Background Information & Performance Circumstances
- Beethoven spent most of his life in Vienna, studied for a time with Haydn.
- Known initially as predominantly a virtuoso pianist.
- Eventually dedicated himself to composition (especially because of his increasing deafness).
- By the time of its performance, he was aware of hearing problems, although it was only 20 years later that he reached the point where normal conversation became impossible.
- Main contributions to music are symphonies and piano sonatas, though his chamber music is outstanding and his string quartets are greatly admired.
- Septet was written in 1799.
- First performanced very successfully in Vienna, a year after its composition.
- The septet grouping was/is rare, and this is one of the few important examples by any composer.
- No standard instrumentation for this grouping.
1 of 9
Elements of the Classical period
- Keyboard-less chamber music (no more harpsichord).
- Strings were the basis for all ensemble instrumental music.
- Use of a clarinet, which was hardly used before Classical era, became an important wind instrument.
- Most movements were written in Sonata form.
- Big dynamic contrasts.
- Melody dominated homophony texture was popular.
- There is unusually no second violin part.
- The coda is longer than most composers would have written.
- A septet was an unusual grouping.
- Beethoven varies the way the melody dominated homophony texture is applied in the piece (see texture).
2 of 9
- Septet was an unusual grouping.
- There are 4 strings, a clarinet, bassoon and horn.
- Clarinet in B flat sounds a tone lower than written.
- A double bass is also used.
- The horn in E flat is a transposing instrument and sounds a major 6th lower than written.
- The violin and viola use double stopping in the first bar.
- The violin has a trill at the end of the slow introduction.
3 of 9
- The slow introduction includes a number of Tutti homophonic chords, e.g. bar 1.
- The texture for much of the piece is standard melody dominated homophony, e.g. beginning of the exposition.
- Sometimes the clarinet and bassoon play in octaves, e.g. bar 128, or in sixths, e.g. bar 140.
- Texture at the end of the coda becomes more complex, with imitation between the lower strings and woodwind (bars 258-264).
- Beethoven effectively varies the number of instruments playing at one time, e.g. the tutti section in bars 90-92 which contrast with the 3 part texture that precedes it.
4 of 9
- The movement is the first of six in the style of a Serenade.
- In sonata form with a slow introduction.
- Coda is much longer than most Classical composers would have written.
- Introduction is in E flat major (tonic), but with modulations.
- Exposition: 1st subject in tonic, 2nd subject in dominant.
- Development moves through various related and unrelated keys.
- Recapitulation: 1st subject in tonic, 2nd subject in tonic.
- Coda: tonic.
- The 2nd subject group includes three melodic ideas, as well as a codetta.
5 of 9
- Standard functional tonality.
- Modulations to related keys.
- Development moves through various keys, including C minor (relative minor), A flat major (subdominant) and F minor (relative minor of subdominant).
- All keys are generally established by perfect cadences.
6 of 9
- Functional harmony with clear perfect cadences.
- Most of the piece uses diatonic root and first inversion chords, with occasional second inversion harmonies.
- There are occasional chromatic chords, including a German augmented 6th.
- The introduction ends with a dominant 7th chords, which leads effectively into the tonic chord at the beginning of the introduction.
- Harmonic rhythm (rate of change) is often relatively slow, for example the 4 bars of the tonic E flat major chord at the beginning of the Exposition, but speeds up towards cadences.
7 of 9
- Melodies are mainly diatonic, e.g. first tune of 2nd subject, though they do often contain brief chromaticisms: -the second note of the 1st subject is a chromatic lower auxiliary note. - there is a chromatic scale in bar 26 of the 1st subject.
- The 1st subject begins with a rising sequence based on a four note motif.
- The staccato theme from the 2nd subject has a descending sequence.
- Melodies are often repeated, so the ten bar 1st subject theme is immediately repeated with fuller instrumentation.
- Some of the themes contain ornaments, such as the turn at the end of the 1st subject tune.
8 of 9
- The slow introduction is rhythmically complex, including demi-semiquavers and sextuplets.
- The accompaniment to the first subject theme has a distinctive continuous repeated quaver pattern in the viola, and then becomes a syncopated accompaniment in the violin and viola parts during the repeat, whilst the cello plays continuous crotchet movement, and the clarinet plays the tune.
- Many themes begin with an anacrusis - the first theme has 3 upbeat quavers, the second subject's first theme has a single upbeat quaver.
9 of 9