According to the proverbial definition of Robert Schuman, The Symphony No. 4 by Ludwig van Beethoven is a “Slender Hellenic girl between two northern giants”, the giants being Symphonies No 3 and 5. In the first decade of the 19th century, the heroic theme powerfully settled in the composer’s artistic desires. In 1805 were the premieres of the opera “Fidelio” (under the name “Leonora”) and the symphony № 3 “Eroica”. Theatrical misfortunes (he made several edits of his opera) will forever turn him away from this genre. “My “Fidelio” was not understood by the audience… I know that my real element is the symphony. When I hear something with my inner hearing, it’s always a big orchestra. “ – the composer shared. An orchestra that we hear even in a piano sonata like “The Appassionata“, written at the same time! In mid-November 1806, Beethoven completed the Symphony No 4. There were no customary preliminary sketches, long hesitations in clarifying the final score, as in most of his symphonies. It seems to be poured in one breath, a kind of lyrical interlude between his other works, filled with fighting passion. Researchers see in its sparkling light an echo of the beautiful summer they spent at the castle of the noble Hungarian Brunswick family in Martonvashar near Budapest. Franz Brunswick is a close friend of Beethoven (he dedicated the famous “Appassionata” to him), his sisters Theresa and Josephine take piano lessons from the composer and are confidants of his innermost thoughts. Moreover, he falls deeply in love with each of them in different periods. A legend disputed by historians tells of the secret marriage to Teresa in May 1806 – he has already begun writing the Fourth Symphony… Whatever the truth that surrounds Beethoven’s inspiration is, the harmonious, classical clarity and balance of the work is indicative. Its four-part form and some “comic” effects in the third part are a homage to the symphony teacher Joseph Haydn. But the nature of the great Ludwig is powerfully evident in the construction of the drama, in the active development of the thematic material and, of course, in the dreamy tenderness that openly springs from the longings of his soul. It is no coincidence that it became a favorite work of romantic composers – Berlioz poetically compares the wandering harmonies in the introduction and unfolding of the main theme in the first part with “The calm waters of a river that suddenly collapses, re-emerges from its underground bed to descend with noise and roar like a foaming waterfall.”, and attributes the wonderful Adagio not to the human hand of Beethoven, but to the miraculous work of the Archangel Michael himself. Felix Mendelssohn, the owner of the original author’s score, conducted the symphony with the Gewandhaus Orchestra several times. Today this manuscript is kept in the State Library in Berlin.
Symphony No 4 was first performed on March 18, 1807 in Vienna under the direction of the author, in one of the private academies funded by Prince Lobkowitz. It is dedicated to Franz Joachim Reichsgraf von Oppersdorff – another aristocrat-patron of the composer. Probably as a token of gratitude after the scandalous incident that took place at Prince Lichnowsky’s mansion in Silesia in the autumn of 1806. Beethoven’s tumultuous temper and dignity did not withstand the urgings of visiting French officers to play for them. Enraged, he locked himself in his room, but the prince decided to use his right as master and force him to go down to the hall. He broke down the door, and if Oppersdorff had not intervened, the composer would have smashed a chair on the count’s head. Beethoven immediately left for Vienna, crashing the bust of his patron to the ground. Fortunately, the gap between them was later bridged; the composer dedicated to Lichnowsky the String quartets op. 59. As for Count Oppersdorff – in addition to the dedication, he acquired the right to public performances of the Fourth Symphony – it was presented to Viennese at the Burgtheater in April 1808.