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“Only Art it was that withheld me, ah it seemed impossible to leave the world until I had produced all that I felt called upon me to produce…“ (Ludwig van Beethoven, Heiligenstadt Testament, 1802)
Serenity and despair, lyricism and tragedy: Beethoven’s Second symphony is a most interesting piece from which one can perfectly sense the composer’s frame of mind. For one hand, there is splendor and glory: Beethoven wrote the Second symphony at the height of his fame, both as a pianist and as a composer, ranged only with 70-year-old Haydn, and the best publishing houses of Austro-Hungary competed to publish his new pieces. Beethoven was accepted among and welcomed by aristocracy, he enjoyed the favours of high society ladies, whom the composer, sensitive to female beauty, courted passionately. What else one can wish for, it seems!..
On the other hand, the bouts of hearing loss which Beethoven already suffered from for some time become more frequent. Hoping to cure, the composer upon the advice of his doctor spends a summer on the Heiligenstadt resort from May to October 1802, but hearing does not get restored, and Beethoven has to accept this bitter truth, and also imagine (in terror) what his future life would be. The composer describes his feelings in the letter to his brothers (the so-called Heiligenstadt Testament) – and in the Second symphony Beethoven grieves, yet his courage does not leave him: „You should then see me as happy as I am ever destined to be here below – not unhappy. No! that I could not endure; I will boldly meet my fate, never shall it succeed in crushing me“. While composing the Second symphony Beethoven figurally stands at the crossroads – and the location where the piece was performed, the waiting lounge of the Vitebsky railway station in Saint Petersburg where many ways start, resonates with it.
Symphony No.2 D major, op.36 (1801-1802)
1. Adagio molto — Allegro con brio
3. Scherzo. Allegro
4. Allegro molto