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Encyclopedia > Symphony No. 8 (Beethoven)

Beethoven's Symphony no. 8 in F Major (Op. 93) Beethoven referred to it as "my little one." Unusually among Beethoven's works, the Eighth Symphony bears no dedication. 1820 portrait by Karl Stieler Ludwig van Beethoven (pronounced ) (baptised December 17, 1770[1] – March 26, 1827) was a German composer and pianist. ... Opus is a Latin word which means work (in the sense of a work of art). Some composers musical pieces are identified by opus numbers which generally run either in order of composition or in order of publication. ...


The symphony is generally light-hearted, though not lightweight, and in many places is cheerfully loud, with many accented notes. Various passages in the symphony are heard by many listeners as musical jokes. As with various other Beethoven works such as the Opus 27 piano sonatas, the symphony deviates from Classical tradition in making the last movement the weightiest of the four.

Contents

Background

The Eighth Symphony belongs to a class of works in Beethoven's output that have tended to attract less attention: not overtly heroic, nor expressive of impassioned or dark emotions, but (it would seem) meant simply to be musically delightful, as many of the works of Haydn and Mozart were. Some similar works in Beethoven's oeuvre include the three piano sonatas Op. 31 no. 3 (see below), Op. 54, and Op. 79--whose first movement resembles that of the Eighth Symphony. Franz [1] Joseph Haydn (March 31, 1732 – May 31, 1809) was one of the most prominent composers of the Classical period, called the Father of the Symphony and Father of the String Quartet. A life-long resident of Austria, Haydn spent most of his career as a court musician for... Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (baptized as Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart; January 27, 1756 – December 5, 1791) was a prolific and highly influential composer of Classical music. ...


The work was composed during the summer and fall of 1812 when Beethoven was 42. The cheerful mood of the work betrays nothing of the grossly unpleasant events that were taking place in Beethoven's life at the time, which involved his interference in his brother Johann's love life. This dissonance has been cited as a good example of why it is not always wise to make close connections between a composer's life and music.


The premiere of the Eighth Symphony took place on February 27, 1814, at a concert at which the mighty Seventh Symphony (which had been premiered two months earlier) was also played. Beethoven was growing increasingly deaf at the time, but nevertheless led the premiere. According to [1], "reports indicate that the orchestra largely ignored his ungainly gestures and followed the principal violinist instead." Ludwig van Beethoven began concentrated work on his Symphony No. ...


Critics immediately noted that the Eighth did not reach the heights of its predecessor, launching a long tradition of complaining that Eighth Symphony is not something different (more heroic, more emotive) from what it is. However, many listeners seem to be able to enjoy the symphony anyway, and it appears frequently today on concert programs as well as on recordings. Beethoven himself, when asked by his pupil Carl Czerny why the Eighth was less popular than the Seventh, is said to have replied "because the Eighth is so much better" [2]. Carl Czerny (sometimes Karl; February 21, 1791 – July 15, 1857) was an Austrian pianist, composer and teacher. ...


Orchestration

The orchestration for the Eighth Symphony is as follows:

Woodwinds
2 Flutes
2 Oboes
2 Clarinets in B-flat
2 Bassoons
Brass
2 Horns in F, B-flat bass
2 Trumpets in F
Percussion
Timpani
Strings
1st, 2nd Violins
Violas
Violoncellos
Double Basses

A woodwind instrument is a wind instrument in which sound is produced by blowing through a mouthpiece against an edge or by a vibrating reed, and in which the pitch is varied by opening or closing holes in the body of the instrument. ... The examples and perspective in this article or section may not represent a worldwide view. ... The oboe is a double reed musical instrument of the woodwind family. ... Two soprano clarinets: a Bâ™­ clarinet (left) and an A clarinet (right, with no mouthpiece). ... A Fox Products bassoon. ... Image of a trumpet. ... The horn is a brass instrument that consists of tubing wrapped into a coiled form. ... Trumpeter redirects to here. ... A percussion instrument can be any object which produces a sound by being struck with an implement, shaken, rubbed, scraped, or by any other action which sets the object into vibration. ... A timpanist in the United States Air Forces in Europe Band. ... A string instrument (or stringed instrument) is a musical instrument that produces sound by means of vibrating strings. ... This does not cite its references or sources. ... The viola (in French, alto; in German Bratsche) is a string instrument played with a bow which serves as the middle voice of the violin family, between the upper lines played by the violin and the lower lines played by the cello and double bass. ... Alternate meaning: Cello web browser A cropped image to show the relative size of a cello to a human (Uncropped Version) The cello (also violoncello or cello) is a stringed instrument and part of the violin family. ... Side and front views of a modern double bass with a French bow. ...

Form

The Eighth Symphony consists of four movements:

  1. Allegro vivace e con brio
  2. Scherzo: Allegretto
  3. Menuetto
  4. Allegro vivace

It is approximately 26 minutes in duration. In musical terminology, tempo (Italian for time) is the speed or pace of a given piece. ... This article is about tempo in music. ... In musical terminology, tempo (Italian for time) is the speed or pace of a given piece. ...


First Movement

This movement is in the home key of F major and is in fast 3/4 time. As with most of Beethoven's first movements of this period, it is written in sonata form, including a fairly substantial coda. As Antony Hopkins has noted, the movement is slightly unusual among Beethoven's works in that it reaches its dramatic climax not during the development section, but at the onset of the recapitulation. To this end, the concluding bars of the development form a huge crescendo, and the return of the opening bars is marked fff, an unusual dynamic for Beethoven. Sonata form is a musical form that has been used widely since the early Classical period. ... Coda sign Coda (Italian for tail; from the Latin cauda), in music, is a passage which brings a movement or a separate piece to a conclusion through prolongation. ... Antony Hopkins (born 1921) is an English composer, also known for his books of musical analysis and his radio programs Talking About Music broadcast for many years by the BBC. Not to be confused with actor Sir Anthony Hopkins who has composed some music, including some for the film August... Musical development is the transformation and restatement of initial material, often contrasted with musical variation, with which it may be difficult to distinguish as a general process. ... Recapitulation is the term used by Irenaeus to describe the manner in which God interacts with the world towards the final goal in space and time of mans salvation and redemption. ...


The opening theme is in three sections of four bars each, with the pattern forte-piano-forte. At the onset of the recapitulation, the theme is made more emphatic by omitting the middle four bars.


Second Movement

This movement is an affectionate parody of the metronome, which had only recently been invented (or more accurately, merely improved) by Beethoven's friend Johann Maelzel. It is worth remembering that unlike today, people in Beethoven's time had little access to machine-generated musical rhythm, and mostly knew only the nuanced rhythms produced by musicians (see link below). Thus the perfectly even, monotonous sound of the metronome may well have struck them as particularly ridiculous and amusing. Machine-created rhythm had already been parodied by Haydn in his "Clock" Symphony; Beethoven pursued the same impulse for the faster rhythm of the new metronome. A mechanical wind-up metronome in motion A digital metronome set to pulse at four beats per measure at a tempo of 130 BPM A metronome is a device that produces a regulated pulse, usually used to keep a beat steady in musical compositions. ... Johann Nepomuk Mälzel (August 15, 1772 - July 21, 1838) was an inventor, engineer, and showman, best known for manufacturing a metronome and several music automatons, and displaying a fraudulent chess machine. ... Franz [1] Joseph Haydn (March 31, 1732 – May 31, 1809) was one of the most prominent composers of the Classical period, called the Father of the Symphony and Father of the String Quartet. A life-long resident of Austria, Haydn spent most of his career as a court musician for... The Symphony No. ...


The metronome parody starts at the very beginning of the movement with even staccato chords in 16th notes (semiquavers) played by the wind instruments, and a basic 16th note rhythm continues fairly steadily through the piece. The tempo is unusually fast for a symphonic "slow movement".


The key is B flat major, the subdominant of F, and the organization is what Charles Rosen has called "slow movement sonata form"; that is, at the end of the exposition there is no development section, but only a simple modulation back to B flat for the recapitulation. In music, the subdominant is the technical name for the fourth tonal degree of the diatonic scale. ... Charles Rosen (born May 5, 1927) is an American pianist and music theorist. ... In music, modulation is most commonly the act or process of changing from one key (tonic, or tonal center) to another. ... Recapitulation is the term used by Irenaeus to describe the manner in which God interacts with the world towards the final goal in space and time of mans salvation and redemption. ...


The second subject includes a motif of very rapid 64th notes (hemidemisemiquavers), suggesting perhaps a rapidly unwinding spring in a not-quite-perfected metronome. This motif is played by the whole orchestra at the end of the coda. Coda sign Coda (Italian for tail; from the Latin cauda), in music, is a passage which brings a movement or a separate piece to a conclusion through prolongation. ...


Third Movement

A nostalgic invocation of the old minuet, obsolete by the time this symphony was composed. (A similar nostalgic minuet appears in the Piano Sonata Opus 31 no. 3, from 1802). The style of Beethoven's minuet is not particularly close to its 18th century models, as retains a rather coarse, thumping rhythm. Thus, for example, after the initial upbeat Beethoven places the dynamic indication sforzando (sf) on each of the next five beats. This makes the minuet stylistically close to the other movements of the symphony, which likewise rely often on good-humored, thumping accents. A minuet, sometimes spelled menuet, is a social dance of French origin for two persons, usually in 3/4 time. ... In music, dynamics refers to the volume or loudness of the sound or note, in particular to the range from soft (quiet) to loud. ...


Like most minuets, this one is written in ternary form, with a contrasting trio section containing prized solos for horns and clarinet. Ternary form is a structuring mechanism of a piece of music. ... The horn is a brass instrument that consists of tubing wrapped into a coiled form. ... Two soprano clarinets: a Bâ™­ clarinet (left) and an A clarinet (right, with no mouthpiece). ...


Fourth Movement

This is the most substantial movement, in very fast tempo. It is written in a version of sonata rondo form in which the opening material reappears in three places: the start of the development section, the start of the recapitulation, and about halfway through the coda. Sonata rondo form was a form of musical organization often used during the Classical music era. ... Musical development is the transformation and restatement of initial material, often contrasted with musical variation, with which it may be difficult to distinguish as a general process. ... Recapitulation is the term used by Irenaeus to describe the manner in which God interacts with the world towards the final goal in space and time of mans salvation and redemption. ... Coda sign Coda (Italian for tail; from the Latin cauda), in music, is a passage which brings a movement or a separate piece to a conclusion through prolongation. ...


The fourth movement imitates the first in that the move to the second subject first adopts the "wrong" key, then moves to the normal key (exposition: dominant, recapitulation: tonic) after a few measures.


The coda section is felt by many listeners to be extraordinary, being one of the most substantial and elaborate codas in all of the Classical era. Because the opening material returns in the middle of this coda, it can be interpreted loosely as a second development and recapitulation section. Thus, if ordinary sonata form is conceived as "ABA" (exposition, development, recapitulation), then the finale of the Eighth Symphony could be interpreted as "ABABA". This extension perhaps arises from the same impulse that led Beethoven to write scherzi in ABABA form (scherzo/trio/scherzo/trio/scherzo) in the Sixth and Seventh Symphonies. The Classical period in Western music occurred from about 1730 through 1820, despite considerable overlap at both ends with preceding and following periods, as is true for all musical eras. ... A scherzo (plural scherzi) is a name given to a piece of music or a movement from a larger piece such as a symphony. ... Ludwig van Beethovens Symphony No. ... Ludwig van Beethoven began concentrated work on his Symphony No. ...


The coda has two particularly striking events. The harmonically out-of-place loud C# that interrupts the main theme in the exposition and recapitulation finally gets an "explanation": it turns out to be the root of the dominant chord of the remote key of F# minor, and the main theme is loudly played in this key. A few measures later, there is a stunning modulation in which this key is "hammered down" by a semitone, arriving instantaneously at the home key of F major. Primary and secondary roots in a cotton plant In vascular plants, the root is that organ of a plant body that typically lies below the surface of the soil (compare with stem). ... In music, the dominant is the fifth degree of the scale. ... Fingering for a first position C major chord on a guitar. ...


The symphony ends in good humor on a very long passage of loud tonic harmony.


Books

The following books were used as references in preparing this article:

  • Extensive discussion of the symphony is offered in Antony Hopkins's book The Nine Symphonies of Beethoven (1982, Pan Macmillian, ISBN 0-330-26670-5).
  • Charles Rosen provides extensive discussion of the fourth movement, particularly its coda, in his book Sonata Forms (revised edition 1988; New York: Norton. ISBN 0-393-30219-9).

Antony Hopkins (born 1921) is an English composer, also known for his books of musical analysis and his radio programs Talking About Music broadcast for many years by the BBC. Not to be confused with actor Sir Anthony Hopkins who has composed some music, including some for the film August... Charles Rosen (born May 5, 1927) is an American pianist and music theorist. ...

External links

  • Program notes by Steven Ledbetter
  • The score of the Eighth Symphony has been posted by the William and Gayle Cook Music Library at Indiana University.
  • The Music Acoustics Group at the Swedish Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) has studied the differences between musical rhythm as created by musicians vs. metronome rhythm; for discussion and audio demonstrations consult their page on Rules for Music Performance.
  • Analysis of the Beethoven Symphony No. 8 on the All About Ludwig van Beethoven Page
  • Complete performance by the Philadelphia Orchestra.


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