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Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in A Major Op. 92 was heralded by Beethoven’s contemporaries and scholars in this day and age as a masterpiece of artistry and musical genius. Following the premiere of the piece, the symphony was performed three more times in the following 10 weeks and garnered immense applause from audiences all over Vienna. Not only was this piece considered to be one of celebration and beauty, but composers such as Schubert, Berlioz, Mendelssohn, and Wagner took stylistic qualities which this symphony displayed and used these characteristics among their own works. This brought about a highly esteemed reputation for Beethoven as Romanticism was in full swing around Western Europe during this time.
The Symphony, written from 1811-1812, could be considered a response of patriotism from the occupation of Napoleonic forces in 1805 and 1809. During this period, Vienna was in a state of recovery and required inspiration in order to persist French control. The premiere of the Symphony took place in 1813 at a charity concert for wounded soldiers in the Battle of Hanau and was dedicated to the musical patronage Count Moritz von Fries. One of the contributing factors of the huge success of the Seventh Symphony is that there were less demands placed on a listener whilst hearing this work performed. The piece could be understood in a simpler context unlike the Eroica Symphony which is more complex in nature and function. The second movement in particular stuck out from the rest of the four movements as being considered to be the zenith of instrumental music and has been performed separately from the symphony in its entirety.
The instrumentation of the Symphony calls for two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets in A, two bassoons, two horns in A, E, and D, two trumpets in D, timpani, and strings. The first movement is in a sonata form, begins with the tempo marking Poco Sostenuto, then transitions into a quicker Vivace shortly afterwards in the home key of A major. The introduction of this movement is considered to be a type of prologue for the music that follows. This introduction features a wide array of colors across a wide range to which an orchestral ensemble can produce and some consider it to be a separate movement altogether because of this. The second movement is in A minor, marked Allegretto, and is in a double variation form. There is an ostinato which takes place in this movement and is passed throughout the ensemble as progression ensues creating beauty with every beat. This iconic ostinato is what makes this movement a favorite of listeners as the material used is humble in rhythm, yet is popular among audiences everywhere. The third movement is a scherzo played in F major, and then followed by a trio played in D major. The movement, which is in a ternary form, uses an expansion of the form which Beethoven was known for displaying in previous works such as his fourth and sixth symphonies. The fourth movement, marked Allegro con Brio, is also in a sonata form. This movement is considered to be extremely energetic and brings forth a wall of sound to a listener. The movement is the first to which Beethoven wrote the dynamic marking fff, and instruments such as the violins and horns are playing at the top of their registers throughout adding to the driving nature of this movement.
This symphony is considered widely to be a prime Romantic work and it is quite easy to see why due to the huge amount of stylistic qualities such as sense of rhythm, changes in contrasts, and a variety of life and color. Beethoven strives to excite one’s imagination with the performance of this Symphony in a fashion which is brilliantly fashioned yet simple in theory making this piece completely unique to instrumental music known in the Common Practice Period thus far.
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