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