One of the principal ethical and political ideals which fired Beethoven's imagination was the ideal of liberty. This was a major theme to his only opera, Fidelio. The great Eroica Symphony was originally dedicated to Napolean (as preserver of the French Revolution), but the composer scratched out the name in disgust when Napolean crowned himself emperor.
The Egmont Overture and incidental music was composed for a revival of the Goethe play.
In Egmont, Goethe relates the fight of Count Egmont (1522-1568) against the despotic Duke of Alba. Egmont is a famous Flemish warrior and the duke of Alba represents the Spanish invader. Though under threat of arrest Egmont refuses to run away and give up his ideal of liberty. Imprisoned and abandoned because of the cowardice of his people, and despite the desperate efforts of his mistress Klärchen, he is sentenced to death.
Thus, faced with her failure and despair Klärchen puts an end to her life. The play ends on the hero's last call to fight for independence. His death as a martyr appears as a victory against oppression.
Egmont is a political manifesto in which Egmont's craving for justice and national liberty is opposed to the despotic authority of the duke of Alba. It is also a drama of destiny in which the Flemish nobleman, with fatalism, accepts the dire consequences of his straightforwardness and honesty.
The overture, led by Leonard Bernstein and the Vienna Philharmonic, is a sonata movement with slow introduction. The fiery coda expresses the successful outcome of martyrdom.
Beethoven Egmont Overture Bernstein Vienna Philharmonic.