BEETHOVEN Ludwig Van, Septet in E flat Op.20

Adagio – Allegro con brio 
Adagio cantabile 
Tempo di menuetto 
Tema con variazioni. Andante 
Scherzo. Allegro molto e vivace 
Andante con moto alla marcia – Presto 

Beethoven’s Septet was written in 1799. It was first performed at a concert given by Beethoven at the Burgtheater in Vienna on 2 April 1800 and was published – after a typically querulous exchange between Beethoven and his publisher – in 1802. Aiming for the top in terms of potential supporters, Beethoven dedicated it to Maria Theresa – the last Holy Roman Empress and the first Empress of Austria. The Septet’s success was enduring, something Beethoven came to resent since he felt the public should take more interest in his later music. 


The first movement is a genial sonata form Allegro with a slow introduction. The Adagio cantabile opens with a clarinet melody that is taken over by the violin, while clarinet and bassoon play a counter-melody, all supported by a gentle accompaniment on the lower strings. The bucolic Minuet demonstrates Beethoven the recycler, using the same theme as the Piano Sonata Op.49 No.2. The relaxed mood is maintained in the charming theme and variations. The Scherzo is launched by a horn call from which much of what follows is derived. Even the start of the Trio has thematic links with this tune, but a cello theme provides an effective contrast. The finale begins with one of the few significant uses of a minor key in the Septet: a stern march that quickly gives way to a rollicking Presto, its mood unclouded and its themes deliciously memorable. 


© Nigel Simeone 2014 


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