On Air Now
Smooth Classics with Margherita Taylor 10pm - 1am
Published in 1801 and dedicated to Baron Gottfried van Swieten, Beethoven's First Symphony contains more than a few hints at what was to come, musically.
Beethoven's symphony's form one of the most important bodies of work in musical history. The third, the fifth and the ninth get all the headlines and are generally the most well-loved, but the first is somewhat overlooked. It's not that it's simplistic in comparison or somehow far inferior to the others, it's more that it's been drowned out by its bigger brothers.
Written when Beethoven was only 25, the first symphony is, it's fair to say, a little bit backwards-facing. The influence of Haydn and Mozart are very plain in the melodies (especially in one that he nicked directly from Haydn), but there are a few hints of the greatness to come, the greatness that was Beethoven's alone - listen out for the clattering accents throughout for an idea of the greatness that was yet to come. And the opening? It's pretty bizarre, starting in a different key from the key of the symphony as a whole. Just another example of Beethoven breaking the mould - and an example of the earth-shattering music he wrote just a few years later.
It was premiered alongside other famous works of the day - Haydn's The Creation and a Mozart Symphony - so he was already in very good company.