From the Archives The Prometheus Project

In May of 2018, The Cleveland Orchestra's Centennial Season culminated in The Prometheus Festival, which brought together discussions around modern, everyday heroes with Beethoven’s musical genius. The essays, archival media, and conversations that ensued are now available here for you to revisit.

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  •   The Cleveland Orchestra gratefully acknowledges generous funding from the National Endowment for the Arts in support of this project.


As part of the Centennial Season’s celebration, Music Director Franz Welser-Möst created “The Prometheus Festival,” examining Beethoven’s music through the metaphor of Prometheus, a daring Titan who defied Zeus to bestow on humanity the gift of fire. For Beethoven, this represented the beginning of human civilization, the spark of creativity that has powered the imagination of generations, the warmth of justice and goodness, and the fight for individual rights and freedoms.

In support of this project, The Cleveland Orchestra Archives is pleased to offer a series of online essays designed to enrich the concert experience and to provide in-depth historical information for anyone interested in the Orchestra’s performance history and its archival audio recordings of Beethoven repertoire. Many of the essays include links to the Orchestra’s rich audio legacy to the Prometheus cycle.

Program Book

Revisit the printed program book from "The Prometheus Festival" (May 10-19, 2018) for information about the concert programs, as well as letters from Franz Welser-Möst and President & CEO André Gremillet.

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Panel Discussion

On Wednesday, May 9, 2018, an in-depth discussion was presented with Franz Welser-Möst and Mark Evan Bonds in conversation with Francesa Brittan about The Prometheus Project. This discussion was broadcast live and can be viewed here:

Essay & Audio Library

Beethoven: The Prometheus Connection

In 1812, Ludwig van Beethoven received a letter from a young pianist named Emilie M. Her letter, enclosed with a home-made embroidered pocketbook, expressed her fondness for, and appreciation of, his music.

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Overture to The Creatures of Prometheus


Perhaps the most overt example of Beethoven’s interaction with the idea of Prometheus was his only published ballet, The Creatures of Prometheus.

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Leonora Overture No. 3


Fidelio (1805), Beethoven’s only opera, is a celebration of freedom. In the opera, Florestan has been imprisoned by the tyrant Don Pizarro.

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Overture to Coriolan


Beethoven’s Overture to Coriolan is the only tragic piece in our Prometheus Festival. Indeed, in spite of the intense conflict that marks much of his music, Beethoven was something of an optimist.

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Egmont Overture


Beethoven’s Egmont Overture is one of his many concert overtures depicting different kinds of heroic individuals.

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Symphony No. 1


In the mainstream history of Beethoven, his early works are more classical in style, hewing close to Mozart and (especially) Haydn.

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Symphony No. 2


Beethoven first realized he was becoming deaf in the summer of 1798, at age twenty-seven. After an initial episode of total deafness, Beethoven found that his hearing had become filled with an unending “maddening chorus of squealing, buzzing, and humming.”

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Symphony No. 3


Beethoven’s Third Symphony, the Eroica, or “Heroic,” is one of the most influential pieces of music in history.

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Symphony No. 4


Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony seems an anomaly compared to the heroic Third and the fateful Fifth.

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Symphony No. 5


Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is so familiar to us now that it might be difficult to imagine it as shocking or difficult.

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Symphony No. 6


Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony premiered on the same concert as the Fifth Symphony (December 22, 1808). The two works were quite different: Whereas the Fifth was a difficult journey from darkness to light, the Pastoral was a genial, warm-hearted journey through the countryside.

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Symphony No. 7


In the Seventh, Beethoven suffuses each movement with a unique and persistent rhythmic pattern.

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Symphony No. 8


The Eighth Symphony generally has been regarded as the slightest of Beethoven’s mature symphonies because of its short length, lighter tone, and frequent return to the musical styles and forms of the eighteenth century.

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Symphony No. 9


Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony stands as the culmination of Beethoven’s twenty-four-year career as a composer of symphonies.

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Grosse Fuge


The Grosse Fuge (Great Fugue) is Beethoven’s most complex work. It was originally to be the last movement of his String Quartet No. 13. However, it unluckily proved to be both technically challenging for the performers and bewildering to the audience, and was, instead, turned into its own stand-alone work.

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