Ludwig van Beethoven
Symphony No. 8 in F major, Op. 93


4.5
superb

Review

by Insurrection CONTRIBUTOR (113 Reviews)
February 25th, 2015 | 23 replies


Release Date: 1814 | Tracklist


Beethoven’s “little symphony in F” is an often forgotten one. It is nicknamed so because it is the shorter of his two F major symphonies (the other being No. 6), not even reaching the 30-minute mark; and has been received with lukewarm reception due to its premiere in 1814, which allegedly received tepid applause after its performance. This upset Beethoven as he believed it was far superior to his previous ‘Symphony No. 7’. While I don’t agree with that sentiment entirely, I empathize that Beethoven’s 8th symphony is one of the most refined and interesting of all his works.

It’s unusually upbeat for Beethoven; there isn’t a defined slow movement, which typically is the second movement of a given piece whereas the second movement here is a brief, graceful exercise in clockwork (which I’ll soon elaborate on). ‘Symphony No. 8’ is an experimental work; although its disposition for fun is evident throughout, there are many stylistic intricacies Beethoven was tweaking with that have never been explored before. Namely, he expounded on the potential of a coda section, and embellished on his newfound fondness for rapid-fire sixteenth note patterns. The first movement Allegro vivace e con brio begins in a standard grandiose affair, progressing as an elegant, powerful opening in traditional sonata form. The second toys with a metronomic motif that inspires anticipation and glee, swaying to and fro with bursts of orchestral unison riffs peppered throughout. Tempo di Menuetto comes the closest to a conventional waltz, but unlike other ballads, this movement has suspense lingering over every note. It may be soothing and inviting one moment, but often it’s merely a façade for an impending eruption of orchestral vitality in the most pleasant sense.

However, the highlight of the symphony is undoubtedly its seven-minute finale, Allegro vivace, which is among the more intriguing of Beethoven’s closers. It begins delicately with a faint call-and-response between the violins and flutes when all of a sudden a “wrong” note (C♯) is played with the utmost vigor before transitioning back to the original melody at the newly established volume. I say “wrong” because in the key of F major, of which this movement is rooted in, there is no C♯. It simply does not exist in the scale, and the orchestra accenting that note specifically sticks out like a sore thumb. At least, it only does so to foreshadow an unusual and brilliant modulation where the C♯ is a welcome dominant chord (in other words, it resolves itself). The gargantuan coda follows and sums up the symphony with frightening pompousness and conviction. It serves as the disclaimer: the symphony is over when Beethoven says it it’s over. He has made that abundantly clear.

Tchaikovsky praised ‘Symphony No. 8’s finale as “one of the greatest symphonic masterpieces of Beethoven.” It’s hard to disagree, because Beethoven’s self-proclaimed “little” symphony in F major was masquerading itself as an overlooked misstep when in fact it was and still is a subtly profound stroke of genius; an admirable accession to Beethoven’s extensive, brilliant repertoire.


Notable Performances:
Daniel Barenboim & the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra
Herbert von Karajan & the Berliner Philharmoniker




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Comments:Add a Comment 
Insurrection
Contributing Reviewer
February 25th 2015


24656 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

performance of it in full: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dV1zTM2P_LE

it starts around 1:15

bnelso55
February 25th 2015


1323 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Well done. I'll be listening to this with a new perspective, thanks to your review. In the past, I have always preferred Symphony No. 7, but that could change.

Insurrection
Contributing Reviewer
February 25th 2015


24656 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

i still prefer the 7th symphony but the last movement on this is essential beethoven. the whole thing is really

ZackSh33
February 25th 2015


681 Comments


Super cool that you're reviewing Beethoven's symphonies

Getting all high class in here

bnelso55
February 25th 2015


1323 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

@Insurrection - Agreed. His 7th is incredible and a personal favorite. I appreciate your pointing out the subtle and not-so-subtle elements (That huge C#) of this work though. Those moments are testament to the nigh insourmountable brilliance of this man's music.

Atari
Staff Reviewer
February 25th 2015


24226 Comments


great review as expected. i actually haven't taken the time to listen to this one yet so gonna do that today

Digging: Millencolin - SOS

Insurrection
Contributing Reviewer
February 25th 2015


24656 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

its less than 30 min long. definitely worth any classical fans time

Tunaboy45
February 25th 2015


16702 Comments


Yeah these Beethoven reviews are fantastic

Veldin
February 25th 2015


3773 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Good review. Listening now

Rubvo
February 27th 2015


30 Comments


great. wish there would be more reviews for classical music on here.

treeqt.
March 1st 2015


16962 Comments


Using the tempo markings the same way you would sound titles is rather awkward.

Tempo di Menuetto comes the closest to a conventional waltz

For example here it's best to add an article or to just refer to it as the third movement.

Beyond that technicality this is a good review though. Structure and length are a great fit for a sputnik review imo. I'm not a fan of the "hyperbolic praise" but that comes with not being a fan of the work I guess, hardly a flaw of the review itself.

SaneTBP
March 1st 2015


2070 Comments


Really admiring what your doing with Beethoven here, Ins. Keep it up!

forkliftjones
November 24th 2015


758 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Needs more attention. Great work.

Atari
Staff Reviewer
November 24th 2015


24226 Comments


agreed, this is much better than I remembered

forkliftjones
November 24th 2015


758 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Didn't Beethoven say it was better than his previous symphony (seven)?

Ocean of Noise
November 24th 2015


10468 Comments


This is a great symphony. Funny how it's one of the least popular Beethovens.

Digging: Buckethead - Sunken Parlor

Atari
Staff Reviewer
November 24th 2015


24226 Comments


it's way better than symphony 3, and that one has a 4.4 average

ShakerFaker
November 24th 2015


215 Comments


Woah ho no way is this better than the third the slow movement on that sym is divine

Atari
Staff Reviewer
November 24th 2015


24226 Comments


Yeah everyone seems to love the slow movement on his 3rd. It's good, just nowhere near my personal favorite of his. I need to hear his 1st, 2nd, and 4th still

Ocean of Noise
November 24th 2015


10468 Comments


The first is one of my favourites, actually. I've played it twice. It's a really fun and bizarre piece.



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