Thursday, June 28, 2012

Beethoven Symphony No.4

"How did the temporal and eternal separate so that one became the world, and the other God? If the knower and the known are one pure essence, what are the aspirations of this handful of earth?" (Iqbal, Persian Psalms; 1927)
Portrait of Beethoven painted by
Austrian painter F. Waldmüller (1793—1865)
in 1804
The fourth symphony of Beethoven was first performed in March 1807. It is usually heard as depicting "a more cheerful mood" as if the composer was "enjoying a period of recreation after the storm and stress" (See Symphony Salon: 'Beethoven: Symphony No.4').

Nevertheless, there is something peculiarly otherworldly about this symphony. This "heavenly" aspect is captured, perhaps most effectively, in the analysis of the French Romantic composer Hector Berlioz (1803-1869), who wrote about the second movement of the symphony: "So pure are the forms, so angelic the expression of the melody and so irresistibly tender, that the prodigious skill of the craftsmanship is completely hidden from view. From the very first bars one is gripped by emotion which by the end has reached an unbearable pitch of intensity. It is only among one of the giants of poetry that it is possible to find something to compare to this sublime movement from the giant of music... This movement seems to have been breathed by the archangel Michael when, seized with a fit of melancholy, he contemplated the universe, standing on the threshold of the empyrean."

This sounds very similar to what Iqbal may have described as "rethinking the thought of Divine Creation", an epithet he chose for the works of Shakespeare and Goethe.

Video: Symphony No.4
00:45 Adagio-Allegro vivace (Movement 1)
12:30 Adagio (Movement 2)
22:45 Allegro vivace (Movement 3)
29:00 Allegro ma non troppo (Movement 4)


  1. Greetings,

    This is another amazing post. I am always amazed at how the Divine arises in humans, some in music, some in painting, some in words. This symphony is meditative, as if Beethoven was staring into his soul.

    All good wishes,


  2. although I don't have any understanding of the music but the progression of Beethoven to divinity can be understood by soul. the comparisons of words with the music is revving.

    I am enjoying these posts. though I am far behind in understanding.