Beethoven's only opera, Fidelio, was composed about 1803. As do so many of
the composer's works, it glorifies the struggle against tyranny and
celebrates heroism and humanitarianism. The first performance, which took
place in Vienna in 1805, was ill-received; and the opera required 10 years
of revision before it was accepted by the public in 1814. Beethoven wrote
four overtures to his opera: three are known as the "Leonore Overtures"
(named after the heroine of the opera); the fourth, the Overture to
Fidelio, is the version now used as a prelude to the opera .The music of
Leonore No. 3 refers to the climax of the story in the last act of Fidelio.
Today, it is usually played as an interlude between the second and third
acts of the opera.
This recording is part of Leonard Bernstein's Beethoven cycle, recorded
primarily with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in the early 1980s.
Writing in The New York Times, critic John J. O'Connor stated: "As Mr.
Bernstein says, there is 'no single body of work in the universe of
orchestral music that is in any way comparable to this one.' Conducted with
intense dedication and soaring spirits by Mr. Bernstein, these recordings
are superb, both visually and aurally."