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Music with Ease > Classical Music > Concert Guide: Classical Era > Symphony No. 4, in B Flat. Op. 60. (Beethoven)

Symphony No. 4, in B Flat. Op. 60.

Ludwig Van Beethoven

1. Adagio. Allegro vivace.
2. Adagio.
3. Menuette. Allegro vivace. Trio, un poco meno allegro.
4. Allegro ma non troppo.

The Fourth Symphony, written in 1806, lies like a gleam of sunlight between the heroic Third and majestic Fifth.

The symphony begins with the customary slow introduction, which opens in this mysterious manner to a long-held B flat in the wind instruments:

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and is followed by the Allegro vivace, at an accelerated pace:

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While the violins are indulging in mysterious whisperings, the bassoons skips around nimbly, until it is silenced by a crescendo of four measures, and the rush of the opening of the Allegro is repeated. A mocking syncopated phrase now ocurs, followed by a little conversation between the bassoon, oboes, flutes, and violins, until a unison figure in the strings, of a peculiarly buoyant character in its harmonic design and well calculated for a fine crescendo --

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brings us to a little canon --

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in its very simplicity admirably in keeping with the general character of the music. A mysterious tremolo pianisimo for the violins is followed by a syncopated figure in the violins forcing the repetition of the first part. The second part, through dealing essentially with the same thematic material, is exceedingly rich in harmonic changes and transpositions. This also contains an inacompanied, unbroken scale, started by the first violins and carried down into the basses, always pianissimo, breaking into an upward sweep through a diminished seventh chord and landing again within four measures on a high D in the flutes. This sets the kettledrum to growling, and while it keeps up its rumbling for twenty six measures, the scattered forces are called back one by one until they unite in the opening theme fortissimo.

In the Adagio the following measure, given out by the second violins --

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is used by the composer as the chief design for his acompaniment throughout. A lovely air --

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enters at the second measure, marked "cantabile," sung by the violins. It is repeated in the wind instruments, to which is also given the greater part of the second phase. Just at the close the opening motive claims its right for the first time as a solo for the kettle drum.

The Minuet differs in its form soemwhat from any of Beethoven's former third movements, inasmuch as it is divided into five sections instead of three. The principal motive shows that what care Beethoven bestowed upon these movements. The jostling, pushing effect of the first part of the opening phrase, offset by the sweeping legato answer, is all he needed for the Minuet proper; but how wonderfully these means are employed when we come to look at their distribution, as far as harmony and color are concerned! The Trio consists of a short phrase for the wind instruments, interrupted by a playful remark of the violins --

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repeated on three ascending steps, with a short trill toward the end imparting a peculiar elegance to the dainty dialogue. The final repeat of the Minuet proper winds up with the following:

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The last movement starts off merrily with the violins:

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followed by a figure of limited compass. The close is a playfully dramatic. After a general call to order, followed by a pause of one measure, the first violins make their adieux, answered by the bassoon and finally by the violas. At last all rush off helter-skelter, shouting fortissimo:

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See also:
Middle Ages Music
Renaissance Music
Baroque Era Music
Classical Era Music
Romantic Era Music
Nationalist Era Music
Turn of Century Music

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