Beethoven and his Symphonies

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Beethoven and his symphonies


Beethoven’s contribution to world culture was determined by his unique symphonic works. He was the greatest symphonist, and his music fully embodied his worldview and basic artistic principles. Although Beethoven lived half his life in the 18th century, he is considered to be a composer of modern times. Witnessing the great upheavals to redraw the map of Europe, such as the French Revolution of 1789, the Napoleonic Wars, the era of restoration, he reflected it all in his work; first of all, symphonic, grandiose shocks. There was no composer who knew how to implement such a force in the music, the heroic struggle by not one man, but of all mankind. As none of Beethoven’s colleagues-musicians, Beethoven was interested in politics, public events, in the ideas of liberty, equality, and fraternity and remained true to his beliefs.

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Beethoven’s Increasingly Radical Breaks

The most significant part of Beethoven’s heritage constitutes of instrumental works. His characteristic generalized philosophical turn of mind, naturally gravitated toward instrumental forms of expression that have long been developed on German soil, rock back in the era of Bach’s rich tradition of instrumental literature. Sonata unity of thinking, the attraction to symphonic throughout all works of Beethoven, does not lead to a smoothing of the characteristics of different genres (Swafford 73). So, the symphony acquires from Beethoven is the most generalized, monumental character, and, at the same time, characterized by a huge force of the direct effects. Overture is closely related to the symphony on a number of grounds; but it is more theatrical, more closely linked to the operatic drama and is easier for external forms of expression. Quartet, compared with classical examples of this genre of Haydn and Mozart, also has its Beethoven specifics. It is the most in-depth philosophical genre, expressing the scope of “pure” thought, especially complex and subtle in its expressive means (Swafford 121). Finally, the piano sonata plays the role of “creative laboratory” of the artist, be treated as an art form that can reflect a variety of musical modernity. As an outstanding pianist, Beethoven, finally abandoning the clavier, opened unprecedented opportunities, piano sonatas and concertos saturate sharp, strong melody lines, sonorous passages, and wide chords. In the stage works, like overture and music to the tragedy (“Egmont”, “Coriolanus”) are the embodiment of the same heroic picture of the struggle, loss, win, receiving the highest expression of 3rd, 5th, 9th the most popular symphonies (Swafford 33). Less attracted composer vocal genres, although reached the highest peaks, such as the monumental in the opera “Fidelio”, glorifying the struggle against tyranny, the heroic feat of women, and adultery. The conditions in which he composed and performed are radically different from those of Haydn and Mozart. For Beethoven, symphony is a genre, in the first place, especially the public, performed primarily in large halls, quite respectable by the standards of the orchestra (Swafford 104). And secondly, symphony is a genre, which is very significant ideologically, not allowing writing such works immediately in sets of six pieces. Therefore, the Beethoven symphonies tend to be much larger than even Mozart (except 1 and 8) and essentially individual in concept. Each symphony provides a unique solution as figurative and dramatic. However, in the sequence of Beethoven’s symphonies, there were found some patterns have long seen musicians. Thus, the odd symphonies are more explosive, heroic or dramatic (except 1st), and even more peaceful, genre-household (most of all 4th, 6th and 8th). This can be explained by the fact that Beethoven’s symphonies are often conceived in pairs and even are written simultaneously or immediately after each other (5th and 6th at the premiere even “reversed” numbers; 7th and 8th, followed by a row) (Swafford 206). In contrast to Haydn and Mozart, Beethoven completely absent genres like divertissement or serenades. But there are genres that are not found in its predecessors. Beethoven’s works have some specific features. Beethoven’s themes are often built on contrasting motives, forming the inner unity. Hence, their internal conflicts are a prerequisite for the further development of stress. By contrast, a derivative of the principle of development in which the new contrast motif or theme is the result of the conversion of the previous material. New grows from old, which goes into its opposite. The development starts right from the beginning of their presentation. So, five symphonies in Part I are no proper measure of exposure (see fig.1.).

Figure 1. Diagram of Sonata Allegro Form, 16 December 2014, From Best Student Violins, (

During the initial motive of the main party, which is dramatically transformed – it is perceived as both a “fatal element” (the theme of fate), and as a symbol of heroic resistance, that is, the opposing rock start. It is a qualitatively new unity sonata-symphony cycle, compared with the cycles of Haydn and Mozart. Symphony becomes “instrumental drama”, where each part is a necessary part of a unified musical and dramatic “action”. The culmination of this “drama” is final. The clearest example of Beethoven’s instrumental drama is “Eroica” symphony, all parts of which are linked by a common line of development, directed to the grand picture of national celebration in the final (Swafford 88). Speaking of Beethoven’s symphonies, his orchestral innovation should be emphasized. It is like the actual development of the copper group. Although the pipe is still played and recorded with the timpani, functionally with horns begins to be treated as a single group. They are joined by trombones, which were not in the symphony orchestra of Haydn and Mozart. Trombones play in the final five symphonies (3 trombones), in a scene thunderstorms in the 6th (here they are only 2), as well as in some parts of the 9th (in the scherzo and finale episode of prayer, as well as in the code). Continuing the tradition of “London Symphonies” by Haydn and later symphonies of Mozart, Beethoven enhances independence and virtuosity parties almost all instruments, including the tube (the famous solo on behind the scenes in the overture “Leonore” №2 and №3) and timpani (Swafford 209). Strings parties he is often really 5 (basses are separated from the cellos), and sometimes more. Soloist, performing very bright material, can all be woodwinds, including bassoon, and horn (chorus as a trio scherzo 3 symphonies, or separately).

Compare and Contrast Symphony #7 and Symphony #9

The work on the 7th Symphony is dedicated to Count M. Fries, Viennese patron, in whose house Beethoven is often performed as a pianist. The premiere of the 9th Symphony, dedicated to the King of Prussia, Frederick William III, the hero of the national liberation struggle of the German principalities against Napoleon. The first part of the 7th symphony opens a wide grand entry, the most advanced and deployed from Beethoven works. Steady, albeit slow growth prepares subsequent a truly fascinating picture. Quiet, yet the main theme sounds bated with cello elastic like a tightly twisted spring rhythm; voices of flute and oboe give it pastoral features. Contemporaries reproached the composer too; folksy character of this music, its rustic innocence. It becomes especially clear when the theme is repeated, with the participation of pipes, horns and timpani. The listeners can associate with grandiose mass dancing in the streets and squares of the revolutionary French cities. Beethoven mentioned that writing the 7th Symphony, imagined well-defined pattern. The entire first part of the flies like a whirlwind, as if in one breath: one imbued with rhythm and the main and sideline is minor, with colorful modulations, and the final fanfare, and development is heroic, with polyphonic voice traffic, and pictorial landscape code with echo effect and roll call forest horns (horns). The first part of the 9th symphony sonata allegro grand scale. Heroic theme is approved by the main party gradually, being born from a mysterious, distant, unformed hum, as if from the abyss of chaos. Like the warm glow of lightning flashed a brief, muted string motifs, which are gradually getting stronger, going to the energetic topic harsh tones descending minor triad, with a dotted rhythm, declares finally, the whole orchestra in unison (the copper group effort – the first time in a symphony orchestra included 4 Horn). But the theme is not kept on top, sliding into the abyss, and once again begins its collection. Amazingly, many different national origins of the 7th Symphony merge in this frenetic circular motion, which unites the rhythms of dance and march: the main party in the echoes of dance songs of the French Revolution, which, in turn, seem to be similar to the interspersed Ukrainian hopak. In this celebration of all mankind, the Symphony ends. The 9th Symphony is the first time in a symphony of Beethoven tied for third slow movement, such as a soulful, philosophical depth adagio. It alternates two themes, both enlightened majeure, leisurely. In the code (the last variation of the first theme) twice in sharp contrast burst conscription heroic fanfare, as if recalling that the fight is not over.

The Last Movement of Symphony #9

At the end of the classicist’s 9th Symphony for the first time goes beyond purely tools: at the time of the heroic culmination Beethoven introduces voice and chorus. But the approach to this point, its appearance is justified, preliminary complicated development. The finale is divided into two major sections. In the first, instrumental, a transition section to the “realm of light” to the “Ode to the Joy”. “Fanfare of Terror” called by Wagner tonally related main theme of the first movement of the symphony, opens this section. It is responsible recitative cello and double bass, as if calling, and then reject the preceding parts of the theme. After the repetition of “horror fanfare” appears ghostly background, beginning of the symphony, and is followed by the motif of the scherzo, and, finally, three steps melodious adagio. Lastly, there is a new motive such as singing woodwinds, and meeting him for the first time rapping sounds in the affirmative, in the major, passes directly into the theme of joy. This solo cello and double bass are amazing discoveries of the composer. Theme song, folk close, but transformed by the genius of Beethoven generalized hymn, rigorous and restrained, developing in chain variations. Expanding to a grand jubilant sound theme joy, climax suddenly breaks new invasion “fanfare terror.” Only after this final reminder, the tragic struggle enters the word. Former instrumental recitative charged now-bass soloist and went to the same vocal presentation theme of joy in poems of Schiller. Chorus continues the theme variation in which soloists, chorus and orchestra. Nothing darkens the picture celebration, but Beethoven avoids monotony, illuminating different final episodes. One of them is the military march played by a brass band with drums, tenor soloist and male chorus is replaced by general dancing. Other centered majestic chorus “Embrace millions!” with a unique skill polyphonic composer combines and develops two themes, such as the theme of joy and chorale theme, emphasizing even more on the unity of mankind. The peculiarity of the finals is symphonized by ode-cantata effect on the features of its shape. Using the principle of strophic song and hymn genres, Beethoven permeates stanza form through-symphonic development, including organically in a polyphonic forms, coming from the monumental genres. Theme of the finale is gradually growing, just as theme Allegretto of the 7th symphony. But the movement is characterized by a large scale and power. Polyphonic fouling melodies, orchestral colors thickening, and increased sounds lead to huge dynamic recovery. Reaching the top, Beethoven suddenly returns to the original construction of the first section. The second section, instrumental and choral, begins with repetition of “intonations of terror”, but here comes the human voice. From this moment begins grand choral ode “To Joy”. A huge choral finale is unique in symphonic literature: it is extremely complex, combining the feature variations of rondo, fugues and sonatas. Variations development is seen most directly. Subject sequentially converted, alternately taking the character of a folk genre: the march, songs, choral anthem, dance, etc. Grandiose scale, synthetical forms, internal cyclical her (branching into a number of sections) account for more complex finale. However, despite the enigma achieved remarkable clarity, relief structure, forming large amount of forms, where the cycle variations on the theme of joy alternate with episodes. Drama based on the final symphony is consistently growing, and has a qualitative change in the images. Heroic rise in the theme of joy, cohesion and refrain episodes together, form a through-line of development. Each new image in the final internally justified the previous course of development. For example, in the orchestral fugato introduces the cry “To victory!”; anthem in front of brotherhood refrain emphasis on the words “All men will become brothers” (“Alle Menschen werden Bruder”). Though the development is also reflected in a sequential and rhythmic transformation of the genre in a symphonic synthesis of them in final section in the determination of tempo and dynamic growth of the end. A number of formal compositional techniques indicates individual  nature of the topic (in tone-dur, which throughout the entire cycle forms the second tonal center, the relative remoteness from the main theme tune). Musical embodiment of Schiller’s ode goes beyond text summarizes the content and others missing in finale stanzas. The whole logic of the images in a loop 9th Symphony suggests that Beethoven organically managed to combine great choral finale with the previous parts. Innovative solution dramatic symphony, an introduction to the music mass choral genre was not a betrayal of symphonic method, and its new expression. Built on the grand finale of contrasts and a powerful development, the combination of vocal, choral and orchestral sound remove boundaries of the artistic expression. In the heroic conclusion, the power of “millions” is really felt. Beethoven’s 9th Symphony became a worldwide famous masterpiece as one of the greatest creations expressing humanist, freedom-loving ideals of humanity. Its influence on the art of later times is enormous. Beethoven’s 9th Symphony laid the foundation for a new drama, designed to play an important role in the further development of the Berlioz symphony and other contemporary authors.



Beethoven is a key figure in the era between waves of classicism and romanticism, and one of the most respected and performed composers in the world. Internally, Beethoven was very far from that crowned society to eradicate the slightest sprouts of freedom in all corners of Europe. Despite all the frustration, the composer remained faithful to the ideals of youthful freedom and universal brotherhood.  

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