Beethoven's Third Symphony In E Flat

2090 words - 8 pages

Beethoven's third symphony in E Flat, written in 1804 is a vast work in terms of length for any orchestra to perform. Indeed it contains one of the longest first movements ever composed. [Simpson 1986, pp. 19] With a first movement comprising of some seven hundred bars this is a symphony that redefined the genre and moved Beethoven firmly into his musicological 'middle' period due to the range of compositional techniques, expressive articulation and wealth of ideas that the work contains. The piece borders between a Romantic and late classical style with a lot of expression and emotional content. The overriding structure is sonata form but Beethoven gives an almost equal amount of bars to every section, including a coda, a pattern which was and still is extremely rare. The forces of the symphony however are relatively modest, apart from the inclusion of a third horn, there is little difference instrumentally between this and other symphonic works of the period, causing some conductors to double instruments and even whole sections in order to present the piece with its expected grandeur sound. [Del Mar 1992, pp. 21].
One of the problems for a conductor working with Beethoven on such a large scale movement is the sense of space that transpires from the music. This problem is rectified somewhat by the tempo of the movement which is remarkably fast, some would say too fast, for a work of this size. [Simpson 1986, pp. 20]. Two forte E flat major tutti chords announce the movement and establish the key before piano strings feed into the exposition which stars officially (according to the bar lines) in bar four. This is a very overt start to the performance and will require a lot of rehearsal as these chords need to be very precisely placed and perfectly in tune. The exposition endures for 155 bars whereupon 1st and 2nd time bars appear with a repeat (which Beethoven insisted upon performing) and a continuation respectively into the development section [Simpson 1986, pp. 21]. The development section is 224 bars long and concludes at bar 398 (figure 'M'). In the recapitulation Beethoven reintroduces both the first and second subjects but still explores different keys such as D flat major. The coda starts at bar 563 and is very extensive for the first movement of a symphony and this brings the first movement to a close in the home key of E Flat. Beethoven however still finds the time and space to insert one more theme into this last section before developing a theme that was introduced during the development section. The metre of the entire movements is 3/4 throughout which suggests (especially at the time it was composed) a dance like quality to the music. There is no variation in metre, which is perhaps surprising but the lack of variation allows Beethoven to show his compositional dexterity by accenting different beats of the bar in order to produce the effect of different metres such as in bar 124 – 132 with tutti sforzando chords. The dance...

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