Beethoven'S Fourth Symphony: Reception, Aesthetics, Performance History

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Despite its established place in the orchestral repertory, Beethoven's Symphony No. 4 in B-flat, op. 60, has long challenged critics. Lacking titles and other extramusical signifiers, it posed a problem for nineteenth-century critics espousing programmatic modes of analysis; more recently, its aesthetic has been viewed as incongruent with that of the "heroic style," the paradigm most strongly associated with Beethoven's voice as a composer. Applying various methodologies, this study argues for a more complex view of the symphony's aesthetic and cultural significance. Chapter I surveys the reception of the Fourth from its premiere to the present day, arguing that the symphony's modern reputation emerged as a result of later nineteenth-century readings and misreadings. While the Fourth had a profound impact on Schumann, Berlioz, and Mendelssohn, it elicited more conflicted responses-including aporia and disavowal-from critics ranging from A. B. Marx to J. W. N. Sullivan and beyond. Recent scholarship on previously neglected works and genres has opened up new perspectives on Beethoven's music, allowing for a fresh appreciation of the Fourth. Haydn's legacy in 1805-6 provides the background for Chapter II, a study of Beethoven's engagement with the Haydn-Mozart tradition. I examine the influence of Haydn's "London" Symphonies (especially Nos. 99, 102, and 103) on aspects of the Fourth's orchestration, structure, and design. The cyclic treatment of harmonic rhythm represents a rich intersection of innovation and tradition; Theodor W. Adorno's observations on "suspended time" provide a framework for exploring this intersection. Chapter III focuses on the Fourth as performed in Beethoven's Vienna. Through imagined reconstructions of three performances-at the Lobkowitz Palace (March 1807), University Hall (December 27, 1807), and Imperial Grand Ballroom (April 4, 1825)-I suggest ways in which performance circumstances could mediate musical meaning. A special focus is the Amateur Concerts of 1807-8, an ambitious public series during which Beethoven's first four symphonies were performed. The series not only helped to cement Beethoven's reputation, it also placed his orchestral works at the center of a project of cultural renewal after the French occupation in 1805. The appendices consider aspects of the Fourth's sketches and autograph score, shedding new light on Beethoven's methods of composing and revising the symphony.
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Beethoven; symphonies; Haydn; reception; politics; cultural context; Vienna; sketches; autograph score
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Webster, James
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Richards, Annette
Zaslaw, Neal Alexander
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Ph. D., Musicology
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Doctor of Philosophy
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dissertation or thesis
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