The Egmont and the Fifth, Standards of the Heroic Beethoven
José Luis García del Busto
The strength, the energy, and the creative impetus inherent in Beethoven, fully crystallized into various symphonic works from the first decade of the nineteenth century: some referring to concrete heroes –such as the three Leonore overtures as well as the Fidelio, Coriolan and Egmont overtures– and others “pure music”, such as the Symphony No. 5 in C minor. In fact, all of these works refer to the same hero: Beethoven, that artist, creator and musician who put up with
this miserable life, as he himself wrote in his Heiligenstadt Testament, because it
seemed impossible to leave the world until I had brought forth all that I had felt called upon to produce.
Apart from disseminating works that the overwhelming majority of the audience had no access to at the time, today instrumental reductions of symphonic music help us to discover the essence, the naked truth, the most purely musical essence of works whose expressive effect was significantly enhanced by the resources of a large orchestra. This occurs in the string-quintet arrangements made by Carl Friedrich Ebers, a German composer who was a strict contemporary of Beethoven, responsible for excellent arrangements of other composers’ works, as well as numerous operas, cantatas and symphonies of his own that were largely unsuccessful. His arrangements of the Egmont overture and the Fifth Symphony for string quintet allow us to put aside the pathos that is so important in these works, in order to focus on their purely musical process.