A monument of the symphonic canon, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 was also one of his greatest successes. Starting in 1811, Beethoven (1770–1827) began writing a new symphony in the hope of securing an official post and having a large orchestra at his command. He composed his symphonies No. 7 and No. 8 at the same time. On December 8, 1813, he premiered and conducted Symphony No. 7 in Vienna along with another of his compositions, Wellington’s Victory, as part of a concert benefiting Austrian and Bavarian soldiers wounded while fighting Napoleon’s army at the Battle of Hanau. In Europe, Napoleon’s troops were in retreat, and the work’s energy and enthusiasm were quick to win over the Viennese public. It was a triumph.
Divided into four movements reminiscent of a succession of dances of different colours and rhythms, this “apotheosis of the dance”—as Richard Wagner described it, due to its frenzied rhythms—does not espouse any ethical ideals. Unlike the Pastoral, the more Dionysian Seventh keeps listeners enthralled thanks as much to its vigorous classicism as to its expressive originality. The second movement, Allegretto in A minor, is the best known and has often been used in the cinema. German choreographer Uwe Scholz (1958–2004) liked to choreograph great orchestral works. His adaptation of Beethoven’s Seventh bears witness to his finesse, inventiveness and remarkable musicality.