Symphony No.7 in A Major, Op.92

In fact, THE SEVENTH SYMPHONY was born in not so bright days of the life of the composer. He had come to terms with his deafness for ten years by then, the fact being confided in his tragic Heiligenstadt Testament of 1802, had been forced to suspend his concerts, had realized his inevitable loneliness after experiencing personal disappointments, and all that accompanied with problems with his income. In the spring of 1811 he got seriously ill and following the advice of his physician, Johan Malfati, spent  six weeks in the resort of Teplitz in Bohemia, an act that had to be repeated again in the summer of 1812. It was there that he met Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, for whom he had a long lasting admiration. As early as 1809, he had composed the music for Goethe’s drama Egmont, as well as a cycle of songs based on his verses. Bettina Brentano (a sister of the poet Clemens Brentano) organized the historic meeting of the two spiritual titans in July 1812. It has been later described by Goethe as follows: “I have never met an artist with such spiritual concentration and energy, with such vitality and generosity. I understand very well how difficult it is for him to adapt to the world and its customs”. (There is an anecdotal episode about this meeting – during their walk the two meet Emperor Franz II with his retinue and Goethe steps aside, bowing respectfully, while Beethoven cuts through the group of the noblemen and greets them by simply touching his hat.)

At that time he was already working on his Seventh Symphony. The work was premiered with Beethoven himself conducting it, in Vienna, on 8 December 1813 during a charity concert for soldiers wounded in the Battle of Hanau. The orchestra included some of the finest musicians of the day: violinist Louis Spohr, Johann Nepomuk Hummel, Giacomo Meyerbeer and Antonio Salieri, bassoonist Anton Romberg, and the Italian double bass virtuoso Domenico Dragonetti and others. Another “military” symphonic work by Beethoven was played at that very concert – the program Wellington’s Victory, or the Battle of Vitoria (also called the Battle Symphony). Patriotic Vienna, after Napoleon’s defeat near Leipzig, welcomed the concert with such enthusiasm that it was repeated four days later.

The Seventh Symphony was also highly praised by Beethoven’s great contemporaries, who perceived it as “the most melodic and the most optimistic” work of the composer. Wagner called it “an apotheosis of dance” because of the abundance of rhythms and dance associations (an Austrian rural song, recorded by Beethoven in Teplitz is included in the third movement). Tchaikovsky defines the finale as “bacchanalia of sounds, a series of paintings filled with devoted joy, happiness and contentment of life”.

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