Week 4 – Beethoven’s Blog

Posted on August, 12th 2021

Symphony No. 1 in C Major Opus 21

While in Vienna from 1792 to 1800 Beethoven established himself as an important performer and composer. String quartets, string trios, piano trios, and piano sonatas solidified his reputation as a worthy successor to Mozart (d.1791) and Haydn (d.1803). He worked within the standard forms of the day – sonata allegro form, rondo, variations, etc. – always infusing them with his own very personal approach. One can hear and sense his fiery personality and incredible imagination in these early works. Thus in 1800 Beethoven enters the world of the symphony. Unlike Haydn who wrote 104 and Mozart who wrote 40, his Symphony no.1 in C Major opus 21, is the first of but 9, but what symphonies they are!

Eighteenth century audiences must have been surprised if not shocked by the Adagio Molto introduction with its unsettled wandering harmonies that only truly resolved into C Major, the home key of the movement, in the Allegro section. Here we hear motivically conceived melodies, emphasis on rhythm, rugged use of accents, unusual harmonic relationships, all contributing to his own individual stamp. Instead of the usual slow movement we have a stately and very beautiful fugue. Enjoy the extensive and playful use of woodwinds. The other middle movement is a furiously fast Minuetto that one cannot imagine dancing to. In the contrasting middle section listen to and marvel at the flying fingers of the violinists! The finale begins with a humorous introduction that plays on a G Major scale that erupts at last into the raucous Allegro Molto. Listen to the rhythmic exuberance and creative energy as this his first symphony comes to a close, a harbinger of marvels to come. Enjoy the attached link to this symphony conducted by the great Loren Maazel, Wise indeed!