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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Musical Interlude: Beethoven's Seventh

Born on this date, December 16, 1770, Ludwig van Beethoven gave his first public performance at the age of 7. He published his first compositions at 11, and at the age of 14 he was appointed organist of the court of Maximillian Franz, the Elector of Cologne.

Between then, and his death at the age of 56, Beethoven produced some of the world's most familiar music – even to those who don't generally listen to classical music: the Fifth Symphony, Moonlight Sonata, Fur Elise, and the Ode to Joy from the finale of his Ninth Symphony.

Most people know some of the themes from his symphonies, the Fifth and the Ninth especially, but one of my favorites is the Seventh (I've embedded some parts, but was unable to embed the entire symphony which you can hear by clicking here. The entire symphony can only be viewed from the original youtube site).

The Seventh was written by Beethoven at the age of 42. He was at the Bohemian spa town of Teplice trying to improve his health. NPR writes of the Symphony,
The Seventh Symphony's premiere concert was performed to benefit the soldiers wounded a few months earlier in the Battle of Hanau. It was one of Beethoven's most successful concerts.
The second movement was the most popular of the four parts of the symphony. When it was first played the audience immediately called for an encore of that movement...and it was frequently played separately from the entire symphony. Again, NPR...
Occasionally, Beethoven wrote something that was immediately recognized as both artistically great and hugely popular. An example is the second movement of his Seventh Symphony, a piece that was often performed separately from the complete Symphony and that may have been Beethoven's most popular orchestral composition.
Here is The second movement of Symphony Number 7, Allegretto.



My personal favorite movement is the third – especially the tympani, the flute/oboe duets, and the contrast between the two tempos of the movement. He starts the third movement at a fast-pace which he alternates with the trio, first introduced (at about 2:15 in the video below) by a stirring call of the french horns, echoed by reeds.



The conductor for this (and all those listed below) is Leonard Bernstein. He doesn't need the music and often dances along as he conducts.

Ludwig van Beethoven Symphony No 7 A major, Leonard Bernstein conducts Wiener Philarmoniker
Movement 2: Allegretto
Movement 3: Presto. Assai meno presto
Here are links to all 9 of Beethoven's Symphonies performed by Bernstein and the Wiener Philarmonker (Vienna Philharmonic) [source for titles].
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