Brief Analysis: Beethoven Seventh Symphony: Second Movement

According to the great man himself, this was one of Beethoven’s greatest works and has rightly been recognized as being so. The second movement in particular was so popular that on its premiere, the orchestra were forced to encore it. To this day its popularity has not dwindled and the second movement has its own legacy outside of the symphony.

Bars 1-26: With an A minor chord (a fourth chord,the bass note is the fifth, not the root note of the chord), the movement opens. Instead of the dexterous rhythm of the first movement, a two-bar rhythm,starting from the third and fourth bar, dominates the event. This basic rhythm pervades the entire sentence. It is voiced by strings, without the violins that play the main theme of the movement.

Bars 27-50: A second theme on the Viola and Cello is added to this theme. Both play simultaneously. The new theme, which sounds like a mournful song, is combined with the main theme. On the third iteration of the main theme, this moves into the first violins, the second theme is then assigned to the second violins. The themes are growing dynamically crescendo poco a poco (gradually louder).

The entire orchestra plays both themes in fortissimo (very loud), woodwinds and horns hold the basic rhythm, the first violins the second melody. The motifs, initially somber shift towards a friendly bright luster.

Bars 102-116: In the A major middle movement, the rhythm of the first part of the movement is only hinted at in the pizzicato of the cellos and double basses, then a theme, derived from the introduction of the first movement, in the woodwinds, played around by the Triplets of the first violins. The clarinets agree on a theme continuation that picks up the horn by imitating them yet expanding on the theme. This clarinet theme, set in a scale-like manner, proves to be a modification of the of the introductory theme as it ascends and descends around it. A scale descent over four octaves completes the middle movement. An afterthought of the main motif ends the first section.

A sixteenth-note figure in the viola and the first violins condenses into the second theme in double time, the fugal theme derives from the main theme of the movement.The fugato (played in the style of fugue but not a fugue in the strictest sense) leads to a powerful rebellion of the orchestra played fortissimo the main is condensed in pure ecstasy.

The coda returns to the theme of the middle movement.

Bars 243-270: At the end of the sentence, the theme breaks down into its constituent parts, rising in two-bar periods, led by several groups of instruments, from a high position into the depths of this movmenet.
The sentence fades away with parts of the main theme in that lingering unresolved form .

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2 thoughts on “Brief Analysis: Beethoven Seventh Symphony: Second Movement”

  1. frozenlake says:

    Great article. My respect for you, Nick, is growing by the minute. Ha.
    Now I’m eager to see how you will tackle the Hammerklavier, or better still, the Diabelli Variations.
    Another cool one would be to look into the 9th and how those who made “metal” versions of it mostly missed the point…
    This could lead to further insights as to what makes metal “metal”, independently of power chords and distortion. I mean, I would argue that Beethoven is more metal than many/most metal bands today.
    Articles such as this one are welcome and refreshing. Keep it up, man!
    Next time we are getting the second movement of Bruckner’s 9th, right?

    1. Flying Kites says:

      A band could eschew the chords and notation of any Beethoven symphony but recombine the structures and keep it Metal. Isn’t Slayer’s Raining Blood Beethoven’s 5th?

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