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Symphony No. 2, in D. Op. 36.

Ludwig Van Beethoven
(1770-1827)



1. Adagio molto. Allegro con brio.
2. Larghetto.
3. Scherzo and Trio. Allegro.
4. Allegro molto.

Beethoven's Second Symphony was completed in the year 1802, and was first heard at the Theater an der Wien, April 5, 1803. It begins, like the first, with an introductory Adagio, although of much greater length. The study opening on a hold on D, in unison by the whole orchestra, is at once followed by an exquisite phrase for the oboes and bassoons. Similar contrasts prevail until the opening of the Allegro con brio. The theme is given out by the cellos, and in the repeat --

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the bases softly join them. The last part of the motive is somewhat emphasized by repeating the step of a third on the quarter notes at a, to a connecting melody in the winds, until the strings take up the first part of the theme given above, and carrying it up into the seventh, enlarge the scope for a sweeping violin figure, which with a pronounced staccato phrase serves as a connection with the second theme:

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This theme is scarcely inferior in its jubilant expression to any similar outburst in Beethoven's later works. This feeling is intensified in the repeat by a trill-like figure in the violins, which now runs into this motive:

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until after a number of abrupt chords fortissimo the full orchestra stops on a diminished seventh chord, followed by three-quarters rest, during which in place of some crashing resolution, a soft murmur strikes the ear from the strings:

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and not until after a cresendo of eight measures are we gratified with a satisfactory closing. The second part deals chiefly with the same material, a new feature being added by the counter-movement of a broken scale against the theme:

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and the constant tossing about of the motive:

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The second half of the second theme furnishes the composer the material for the following exquisite phrase:

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The close is exceedingly bold, the bases rising in a slow chromatic scale throughout an octave from D to D, the violins trying to counterbalance it by the other extreme of gigantic strides. The movement ends with a feeling of exultant joy and happiness.

The Larghetto is one of the loveliest slow movements Beethoven ever wrote, and is a special favorite in concert room. The opening theme --

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given out by the strings and repeated by the winds, is a flowing cantinela of exceeding beauty, uninterupted by any staccato or even any well-marked incision in the phrasing. The second phrase --

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only intensifies the general feeling expressed in the first. A long dialogue follows, which hardly needs musical quotation to be throughly understood by the attentive listener.

The Scherzo here appears under its own name. It is built up on a short motive of three notes repeated over and over again, first by the bases, then by the violins, and again by the horns, after which the oboes bring it reversed, at one time fortissimo and again piano, but ever tripping along staccato until the violins in the second part indulge in a temporary sweep of descending scale, followed by a reminder of a leading figure of the first Allegro:

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The three-note motive however soon carries the day. The Trio begins with a short phrase in oboes and bassoons, played twice and ending in D. The violins follow with a determined stroke on the third (F sharp) and turn the note into the tonic of chord of F sharp, eventually quieted down on the same F sharp.

The Finale expresses the same happy mood that characterizes the preceeding movements. The opening motive is throughly characteristic and piquant:

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Then follows a longer period, in which the winds carry the melody while the strings furnish an apparently monotonous staccato accompaniment. In the further working up, that part of the motive containing the trill is also more extensively employed. Right here we have also an instance where the composer exchanges humor for downright fun. Imagine the beginning of the following quotation:

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fortissimo, supported by the whole orchestra, losing at a with a sforzando crash, followed by the weazened little gasp of the first violin pianissimo, then by a pause and a repetition of the whimpring appoggiatura, finally after a second pause the whole orchestra breaking in at b with the opening motive, forte. The close is worked out into a Coda of considerable length, starting from two sucessive holds with a new rhythmic figure, which, however, soon merges into general whirl of joyous mirth prevading the whole movement.




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