Listening Log- [Pt. III- Proj.2] Ludwig Van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1 in C Major, Op. 21

Ludwig Van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1 in C Major, Op. 21 (1795–1801)

Ludwig van Beethoven wrote his ‘Symphony No. 1 in C Major’ sometime between 1795- 1801. It was premiered in Vienna in 1800 at a concert of Mozart’s and Haydn’s music in an attempt at introducing him to the Classical establishment and to the world.

I find Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1 interesting in that it presents itself as a classical symphony in terms of its form but nevertheless strays from the norm when it comes to instrumentations and unusual tempo markings. Beethoven seems to have been paying homage to Haydn and Mozart whilst simultaneously putting his own, slightly rebellious stamp on the symphony.

The First Movement (in sonata form) unfolds as follows;

There’s a slow introduction which meanders through various keys before it finally settles and reveals the tonic. In a slightly teasing manner, he keeps us waiting for the home key. The first theme interestingly features a dotted rhythm in the strings, giving it a definite character. Accompaniment is in the winds and brass. After a couple of minutes, the 2nd subject melody starts being passed between the oboe and flute as they imitate each other. A Codetta leads into a repeat of the 1st and 2nd subjects. The Development section begins after a change of harmony with some notable syncopation in the winds and earlier material is transposed. During the Recapitulation both themes are clearly heard. The movement then ends with a minute-long Coda. It is mainly the interplay between the various sections of the orchestra section which makes the first movement somewhat ‘new’ in its flavour.

The second movement, the Andante is unusual in that it is at a faster tempo than was usually the case and is also richer, with more instruments than what was commonplace at the time.

The third movement labelled a Menuetto is in fact a Scherzo but without any new melodic motives.

The finale is pretty much written in a very traditional Haydn-esque way.

Overall this is still very much a Classical symphony but Beethoven sneaks in some of his own idiosyncrasies and it foreshadows the turn his music would eventually take, although not in a glaringly obvious way. I like the sense of wit and cleverness he shows; however, I am still not as overwhelmed by this early symphony as I am by his later Romantic works.