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"The Creatures of Prometheus", music for Salvatore Viganò's ballet op. 43

Listening samples
Overtura. Adagio - Allegro molto e con brio (365 kB)
(Introduzione). La Tempesta. Allegro non troppo (365 kB)
1. Poco Adagio - Allegro con brio - Poco Adagio - Allegro con brio (365 kB)
2. Adagio - Allegro con brio (365 kB)
3. Allegro vivace (365 kB)
4. Maestoso - Andante (344 kB)
5. Adagio - Andante quasi Allegretto (365 kB)
6. Un poco Adagio - Allegro (344 kB)
7. Grave (365 kB)
8. Allegro con brio - Presto (365 kB)
9. Adagio - Adagio - Allegro molto (365 kB)
10. Pastorale. Allegro (365 kB)
11. Coro di Gioja. Andante (103 kB)
12. So di Gioja. Maestoso - Adagio - Allegro (365 kB)
13. Terzettino - Grotteschi. Allegro - Comodo - Coda (365 kB)
14. Solo della Signora Cassentini. Andante - Adagio - Allegro - Allegretto (365 kB)
15. Coro (e) Solo di Viganò. Andantino - Adagio - Allegro (365 kB)
16. Finale. Allegretto - Allegro molto - Presto (365 kB)

1800 to early 1801 (before March)
Dedicated to Maria Christiane Fürstin von Lichnowsky, geb. Gräfin Thun-Hohenstein

As a young man Beethoven wrote music for a ballet for the Bonn carnival in 1791: the Ritterballet (Knight's Ballet), WoO 1. Ten years later his situation had obviously changed completely: he was no longer the young protégé who composed music for a count's pleasure without even being named on the concert programme. When the ballet master at the Vienna Hoftheater, Salvatore Viganò, came to Beethoven in 1800 asking him to compose the music for his new ballet Gli uomini di Prometeo (The Men of Prometheus), the composer was already famous. The première took place on 28 March 1801 at the Vienna Hofburgtheater. The ballet was performed 29 times in the 1801-02 season - a great success by the standards of the day. Sadly both Viganò's choreography and the original libretto have disappeared; nothing has remained of the ballet apart from Beethoven's music.

No details are known about the piece's occasion or commission. In the mid-1790s Beethoven had written a set of piano variations on a 'Menuett à la Viganò' (WoO 68) and thus taken sides in a heated dispute between Viganò and his rival Muzzarelli in Vienna. In so doing he may have attracted Viganò's attention or even his sympathies. The young, rising and extraordinarily talented composer was certainly an excellent choice on the part of the choreographer, who was simply looking for the best music for his new ballet. Usually Viganò put together music by different composers for his ballets. Prometheus is the only ballet which he intentionally commissioned from a single composer.

As so often in Beethoven's stage works, the subject (here Prometheus) mirrored his own view of the world. In Greek mythology Prometheus is a titan who violates the gods' wishes by bringing fire to mankind, and is viciously punished in return. An individual's stand against a ruling system for the good of mankind is surely one of the myths that reflected Beethoven's enlightened ideals. (J.R.)

op. 43, Klavierauszug, Artaria, 872, mit handschriftlichen Eintragungen Beethovens, HCB C BMd 1

First editions
Originalausgabe, op. 43, Stimmen, Hoffmeister und Kühnel, 283, C 43 / 36
Erstausgabe, op. 43, Partitur, Breitkopf und Härtel, 11, C 250 / Nottebohm
Titelauflage, op. 43, Klavierauszug, Cappi, 872; Teilscan, C 43 / 20
Titelauflage, op. 43, Klavierauszug, Cappi, 872; Teilscan, HCB C op. 43
Titelauflage, op. 43, Stimmen, Peters, 283, C 43 / 2

Bibliographic data in library catalogue

Written documents
Brief an Franz Alexander Pössinger, Wien, erstes Halbjahr 1803, BH 148
Brief an Breitkopf & Härtel in Leipzig, Wien, 22. Januar 1803, HCB Br 301
Brief an Breitkopf & Härtel in Leipzig, Wien, 26. März 1803, HCB Br 303
Brief an Hoffmeister & Kühnel in Leipzig, Wien, etwa 20. September 1803, HCB BBr 34
Eigentumsbestätigung für Artaria & Comp. über alle bis 1820 im Verlag erschienenen Werke, Wien, 4. April 1820, HCB Br 5
"Die Geschöpfe des Prometheus. Poetische Erklärung der Musik Ludwig's van Beethoven zum gleichnamigen Ballete", BH 219
"Die Geschöpfe des Prometheus. Musik von Beethoven, poetisch eingeleitet und erläutert", 1841, BH 220

Innenansicht des Burgtheaters in Wien - Anonymer Stich, veröffentlicht von Matthias Artaria, Wien, Anfang 19. Jh., Anfang 19. Jh., B 2941
Salvatore Viganò (1769-1821) - Lithographie von Pietro Bertotti nach einer Zeichnung von Angelo Magni mit der Darstellung einer von Lorenzo Bertolini stammenden Büste, um 1850?, HCB Br 5
Maria Christiane Fürstin von Lichnowsky, geb. Gräfin Thun-Hohenstein (1765-1841) - Fotografie eines Stichs von Z. Cluot oder Carl Herrmann Pfeiffer nach einem Gemälde von Joseph von Grassi, um 1910?, NE 81, Band I, Nr. 169

Bibliographic data in library catalogue

Manuscript sources in other libraries
Berlin: Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Musikabteilung mit Mendelssohn-Archiv
Österreich, Wien: Österreichische Nationalbibliothek
Tschechien, Nelahozeves: Roudnicka Lobkowiczka sbirka, zamek

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E-Mail: bibliothek@beethoven-haus-bonn.de