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8.553476 - BEETHOVEN, L. van: Symphonies Nos. 2 and 5 (Nicolaus Esterházy Sinfonia, Drahos)

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770- 1827)

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770- 1827)

Symphony No.2 in D major, Opus 36

Symphony No.5 in C minor, Opus 67


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


Beethoven showed early ability as a musician and was employed as a musician by the Archbishop-Elector, who was responsible for encouraging him to go to Vienna, where he settled in 1792, taking lessons from Haydn, and, more profitably, from the new Kapellmeister of St. Stephen's Cathedral, Johann Georg Albrechtsberger, and from the Imperial Kapellmeister, Antonio Salieri. In Vienna he was able to establish himself, through the introductions he brought with him, as a virtuoso pianist and as a startlingly original composer.


In spite of increasing deafness, which put an end to his career as a performer and made conducting a hazardous process, Beethoven succeeded 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 provided moral and financial assistance, in spite of Beethoven's touchy ingratitude and growing eccentricity.

With Beethoven, in fact, there is the beginning of a possibility of heroic independence for the composer, who is no longer considered a court craftsman. His music, uneven as it can be, expands the dimensions of those classical forms that had become established by the end of the eighteenth century, attempting, sometimes, the impossible, and seeming to some of his successors to have achieved a summit beyond which no further development 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 that was at the root of much of that composer's later diffidence.


In Bonn, among fifty or so compositions, Beethoven had already attempted two symphonies, a C minor work and another in C major, but these had never been completed. In Vienna most of his first compositions were related to his own needs as a performer, and apart from the two first piano concertos, his writing for orchestra was limited to less substantial forms. It was not until 1800 that his first symphony was completed. It was to be published the following year with a dedication to Baron van Swieten, a man whose taste had had considerable influence, in one way or another, on both Haydn and Mozart.


The second of Beethoven's nine symphonies was completed in 1802, a year of particular importance in the composer's life. It was in the summer of that year that Beethoven had eventually come to terms with the tragedy of his increasing deafness, a resignation to the irony of fate that is documented in the so-called Heiligenstadt Testament, a letter to his brothers in which he declares his new-found resolution and patience, forced, as he says, to become a philosopher in his twenty-eighth year.


The Symphony No.2 in D major, Opus 36, was probably finished at the village of Heiligenstadt, outside Vienna, where Beethoven, on his doctor's advice, was resting. The work is scored for pairs of flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns, trumpets and drums, with strings, the kind of forces that the Vienna

Court Opera had for some years been able to provide. It was first performed privately in April, 1803, under the composer's direction and is dedicated to

Prince Karl Lichnowsky, to whose patience and generosity he continued to be indebted.


Beethoven's Symphony No.5 in C minor, Opus 67, is a work that has enjoyed enormous popularity, not least for its patriotic associations that accord well with the period of its composition and have proved to suit the sensibilities of later generations. For some the work has become known as Fate, as the result of an alleged remark of the composer, reported by the unreliable Schindler, on the opening of the first movement - Thus Fate knocks at the door. It has been left for others to point out that there is plenty of evidence for similar knocking at doors in other compositions by Beethoven, the initial rhythmic figure being one that he found to his purpose on other occasions.


Beethoven composed music relatively slowly and carefully, and the early sketches for the C minor Symphony are found in notebooks of 1804, the period of the Eroica Symphony. The work was completed in 1808 and dedicated to Count Razumovsky, Prince Lichnowsky's brother-in-law, the Tsar's representative in Vienna and a patron of great munificence, while his money lasted, and to Prince Lobkowitz. It received its first performance at a concert on 22nd December, 1808. The taxing programme, that resulted in near disaster in the final Choral Fantasia, included the Pastoral Symphony and the Fourth Piano Concerto, as well as a number of items for soloists and chorus. It seems that the Fifth Symphony was at first intended, like the Fourth, for Count Franz von Oppersdorff, from whom the composer certainly received some payment. By September of the year of its completion, however, Beethoven had sold it to the publishers Breitkopf and Hartel. In orchestration the Fifth Symphony shows innovations in its inclusion of the piccolo, the double bassoon and three trombones in the final movement.


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