National Orchestra of Wales
Conductor, Warwick Braithwaite
Although this Overture is not intended as a prelude to the Shakespeare play, having been composed for one on the same subject by the German dramatist von Collin, it may quite well be taken as illustrating the story which Shakespeare sets before us. The first theme might very well stand for Coriolanus himself, stern, unrelenting figure that he was, while the second may be his wife and mother, to whose entreaties he yielded. A third tune, no less expressive, is dealt with at some length, and the Overture rises more than once to climaxes. At the end fragments of the Coriolanus theme are heard on the violins, as though the hero's courage were failing, as though he wore bidding his mother, Volumnia, farewell, as in Shakespeare's play.
In the second Act of the opera, the two children, lost in the wood, lie down to sleep there, first chanting their evening prayer in which they ask for fourteen angels to guard them:-
'Two at my head to guard my thoughts, Two at my feet to guide my steps', and so on. They have no sooner fallen asleep than angels do come down from Heaven and stand about them, watching over them until morning.
This is one of the dances taken from Borodin's opera Prince Igor, for which he wrote both book and music, although the latter was not quite finished at his death. His good friends Rimsky-Korsakov and Glazounov finished it.
The Prince is a captive in the camp of his enemies, the Polovtsi, but a captive who is treated with all the honour due to a valiant foe. The dances are arranged as an act of homage to him and performed in his presence.
Listeners have heard Wagner's beautiful little work so often that they can hardly need to be reminded how Wagner wrote it specially for his good lady, in honour of the birth of their son Siegfried, and had it performed by a small group of friends outside their villa. The conductor, Richter, Wagner's right-hand in the production of his Music-Dramas at Bayreuth, played the trumpet part, and Wagner himself conducted. All the themes are taken from the opera Siegfried, except one, a little German cradle song, which mingles with the more heroic tunes in the happiest way.