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Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO) is an American rock band founded in 1996 by producer, composer, and lyricist Paul O’Neill, who brought together Jon Oliva and Al Pitrelli (both members of Savatage) and keyboardist and co-producer Robert Kinkel to form the core of the creative team. The band gained in popularity when they began touring in 1999 after completing their second album, The Christmas Attic, the year previous. In 2007, the Washington Post referred to them as “an arena-rock juggernaut” and described their music as “Pink Floyd meets Yes and the Who at Radio City Music Hall.” TSO has sold more than 10 million concert tickets and over 10 million albums. The band has released a series of rock operas: Christmas Eve and Other Stories, The Christmas Attic, Beethoven’s Last Night, The Lost Christmas Eve, their two-disc Night Castle and Letters From the Labyrinth. Trans-Siberian Orchestra is also known for their extensive charity work and elaborate concerts, which include a string section, a light show, lasers, moving trusses, video screens, and effects synchronized to music.
Both Billboard Magazine and Pollstar have ranked them as one of the top twenty-five ticket-selling bands in the first decade of the new millennium. Their path to success was unusual in that, according to O’Neill, TSO is the first major rock band to go straight to theaters and arenas, having never played at a club, never having an opening act and never being an opening act.
And here´s their third album:
Beethoven’s Last Night is a rock opera by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, released in 2000. The album tells the fictional story of Ludwig van Beethoven on the last night of his life, as the devil, Mephistopheles, comes to collect his soul. With the help of Fate and her son Twist, Beethoven unwittingly tricks the devil and is allowed to keep his soul which he had thought lost, but that the devil had no claim on. The album is a rock opera featuring many classical crossover rock songs which are clearly based on melodies from classical music, particularly Beethoven’s works. It is the first Trans-Siberian Orchestra album that does not feature Christmas themes. The original cover art was created by Edgar Jerins, and re-issued cover art was created by Greg Hildebrandt.
Late one night in spring 1827 (presumably March 26, the night he died), Ludwig van Beethoven has completed his masterpiece, his tenth symphony (which in reality, was never completed).
Just as this work is finished, Fate and her deformed son Twist (as in ‘Twist of Fate’) arrive in the composer’s home, and inform him of what he had expected for a long while: that this night was the night of his death.
After this explanation, the devil Mephistopheles arrives to claim Beethoven’s soul. He offers the composer a deal; Mephistopheles will allow Beethoven to keep his soul if he may erase the memory of Beethoven’s works from all mankind. Beethoven is given one hour to consider, and Mephistopheles leaves the room.
Beethoven turns his anger to Fate at having been dealt a hard life, and now, this decision. In consolation, Fate allows Beethoven to travel back through his life in order to review it and make any changes that he wishes. Beethoven accepts this, and they begin with Beethoven’s experiences as a child.
Beethoven comes into his room while the young Beethoven has just been slapped by a tutor for failing to receive appointment to the Imperial Court. Beethoven turns to Fate and informs her that he did not need the hardships that he had faced, with his mother dead and a painful childhood. He requests that she remove the experience from his life. After being told that such a request would remove the inspiration for his sixth symphony, he changes his mind.
Fate and Beethoven then go to one of Beethoven’s happier moments, meeting the composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in the city of Vienna. Fate then reminds Beethoven of his “immortal beloved” Theresa, and after experiencing a fond remembrance, Beethoven explains his reasons for needing to leave her.
The pair venture to when Beethoven first realizes his deafness, and Beethoven explains that Theresa would not love him were she to know. He is then shown Theresa’s reaction to his unexplained absence, and he realizes that his deafness is the cause of all his problems. Fate explains that if she cures his deafness, his music will suffer, as the Muses would not be heard as easily through the everyday sound. He thus withdraws his request.
Beethoven is then shown that Theresa would have loved him forever, and he becomes very sorrowful. But Fate then offers visions of the countless musicians of the future who would be influenced by Beethoven’s works. As one last, ultimate vision, he is allowed to improvise with the musicians of the past and future who were inspired by him. Realizing that removing the hardships from his life would destroy his music, Beethoven informs Fate that he will not change any part of his life.
At this point, Mephistopheles returns and Beethoven informs the devil that he will not allow his music to be destroyed. Desperate to receive the Tenth Symphony, Mephistopheles makes another deal: if Beethoven will give over only the Tenth Symphony, then Mephistopheles will not take the composer’s soul. After an appearance by Mozart’s ghost, Beethoven refuses this offer as well. As a final tactic, Mephistopheles points out the window to a young orphan, and describes the tortures that she will receive if Beethoven refuses to hand over his music. Heartbroken, Beethoven agrees to hand over his Tenth Symphony. After Twist’s prompting, a contract is drawn up by Fate, stating the following:
It is agreed upon this night, March 26, 1827, between the undersigned, that the music of the Tenth Symphony, composed by Ludwig van Beethoven, first born son of Johann and Maria van Beethoven, of the city of Bonn, shall henceforth be the property of Mephistopheles, Lord of Darkness and first fallen from the grace of God. It is also understood that it is his intention to remove any signs of this music from the memory of man for all eternity. In exchange for the destruction of the aforementioned music it is also agreed that Mephistopheles and all his minions will remove themselves from the life of the child presently sleeping in the gutter directly across from the window of this room. This removal of influence is to be commenced immediately upon signing and to be enforced for all eternity.
The contract is signed by both the parties, after which Mephistopheles thrusts the Tenth Symphony over a lit candle. When it does not burn, the fact is revealed that Beethoven is in fact the second-born son of his parents by the name Ludwig van Beethoven, and thus, the contract does not apply to his music.
After Mephistopheles leaves in a fit of rage, it is revealed that the true destination of Beethoven’s soul is actually heaven (as Twist explains, the devil was simply lying to him all along). Fate tells him to rest, and Beethoven’s soul leaves his body for the great beyond. However, Twist also hides the manuscript for the tenth symphony. (wikipedia)
The Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s first non-holiday-themed album, Beethoven’s Last Night, incorporates some of the composer’s most noted pieces with original ones that peer into Beethoven’s psyche. Pieces like “What Is Eternal,” “What Good This Deafness,” and “Last Illusion” update Beethoven’s dramatic, portentous style, while “Requiem (the Fifth)” and “Fur Elise” lend themselves surprisingly well to the orchestra’s stylized fusion of classical and rock music. Fans of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s other work won’t be disappointed by Beethoven’s Last Night’s theatrical, orchestral song cycle. (by Heather Phares)
Though this rock opera by TSO contains their usual sound, blending symphonic metal, hard rock, classical music and elements of Broadway music, it’s not a Christmas story as their most popular records are. Nonetheless, the shadow of “A Christmas Carol” hangs heavily over this story, but with a Faustian twist: Beethoven is given the chance to look through his past, present and future and alter anything he wishes, in order to save his soul.
Since a large portion of TSO Christmas albums was always the interpolation of classical melodies, focusing an entire story on the world of classical music was a smart choice. Like all the other rock operas they’ve created, the story to this one seems nonsensical until you read the liner notes, see the live show, or pick up the “full narrated version” which contains the narrator’s speeches from the tour between tracks. Bryan Hicks, the company’s speaking voice, is still an acquired taste, with his over-the-top, stentorian delivery sometimes grating; but there’s still no denying that at the serious moments, his gravity and palpable emotion helps put the story over. (He’s still not great at doing character voices, though.)
The instrumentals here are better than the vocal tracks, and “A Last Illusion” takes the cake, blending Mozart, Beethoven and Rimsky Korsakov with nods to Styx and Liberace (both of whom were also known to interpolate classical music in virtuosic pop form, making them unlikely ancestors of TSO). (by Greg Kerestan)
If you like this theatrical rock ala Meat Loaf or Queen … you should definitely listen to this album !
Chris Caffery (guitar)
Bob Kinkel (keyboards)
Johnny Lee Middleton (bass)
Jon Oliva (keyboards)
Paul O’Neill (guitar)
Al Pitrelli (guitar)
Jeff Plate (drums)
Jody Ashworth (Beethoven)
Dave Diamond (The Muses)
Guy Lemmonnier (Young Beethoven)
Jon Oliva (Mephistopheles)
Patti Russo (Theresa)
Zak Stevens (The Muses)
Doug Thoms (The Muses)
Jamie Torcellini (Twist)
Sylvia Tosun (Fate)
Orchestra conucted by Mark Wood
01. Overture (Beethoven/O’Neill/Mozart) 2.57
02. Midnight (O’Neill/Kinkel) 2.10
03. Fate (O’Neill) 1.15
04. What Good This Deafness (O’Neill/Kinkel) 1.47
05. Mephistopheles (Oliva/O’Neill) 3.43
06. What Is Eternal (O’Neill/Kinkel) 4.40
07. The Moment (Oliva/O’Neill) 2.47
08. Vienna (Oliva/O’Neill/Kinkel) 3.32
09. Mozart / Figaro (Mozart) 3.18
10. The Dreams Of Candlelight (O’Neill/Kinkel) 4.05
11. Requiem (The Fifth) (Beethoven/O’Neill/Mozart) 2.59
12. I’ll Keep Your Secrets (Oliva/O’Neill/Kinkel) 4.15
13. The Dark (Oliva/O’Neill/Caffery) 4.23
14. Für Elise (Beethoven) 0.41
15. After The Fall (Oliva/O’Neill) 4.35
16. A Last Illusion (Beethoven/O’Neill/Kinkel/Mozart/Rimsky-Korsakov) 5.26
17. This Is Who You Are (Oliva/O’Neill) 3.59
18. Beethoven (Beethoven/O’Neill/Kinkel/Mozart) 2.56
19. Mephistopheles’ Return (O’Neill/Kinkel) 4.25
20. Misery (O’Neill/Kinkel) 2.44
21. Who Is This Child (Oliva/O’Neill) 4.34
22. A Final Dream (Oliva/O’Neill) 1.56
More from the Trans-Siberian Orchestra:
The official website:
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A blog mainly about odd German 45 rpm records. New records every Thursday.