The Great Composer Quiz – October 29, 2020
Time’s up, pencils down, the Great Composer who wanted William Tell but settled and made the most Egmont. Schiller, who wrote William Tell, was Beethoven’s highest literary hero, but he admired Goethe, too, and had already expressed admiration for the Egmont drama when the Court Theater in Vienna approached him with an offer to write incidental music for a production of Goethe’s drama set in the Eighty Years’ War against Spanish invaders. The Dutch warrior Egmont is put under arrest and sentenced to death. His mistress, Klärchen, fails in a desperate attempt to free him, and in her despair ends her own life. Egmont, making a final call for independence, dies a martyr. Wait a sec. Isn’t that the plot to Beethoven’s only opera Fidelio? Not exactly, but it’s close enough so you might have to think twice. The imprisoned hero and independence fighter. His wife who tries to free him. The hero’s impassioned cry for freedom. Fidelio has a happy ending; Egmont, only a hopeful one. The first performance of Egmont, with Beethoven’s music, took place June 15, 1810. It may be worth noting that Goethe treated Beethoven as if he were a callow youth coming at him through the mail. Beethoven, though he was forty, acted the youth with the Old Poet, and even asked him for criticism on his score.