Symphony No. 7 (Beethoven)


Symphony No. 7 (Beethoven)

Ludwig van Beethoven began concentrated work on his Symphony No. 7 in A major (Op. 92) in 1811, while he was staying in the Bohemian spa town of Teplice in the hope of improving his health. It was completed in 1812, and was dedicated to Count Moritz von Fries.

Premiere

The work was premiered in Vienna on December 8, 1813 at a charity concert for soldiers wounded in the Battle of Hanau, with Beethoven himself conducting and double featured with the patriotic Wellington's Victory symphony. The orchestra was led by Beethoven's friend, Ignaz Schuppanzigh, and included some of the finest musicians of the day: violinist Louis SpohrSteinberg, Michael. "The Symphony: a listeners guide". p. 38-43. Oxford University Press, 1995.] , Johann Hummel, Giacomo Meyerbeer, Antonio Salieri, Anton Romberg, and the Italian double bass virtuoso, Domenico Dragonetti, who Beethoven himself described as playing "with great fire and expressive power". The piece was very well received, and the allegretto had to be encored. Spohr made particular mention of Beethoven's antics on the rostrum ("as a "sforzando" occurred, he tore his arms with a great vehemence asunder ... at the entrance of a "forte" he jumped in the air"), and the concert would inevitably be repeated due to its immense success.

Instrumentation

The symphony is scored for strings, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets in A, 2 bassoons, 2 horns in A, E and D, 2 trumpets in D, and timpani.

Form

The Seventh Symphony is in four movements:

*I. Poco sostenuto — Vivace
*II. Allegretto
*III. Presto
*IV. Allegro con brio

Performance time lasts approximately 34 minutes.

After a slow introduction (as in the First, Second and Fourth Symphonies) the first movement is in sonata form and is dominated by lively dance-like rhythms.

The second movement, in A minor, is "slow", although the tempo marking is "Allegretto" ("a little lively"), making it slow only in comparison to the other three movements. This movement was encored at the premiere and has remained popular since. The ostinato (repeated rhythmic figure) of a quarter note, two eighth notes and two quarter notes is heard repeatedly.

The third movement is a scherzo and trio. Here, the trio (based on an Austrian pilgrims' hymn,cite book |title= Beethoven and his nine symphonies|last= Grove|first= Sir George|authorlink= George Grove|year= 1962|publisher= Dover Publications|location= New York|edition= 3rd ed.|oclc= 705665|pages= p. 228-271] yet another example of applying poetry to music) is played twice rather than once. This expansion of the usual A-B-A structure of ternary form into A-B-A-B-A was quite common in other works of Beethoven of this period, such as his Fourth Symphony and String Quartet Op. 59 No. 2.

The last movement is in sonata form. Donald Francis Tovey, writing in his "Essays in Musical Analysis", commented on this movement's "Bacchic fury". The coda contains an example, rare in Beethoven's music, of the dynamic marking ƒƒƒ (called "fortississimo" or "fortissiomo").

The work is known for its use of rhythmic devices. It is also tonally subtle, making use of the tensions between the key centres of A, C and F. The second movement is in A minor with episodes in A major, and the scherzo is in F major.

Reception

Critics and listeners have often felt stirred or inspired by the Seventh Symphony. For instance, one program-note author writes: [cite web
url=http://www.lasr.cs.ucla.edu/geoff/prognotes/beethoven/symphony7.html
author=Geoff Kuenning
title=Beethoven: Symphony No. 7
publisher=(personal web page)
]

:... the final movement zips along at an irrepressible pace that threatens to sweep the entire orchestra off its feet and around the theater, caught up in the sheer joy of performing one of the most perfect symphonies ever written.

Composer and music author Antony Hopkins says of the symphony: [Hopkins 1981, 219]

:The Seventh Symphony perhaps more than any of the others gives us a feeling of true spontaneity; the notes seem to fly off the page as we are borne along on a floodtide of inspired invention. Beethoven himself spoke of it fondly as "one of my best works". Who are we to dispute his judgment?

Another admirer, Richard Wagner, referring to the lively rhythms which permeate the work, called it the "apotheosis of the dance".

On the other hand, admiration for the work has not been universal.
Carl Maria von Weber considered the chromatic bass line in the coda of the first movement evidence that Beethoven was "ripe for the madhouse" [Hopkins 1981, 196] and the 20th century conductor Thomas Beecham was similarly uncharitable, saying "What can you do with it? It's like a lot of yaks jumping about." [cite article|first=David|last=Bicknell|title=Sir Thomas Beecham| url=http://www.classicalrecording.org/zbeecham/index.html (EMI executive)]

Media

Notes

References

*cite book |title= The Nine Symphonies of Beethoven|last= Hopkins|first= Antony|authorlink= Antony Hopkins|year= 1981|publisher= Heinemann; Seattle: University of Washington Press|location= London|isbn= 9780295958231|oclc= 6981522

External links

*
*
* [http://www.dlib.indiana.edu/variations/scores/akx3424/large/index.html Full Score] of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony.
* [http://www.columbia.edu/cu/cuo/audio.html Free recording] by the Columbia University Orchestra.
* [http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5481664 Introduction by the conductor of a Philadelphia Orchestra performance] .
* [http://www.nwsinfonietta.com/notes3Oct03.htm Aperçu of Apotheosis] , Program Notes on the Seventh Symphony by Ron Drummond

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