Essay on Beethoven's Third Symphony in E Flat

Essay on Beethoven's Third Symphony in E Flat

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Beethoven's third symphony in E Flat, written in 1804 is a vast work in terms of length for any orchestra to perform. Indeed it contains one of the longest first movements ever composed. [Simpson 1986, pp. 19] With a first movement comprising of some seven hundred bars this is a symphony that redefined the genre and moved Beethoven firmly into his musicological 'middle' period due to the range of compositional techniques, expressive articulation and wealth of ideas that the work contains. The piece borders between a Romantic and late classical style with a lot of expression and emotional content. The overriding structure is sonata form but Beethoven gives an almost equal amount of bars to every section, including a coda, a pattern which was and still is extremely rare. The forces of the symphony however are relatively modest, apart from the inclusion of a third horn, there is little difference instrumentally between this and other symphonic works of the period, causing some conductors to double instruments and even whole sections in order to present the piece with its expected grandeur sound. [Del Mar 1992, pp. 21].
One of the problems for a conductor working with Beethoven on such a large scale movement is the sense of space that transpires from the music. This problem is rectified somewhat by the tempo of the movement which is remarkably fast, some would say too fast, for a work of this size. [Simpson 1986, pp. 20]. Two forte E flat major tutti chords announce the movement and establish the key before piano strings feed into the exposition which stars officially (according to the bar lines) in bar four. This is a very overt start to the performance and will require a lot of rehearsal as these chords need to be very precisely...

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...orchestra about the music that is being rehearsed. He is there to make performance decisions for the composer about the best way to interpret, communicate and perform the work. [Schuller 1997, pp. 13 - 16] Without this, the performers start to lack in confidence and the entire piece will not be of as good a quality than from a knowledgeable conductor who knows what the music is trying to communicate and can then bring this across in the performance. A pre rehearsal analysis of the music, however shallow, is guaranteed to positively affect the outcome of any rehearsal and therefore any performance of the piece in question.

Works Cited

Del Mar, Norman, 1992: Conducting Beethoven (Oxford: Oxford University Press)
Schuller, Gunther 1997, The Complete Conductor (New York: Oxford University Press).
Simpson, Robert, 1970: Beethoven Symphonies (London: BBC Publications)

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