Ludwig van Beethoven

Namensfeier (Name-Day Celebration) Overture, for orchestra in C major, Op. 115

    Description by John Palmer

    Beethoven's concert overture, Namensfeier (Name Day) received its first performance on December 25, 1815, at a charity concert in the Redoutensaal of Vienna's Hofburg. It was not published until April 1825, by Steiner in Vienna, with a dedication to Prince Anton Heinrich Radziwill (1775-1833), an amateur composer who met Beethoven while in Vienna for the Congress in 1814-15. Radziwill also received the dedication of the Twenty-Five Scottish Songs, Op. 108. Having written the Namensfeier overture in honor of the Kaiser's birthday, Beethoven hoped the piece would rekindle his temporaily flagging popularity, but he had no such luck. The piece did not please then, nor at later performances in London, and it is rarely heard today. Patriotic and ceremonial requirements rarely brought out Beethoven's best, for his was a profoundly individualistic soul.

    The overture took its title from Beethoven's intention of having it performed on the name-day festival of Emperor Franz of Austria, on October 4, 1814. Beethoven did not get the work together in time, and Fidelio was chosen for the evening's entertainment instead. Beethoven set the overture aside, eventually completing it in March 1815. Many of the ideas in the overture were sketched several years earlier as Beethoven pursued one of his several attempts at setting Schiller's "Ode to Joy."

    The fortissimo opening C major chord, for the full orchestra, is clearly meant to seize people's attention. Stately dotted rhythms in a Maestoso tempo, reminiscent of a French overture, lead to quiet melodic passage, first in the horns, later in the violins. With the onset of an Allegro tempo and 6/8 time begins a sonata-form structure. The bassoons play the first theme, the tail end of which quickly spreads throughout the orchestra. While the first theme group and transitional material are generally the property of the woodwinds, the dolce G major secondary theme is entrusted to the first violins and viola and is immediately echoed in the flute. The development section is brief and not overly adventurous, and the recapitulation follows the expected path, although with re-orchestrated passages and slight variations on exposition material. A more rousing close would be difficult to find in the music of Beethoven. Beethoven felt the Overture did "not belong to my best and great works," and it is easy to hear why. Nothing particularly inventive occurs in the piece, which, at moments, verges on the bombastic. Namesnfeier was not composed for the ages, but for the moment, and has not enjoyed success in either category.

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2016 Exton 68
    2013 Brilliant Classics 94630
    2013 Naxos 8501204
    2012 Decca 4783497
    2012 Deutsche Grammophon 002894770055
    2011 Deutsche Grammophon 4779830
    2011 Deutsche Grammophon
    2011 Deutsche Grammophon
    2011 Brilliant Classics 94052
    2011 Decca
    2011 PentaTone Classics 5186148
    2011 Decca
    2011 Decca 4782721
    2009 IDIS 6580
    2007 Simax 1282
    2007 Brilliant Classics 93525
    2007 Cascade Records 2200
    2007 Decca / Deutsche Grammophon
    2005 Arte Nova 578310
    2005 Document 221790
    2003 Classico 472
    2003 Deutsche Grammophon 4744002
    2001 Capriccio Records 51003
    1999 Masterpiece 90033
    1999 Berlin Classics 0093402
    1997 Deutsche Grammophon 4537132
    1996 Capriccio Records 10549
    1996 Naxos 8 553431
    1996 Deutsche Grammophon 447906
    1994 Vox 5099
    1993 Philips 438 706-2PM2
    1991 Deutsche Grammophon 429762
    1989 Deutsche Grammophon 427256
    Cascade Records 2215
    Deutsche Grammophon 429762
    Brilliant 93525/12
    Pro-Arte Records 392