Beethoven – Symphony No. 1 in C-Major, Op. 21

by Max Derrickson

Ludwig van Beethoven   (b Bonn, December 16, 1770; Vienna, March 26, 1827)

Symphony No. 1 in C-Major, Op. 21
1. Adagio molto – Allegro con brio
2. Andante cantabile con moto
3. Menuetto, Allegro molto e vivace
4. Finale, Adagio – Allegro molto e vivace


It was 1792, at the age of 22, when Beethoven came to Vienna under a two year stipend from patrons in Bonn to study composition with Franz Josef Haydn, Germany’s greatest living composer (Mozart had just died in 1791).  Unfortunately, after roughly a year and a half, Beethoven had no more patience for the affable and conservative teaching style of Haydn, and by and large they parted ways.  Even in his youth, Beethoven was head strong, independent and defiant – Haydn could not hold the young titan’s attention.  But life inViennamore than made up for any losses for Beethoven.  Already he had plenty of friends and frolic, he was known as the greatest piano virtuoso in Germany, and his composing was making excellent headway on its own.

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The Finale begins by completing the mystery of the Symphony’s opening chords, by, in essence, doing it again.  This time the movement starts uncharacteristically with another slow introduction, and again, not in the “right” key.  Fractured bits of G-Major creep up the scale, a bit like Beethoven teasing us by opening the lid to a box only a little bit at a time.  And, then, off with the lid and the Finale breaks out in full force and in C-Major.  It’s a wonderfully jubilant finale, at that, filled with energy and life, and robust joy.