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Beethoven depicts a Roman leader's transition from brutality to tenderness.
Based on the story of Roman leader Gaius Marcius Coriolanus by Heinrich Joseph von Collin, rather than Shakespeare's version, Beethoven wrote this spirited overture in 1807.
Concerned about giving too much of the plot away in the overture by summing up the entire play in one movement, the composer stresses the over-arching moods in the story, rather than attempting to capture the narrative.
A main theme in C minor represents Coriolanus' resolve and war-like tendencies while a more tender E-flat major theme represents the pleadings of his mother to desist.
In this version Coriolanus eventually gives in to tenderness, but since he cannot turn back having led an army of his former enemies to Rome's gates, he kills himself. In Shakespeare's play, on the other hand, he is murdered.