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THE STATION ORCHESTRA, conducted by JOSEPH LEWIS
Weber was commissioned to write a new Opera for a Vienna theatre because of the success of his Der Freischutz (The Marksman). He looked at several plots, but discarded them for the work of an eccentric woman author, Helmina von Chezy (who, as the writer of the libretto of Schubert's Rosamunde, was largely responsible for that work's failure). Together she and Weber selected a plot from a thirteenth-century tale of chivalry, full of ghosts, fairies and such-like legendary folk. The librettist surpassed herself in producing a particularly fatuous libretto, and the work did not for long retain its place in the operatic repertory.
The Overture, according to Weber's characteristic plan, contains foretastes of tho Opera's leading airs. Its brilliant opening depicts the background of chivalry against which the drama is unfolded.
The First Main Tune comes very soon, played by the Wind. It is taken from an air in the Opera in which the hero, Adolar, declares his confidence in Heaven and in his Euryanthe.
A sweetly-flowing Violin melody forms the Second Main Tune. This comes from another air sung by Adolar when he is happy at the prospect of being united to Euryanthe.
Now, an air of mystery is created by a fine passage for eight Solo Violins, muted, with a trembling accompaniment by the Violas, also muted. Weber thought that it would help to elucidate the plot if at this point in the Overture the curtain were to rise upon a tableau showing an important incident which in the drama was only narrated, not acted. The stage manager and the authoress combined to overrule him, so this strange experiment has never been tried.
An episode follows, in which the Basses start a theme derived rhythmically from the hero's song of confidence. Then the two Main Tunes are repeated. and the Overture ends with a dashing Coda. THE story of the Greek hero Hercules has occupied the composer in another of his works. The Youth of Hercules , and he here pursues his study of the hero. showing him in the power of the lovely woman Omphale. and illustrating the victory of feminine weakness over man's strength.
A Prelude suggests the whirr of the spinning-wheel, and introduces the First Main Tune. a skipping melody, which is varied at some length. The composer says that the next section shows Hercules' groaning under the bonds which he cannot break' ;itere a Second Main Tune, in the minor key, strives to rise, but falls again (Lower Strings and Bassoon).
This works up to a climax, and declines in strength as the hero finds himself ensnared. After a low note on the Strings the Oboe has a changed version of the Theme of Hercules, which in its dancing rhythm seems to mock at the hero's efforts to free himself.
These Tunes are developed, the spinning figure overwhelming all. and finally dying away in the heights of the Violins.
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