Saturday, April 3, 2021
Eleonore Prochaska was the daughter of a Prussian soldier, raised in a military orphanage after the death of her mother. She was one of many German women who fought in the Napoleonic Wars, though most were ejected from the army when it was found out that they were women.
In 1813, Prochaska disguised herself and joined the the Lützow Free Corps under the name August Renz, serving first as a drummer, then in the infantry. She was severely wounded in battle and died three weeks later. In death, she was memorialized as a chaste heroine and “Potsdam’s Joan of Arc”. A momument to her memory, "Der Heldenjungfrau zum Gedächtnis", or "In memory of the maiden-heroine" survives to this day in Potsdam’s Old Cemetery.
In 1814, Johann Friedrich Duncker accompanied the King of Prussia to the Congress of Vienna, and asked Beethoven to compose incidental music for his play, “Leonora Prohaska”. The play was never performed, as the subject had already been treated in Piwald’s “Das Madchen von Potsdam” which was performed that year.
Beethoven’s music has four parts:
1) Chorus, “Wir bauen und sterben’ (We build and die);
2) Romanze (Es blüht eine Blume im Garten mein) (A Flower blooms in my garden);
4) Trauermarsch (Funeral March);
The fourth number is an arrangement for full orchestra of the funeral march from the Piano Sonata No. 12 in A flat major, Op. 26, transposed from A flat minor to B minor.
This rarely-heard work is performed here by the Berlin Philharmonic, conducted by Claudio Abbado.
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