Eleonore Prochaska – who remembers her?!

Eleonore Prochaska … The (almost) nameless and the under-appreciated in history, we have a soft spot for them. We are also very fond of Important Historical Events that have now ended up in the dark corner, because one-sidedly chronicled by the patriarchal exploitative white man. Who still reads Xenophon, who still remembers the finer details of the Ems Dispatch?
We would nevertheless like to take a music-related look at the period just before and after Mozart’s death. Let’s go to the three main players…

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I. Eleonore Prochaska

Eleonore Prochaska, born in 1785 at Potsdam, which at the time was a Prussian garrison town. And yes, Eleonore grew up in a soldier’s family – if we had more soldier’s families now, corona would have been eradicated long ago. Eleonore was sent to an orphanage after the death of her mother – if we had more orphanages, corona would also have been eradicated. At a young age she became interested in the wars of liberation against Napoleon, an interest that arouses sympathy in advance. At the age of 28 she joined the 1. Jägerbatailion des Lützowschen Freikorps, a name to savour and much more substantial than the collection of pussies hiding behind the European Civil Peace Corps. Eleonore had to dress as a male, and she presented herself under the name August Renz. Disguised as a man, she fought against Napoleon.We say: respect!

In a battle she was wounded and the medic could not be fooled… that ain’t no bloke, that’s a missy! (The opposite observation was made by many a male guest who was visiting us in Bangkok, where we were then living, and “wanted to go out on his own for a change.”) Prochaska was taken to Dannenberg, where she died as a result of her injury on October 5, 1813. Heroine! The Potsdamer Joan of Arc! In 1869, Potsdam received a memorial (see image above), which can still be found in the Potsdam cemetery.

II. Friedrich Duncker

Enters the stage: Johann Friedrich Leopold Duncker, born one year after Eleonore. Prussian civil servant!  And not just any civil servant, but First Cabinet Secretary to the King of Prussia and Geheimrat in the cabinet of Friedrich Wilhelm III. But also: writer and poet. (Keep that in mind for a moment.)

As a Geheimrat, he accompanied the Prussian king to the Congress of Vienna (1814-1815), where the United Kingdom of the Netherlands saw the light of day, until the treacherous Belgians put an end to it in 1830 because they didn’t like an opera. Strange people, those Belgians. In Vienna, Duncker made the acquaintance of a very famous composer. We’re not giving anything away yet. After the death of Queen Luise he wrote together with the composer Ludwig Hellwig the song “Louise ist nicht mehr”, a title that does not leave the listener in the dark about its contents. But there was more. Duncker also achieved fame as the author of the Prussian national anthem, which was set to music by Spontini.
And: he wrote a play, about Eleonore Prochaska!

III. Ludwig van Beethoven

The third protagonist enters the stage. You probably guessed him, Ludwig van Beethoven. Duncker was a great admirer of Beethoven and he asked him to compose music for his play Leonore Prochaska. And that’s how it came about… Beethoven composed music for the play in 1815; for soprano, male choir and orchestra.

The play has been lost, in our opinion a greater loss than the disappearance of the Little Gull and the Hen Harrier from European skies. Even more poignant is that the drama, with Beethoven’s music, was never performed during the lifetime of the lyricist and composer. The question is, of course, what Beethoven could have heard from it.

The music – listen to the video below ! – consists of four parts:  1. Harcos-Kórus, 2. Romanza, 3. Melodráma en 4. Gyászinduló (Mourning March). We suspect that Beethoven was rather disappointed with the fee and he discharged his duties accordingly: for the fourth movement he simply inserted an orchestrated version of the third movement of Piano Sonata No. 12.

Olivier Keegel

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Olivier Keegel


Chief Editor since 2019. Does not need much more than Verdi, Bellini and Donizetti. Wishes to resuscitate Tito Schipa and Fritz Wunderlich. Certified unmasker of directors' humbug.

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