Playing with fire  | Music | DW | 15.03.2017
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Playing with fire 

This and the following Concert Hours revolve around Prometheus, the Greek god who, according to legend, introduced fire to humanity. This hour we'll hear Beethoven's ballet music to "The Creatures of Prometheus." 

Prometheus (Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte München, Photothek)

In the ancient Greek myth, Prometheus brings fire to mankind, violating the wishes of his father, Zeus. While man benefits from fire, light and knowledge, Zeus is bent on punishing his disobedient son, so he has Prometheus chained to a rocky hill, where an eagle rips out his liver every day. But over the course of time, the abused immortal is rescued. 

The story was turned in to a ballet in the early 1800s by an Italian choreographer named Salvatore Viganò, who asked Ludwig van Beethoven to write the music to it. 

Original score to the Prometheus Variations (Beethoven Haus Bonn)

As with many other works, the original score to the "Prometheus Variations" is kept at the Beethoven House archive in Bonn

The Viganò-Beethoven version of the story focuses on the creation of man, whom Prometheus fashions out of clay and awakens to life using the fire he'd stolen from Mount Olympus. Later horrified by man's primitive behavior, he seeks to make these mortals truly human by sending them to Apollo and the muses for instruction - but without achieving the desired results. Prometheus has a dispute with Melpomene, the muse of tragedy, and she stabs him. But Thalia, the muse of comedy, and Pan, the god of nature, restore Prometheus to life - to general dancing and rejoicing on Mount Parnassus.  

A familiar tune turns up in Beethoven's Prometheus stage music, to be heard not only in his Eroica Symphony, but also in the blockbuster Eroica Variations for piano, which we'll also sample this hour.  

Alfred Brendel (picture-alliance/dpa)

Alfred Brendel

Ludwig van Beethoven
Excerpts from the ballet music to "The Creatures of Prometheus" 
Ural Philharmonic Orchestra
Dmitri Liss, conductor 

Recorded by Deutsche Welle, Bonn (DW) in the Beethoven Hall, Bonn on September 17, 2016. 

Ludwig van Beethoven
Eroica Variations (excerpt) 
Alfred Brendel, piano

On CD Philips 412 227-2.  


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