VII. symphony, A-major, opus 92
Analysis of the
Movement form: sonata form with introductory section.
Tempo designation: Vivace – 4/4, vivace: – 6/8
The introductory music section.
After orchestral chords a slow and long musical introductory-theme sounds on oboe, while the orchestral chords sound three more times.
Then on strings the so-called scale-passages follow, which move upward and are repeated several times, from piano to fortissimo.
After, dance rhythmic, idyllic melody sounds on oboe, which is repeated.
The scale-passages sound again, followed by the dance rhythmic melody. Then the rhythmic interlude prepares the entry of the vivace. We reach the vivace through motif-thinning and gradually decreasing dynamics. See PPT page #3!
(motif-thinning = when the composer gradually decreases the motif consisting of a few notes to one or two notes, in this case to a single note.)
The movement is introduced by a repeating rhythm pattern, this is the dactyl-motif; here a pianissimo sounds /in the coda, fortissimo sounds/. ♫ 008_Egy_daktilus_mot.wav
A dactyl is a descending foot of one long and two short syllables: – U U
With Morse–sounds: dah-dit-dit, example word: tenderly, musical etc.
Music: one long and two short notes.
The first theme sounds on flute in piano. After motif-weaving the theme is fulfilled on whole orchestra with strong dynamics. A joyous and extremely energetic melody of a playful mood. As background music we hear the dactyl rhythm-motif. ♫ 009_Egy_elso_tema.wav
Then downward moving motivic sequences follow, which reach a rhythmic transition section.
The second theme consists of two short parts. The “b” part first sounds on wind instruments in piano, then in forte on the orchestra. The dactyl-motif is present throughout.
The transition to the closing theme is done by motif-repetitions that begin in piano, and then its dynamics gradually become more powerful. The closing theme sounds fairly hidden on deep strings in bass, its melody moving downward and repeating.
Next the motif selected from the closing theme plays a short part, then the wild, barbaric sounding, interrupted closing-figure leads to the end of the exposition. In between, general pause loosens the rhythmic tension to some extent.
At the beginning of the elaboration section we only hear rhythm, then a motif reminiscent of the first theme, and after motivic and rhythmic play alternate, the protagonist of which is the dactyl rhythm-motif throughout.
At the end of the elaboration section the dynamics increase, which prepares the reprise of the first theme. Flow chart cannot be made.
I suggest several listennings! (Wagner gave the name “The apotheosis of dance” for the symphony, considering rhytmics. We first read the word apotheosis when discussing Musical knowledge, more specifically rhythm; the word description is at the end of the page.)
The reprise of the first theme sounds on the whole orchestra, while its repetition sounds in piano (it was the opposite in the exposition!). The transition before the second theme now sounds in forte volume. The dynamic contrasts are extremely sharp; there is no other important difference from the exposition.
First, we only hear rhythm, then repetition of motifs sound.
The repetitions’ dynamics gradually increase, at the end of which the dactyl-motifs explode on the whole orchestra in fortissimo.
The conclusion is also ruled by this rhythm-type, the volume is of course still fortissimo.
The movement, and especially the rhythm may have been considered modern at that time, as the contemporary composer Weber C. M. (1786-1826) – an excellent german composer – once said: “Beethoven is now ready for the asylum.”
Analysis of the II. movement
Movement form: free trio form (can be divided into three parts).
Tempo designation: Allegretto, time signature: 2/4
The most popular movement of the symphony. It’s not a funeral march, as the second movement of the III. symphony, but music reminiscent of grief. The movement summons a funeral march slowly advancing, then moving away. During the first performance the audience asked for the repetition of the movement.
Bernstein, L. said: ”It was born somewhere in the cosmos, its place is there.”
The movement can be divided into three parts.
First part - A
There is a monotonous base rhythm present throughout the movement; it is similar to the rhythmic music of the brook in the VI. symphony’s second movement; or e.g. the beating-motif of the IV. symphony’s second movement.
Here is the base rhythm: it consists of a dactyl and a spondee (only two beats). We are already familiar with the dactyl: – U U; the spondee consists of two long syllables: – – Example word: childhood, heartbreak.
The dactyl and the spondee make up the ancient Greek adonic verse, the formula of which is: – U U – –
With Morse code: dah-dit-dit-dah-dah; word example: strawberry shortcake.
Don’t just read, but pronounce the words as well! ♫ 016_adoniszi_ritmus.wav
From this completely insignificant, monotonous rhythm – first we hear it in one single note – a theme (melody) sounds and is developed. This is the movement’s most important melody, in fact its main melody.
In the followings we hear this melody in variational development. The dynamics increase, the orchestration becomes richer, to which a counter-theme is added. The melody and tone of the counter-theme is mournful, and really intimate; it is about pain and grief.
Second part - B
The second part’s keynote is pain, its melody is primarily lyrical, and sounds on clarinet, while violins provide background music. Then the musical fabric becomes richer, at the end of which scale-passages prepare the main melody’s appearance in the third section. These all move downwards.
The third part - C
The main melody sounds in piano. Then we hear its fugato development, at the end of which the base rhythm sounds on fortissimo, four times. The second part’s lyrical melody begins again, but it does not end, but gradually sounds more distant, and we only hear some parts of the main melody, more and more silently, while general pauses interrupt the continuity of the music.
Analysis of the III. movement
Movement form: scherzo-like.
Tempo designation: Presto, time signature: 3/4
Assai meno presto (Trio), time signature: 3/4
A. - Presto
The movement begins with two beats of rhythm introduction /upbeat/, then in piano the theme follows, which is repeated instantly; it moves downward, it “hurries-runs-rushes”; its rhythm is dance-like (its not exactly melodious).
Then it builds from the presto’s – as it were cheerful music – motif-fragment. It’s characterized by unbridled high spirits, as well as audacity, which concerns tempo, dynamics and orchestration. Its rhythm is special, unique. Flow chart is not applicable. ♫ 020_Harom_presto_tema.mp3
B. - Trio
The movement’s middle part, the trio is a melody of an extremely poetic tone, which possibly has folk roots. Simple and intimate. Its beauty and artistic force is in the development and orchestration of the melody, and Beethoven elevates it to the heights of musical art.
A – (third part)
In the third part the Presto sounds again, then the Trio, and again the Presto. After the Presto sounds the third time the music of the Trio begins, which is interrupted by forte chords; it soon becomes evident that it is a musical joke.
“We can almost see Beethoven before us, throwing away his pen.” – Schumann, Robert (1810-1856) portrays the ending with this apt picture.
Analysis of the IV. movement
Movement form: free sonata form.
Tempo designation: Allegro con brio, time signature: 2/4
There were critics who said that in some parts of this finale Beethoven
“cries and shouts”, rather than playing music. In
Some also called it “wild bacchanalia” as well as “the orgy of rhythm”. Perhaps R. Wagner’s (1813 – 1883) symphony-naming is the most appropriate: “The apotheosis of dance.” (Perhaps even more so the apotheosis of rhythm! It could also be: the crowning of rhythm, the celebration of rhythm – these are only names given by me.)
The movement can be best described with the words “frightening vigour”. Let us observe, whether it is true!
The movement’s music begins with the already heard dactyl-motif, which sounds twice, it rumbles: – U U ♫ 024_Negy_daktilus_mot.wav
Two hundred years ago, the beginning was unusual, daring, and “modern” at the same time.
Then we hear the first theme right away. The theme in fact consists of the repetitions of a short motif! The theme is primarily ruled by rhythm and emphasis, the melody is subordinated to the dactyl-rhythm; after it sounds it is immediately repeated.
In the followings we hear the theme’s variant, (the difference is minimal), then it is repeated as well, and the repetitions of the first theme is concluded by the rumbling of the dactyl-motif four times.
I detail the flow chart because the motif and theme alternations happen quickly.
Then we hear the first theme’s consequent part twice, – while the dactyl-motif rumbles four times. Then a short little melody is repeated four times (it is in fact melodious, but sounds in forte), and leads to the so called beating-motifs.
The second theme follows, which is Hungarian, reminiscent of recruiting music in its rhythm; it can be divided into two parts. After concluding the theme, rhythmic motifs with increasing volume reach to the raving-motifs sounding on the whole orchestra, which is shifted by the ecstatic whirling-motifs, increasing its demonic effect, power. The conclusion is of course done by the dactyl-motif. ♫ 026_Negy_masodik_tema.wav
In the elaboration section the beginning of the first theme starts twice, but it is not finished. Then – just as in the exposition – the main theme sounds four times, followed by a short development section. It is characteristic of its play with rhythm.
At the end of the section the dynamics unexpectedly switch to piano: the dactyl-motif sounds four times, then the main melody begins; this short little musical part is repeated. Then without any transition the dactyl motif explodes in with forte volume, thus the reexposition begins.
The reexposition shows minimal difference from the exposition. That difference is at the repetition of the first theme, which is shorter than in the exposition.
The coda begins with four dactyl-motifs that explode with elemental force on the whole orchestra. The development of the first theme’s consequent part known from the exposition follows, which sounds four times, first followed by motif-weaving, then by motif-repetitions. At the end of the repetitions the dynamics become stronger, and the dactyl-motifs throb in anew.
Then the first theme’s consequent part appears again, but soon only one motif of it is repeated.
At the end of the repetitions the concluding section begins, its increased rhythm, dynamics crowns the movement, which ends in victorious blare.
Before the two chords would close the movement, Beethoven, as usual, reminiscences the beginning of the first theme twice, if only for a short time.
I n w o r d s
The VII. Symphony is a leap in quality in Beethoven’s music, similar to how the III. symphony was, and how the IX. Symphony will be. His European fame grows, which increases his self-confidence, his pleasure of composing. He is forty-three years old then. He himself conducts the orchestra, but due to his ear problems he is forced to withdraw from public appearance, and lives only to compose.
The symphony’s first
performance was in the grand hall of the
Before composing this symphony Beethoven was able to do an in-depth study on Greek world of legends, Homeros’ (? VIII. century BC.) works, Greek poetry, the foots, the old celebrations of the Greek nation along with their view of life etc. But not their music, as its practice has not passed down to the posterity. Even the authenticity of the >single melody< in the single surviving ode of the biggest Greek poet, Pindaros (? 520 BC– ?445 BC) is yet to be proved.
This time even the slightest dramatic contrast is missing from the symphony’s music. It is an informal, passionate and liberated music without any bounds. Its orchestration is richer and more colorful than that of the previous symphonies.
Perhaps I have to point out here that the symphony is in A Major. In the past, and perhaps even now the A major is described as a “shiny, bright” key. The D major was given the “heroic” attribute. The F major is the key for “pastoral themes”. The Bminor is “mournful”, the C minor is “dark” and “tragic”, and the G minor is “bitterly mournful” – (Mozart composed the so called great G minor symphony in this key – Köchel-register nr.: 550.)
This symphony is significantly different from the rest. Each movement has a unique rhythm.
The works power and greatness is defined by the rhythm as a whole. The rhythm, which is the primal component of music. ”In the beginning, there was rhythm.” – said Wagner. In music rhythm is the primary unit. At the dawn of humanity the „homo sapiens” created rhythm-music, which may be called as something derived from nature. Melody can be viewed as secondary, which is mainly derived from people’s emotions, and is only beautiful if it creates emotions in others as well: awakens joy or comforts our sad hearts. (The units of music: rhythm, melody, tone, dynamics; they cannot exist without each other, we cannot talk about music without them; except only the above mentioned rhythm-music.)
Thus we must observe the tempo designation of each movement!
Introduction’s tempo designation: Poco sostenuto (slightly drawling, reserved), 4/4
Movement’s tempo designation: Vivace (lively, fast), 6/8
The introductions tempo is slow to make the entry of the fast paced movement more effective. At the end of the introductory music we can witness the birth of the ”daktyl-motif”. (It is to no avail: the composer of a classical music piece cannot let its audience to listen to the music in an indifferent mood!)
We can only truly value the
music of a „vivace” movement, if we have already heard several. (For
The main theme reminiscent of
dancing, sounding in the
The second movement:
Allegretto (slightly fast), 2/4
The symphonies’ II. movement is usually slow, but here a slightly faster tempo designation is competent. The movement is defined by a monotonous base rhythm, which is almost present throughout: whether in piano or in fortissimo volume. The main theme’s melody is also defined by rhythm; it almost has an inferior role compared to rhythm.
The counter-theme joining the main theme is what has a more expressive melody; nostalgic, sorrowful, it has a greater effect on our emotions. The two melodies intertwine, and achieves their full purpose in fugato development.
At the end of the movement – with decreasing dynamics and interrupted melody – the main theme disappears into NOTHING. Dr. Antal Molnár musicologist, to describe the movement, quotes a section of Samuel’s poem:
„Vándor vagy, ember,
Bíztat az utad,
De célt az elméd hiába kutat.
Honnan jössz s hová vezet a Végzet,
Sosem adatott megtudni néked.
Csak mégy az úton,
Ki tudja, hova,
Mígnem majd egyszer Nem jutsz már tova.”
The III. movement:
Presto (really fast, swift), ¾
Trio: assai meno presto (less swiftly), ¾
The III. movement of the symphonies was traditionally the minuet, which was later replaced by the scherzo. Beethoven here no longer uses even the name scherzo, but simply uses tempo designation: Presto. Despite this the movement is in fact a fast paced scherzo. The Presto’s music is colorful, playful, funny; enchanting; its rhythm is daring, just as that of the other movement’s. Listening to it requires less attention, it is simply enough to take delight in it, immerse yourself in the pleasure of the music and in this case, mainly in the pleasure of rhythm.
The Trio’s sounding is quite poetic. Its melody is as simple as possible, gentle and emanating calmness. (It is also in contrast with the Presto!) Technical literature puts the melody and its base into the type of folk music. (Contemporary Stadler Abbé claims it is the melody of a known Austrian pilgrimage song.)
The orchestration and the masterfully chosen harmonies make it unforgettable.
And what we have to mention still is the movement’s form, which written with letters is the following: A B A B A, namely after the usual A B A pattern the Trio and the Presto are repeated.
The IV. movement:
Allegro con brio, 2/4 – lively, swiftly, with heat.
(Here I mention that the literal meaning of the word Allegro is: merry, fast.)
The IV. Movement is the crown on the symphony, to which the most appropriate attribute would be the already known ”frightful vigour”. Many claim that it cannot be played swiftly enough. Free and daring, it is not void of exaggerated passion.
Beethoven frees the rhythm of its boundaries, ties; he raises it to an ecstatic level, still keeps it under control. The general view has developed that the movement expresses the exhilaration of Dionysus: unbridled, limitless joy.
It is not exaggerating to use the word bacchanalia, which was the festivity of the ancient Greek nation. In this movement, the rhythm-patterns flowing unrestrained escape from their usual world, and create an exaggerated, orgiastic state.
We can also imagine that the music summons the mood of the masquerades of Italian cities, where the self-abandoned joy and the rhythms chasing each other carelessly calls to dance even those, who only wished to contemplate and to be inquisitive. In the end the masquerade turns into a collective dance-celebration, a national celebration. (Many qualify it as a wild folkdance.)
It is no accident that such an over-excited, passionate expression of rhythm evoked aversion to the symphony, as according to their value judgment it exceeds the notion of artistic beauty, offends the accepted aesthetic principles, etc.
By today, different research and analysis have proven and shown that the symphony’s movements comply with the rules of classical style, with the harmonic order and with the requirements of form and content.
And what is the most
significant proof: the symphony became popular throughout
Beethoven was not in a drunken state or state of delirium when he composed the symphony. He only increased the rhythm above the usual to express the rapturous joy of dancing, the ecstatic sense of life rising above earthly life. In other words: in the revel of the most primal element of music, rhythm, he expresses the feelings of the liberated spirit.
It is another question that
along with this he also expresses the mood of unbridled bacchanalia, the
rejoicing joy of Dionysus, which in ancient
The fact that two years after its first performance, several different treatments of the symphony (on wind instruments, quintet, piano) appeared in print further proves the greatness of this musical piece.
dionysia gr – the Dionysus-celebration of the ancient Greek, a feast of harvest (Dionysus = Bacchus – his other Greek name) < vissza