Morning Music: Beethoven

BeethovenLook at that Joseph Karl Stieler portrait of Ludwig van Beethoven. If that was all you had to go on, you would say that Beethoven was a Romantic. Indeed, he was a revolutionary force in the Classical period, and effectively the beginning of the the Romantic period. In fact, I’ve long had this idea that Beethoven was the cause of so much that I don’t like of that period. Because it is relatively easy to be overwrought like Beethoven but without much of his talent. And the Romantic period is indeed filled with with that kind of work.

But I don’t want to look at his later work, because that, it seems to me, is clearly Romantic period stuff. But even at the beginning of his career, he was making important changes. In fact, I’m presenting his Symphony No 1 — which he probably started when he was 25, but wasn’t first performed until he was 30. There are a couple of things to note here. First, the harmony is more complicated. In fact, I think Beethoven liked messing with the listener’s expectations. You can especially here this in the beginning of this piece. Also of interest is the expanded use of dynamics — it gets louder and software than Mozart generally did. And then there is much more use of the wind instruments, which adds a lot of color — something that becomes more clear as time goes on.

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