Thursday, October 13, 2011

Beethoven - Symphony No. 8 in F Major

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 - 1827) called his 8th Symphony "My little Symphony in F" to differentiate between it and Symphony No.6, also in F and a longer work. The symphony was begun in 1812 and premiered in 1814.  It was greeted with politely enthusiastic applause and was not received with the same fervor as Symphony No. 7.  When asked why this symphony wasn't as popular as No. 7, he reportedly replied, "Because the Eighth is so much better!"

The Symphony is in four movements:


  • I. Allegro vivace e con brio - 
  • The symphony begins with no introduction, but gets right to the matter at hand. It is written in sonata form, and in the development section there is a long stretch where the orchestra plays fortissimo, a most unusual dynamic for so long a stretch.

    II. Allegretto scherzando - The second movement is thought by some to be a humorous imitation of a metronome.

    III. Tempo di Menuetto - A minuet in the style of a Haydn peasant stomp.

    IV. Allegro vivace - Beethoven has plenty of surprises in this last movement. 'Wrong' notes played to good effect, the kettle drums tuned to octaves instead of 5ths are two examples.

    The 8th Symphony sits between two of Beethoven's mightiest compositions, the 7th and the 9th. That it sits and thumbs its nose a little at them is no mistake, for Beethoven quite often countered a piece of serious and noble intentions with a piece more light-hearted. Beethoven's notorious sense of humor shines through this symphony and makes it one of his best, if not most popular.

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