Day 197: Beethoven Symphonies 2 & 4

BeethovenCD2Like yesterday’s CD, today’s offering of Beethoven symphonies (No. 2 and No. 4 this time) are mature, melodic, dynamic, remarkably listenable, and enjoyable from start to finish.

And, like yesterday, I have to admit I had no idea Beethoven was this good.

I’m sure Schroeder (from Peanuts fame) would cluck his tongue at my ignorance regarding his favorite composer.

But I can’t know everything about everything. I mean, come on.

I’m only human.

Beethoven’s symphonies are both dynamic and delicate, with boisterous passages as well as gentle ones. Plus, the choice of instruments and what they play is masterful. I find myself leaning forward to hear every note.

I didn’t do that with Haydn. (Well, maybe once or twice.)

I did it with Mozart. A lot. But rarely with Haydn.

And, so far, I’m doing it with every composition from Beethoven.

According to Wikipedia, “Symphony No. 2 in D major (Op. 36) is a symphony in four movements written by Ludwig van Beethoven between 1801 and 1802. The work is dedicated to Karl Alois, Prince Lichnowsky.” Which means Beethoven was 32 when he finished Symphony No. 2. (And 33 when it premiered.)

From its entry on Wiki:

Beethoven’s Second Symphony was mostly written during Beethoven’s stay at Heiligenstadt in 1802, at which time his deafness was becoming more apparent and he began to realize that it might be incurable. The work was premiered in the Theater an der Wien in Vienna on 5 April 1803, and was conducted by the composer. During that same concert, the Third Piano Concerto and the oratorio Christ on the Mount of Olives were also debuted. It is one of the last works of Beethoven’s so-called “early period”.

For example, Movement III (“Scherzo & Trio: Allegro”) from Symphony No. 2 in D. Op. 36 is particularly captivating. Lots of clever little Continue reading

Day 196, Part 2: Beethoven Symphonies 1 and 3

BeethovenCD1The premiere of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1 took place on 2 April 1800.

Beethoven was 30 years old.

According to its entry on Wikipedia,

Symphony No. 1 in C major, Op. 21, was dedicated to Baron Gottfried van Swieten, an early patron of the composer. The piece was published in 1801 by Hoffmeister & Kühnel of Leipzig. It is unknown exactly when Beethoven finished writing this work, but sketches of the finale were found from 1795.

The symphony is clearly indebted to Beethoven’s predecessors, particularly his teacher Joseph Haydn as well as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, but nonetheless has characteristics that mark it uniquely as Beethoven’s work, notably the frequent use of sforzandi and the prominent, more independent use of wind instruments. Sketches for the finale are found among the exercises Beethoven wrote while studying counterpoint under Johann Georg Albrechtsberger in the spring of 1797.

The beginning of the twelve-bar introduction of the first movement is sometimes considered a “musical joke”. For example, the English musicologist Donald Tovey has called this work “a comedy of manners”. In fact, Symphony No. 1 can be regarded as a result of Beethoven’s bold musical experimentation and advancement which he presents five years after Haydn’s last symphony and twelve years after Mozart’s final Jupiter Symphony.

Fascinating. I had no idea Beethoven was so heavily influenced by Haydn and Mozart.

I can tell from the first few bars of Symphony No. 1 that this is a very mature composition, quite solid, and absolutely listenable. In fact, Continue reading