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Menuetto from the Fourth Symphony (movement 3).

The Fourth Symphony was composed in a fertile year for Beethoven which saw the completion of several forward-looking works: the Fourth Piano Concerto, the Violin Concerto and the three quartets dedicated to Count Rasumovsky (op.59). Yet the symphony signifies a retreat from orchestral writing on a grand scale, perhaps as a result of the public's unenthusiastic response to the ambitiously conceived "Eroica", his previous symphony. The dimensions of the Fourth are more modest, the proportions within and among its movements more traditional. The performing forces are the smallest for a Beethoven symphony: the score calls for only one flute, a particular indication that the aesthetic of the work is rooted in an 18th-century symphonic tradition.

As with the First Symphony, the intellectual energy is concentrated in the opening bars of the slow introduction. A sense of mystery envelopes the beginning. After sparking off the first phrase with a pizzicato attack, the strings wind a sinuous line around a held unison B flat in the wind parts, sending the tonality into the darkness of B flat minor. The opening pizzicato returns, but now the wind's B flat is reinterpreted as its "enharmonic equivalent" (a musical homonym), A sharp, and leads the harmony to still darker regions. Eventually the Allegro vivace emerges, a straightforward sonata structure whose boisterous and carefree themes contrast sharply with the sombre mood of the introduction.

The form of the second movement is an ingenious compromise between ordinary sonata form and the "sonata without development" which Mozart favoured in his slow movements. Instead of following the exposition immediately with a full-fledged development section, Beethoven returns to the opening theme - now with its melody ornately decorated - and inserts a brief passage of harmonic transition and motivic elaboration between the violins' statement and the flute's restatement of this theme. The movement ends with a short coda which includes a written-out cadenza for the horn, violins, clarinet and flute.

The third movement is Beethoven's first orchestral scherzo in which the entire movement - main section and trio - is repeated before the main section returns once more to round off the piece: and overall design of ABABA, instead of the normal ABA form of the minuets and scherzos. Although this expanded scherzo form appears often in his middle-period symphonies and chamber music, it may be that Beethoven got the idea from his teacher Haydn, who had already used it in his String Quartet in E flat, op. 64 no. 6 (written in 1790). But whereas Haydn's second B-section (optional in performance) serves as a vehicle for the first violinist's virtuosity, Beethoven uses the form for a different reason: to expand a movement whose proportions were slender by tradition, without changing the traditional structure of its component parts. In the Fourth Symphony, the expansion is accentuated by the different tempos used for the main section (Allegro vivace) and the trio (Un poco meno mosso).

The finale is a sonata form, with the usual repeat of the exposition. Yet despite the prominence of its first and second subjects as melodic ideas, the movement's chief interest lies in the moto perpettuo semiquaver (16th-note) figuration which, though mainly given to the first violins, is partitioned into irregular segments when Beethoven varies the instrumentation. This partitioning, already anticipated by the cadenza to the slow movement, is brought to a climax at the end of the development section, where the hectic participation of the solo bassoon emphasizes the semiquavers' furious pace.

Multimedia Beethoven Online Encyclopaedia provides completely explanation of Ludwig van Beethoven's greatest works - his nine symphonies. Please choose the number of the symphony below:

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