Symphony No. 8 in F major, op. 93
Ludwig van Beethoven
2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani, strings
I. Allegro vivace e con brio
II. Allegretto scherzando
III. Tempo di Menuetto
IV. Allegro vivace
Composed 1812. First performance: 27 February 1814, Redoutensaal, Vienna. Ludwig van Beethoven, conductor.
Beethoven’s Symphony No. 8 in F Major (1812), nicknamed his “little symphony in F,” was a charming response to his Pastoral Symphony No. 6, which coincidentally is in the same key. Though affiliated with a generalized “light” quality, Symphony No. 8 is not lightweight. Most of the Symphony showcases loud and accented notes to counteract the overall lightness being purveyed. Each movement continues an energetic mood with no contrasting inner movements—a balancing feature to be expected for the Romantic symphony. However, musicologist Martin Beck notes that the Symphony embodies “all the relevant hallmarks, including motivic and thematic writing notable for its advanced planning, defiant counterpoint, furious cross-rhythms, sudden shifts from piano to forte, and idyllic and even hymn-like episodes.” Indeed these aesthetics are present in all of the movements in this Symphony.
The Symphony is divided into four movements. The first, “Allegro vivace e con brio,” contains a lively opening in triple meter with rapid figurations. Beethoven adheres to the conventional sonata form but with a considerably elongated coda, a feature rarely seen in contemporary symphonies. Also unusual is the occurrence of the climax, which transpires in the recapitulation rather than the development. From there, the waltz-like feel gradually decreases, ending sparsely. The cheerful second movement, “Allegretto Scherzando,” continues the energy established in the prior movement. Some scholars associate this movement as Beethoven’s attempt to mock the metronome, which had only recently been invented. This movement begins with a sprite accompaniment in the winds with a steady rhythm, evoking the sound of a metronome. This rhythmical pattern is supplemented with a humorous melody in the strings, giving the sensation of parody. Surprising statements respond with energy and vigor, shocking the listener through Beethoven’s strong use of dynamic contrasts. As expected for the third movement of a symphony, Beethoven showcases a minuet and trio in movement three: “tempo di menuetto.” Here, the composer uses a minuet and trio in ternary form, with the minuet containing lively patterns and loud dynamics. The elegant trio follows with a more mysterious character and softer dynamic markings. Listen for the colorful solo passages played by the French horns and clarinets, as these soloistic interjections beautifully counteract the energy established by the orchestra. The vivacious fourth movement, “Allegro vivace,” serves as the nexus of the Symphony, containing virtuosic flourishes in sonata rondo form. Though beginning with a quiet but fiery entrance, the movement ensues as a mad dash. The vigor is interrupted by moments of silent hesitations, often supplemented with dissonant elements. Like the opening movement, the finale utilizes an outsized coda, developing and recalling previous themes. After exploring quiet final moments, Beethoven uses bombastic phrases in F Major to bring the work to a thrilling conclusion.
Beethoven: Three Great Works
Experience the power of Beethoven’s music with three masterworks, including his Eighth Symphony and the Redlands Symphony debut of Trio Arbol.