 4797
    1999 Grammofono 2000 78032
    1999 Sony Classical 64093
    1999 IDIS 297/8
    1998 Transworld 0136
    1998 Transworld 0139
    1998 Intersound 1736
    1998 Angel Records 72923
    1998 Nimbus NI1760
    1998 Teldec 3984213352
    1998 RCA 902668976
    1998 Intersound 2816
    1998 Sony Classical 63152
    1998 Grammofono 2000 78826
    1998 Intersound 3846
    1998 Disky 703732
    1998 Lys 86
    1998 Deutsche Grammophon 457444
    1997 Point Classics 265060
    1997 Telarc Distribution 80358
    1997 Sony Music Distribution 63062
    1997 Madacy 3710
    1997 Otello 1004
    1997 Madacy 8816
    1996 Capriccio Records 10549
    1996 Teldec 13140
    1996 Intersound 2509
    1996 Sony Music Distribution 62681
    1995 RPO 26
    1995 Vanguard 11/13
    1995 Deutsche Grammophon 437928
    1995 Seraphim UK 568518
    1995 ZYX Music 4054
    1995 Art of Classics 885929
    1995 Madacy 8711
    1995 Intersound 3820
    1994 Vox 5099
    1994 EMI Music Distribution 68057
    1994 Berlin Classics 0020052
    1994 Reference Recordings 3602
    1994 EMI Music Distribution CD-CFP4656
    1993 Deutsche Grammophon 439200
    1993 Philips 438 706-2PM2
    1993 Deutsche Grammophon 439 005-2GHS
    1993 Intersound 2034
    1992 Naxos 550072
    1992 Sony Music Distribution 48396
    1991 Deutsche Grammophon 429762
    1991 Naxos 551101
    1990 Deutsche Grammophon 4290892
    1990 Deutsche Grammophon 423481
    1990 Deutsche Grammophon 431024
    1989 Deutsche Grammophon 427256
    1987 Deutsche Grammophon 4190512
    1985 RCA 61212
    Time/Life Music 9016
    Vox 110
    Koch Schwann 310037
    Digital Concerto 659
    EMI Music Distribution 494872
    Excelsior Recordings 321351
    Philips 416274
    Deutsche Grammophon 429762
    ART 003668
    EMI Music Distribution 63611
    CBS Records 44790
    Brilliant 92387/40
    Eurodisc 610520231
    Brilliant 93525/11
    CBS Masterworks 45532
    Grammofono 2000 78900
    Grammofono 2000 78892
    RCA 61720
    CBS Masterworks 45532-4
    Philips 426066
    EMI Music Distribution 569783
    Deutsche Grammophon 431024
    EMI Music Distribution 62623
    Pickwick 11022
    Excelsior Recordings 4281
    Deutsche Grammophon 419051
    Philips 416203
    Denon Records 8016
    Masters 3842262
    Sony Music Distribution 47518
    Seraphim UK 69721
    Brilliant 99133
    Nuova Era 2243/48
    RFCM Symphony Orchestra
    Philips 446187
    Grammofono 2000 78560
    Laserlight 15622
    Donau 8020
    Memories 4593
    EXT 3016
    EXL 4292
    In Classical Mood 12006
    Lys 222
    SMP 850504
    SMP 850042
    Music & Arts 1005
    ZYX Classics 4006
    Lydian 18020
    Grammofono 2000 78573
    Pro-Arte Records 920
    Sony Music Distribution 52514
    Eclipse Records 2688272
    Stradivari 6083
    Deutsche Grammophon 423820
    Grammofono 2000 78007.11
    Pilz 446962
    EMI Music Distribution 65915