2015-2016 – A Celebration of the Montgomery Philharmonic’s 10th Anniversary Season

October 18th, 2015

About Ludwig van Beethoven –
Ludwig van Beethoven was a German composer and pianist. A crucial figure in the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras in Western art music, he remains one of the most famous and influential of all composers. Beethoven started his professional study as a pianist in 1779 in Bonn with Neefe, who was appointed Court Organist. Neefe also taught him composition. Beethoven’s first job was working as Neefe’s assistant. During this time, his first works were published—a set of piano variations and three sonatas. Soon afterward, Beethoven moved to Vienna, intending to study with Haydn. It is not clear how much he actually studied with him, but we know that Beethoven did study counterpoint with Haydn. At the same time, Beethoven established himself as a piano virtuoso and violinist.

In the early 1800’s, Beethoven began to write symphonies, chamber music, and piano sonatas, and he also accepted piano students. The first signs of tinnitus began to appear at this time, and by 1811, he was having great difficulty playing his own work, the
Emperor Concerto; by 1814, he was completely deaf. Beethoven’s deafness has been attributed to lead poisoning. He kept his wine in a ceramic container that had a lead-based glaze, and a recent analysis of a few strands of his hair found that it had abnormally high levels of lead.
Beethoven’s last period of composition began in 1815. At this point, he became an innovator in forms of composition, and his music had a striking intellectual depth and intensity of expression.

Born: December 16, 1770, in Bonn, Germany
Died: March 26, 1827, in Vienna, Austria
Full name: Ludwig van Beethoven
Compositions: 9 symphonies, 7 concerti, 1 opera, numerous works for piano including 32 piano sonatas, 16 string quartets, and dozens of other chamber music works
Parents: Maria Magdalena Keverich, Johann van Beethoven
Siblings: Kaspar Anton Karl van Beethoven, Nikolaus Johann van Beethoven, Ludwig Maria van Beethoven
Symphony No. 3 in Eb major, Opus 55 (1804) – Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827)
When Beethoven wrote his third symphony, three editions were copied out. The first edition was published in Vienna and then his friend Nicolas Simrock published the first German edition. Composed from 1803 to 1805, the work represents Beethoven’s middle period. He was just beginning to deal with his loss of hearing, and this period represented the transition from the mature Classical era to the beginnings of the Romantic era. The symphony was premiered privately in August 1804, and the first public performance was on April 7, 1805, at the Theater-an-der-Wien in Vienna, Austria.

Like all symphonies composed at that time, the work has four movements—
Allegro con brio, Marcia funebre: Adagio assai in C minor, Scherzo: Allegro vivace, and Finale: Allegro molto.

The first movement is in the sonata-allegro form in a fast ¾ time. Two E-flat chords at the beginning quickly establish the tonal center of the symphony. The celli introduce the first theme, and the second theme leads into the development section. That section adds more harmonic and rhythmic tension with more dissonant chords and a lot of syncopation. At this point, the symphony breaks with the Classical era tradition.

The second movement is a funeral march and trio that moves from C minor to C major. Beethoven gives a nod to Bach and the Baroque era with several fugatos. There are clear expressions of grief in this movement, especially with the oboe solo at the beginning. This movement has been said to reflect Beethoven’s despair over losing his hearing.

The third movement is a scherzo that is full of energy and plays with rhythm. The listener can hear Beethoven move between duple and triple meter. This is one of the first symphonies to use three horns instead of two and Beethoven gives them the chance to shine in the trio (middle) section.

In the fourth movement, Beethoven disguises the theme with fugues, village dances, and virtuoso solos, weaving all of these different parts together in a set of ten variations and a coda.

By late 1803, Beethoven had sketched out most of the third symphony. The symphony was inspired by the ideals of the French revolution, but when Napoleon crowned himself Emperor of France, Beethoven became upset and erased Napoleon’s name from the front page of the manuscript. He did this so violently that he made holes in the paper. Originally named
The Bonaparte Symphony, it was later changed to the Eroica symphony. It is thought that Beethoven intended for the symphony to be an exploration of what it means to be human, with all of its demons and his choice to continue making music. He acknowledged the everyday hero in all of us.
Instrumentation – 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets in Bb, 2 bassoons, 3 horns in Eb, C & F, 2 trumpets in Eb & C, timpani, violin 1, violin 2, viola, cello, double bass