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BEETHOVEN: Symphonies Nos. 4 and 7


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Ludwig van Beethoven (1770- 1827)



Symphony No.4 in B flat major, Opus 60



Symphony No.7 in A major, Opus 92



 



Ludwig van Beethoven was born in Bonn in 1770, the son ofa singer in the employment of the Elector of Cologne and, rather moreimportant, the grandson of the former Kapellmeister of the Electoral chapel, aman of some distinction. Beethoven's childhood was overshadowed, however, bythe inadequacy and drunkenness of his father, which made it necessary for him finallyto take charge of the family. He was to continue attempts to control the affairsof his younger brothers in later life, to their obvious resentment.



 



Beethoven showed early ability as a musician and wasemployed as a musician by the Archbishop-Elector, who was responsible forencouraging him to go to Vienna, where he settled in 1792, taking lessons fromHaydn, and, more profitably, from the new Kapellmeister of St. Stephen'sCathedral, Johann Georg Albrechtsberger, and from the Imperial Kapellmeister,Antonio Salieri. In Vienna he was able to establish himself, through theintroductions he brought with him, as a virtuoso pianist and as a startlinglyoriginal composer.



 



In spite of increasing deafness, which put an end to hiscareer as a performer and made conducting a hazardous process, Beethovensucceeded in developing his genius as a composer in a completely original way,relying on the support of a patient series of friends and patrons, who providedmoral and financial assistance, in spite of Beethoven's touchy ingratitude andgrowing eccentricity.



With Beethoven, in fact, there is the beginning of apossibility of heroic independence for the composer, who is no longerconsidered a court craftsman. His music, uneven as it can be, expands thedimensions of those classical forms that had become established by the end ofthe eighteenth century, attempting, sometimes, the impossible, and seeming tosome of his successors to have achieved a summit beyond which no furtherdevelopment was possible. To Wagner, for example, the Ninth Symphony

seemed a height from which only he, the self-appointed successor of Beethoven,could climb further, by means of music-drama. To Schumann, on the other hand,it seemed that Brahms represented a second coming of Beethoven, a prophecy thatwas at the root of much of that composer's later diffidence.



 



In Bonn, among fifty or so compositions, Beethoven had alreadyattempted two symphonies, a C minor work and another in C major, but these hadnever been completed. In Vienna most of his first compositions were related tohis own needs as a performer, and apart from the two first piano concertos, hiswriting for orchestra was limited to less substantial forms. It was not until 1800that his first symphony was completed. It was to be published the followingyear with a dedication to Baron van Swieten, a man whose taste had hadconsiderable influence, in one way or another, on both Haydn and Mozart.



 



Beethoven may have completed his fourth symphony bySeptember, 1806, when he offered the work to the publishers Breitkopf and Hartelin Leipzig, although such an offer, in his case, was not necessarily proof ofthe work's existence in entirety .The arrangements with Breitkopf came tonothing, after a number of delays, but the symphony was apparently performed inMarch 1807 at the house of Prince Lobkowitz. Here there were two concertsdevoted to the music of Beethoven, including his first four symphonies, theoverture Coriolan, a piano concerto and some excerpts from the opera Fidelio.

With the fifth symphony, it was presumably commissioned by Graf Franz von Oppersdorff,to whom the earlier symphony was dedicated on its publication in 1808. Thefifth was re-sold to another patron, a fact for which Beethoven apologized in aletter to von Oppersdorff.



 



The Symphony No.4 in B flat major, Opus 60, isscored for flute and pairs of oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns, trumpets anddrums, with the usual strings.



The first movement starts with an ominously chromaticslow introduction, moving forward to a spirited Allegro that suddenlybursts into life. The gentler second subject is introduced by the bassoon,joined by oboe and flute, leading to a later dialogue between clarinet andbassoon. The central development section ends as tension is built up over aprolonged drum roll, leading to the recapitulation. The slow movement, in thekey of E flat, allows the second violins to establish the rhythmic pattern ofaccompaniment, above which the first violins weave their slow melody, followedby the flute. A second theme is entrusted to the clarinet, and both are tore-appear, the principal theme elaborately ornamented, as the movementprogresses. The Minuet, a true scherzo, explores unexpected keys, its Trio

presented at first by the woodwind, with interjections from the first violins.

There follows a vigorous final movement, on which the strings immediatelyembark, the woodwind providing a less busy second subject and going on to anending that brings its own elements of surprise.



 



Symphony No.7 in A major, Opus 92, was completedin the spring of 1812, but sketches for some of the material used occur asearly as 1809, the year of Haydn's death. In spite of his deafness Beethoven,in his forties, was at the height of his powers, but the new symphony wasgreeted by some contemporary critics as the work of a drunkard. Weber summed upthis opinion of the work: The extravagances of Beethoven's genius hovereached the ne plus ultra in the Seventh Symphony, and he is quite ripe for themad-house. At the first performance, however, in December 1813, the work wasreceived with considerable enthusiasm. The occasion was a patriotic one, aconcert organized by Maelzel, inventor of the new metronome, in aid of thewounded at the battle of Hanau, and the programme included Beethoven's new Battle

Symphony,
Wellington's Victory, a programme piece in whichsome of the most distinguished musicians of the day took part. Repetitions ofthe same programme proved much less successful, although the SeventhSymphony was popular enough in Vienna. It is scored for pairs of flutes,oboes, clarinets, bassoons, trumpets and drums, with strings.



 



The first movement of the symphony opens with a massiveintroduction, recalling the beginning of Mozart's Symphony No. 39. A Vivace

follows that has all the exuberance of a peasant dance. The slow movement,marked Allegretto, suggests in its dominant dactylic rhythmic figure, therhythm so often favoured by Beethoven's younger contemporary, Franz Schubert.

Here, however, the suggestions of a somber march suites well the patriotic moodof 1812. The F major Scherzo is again dominated by a particular rhythmicfigure, modified in the contrasting Trio, which is repeated a secondtime and seems about to emerge once more, to be interrupted by the brusquefinal chords of the movement. There follows the final Allegro con brio,in the original key of A major, but with harmonic surprises. The whole movementmoves to a great climax, a mighty conclusion to a symphony that had madeastonishingly powerful use to relatively limited and con
Facts
Item number 8553477
Barcode 730099447720
Release date 12/01/1999
Category Symphony
Label Naxos Classics
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Performers
Composers Beethoven, Ludwig van
Beethoven, Ludwig van
Conductors Drahos, Bela
Drahos, Bela
Orchestras Nicolaus Esterhazy Sinfonia
Nicolaus Esterhazy Sinfonia
Producers Toth, Ibolya
Toth, Ibolya
Disc: 1
Symphony No. 7 in A major, Op. 92
1 Adagio - Allegro vivace
2 Adagio
3 Allegro vivace
4 Allegro ma non troppo
5 Poco sostenuto - Vivace
6 II. Allegretto
7 Presto
8 Allegro con brio
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