Listening to Beethoven #215 – Triple Concerto in C major Op.56

View of the Augarten Palace and Park, Vienna by Johann Ziegler

Triple Concerto in C major Op.56 for piano, violin, cello and orchestra (1803-4, Beethoven aged 33)

1 Allegro
2 Largo (attacca)
3 Rondo alla polacca

Dedication Joseph Franz von Lobkowitz
Duration 38′


written by Ben Hogwood

Background and Critical Reception

It is fashionable in recent times to look down on Beethoven’s Triple Concerto, but despite its perceived critical failings it was an innovative work for its time. Lewis Lockwood notes how, “We can readily connect the Triple Concerto with the symphonie concertante that had prospered in France and in French-influenced centres such as Bonn and Mannheim in the later eighteenth century, and which stayed alive until about 1810.”

Beethoven had performers in mind when writing the piece, too – the violinist Georg August Seidler, cellist Anton Kraft (the senior figure in the cello-playing family) and almost certainly Beethoven himself, at the piano. Jan Swafford traces the origins of Beethoven’s thinking to the baroque concerto grosso, describing the work as ‘gorgeous but peculiar, expensive and impractical to perform’. Commentators are united in drawing a link to Beethoven’s intentions at the time of composition, where he was looking to move to Paris and impress the musical hierarchy there. The concerto would have been in his arsenal for sure, but while staying put it quickly lost its allure – with no public performance until 1808, at the summer concerts in Augarten (above)

The Triple Concerto has a substantial structure, with a first movement almost 20 minutes in length – then a relatively brief Largo in A flat major which leads directly to a Rondo alla Polacca finale. The key choice is instructive, A flat having been used for the slow movements of the Pathetique sonata and the Piano Concerto no.1. Commentators have noted how prominent the cello in this piece – and in their excellent book Beethoven’s Cello, Marc D. Moskovitz and R. Larry Todd spend time examining its role.

Along with Lewis Lockwood, they see the Triple Concerto as a forebear to techniques used by Beethoven soon after in his third Cello Sonata, Op.69, with Lockwood going further to bring in the two piano trios Op.70.


Listening to the Triple Concerto is a pleasant if undemanding experience – and if the listener is in the right mood an enjoyable concert experience is in store. It certainly is a long first movement, its 20 minutes an extraordinary length of time for a concerto even when there are three soloists involved. Although it can seem very drawn out at times there is a very appealing warmth, especially when the cello is to the fore. Its themes are invested with a great deal of warmth, complemented by the violin and then trumped by the piano.

The second movement feels like a flash in the pan, for it is only 5 minutes in length (roughly 15% of the work) but it has an appealing tenderness and lyricism. The Rondo alla Polacca is a ‘safe’ C major, though there is some dancing as the soloists have fun together.

The musical language of the Triple Concerto feels relatively basic – back in C major as we were in the Piano Concerto no.1 – but the interplay between the soloists is where the chief interest lies. The language feels quite basic – we are in C major as we were for the first piano Concerto – and the length of the piece is considerable. Yet, in the right combination of soloists and orchestra, the Triple Concerto can still be an appealing proposition.

Recordings used and Spotify links

David Oistrakh (violin), Mstislav Rostropovich (cello), Sviatoslav Richter (piano), Berliner Philharmoniker / Herbert von Karajan (EMI)
Christian Tetzlaff, Tanja Tetzlaff, Royal Northern Sinfonia / Lars Vogt (Ondine)
Wolfgang Schneiderhan, Pierre Fournier, Géza Anda, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin / Ferenc Fricsay (Deutsche Grammophon)
Beaux Arts Trio, London Philharmonic Orchestra / Bernard Haitink (Philips)
Urban Svensson, Mats Rondin, Boris Berezovsky, Swedish Chamber Orchestra / Thomas Dausgaard (Simax)

The Triple Concerto discography is dripping with illustrious soloists, sometimes starry individuals in search of a winning trio showcase, or artists who have formed a genuine musical chemistry together. Of the versions listed above, there are some high voltage collisions that prove an intoxicating experience – none more so than the irresistible combination of Oistrakh, Rostropovich, Richter and Karajan.

You can chart the Arcana Beethoven playlist as it grows, with one recommended version of each piece we listen to. Catch up here!

Also written in 1804 Spohr Violin Concerto no.2 in D minor Op.2

Next up Piano Sonata no.23 in F minor Op.57 ‘Appassionata’

Listening to Beethoven #208 – Symphony no.3 in E flat major Op.55 ‘Eroica’

The Hostile Powers. Far wall, detail from the Beethoven-Frieze (1902) by Gustav Klimt

Symphony no.3 in E flat major Op.55 ‘Eroica’ for orchestra (1800-1802, Beethoven aged 31)

Dedication Prince Joseph Franz Maximilian Lobkowitz
Duration 48′

1. Allegro con brio
2. Marcia funebre: Adagio assai
3. Scherzo: Allegro vivace
4. Finale: Allegro molto


Background and Critical Reception

In October 1803, when Beethoven had completed his third symphony, his world was about to change. His friend, the composer Ferdinand Ries, declared, “In his own opinion, it is the greatest work he has yet written. Beethoven played it to me recently, and I believe that heaven and earth will tremble when it is performed.”

Jan Swafford dedicates a compelling chapter to this work, which was to be one of the very first ‘program’ symphonies. Its dedicatee was to be Napoleon Bonaparte, but in a daring step his heroic character and achievements were to be the subject of Beethoven’s symphonic thoughts, built as they were on thematic cells from music previously written to celebrate Prometheus. Rather than be called Bonaparte, however, the Third took the term Eroica, for Beethoven was horrified by Napoleon’s proclamation as Emperor in May 1804. This was the nickname applied when the symphony was published in October 1806, with the dedication changed to Prince Lobkowitz.

Swafford presents a thoroughly absorbing dissection of the piece in his book, showing how Beethoven’s seemingly innocent sketches and musical cells take wing, blossoming into seamless 20-minute sections of music. The fourth movement, a theme and variations, takes its lead from a melody already used in Die Geschöpfe des Prometheus, completed in 1801, and also from the Eroica Variations for piano.

As Swafford writes, Beethoven “is more interested in flow than in eighteenth-century formal clarity”. At the end of the Eroica’s first movement, “the hero has come into his own, but his task is unfinished”. The symphony is now telling its story about an explicit subject, not just looking to impress on musical terms.

This first movement has a scale and ambition not seen before, as does the second movement funeral march. Berlioz, writing of the whole work, surely had this movement in mind when he declared, “I know few examples in music of a style in which grief has been so consistently able to retain such pure form and such nobility of expression.” The third movement continues Beethoven’s move away from the classical minuet towards the full-blown symphonic scherzo of the 19th century, but it is the finale where all Beethoven’s thoughts are clearly headed.

Swafford explains how Beethoven’s thoughts always had this movement at the head of proceedings, with finale-weighted works still relatively rare at the time. He applauds Beethoven’s innovations for the orchestra, with writing for horns and cellos of a standing not previously experienced. Barry Cooper declares this movement “an extraordinary fusion of musical arts, including variation, fugue, march and slow procession, in a symphonic finale of unprecedented formal complexity despite the apparent simplicity and regularity of its main theme. No wonder Beethoven’s admirers were so thrilled by the work, and the general public so perplexed.”

They were indeed, as Alexander Thayer recounts the puzzlement of an early appraisal. “The reviewer belongs to Herr van Beethoven’s sincerest admirers, but in this composition he must confess that he finds too much that is glaring and bizarre, which hinders greatly one’s grasp of the whole, and a sense of unity is almost completely lost.” Swafford has its measure, however. “The final pages are what the unfulfilled end of the first movement was waiting for, the true victory, the completion of the Hero’s task.”


It is rare indeed to be able to pinpoint an exact moment where art moves from one chapter to the next. Beethoven’s Eroica symphony gives us one such moment, a pivot where the whole notion of the symphony changes for ever and the composer strides forward to a new plain.

So many things about this work are new, exciting, and – for the time – dangerous. The first change is length, for this work often clocks in at near to 50 minutes if the repeats are used, twice the length of a Haydn or Mozart symphony. The first two movements alone are half an hour, making Beethoven’s first two symphonies feel like mere warm-ups in comparison. We also have an increasingly large orchestra to go with the bigger structures, and instruments such as the horn, oboe and cello take on an unprecedented status for their time.

Something is up right from the two brisk chords at the start, a call to attention before the main theme itself. The cellos get their moment, setting the heroic nature of the music in E flat major – which is, as we have seen, one of Beethoven’s key centres for power and positivity. As the massive first movement progresses, the composer goes through intricate yet wholly logical forms of developing his material. There is a new level of emotion here too, for this is a symphony from the heart. Its resolve gives the listener a mental picture of Beethoven beating his chest, giving himself a motivational call to arms as part of an emergence from the terrible days and morale of the Heiligenstadt testament.

The second movement, a funeral march, is one of the most profound utterances we have yet heard from Beethoven. This is the first time he has used the orchestra for such sombre means, other than a few isolated passages in the early cantatas, and the depth of feeling is well beyond previous symphonic thought, bringing closely guarded emotions from the intimacy of the piano to the wide open canvas of the orchestra. This is also a long movement, but the tension is sustained throughout. We feel Beethoven’s grief, his wounds, and also, in the C major ending, a semblance of hope.

The Scherzo picks up on this, easing the tension with its initial subject. It packs a punch recalling the heroism of the first movement, especially with the no-nonsense syncopations. No notes are here for the sake of it, all are fulfilling what feels like an inevitable destiny.

The finale, as Jan Swafford observes, brings everything to a head in a climactic fourth movement not experienced since Mozart’s Jupiter symphony. Few symphonic finales are as thrilling, as Beethoven assembles his melodic material and the music grows in stature at every turn, coming to a peak with a triumphant horn theme. The theme ends with a cadence that shows how Beethoven’s harmonic thinking is advancing with every piece – and indeed caps the sharp dissonance experienced near the start of the first movement. With this and many other elements, you can only imagine what the first audience would have thought, having grappled with the sheer scope of the first three movements. Where was this composer going with his music? Can we take the plunge with him? We will soon find out!

Spotify playlist and Recordings used

NBC Symphony Orchestra / Arturo Toscanini (RCA)
Cleveland Orchestra / George Szell (Sony Classical)
Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century / Frans Brüggen (Philips)
Berliner Philharmoniker / Herbert von Karajan (Deutsche Grammophon)
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra / Claudio Abbado (Deutsche Grammophon)
Danish Chamber Orchestra / Ádám Fischer (Naxos)
Minnesota Orchestra / Osmo Vänskä (BIS)
Berliner Philharmoniker / Rafael Kubelik (Deutsche Grammophon)
Anime Eterna Brugge / Jos Van Immerseel (ZigZag Territories)

The recorded history of the Eroica deserves a much longer article, but safe to say the versions included here represent part of the vast array of available recordings. The smaller scale takes, such as Dausgaard, have plenty to say, as do the lavish accounts from Karajan and dfgd, where the score’s latent power is always in evidence. Accounts from Vänska and dfgd forge a middle ground, while the ‘period instrument’ versions from Brüggen and Jos van Immerseel give us a sense of what the first audience might have experienced, with thrillingly rough edges to the sound and the melodies.

To listen to clips from the recording from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras on Hyperion, head to their website

You can chart the Arcana Beethoven playlist as it grows, with one recommended version of each piece we listen to. Catch up here!

Also written in 1803 Haydn String Quartet in D minor Op.103 (unfinished)

Next up Notturno for viola and piano in D major, Op.42

Listening to Beethoven #197 – Polyphonic Italian Songs WoO 99

Portrait of Antonio Salieri by Joseph Willibrord Mähler, 1815 Polyphonic Italian Songs for largely unaccompanied voices (1801-1803, Beethoven aged 32) 1. Bei labbri che amore (duet) 2. Ma tu tremi, o mio tesoro (trio) 3. E pur fra le tempeste (solo) 4. Sei mio ben (duet) 5. Giura il nocchier: trio (5a), quartet (5b), quartet (5c) 6. Ah rammenta (duet) 7. Chi mai di questo core (trio) 8. Scrivo in te (duet) 9. Per te d’amico aprile (trio) 10. Nei campi e nelle selve: quartet (10a), quartet (10b) 11. Fra tutte le pene: duet (11a), trio (11b), quartet (11c) 12. Salvo tu vuoi lo sposo: solo (12a), duet (12b) 13. Quella cetra ah pur tu sei: trio (13a), quartet (13b), quartet (13c) 14. Già la notte s’avvicina: trio (14a), quartet (14b) 15. Silvio amante disperato (quartet) Dedication not known Duration most songs between 1′ and 1’30” Listen Background and Critical Reception This collection of Italian songs provides us with a fascinating insight into Beethoven’s studies with Antonio Salieri, while also closing this particular chapter in his career. All the settings are of texts by Pietro Metastasio, whose poetry Beethoven was already familiar with. Keith Anderson writes for Naxos that the exercises provide a substantial collection of songs in varied form, in many cases offering Beethoven’s original version, followed by Salieri’s corrected version. They have been brought together under the number WoO 99, with a series of numbering from Beethoven compiler Willy Hess for each item. These settings offer varied insights into Salieri’s teaching methods and Beethoven’s achievements in these years. The unaccompanied Italian settings were written during Beethoven’s early days in Vienna, generally between 1793 and 1797 and those with accompaniment up to 1802. The listings and earlier complete recordings are discussed in full by Mark S. Zimmer in The Unheard Beethoven. Jan Swafford gives valuable insight into Beethoven’s manner as a student. “As with his counterpoint masters, in his dealings with Salieri Beethoven was a wilful student even as he dutifully set his assigned old-fashioned Italian texts in a suitable style. One day Beethoven ran into Salieri in the street after the teacher had thrashed one of rhose efforts. Salieri complained that he hadn’t been able to get the tune out of his head. “Then, Herr von Salieri,” Beethoven grinned, “it can’t have been so utterly bad.” Thoughts These songs give fascinating insights into Beethoven’s development as a composer. The music feels much ‘older’, with the overriding impression that the pupil is diligently aiming for a style coveted by his teacher, rather than breaking particularly new ground – bolstering his abilities and covering perceived weaknesses. The first of these settings, Bei labbri, che amore, is a chaste two-parter for male and female voice in close harmony. Ma tu tremi is initially similar but there is a slightly more awkward top line in the middle section. E pur fra le tempest is a short setting of just under a minute, for solo voice and flowing piano, moving to an unaccompanied and quite serene Sei mio ben for three voices. It is interesting to hear three versions of Giura il nocchier, the second of which is much fuller in texture than the first, while the third shifts the pitch down a tone. The four-part Chi mai di questo core is the fullest song here, and features a nice dialogue between the voices, if still polite and functional. Some of the arrangements are written for full, choral textures, such as the second and third short arrangements of Giura il nocchier. There are no fewer than six versions of Fra tutte le pene availble, each of the three originals with revisions by Salieri to make the part movements a little more logical. Other songs include the pure C major of Scrivo in te, a minute-long setting in three parts, and the fuller choral songs Per te d’amico aprile and Nei campi e nelle selve, in two versions – the second of which has a mournful edge. Also in two versions are Salvo tu vuoi lo sposo, and Gia la notte savvicina, which has a feather light choral setting for its alternative. Meanwhile the choral Quella cetra ah pur ti sei has three – and sounds rather like Haydn in the first. Spotify playlist and Recordings used Soloists, Ensemble Tamanial, Cantus Novus Wien / Thomas Holmes (Naxos)
The Naxos recordings are very well delivered, with the caveat that it is difficult to convey emotion in songs that are so short. The solo items have the necessary intimacy, while the choral numbers have a nice space surrounding the textures in the recording picture. Occasionally the top edges of the soprano lines feel like a bit of a strain, but that could be as much due to the composer’s writing as anything else! You can chart the Arcana Beethoven playlist as it grows, with one recommended version of each piece we listen to. Catch up here!
Also written in 1803 Boieldieu Clarinet Concerto no.1 in E flat major Op.36 Next up Bei labbri, che Amore WoO 99/1

Listening to Beethoven #196 – Piano Concerto no.3 in C minor Op.37

Beethoven (1987) by Andy Warhol – colour screenprint on Lenox Museum Board

Piano Concerto no.3 in C minor Op.37 for piano and orchestra (1796-1803, Beethoven aged 32)

Dedication Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia
Duration 37′


Background and Critical Reception

Beethoven is thought to have begun the third piano concerto as early as 1796, finishing the majority of the work in 1800 but waiting until 5 April 1803 for the first performance at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna. It was quite a concert, beginning with the Symphony no.2 and ending with the newly composed Christus am Ölberge, in its first version.

Beethoven had to rush the concerto to get it ready in time, and as a result the solo part was unfinished. An account from the composer’s friend and page turner Ignaz von Seyfried found him effectively turning empty pages during the first concert, Beethoven having committed the solo part to memory.

Many writers recognise the lineage of this work. Charles Rosen, in The Classical Style writes, “The C minor is full of Mozartean reminiscences, in particular of the concerto in the same key, K491, which Beethoven is known to have admired.” Barry Cooper, writing for Hyperion, notes that ‘there is little, if any, direct influence from Mozart’s work, although the similarities show how thoroughly Beethoven had absorbed Mozart’s style.’

The first movement is Beethoven’s weightiest movement yet, clocking in at over 17 minutes in some performances. It is followed by a Largo in the unexpectedly remote key of E major, which would have come as a surprise to the audience in 1803. This tonality is referred to in a ‘dream-like recall’ in the finale (writes William Kinderman). This movement is a Rondo, where after some tense episodes in the minor key, Kinderman writes how “comic wit and jubilation crown the dénouement of this drama in tones”.

Perhaps surprisingly, one of the most guarded verdicts on the third concerto came from Brahms. Comparing it to the Mozart, “a marvellous work of art and filled with divine ideas”, he said “I admit that the Beethoven concerto is more modern…but it is not significant!”


The third of Beethoven’s five published piano concertos is a different animal entirely from the first two. Confirmation of this is felt in the opening bars, with a tense first theme outlined by the strings. Whereas the first two concertos were light on their feet and relatively frothy, this one has a serious countenance, like its counterpart C minor concerto from Mozart in 1784.

The comparisons made between the two are certainly valid, for they occupy a similar emotional space and use almost identical orchestral forces. Beethoven tends to focus in on daring harmonies, creating tension between his much-used C minor and the major key. The soloist has some juicy discords too, to keep the listener on the edge of their seat.

The drama starts with that first theme on the strings and does not let up in the first movement, which despite its length is tautly argued. The arrival of the piano, with stern scales in C minor, is arresting, and in his own written-out cadenza completed in 1808 Beethoven brings in the intimacy of his sonatas, before a series of trills lead to a sparse conclusion from the orchestra. I think Brahms was doing it a disservice!

Perhaps the biggest raise of the eyebrows, however, comes with the first notes of the slow movement, which introduces a whole new key of E major. It is a surprise to the ear which, taking previous examples from the composer, might expect A flat major or F. Beethoven uses this new area to explore a thoughtful, tender side, giving himself and the solo pianist free reign. There is mystery and poetry here, and some sublime contributions from the orchestra.

The final movement is where Beethoven and Mozart are closer aligned, with quite an oblique melody that becomes surprisingly catchy – and which completes its own ‘darkness to light’ journey in the closing passages. The composer even works in a short fugal episode to the energetic movement with effortless ease. In this piece Beethoven has served notice of his intentions to move the piano concerto on to more Romantic territory, both in musical style and emotion.

Spotify playlist and Recordings used

Wilhelm Kempff, Berliner Philharmoniker / Ferdinand Leitner (Deutsche Grammophon)
Robert Levin, Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique / Sir John Eliot Gardiner (Arkiv)
Mitsuko Uchida, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra / Kurt Sanderling (Philips)
Rudolf Serkin, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra / Rafael Kubelik (Orfeo)
Claudio Arrau, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra / Bernard Haitink (Philips)
Ronald Brautigam, Die Kölner Akademie / Michael Alexander Willens (BIS)
Stephen Hough, Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra / Hannu Lintu (Hyperion)
Stephen Kovacevich, BBC Symphony Orchestra / Sir Colin Davis (Philips)

There are some wonderful accounts of this piece. While writing about the work I have especially enjoyed the versions with soloists Mitsuko Uchida, Wilhelm Kempff and Stephen Kovacevich, while on the fortepiano Robert Levin creates lean drama with Sir John Eliot Gardiner. Uchida is magical at the beginning of the slow movement, which becomes the dream Beethoven surely meant it to be.

To listen to clips from Stephen Hough’s new recording on Hyperion, head to their website

You can chart the Arcana Beethoven playlist as it grows, with one recommended version of each piece we listen to. Catch up here!

Also written in 1803 Boieldieu Clarinet Concerto no.1 in E flat major Op.36

Next up Bei labbri, che Amore WoO 99/1

Listening to Beethoven #188 – Symphony no.2 in D major Op.36

The Longing for Happiness. Left wall, detail from the Beethoven-Frieze (1902) by Gustav Klimt

Symphony no.2 in D major Op.36 for orchestra (1800-1802, Beethoven aged 31)

Dedication Karl Alois, Prince Lichnowsky
Duration 30′

1. Adagio molto – Allegro con brio
2. Larghetto
3. Scherzo: Allegro
4. Allegro molto


Background and Critical Reception

Beethoven’s time in Heiligenstadt may have been difficult, but it yielded music of remarkable positivity in such testing situations. George Hall, writing booklet notes for Simax, sums up the situation neatly: ”What has proved remarkable to Beethoven’s biographers is that the (second) symphony, whose sketches date back to 1800 and whose finishing touches were probably added in 1803, was composed largely in the year that he wrote the famous Heiligenstadt testament. The fact that this document – in which Beethoven in his post-suicidal mood railed against his deafness and isolation in a letter – was conceived in the year of this predominantly happy and straightforward piece is considered paradoxical.’

‘Symphony no.2 is the main fruit of Beethoven’s labors in 1801-2 and is considered to be the culminating success of his early period’, writes Daniel Heartz. He gives an account of the premiere on 5 April 1803, which took place at the new Theater an der Wien, and included the hastily composed short oratorio Christus am Ölberge and also a new piano concerto, the third.

In a fascinating and detailed analysis, Heartz goes on to draw close links with Mozart‘s Symphony no.38, the Prague, which Beethoven greatly admired. Written in the same key, the two works share a broad Adagio introduction to the first movement, and a nearly identical instrumentation. The crucial difference here is that Beethoven adds clarinets in A, a distinctive part of the woodwind sound which makes such a difference to this symphony.

The second symphony would probably have been, to date, the longest symphony yet published – a quality acknowledged by Allegmeine Musikalische Zeitung of Leipzig, in their 1804 appraisal. ‘It is’, their critic wrote, ‘a noteworthy, colossal work (the biggest so far), whose profundity, strength and artistic understanding are very rare, and presents difficulties from the point of view of execution…that certainly no previous symphony has offered.’

Heartz identifies it as ‘a watershed for its composer, the last of his big works in which he looked to Haydn and Mozart for inspiration.’ Later, he notes that when ‘the London Philharmonic Society invited Beethoven to compose a symphony in the style of the first and second symphonies’, it was ‘an offer that deeply offended the composer, who indignantly refused. There can scarcely be more striking confirmation than this that a corner was turned after 1802.’


If you approached this piece cold, there is no way you would know it was written by a man whose grip on life itself was tenuous. In the midst of all the strife he was experiencing, Beethoven pulled out this sunny piece of beautifully joined-up thinking, giving the best possible response to his illnesses and impending deafness. If he was to be hindered, the music would see him through.

There is much to love about the Second Symphony. Its dimensions look front-loaded, with a substantial first and second movement and a shorter Scherzo and Finale placed third and fourth. These two, however, act as a combined pair – and so the feeling is of a trio of movements, as perfected by Mozart in the Prague symphony discussd above. The spirit of Mozart is present for sure, but so is the drive and energy of the younger composer, along with his ability to develop incredibly small melodic cells into material for whole movements.

His expertise in this is evident in those third and fourth movements. The scherzo’s seemingly throwaway phrase at the start is the block on which the whole movement rests, played by the orchestra but with the strings keeping busy in between. The finale follows on naturally, moving closer to ‘home’ with another clipped phrase from the full orchestra.

Before these two symphonic gems we have had the pleasure of an energy-filled first movement and a balletic second, a ‘slow’ movement with a good deal of poise. Here the clarinets make themselves known the most, and Beethoven’s writing for wind is a joy in which to indulge. The movement flows with a happy stream of invention, anticipating perhaps the outdoor vistas of the later Pastoral symphony.

Working backwards, the first movement has a good deal of drama in its introduction and a tautly argued Allegro section which frequently breaks into an unfiltered smile. Perhaps Mozart and a little of Haydn are most obvious in the music here, but again the material could not be from anyone else.

Many commentators declare the Second Symphony as the culmination of Beethoven’s first period. With music of such rich invention, such clever but instinctive development and such bright textures, it is to be savoured – and bodes extremely well for what is to come.

Spotify playlist and Recordings used

NBC Symphony Orchestra / Arturo Toscanini (RCA)
Cleveland Orchestra / George Szell (Sony Classical)
Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century / Frans Brüggen (Philips)
Berliner Philharmoniker / Herbert von Karajan (Deutsche Grammophon)
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra / Claudio Abbado (Deutsche Grammophon)
Danish Chamber Orchestra / Ádám Fischer (Naxos)
Minnesota Orchestra / Osmo Vänskä (BIS)
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra / Rafael Kubelik (Deutsche Grammophon)
Anime Eterna Brugge / Jos Van Immerseel (ZigZag Territories)

Performances on ‘period’ instruments or modern interpretations are both to be lauded in this piece. The former camp contains really fine versions from Anime Eterna Brugge and Jos van Immerseel, or the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century and Frans Brüggen, to name just two thoroughly enjoyable accounts. The latter gives great enjoyment thanks to the batons of Harnoncourt, Kubelik and Szell, not to mention many, many others!

To listen to clips from the recording from the Scottih Chamber Orchestra conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras on Hyperion, head to their website

You can chart the Arcana Beethoven playlist as it grows, with one recommended version of each piece we listen to. Catch up here!

Also written in 1802 Haydn Mass in B flat major Hob. XXII:14 ‘Harmoniemesse’

Next up No, non turbarti, WoO 92a