Symphony No. 7 (Beethoven)

From Academic Kids

Ludwig van Beethoven began substantial work on his Symphony No. 7 in A major (Opus 92) in 1811 while in the Bohemian spa town of Teplice, where he had gone in the hope of improving his health. It was completed in 1812.

The work is written for two each of flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, French horns and trumpets; timpani, violins, violas, cellos and double basses. The 1962 recording by Maestro Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmoniker runs for 33 minutes and 44 seconds. It is in four movements:

  1. Poco sostenuto - Vivace
  2. Allegretto
  3. Presto
  4. Allegro con brio

After a slow introduction (as in the Symphony No. 4) the first movement is dominated by lively dance-like rhythms. As was usual for symphonies at this time, it is in sonata form. The second movement, in the key of A minor, is ostensibly the slow movement of the work, although the marking of allegretto (translatable as "a little quickly") suggests Beethoven did not envisage it being played as slowly as comparable movements in his other symphonies - it has been suggested that Beethoven actually intended the movement to be played andante (at a walking pace), but this is still a little quicker than the usual slow movement marking of adagio (slowly). This movement proved to be very popular, often being encored in Beethoven's day. As in the first movement, rhythm is as important as melody, with a repeated figure of a minim, two crotchets, and two minims to the fore.

The third movement is a scherzo and trio, but with the trio (which is apparently based on an Austrian Pilgrims' hymn) appearing twice rather than once, so expanding the usual ABA structure of ternary form into ABABA (Beethoven did a similar thing in other works, such as the String Quartet No. 8). The last movement is another sonata form - Donald Francis Tovey, writing in his Essays in Musical Analysis, commented on this movement's "Bacchic fury".

The work was premiered in Vienna on December 8, 1813 with Beethoven himself conducting and Louis Spohr among the violinists. The piece was very well received, and the allegretto had to be encored. The same concert saw the premiere of Beethoven's Wellington's Victory, a great popular success in its day, now almost forgotten.

The piece, like many of Beethoven's compositions, is generally seen as a great work. Richard Wagner, drawing attention to the lively rhythms which permeate the work, called it the "apotheosis of the dance". Carl Maria von Weber, on the other hand, considered the chromatic bass line in the coda of the first movement evidence that Beethoven was "ripe for the madhouse" 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."

The work took on expanded historical significance when it became the final piece ever conducted by Leonard Bernstein, with the Boston Symphony Orchestra on August 19, 1990. Many have speculated that the extremely slow tempo Bernstein took in the final movement of that concert was because, knowing he would likely die within weeks, he wanted Beethoven's wonderful coda to last forever.

de:7. Sinfonie (Beethoven) fr:7e symphonie de Beethoven ja:交響曲第7番 (ベートーヴェン)

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