Creatures of Prometheus * Steven Beck, Piano

Thu, 12/11/2014 - 11:40am -- anonymous

(It's been awhile - over a year! - since my last Redwood blog posting...I'm going to have to play catch up!)

If you visit our music CD section in the next few weeks and months, you'll notice that we are in the process of reclassifying and moving our music compact-discs to the compact-disc furniture stacks located in the 2005-renovation wing (where you’ll also find the non-fiction circulating books). This move will allow us expansion of our ever-popular mystery genre books, and, in addition, we hope the new CD classification schema will make it easier for members to locate their desired choices.

In short, there will be three main sections to choose from: 1) orchestral music, 2) classical vocal & popular music and 3) chamber & classical solo music. Happily, this corresponds to the three pieces of compact-disc furniture stacks we own! Within these three broad categories, you will be able to browse among close to 40 sub-categories such as piano concertos, symphonies, operas, jazz, string quartets and works for solo piano, among many others. Within these sub-categories, the CDs will be organized by the last name of composer and/or performer (if applicable).  

Over the course of the next few weeks and months, I will be highlighting particularly interesting or unique gems in our music CD collection. Enjoy!

This week's featured CD is...


Creatures of Prometheus (for solo piano) by Ludwig Beethoven * Steven Beck, Piano * Redwood Call Number: MS.P BEET.L 2005b

The orchestration of The Creatures of Prometheus was originally scored for a Salvatore Viganò choreographed ballet in 1801. It received a couple dozen performances after its initial staging presented to the Empress Maria Theresa but has subsequently been consigned to the dust-bin of ballet performances. Save for its famous overture which has become part of the standard concert repertoire, it’s also been ignored by-and-large with the wider concert-going public. Written between the composition of the 1st  and 2nd symphonies, this is one of the few important classical-era ballet scores in existence (the other being Gluck’s Don Juan & Mozart’s little-known Les petits riens) and, for you trivia buffs, the only orchestral piece written by Beethoven that calls for a harp (he wasn't a fan apparently). And although Creatures is the only fully-orchestrated ballet score written by the mature Beethoven, the main theme of the rousing finale (also called the “Prometheustheme) would be fully realized in the finale of his watershed Eroica Symphony written in 1804.*  

The piano transcription was composed before the orchestration and up until 1953 was thought to be lost. In 2001, a “world premier” recording was performed by the pianist Cyprien Katsaris (available on the MDT label). In 2005, pianist Steven Beck, a graduate of the Juilliard School, recorded the version we own on the Monument label. It is indeed a crisp recording, losing little of the full-bodied sonority and bombast of the orchestral version. Donated by John C. Walsh in honor of previous Redwood library director Jay Hall, this disc can be borrowed for 14 days.  You can also find the full orchestral version, recorded in 1987 by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, in our CD stacks (call number: MO.B BEET.L 1987).

*Beethoven’s very first compositionMusic for a Ballet on Horseback” WoO 1 was not a fully-orchestrated ballet score; rather, it was eight small incidental pieces commissioned by one of Beethoven’s early patrons, Count Ferdinand Ernst Gabriel von Waldstein of the Piano Sonata #21 “Waldstein” fame. The young Beethoven let his patron take compositional credit for this airy little piece in order to secure letters of introduction to Viennese inner circles.