Ludwig van Beethoven

Leonore Prohaska, incidental music, WoO 96

    Description by John Palmer

    Leonore Prohaska is a play by Johann Friedrich Duncker (d. 1842). Duncker was Cabinet Secretary to the King of Prussia, accompanying the King to the Congress of Vienna in 1814. He brought the play with him to Vienna and asked Beethoven to compose incidental music for a performance. This music, composed in March 1815, was not printed until 1888 as part of the complete edition of Beethoven's works published in Leipzig by Breitkopf & Härtel. In 1823, Duncker successfully persuaded the King to subscribe to Beethoven's Missa Solemnis.

    The story tells of a young woman who, disguised as a male soldier, fights in a war of liberation. Beethoven scored the various numbers for an unusual assortment of instruments including two each of flute, clarinet, bassoon, four horns, timpani, harp, glass harmonica, and strings. The first musical number of the play is sung by a Chorus of Warriors and entitled "Wir bauen und sterben" (We build and die). For an unaccompanied choir consisting of two tenor parts and two bass parts, the brief piece, in B flat major, emphasizes the willingness of the soldiers to look death in the face and fight for love and freedom. In 2/4 time, Beethoven's homorhythmic setting is sufficiently martial and filled with rousing accents.

    All is flowers and morning sunshine in No. 2, a Romanze for soprano solo with harp accompaniment. The strophic setting is simple and diatonic, except for a brief emphasis on the dominant in the middle of the verse. Marked Feierlich doch nicht schleppend (Solemn but not dragging), No. 3, a Melodrama, is a spoken dialogue over accompaniment by glass harmonica.

    The fourth number is an arrangement for full orchestra of the funeral march from the Piano Sonata No. 12 in A flat major, Op. 26. Beethoven transposed the movement from A flat minor to B minor. Just as most of the melodic action takes place in the left hand of the piano sonata movement, so the basses and cellos have most of the melodic passages in the orchestral setting. Fittingly, Beethoven omitted oboes from the traditional orchestral forces to achieve a darker sound. Evidently, Duncker preferred this arrangement to a new funeral march, which Beethoven apparently composed (or suggested) but has since been lost.


    1. Krieger - Chorus (Wir bauen und sterben)
    2. Romanze (Es blüht eine Blume im Garten mein)
    3. Melodrama, Feierlich doch nicht schleppend
    4. Trauermarsch, In gehender, annehmlicher Bewegung

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    1997 Deutsche Grammophon / DG Deutsche Grammophon 4537132
    1996 DG Deutsche Grammophon 447748
    1996 Koch Schwann 314852