Beethoven Symphony Basics at ESM

Beethoven Symphony Basics:  The Project

The COVID-19 epidemic has made 2020, the year we celebrate Beethoven’s 250th birth anniversary, a most unusual time.  I was scheduled to teach my graduate seminar on the Beethoven symphonies at the Eastman School of Music over the summer, but by April it was deemed necessary to hold all summer courses, including seminars, online.  Once the course was announced as being an online seminar, more and more Eastman students, residing in all parts of the world, placed themselves on the course’s waiting list. This resulted in the opening of a second seminar, and so eighteen doctoral and two master’s students participated in the course.  Not only were there several students scattered around the world with unlikely access to research collections, but in April we were informed that the scholarly resources held in Eastman’s wonderful Sibley Music Library probably would also be unavailable. Consequently, our seminars, which are intended to include a substantial research component, had to be restructured.  I reorganized the seminars around ways we could study Beethoven’s symphonies using almost exclusively online resources, and sought advice from several individuals on how to do so.  As I considered the options, and the large number of registered students, I decided that we would together build our own online resource for introducing these wonderful works to others, using materials we were able to access online, and our own collective analytical skills and topical interests.

This website is the result of our 2020 summer Beethoven’s Symphonies graduate seminar.  The information contained here aims to clarify the historical context of Beethoven’s own times, thereby offering perspectives on his own creative process and his immediate influence.  It is designed to be a teaching tool for those interested in learning about the symphonies but with little background in music, relying on sources available online for additional information. We have in mind college undergraduate courses or pedagogical programs developed for concert attendees as our audience. Pages include essays on Beethoven’s “Classical” symphonic and orchestral inheritance, his position as a transitional composer of symphonies between the Classical and Romantic styles and the role the “Heroic” narrative played in this development, and a page dedicated to each of the nine symphonies containing general information, essays on the significance and structure of each work, some thoughts on written or spoken words about each symphony by Beethoven and others, resources for further inquiry of related topics, and links to online resources such as notable printed parts and scores, performances, commentaries, and program notes.  The symphony essays are understandable with a minimum of prior music theory knowledge, but include helpful links for explaining some of the necessary theoretical principles, and they gradually rely on an increase in theoretical knowledge from the First Symphony page to the Ninth Symphony page.  Along with our own analyses of the symphonies, our seminar benefited from the clear and invaluable guidance of the following textbooks, which are referred to many times in the essays, and which we highly recommend to our readers:

Lockwood, Lewis. Beethoven’s Symphonies: An Artistic Vision. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2015. Available electronically: Google BookNOOK Book, Kindle Book,Ebook Infinity.

Burnham, Scott. Beethoven Hero. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995.

We happily offer the materials contained in this website for public use.  However, in cases where ideas presented in the essays are used for scholarly, teaching, and other such purposes, we ask that credit is given by correct citation, including the specific essay name and names of contributors to that essay, the specific page, and the Beethoven Symphony Basics at ESM website, with url links where appropriate. 

In this special Beethoven anniversary year, with its unusual need for social distancing practices that run the risk of dehumanizing us, we hope this website will offer you some delightful and enlightening information regarding these masterpieces of Beethoven—one of the great humanist artists in our history—and thereby uplift your human spirit.

Michael E. Ruhling, PhD
Senior Associate Faculty in Musicology,
Eastman School of Music of the University of Rochester


Essays and other information contained in this site were generated by the Eastman School of Music Summer 2020 Graduate Seminar on Beethoven’s symphonies.  Teams of students worked on writing each essay—initials of the contributors are listed following each essay—but the entire class had input into all of the materials on each page. Prof. Michael Ruhling served as editor, contributed to each essay, and was the sole author of some essays.  Rita Coulter designed the page and gave invaluable technical assistance throughout the process; we offer our sincere thanks for her guidance. 

MER   Michael E. Ruhling, PhD.  Professor of Beethoven’s Symphonies Seminar, general editor.

RC     Rita Coulter. Web support specialist, ESM Technology and Media Production.

Seminar Students (graduate students at Eastman School of Music):

AL      Alexander Lo

CH     Caleb Hopkins

EH      Emily Hart

FJ       Fantee Jones

HdS    Hugo Roberto Shin Lima De Souza

JC       Jingyu Cai

JF       Jonathan Fleischman

JM       Justin McCulloch

LB       Lindsay Bronnenkant

MC      Maurice Cohn

MCho  Minsol Cho

SH      Xiaonan (Shannon) Huang

ST       Songyuan Tang

SY       Xiaoyu (Stacey) Yang

WM     Wenhao Mu

WZ      Wanting Zhao

YLi      Yang Li

YLiu    Yilin Liu

YS       Yidi Song

ZW      Yucong (Zoe) Wang



Rita Coulter, web support specialist, ESM Technology and Media Production, was very enthusiastic about the design of this website from the beginning of its proposal through its completion, and her guidance through the technical process made the whole project possible.  I cannot thank her enough for her expertise, vision, and clear direction at every step.  Summers@Eastman director Dr. Sylvie Beaudette has been a generous and enthusiastic administrator for many summers now, and was most helpful and encouraging in the restructuring of the seminar and the concept of this website.  I am grateful for her cheerful guidance and friendship.  I also wish to thank the Eastman Musicology Department and its chair Dr. Holly Watkins for agreeing to support this website, and to Julie Ruhling for her patient and precise proof reading of its contents.  Thanks also to Dr. Jürgen Thym, Eastman Professor Emeritus, and to Dr. William Meredith, Dr. Erica Buurman, and Patricia Stroh of the Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies, who have offered wonderful suggestions for topics and items to include in the website.  Finally, it is with deep appreciation and warm thoughts that I thank the students of the Summer 2020 Beethoven’s Symphonies seminars for their hard work, interesting insights, probing questions, and teamwork, all of which made this project not only possible, but fulfilling for me.  Their names are listed above under “Contributors.”

—Michael E. Ruhling


Works Cited

This project relied most on online open-access or electronic sources available through purchase or subscription, so that it could be a useful resource for online teaching and study. It also required use of some materials only available in hard copy.  Here is a list of the materials cited, divided into Online Open-Access Sources, Online/Electronic Sources Requiring Purchase or Subscription, and Print-only Sources. Each symphony page will include links to additional online program notes, commentaries, and recordings. 

Online Open-Access Sources

The Beethoven Gateway.  Beethoven Center, San Jose State University

 “18th Century German Aesthetics.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Jan. 16, 2007, rev. July 13, 2020.  Accessed 07/15/2020.

Albrecht, Theodore.  “Anton Schindler as destroyer and forger of Beethoven’s conversation books: A case for decriminalization.”  Music’s intellectual history (2009): 169-82. Available online at

Anderson, Emily, trans. and ed. The Letters of Beethoven. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1961. Most of this is available online at Beethoven.

Beethoven as a Concert Organizer.” Beethoven-Haus Bonn, accessed 07/30/2020.

Beethoven: What did the 19thCentury Think?” BBC Music Magazine. Accessed 07/05/2020.  

Beethoven, Ludwig van. 2001-2013. “The Heiligenstadt Testament.” Ludwig van Beethoven. Accessed 07/07/2020.

_______.  Beethoven’s Letters: A Critical Edition with Explanatory Notes by Dr. A. C. Kalischer, Translated with Preface by J. S. Shedlock. London: J. M. Dent, 1909. Digitized by HathiTrust, Vol. 1, Vol. 2.

Berlioz, Hector. A Critical Study of the Symphonies of Beethoven from A travers Chants (Paris, 1862). Trans. Edwin Evans. London: Wm. Reeves, 1913.  Open Library link.

Berlioz. Hector.  “Berlioz: Predecessors and Contemporaries.” Trans. Michael Austin.  The Berlioz Website. Accessed 07/10/2020.

Burke, Edmond.  A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful, 4thedition. London, 1764 (1st edition 1757).  Link

Caplin, William E. “On the Relation of Musical Topoi to Formal Function.” Eighteenth-Century Music 2/1 (Spring 2005): 113-24.

Churgin, Bathia. “The Symphony as Described by J A. P. Schulz (1774): A Commentary and Translation.” Current Musicology 29 (Spring 1980): 7-16.   Columbia Academic Commons link.

Ferraguto, Mark Christopher. “Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony: Reception, Aesthetics, Performance History.” PhD Dissertation, Cornell University, 2012.

Gibbs, Christopher H. “Notes on Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony” at NPR (13 June 2006). Link.

Grove, George.  Beethoven and His Nine Symphonies. London: Novello and Co., Ltd., 1896. IMSLP link.

Harer, Ingeborg. “Musical Venues in Vienna, Seventeenth Century to the Present.” Performance Practice Review 8, No. 1 (1995). link.

Hicks, Peter, “Why did the battle of Jena take place?”,  A great overview of the political and militaries issues leading up to the battle of Jena. Link.

Huovinen, Erkki. “The Semantics of Musical Topoi: An Empirical Approach.” Music Perception 33.2 (Dec. 2015): 217-43.

Kalischer, A.C. Beethoven’s Letters: A Critical Edition with Explanatory Notes. Translated by J.S. Shedlock. London: J.M. Dent & Co., 1909. Open Library Link.

Kerst, Friedrich and Krehbiel, Henry Edward. Beethoven: The Man and the Artist, As Revealed in his own Words. New York: B. W. Huebsch, 1905.  Project Gutenberg link.

Kimball, Will. “Trombone History: 19th Century (1801-1825)”.

Lewanski, Michael. “Beethoven and the Romantic Sublime: The Fifth Symphony.” www.michael Accessed 07/24/2020.

Libin, Laurence Elliot. “Symphony.” Accessed 10/10/2020.

Marx, A. B. Theory and Practice of Musical Composition, 3rd ed (Leipzig, 1845). Trans. and ed. Herrman S. Seroni. New York: Mason Brothers, 1856.    IMSLP link.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Birth of Tragedy.

Rhodes, Stephen L. “Harmoniemusik and the Classical Wind Band.”  History of the Wind Bands. Accessed 07/10/2020.

Schumann, Robert. On Music and Musicians (1834-1844). Translated Fanny Raymond Ritter.  London: William Reeves, 1891. Internet Archive link.

Schwarm, Betsy. Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92. Link.

Senner, Wayne M.; Wallace, Robin; and Meredith, William, “The Critical Reception of Beethoven’s Compositions by His German Contemporaries, volume 2” (2001). University of Nebraska link.

Teng, Kuo-Jen. “The Role of the Piccolo in Beethoven’s Orchestration.” Digital Library UNT, 2011.                 

Thayer, Alexander Wheelock. The Life of Ludwig van Beethoven. Ed. Henry Edward Krehbiel.  New York: The Beethoven Association, 1921.  Project Gutenberg links: Vol. 1, Vol. 2, Vol. 3.

Tymoczko, Dmitry. “Arts in Society: The Sublime in Beethoven.” Boston Review 1 Dec. 1999. Accessed 07/15/2020.

Wagner, Richard.  Beethoven (Lucerne, 1870).  Trans. Edward Dannreuther. London: Wm Reeves, 1893. Open Library link.

Wallace, Lady Grace, trans. “Beethoven’s Letters 1790-1826, from the Collections of Dr. Ludwig Nohl and Dr. Ludwig Ritter von Köchel.”  Boston: Oliver Ditson & Co., 1865.

Additional online program notes, commentaries, and recordings, are identified and linked on each symphony page.


Online/Electronic Sources Requiring Purchase or Subscription

Baird, Olga.  “Early settings of the ‘Ode to joy’: Schiller–Beethoven–Tepper de Ferguson,” The Musical Times 154 (Spring 2013), 85-97.  JStor link.

Beethoven, Ludwig van. Beethoven, as revealed in his own words.  New York: Sheba Blake Publishing, 2014.  ProQuest Ebook Central.

Bonds, Mark Evan. Music as Thought: Listening to the Symphony in the Age of Beethoven. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006.  ProQuest Ebook Central.

Botstein, Leon.  “Sound and structure in Beethoven’s orchestral music.”  In The Cambridge Companion to Beethoven, edited by Glenn Stanley, 165-85. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000. Cambridge University Press link

Brown, Clive. “The Orchestra in Beethoven’s Vienna.  Early Music 16 (1988): 4-14, 16-20. JStor link.

Broyles, Michael. “The Two Instrumental Styles of Classicism.” Journal of the American Musicological Society 36/2 (Summer 1983): 210-42. JStor link.

Burnham, Scott. “The Role of Sonata Form in A. B. Marx’s Theory of Form.” Journal of Music Theory 33/2 (Autumn 1989), 247-71.  JStor link.

Cooper, Barry. Beethoven. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.  ProQuest Ebook Central.

_______. “Beethoven’s uses of silence.” The Musical Times Vol. 152, no. 1914 (Spring 2011): 25-43. JStor link.

Downs, Philip G. “Beethoven’s ‘New Way’ and the Eroica.” Musical Quarterly 56 (1970): 585-604. JStor link.

Garber, Frederick. “Self, Society, Value, and the Romantic Hero.” Comparative Literature 19/ 4 (1967): 321–333. JStor link.

Gleason, Bruce. “A Guide to Teaching Beethoven’s Marches.” Music Educators Journal 82, no. 4 (1996): 17-50. JStor link 

Gregory, Robin. “The Horn in Beethoven’s Symphonies.” Music & Letters 33/4 (1952): 303-10. JStor link.

Horton, Julian, ed. The Cambridge Companion to the Symphony. Edited Julian Horton. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013. Cambridge Core link.

Jones, R. “Beethoven and the Sound of Revolution in Vienna, 1792–1814.” The Historical Journal, 57/4 (2014): 947-971.  Cambridge University Press link.

Kinderman, William. Beethoven (2nd edition). Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.  ProQuest Ebook Central.

Kirby, F. E. “Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony as a Sinfonia Characteristica.” Musical Quarterly 56 (1970): 605-23. JStor link.

Locke, Arthur Ware, and E. T. A. Hoffmann. “Beethoven’s Instrumental Music: Translated from E. T. A. Hoffmann’s ‘Kreisleriana’ with an Introductory Note.” The Musical Quarterly 3, no. 1 (1917): 123-33. JStor link.

Lockwood, Lewis. Beethoven’s Symphonies: An Artistic Vision. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2015. Available electronically as a Google Book,  NOOK Book, Kindle Book, and Ebook Infinity.

Lowinsky, Edward E. “Musical Genius—Evolution and Origins of a Concept.” The Musical Quarterly 50, no. 3 (1964): 321-40. JStor link

McCaldin, Denis. “Mahler and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.” Proceedings of the Royal Musical Association107 (1990-91): 101-10. JStor link.

Mendl, R. W. S. “Beethoven as a Writer of Programme Music.” The Musical Quarterly 14, no. 2 (1928): 172-77. Accessed July 22, 2020. JStor link.

Morrow, Mary Sue. “Of Unity and Passion: The Aesthetics of Concert Criticism in Early Nineteenth-Century Vienna.” 19th-Century Music 13, no. 3 (1990): 193–206. JStor link.

November, Nancy, ed. The Cambridge Companion to the Eroica Symphony. Edited Nancy November. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000. Cambridge Core link.

Rehding, Alexander. Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9.  New York: Oxford University Press, 2017.  Available as a Google Books ebook .

Senner, Wayne M.; Wallace, Robin; and Meredith, William, “The Critical Reception of Beethoven’s Compositions by His German Contemporaries, volume 2” (2001). University of Nebraska Press. University of Nebraska Press link.

Sisman, Elaine R.  “Small and Expanded Forms: Koch’s Model and Haydn’s Music.” Musical Quarterly 68/4 (Fall 1982): 444-75.  JStor link.

_______. “‘The Spirit of Mozart from Haydn’s Hands’: Beethoven’s Musical Inheritance.” In The Cambridge Companion to Beethoven, edited by Glenn Stanley, 43–63. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000. Cambridge Core link.

Steinberg, Michael. The Symphony: A Listener’s Guide. Oxford University Express, 1995. Google Books link

Swafford, Jan. Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph: a biography. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014.   ProQuest Ebook Central.

Will, Richard.  “Paradise Regained: time, morality, and humanity in Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony.” Chapter in The Characteristic Symphony in the Age of Haydn and Beethoven. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. Cambridge Core link.

Volek, Tomislav, and Jaroslav Macek. “Beethoven’s Rehearsals at the Lobkowitz’s.” The Musical Times 127, no. 1716 (1986): 75-80. JStor link.

Weingartner, Felix. On the Performance of Beethoven’s Symphonies and Other Essays. New York: Dover Publications, 1969. Scribd Ebook.

Zaslaw, Neal. “Toward the Revival of the Classical Orchestra.” Proceedings of the Royal Music Association 103 (1976-77): 158-87. JStor link.


Print-only Sources

Agawu, V. Kofi. Playing with Signs: A Semiotic Interpretation of Classical Music. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991.

Biba, Otto. “Concert Life in Vienna.” Beethoven, Performers and Critics: International Beethoven Congress, Detroit, 1977. Detroit: Wayne State Press, 1980.

Bonds, Mark Evan. “Rhetoric vs. Truth: Listening to Haydn in the Age of Beethoven.” In Tom Beghin and Sander M. Goldberg, editors, Haydn and the Performance of Rhetoric, 109-28. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007.

Brown, A Peter, gen. ed. The Symphonic Repertoire, Vol. I: The Eighteenth-Century Symphony. Edited by Mary Sue Morrow and Bathia Churgin. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2012.

Brown, A Peter. The Symphonic Repertoire, Vol. II: The First Golden Age of the Viennese Symphony.  Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2002.

Broyles, Michael. The Emergence and Evolution of Beethoven’s Heroic Style. New York, Excelsior Music Publishing Co., 1987. 

Burnham, Scott. Beethoven Hero. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995.

Caplin, William E. Classical Form: A Theory of Formal Functions for the Instrumental Music of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Cooper, Martin.  Beethoven; the Last Decade.  New York: Oxford University Press, 1970.

Doran, Robert. The Theory of Sublime, from Longinus to Kant. United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2015

Dunwell, Wilfrid. “The Age of Goethe and Beethoven.” In Twentieth-century Views of Music History, edited by William Hays. New York: C. Scribner & Sons, 1972: 291-99.

Evans, Edwin. Beethoven’s nine symphonies fully described & analysed.  London: W. Reeves, 1923.

Ferraguto, Mark. Beethoven 1806. New York: Oxford University Press, 2019.

Folliard, Peter. “On the Incorporation of Weingartner’s to Beethoven’s Symphonies.” Unpublished paper, Eastman School of Music, 2016. An expanded version of this study will soon be published in the Conductor’s Guild Journal.

Geck, Martin. Beethoven’s Symphonies: Nine approaches to Art and Ideas. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2017.

Guerrieri, Matthew. The First Four Notes: Beethoven’s Fifth and the Human Imagination. New York: Vintage Books, 2014.

Hatten, Robert S.  Musical Meaning in Beethoven: Markedness, Correlation, and Interpretation. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2004.

Hepokoski, James and Warren Darcy. Elements of Sonata Theory: Norms, Types, and Deformations in the Late-Eighteenth-Century Sonata. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

Hopkins, Antony. The Nine Symphonies of Beethoven. Brookfield, VT: Scholar Press, 1996.

Kelly, Thomas Forrest. “3. Ludwig Van Beethoven, Ninth Symphony: Friday, May 7, 1824, 7:00 P.M.” Essay. In First Nights: Five Musical Premiers. Yale University Press, 2000.

Koury, Daniel J. Orchestral Performance Practices in the Nineteenth Century. Ann Arbor, MI: U.M.I. Research Press, 1986.

Lockwood, Lewis. Beethoven’s Symphonies: An Artistic Vision. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2015.

_______. Beethoven: The Music and Life: New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2003.

Lowe, Melanie.  Pleasure and Meaning in the Classical Symphony. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2007.

Monelle, Raymond. The Musical Topic: Hunt, Military and Pastoral. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2006.

Pike, Lionel.  Beethoven, Sibelius, and the “profound logic”: Studies in Symphonic Analysis. London: Athlone Press, 1978.

Ratner, Leonard. Classic Music: Expression, Form, and Style. New York: Schirmer, 1980.

Reis, Ferdinand and Franz Wegeler.  Beethoven Remembered: The Biographical Notes of Franz Wegeler and Ferdinand Ries (English and German Edition). Arlington, VA: Great Ocean Publishers, 1987.

Rosen, Charles. Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas: A Short Companion. New Haven, CT: Yale Univeresity Press, 2002.

_______. The Classical Style: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven. New York: W.W. Norton, 1998.

Sachs, Harvey. The Ninth: Beethoven and the World in 1824. New York: Random House, 2010.

Simpson, Robert. Beethoven Symphonies. London: BBC, 1970.

Slonimsky, Nicholas. Lexicon of Musical Invective (2nd ed). Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994.

Solomon, Maynard. Beethoven. Second revised ed. New York, NY: Schirmer Books, 1998.

_______. Late Beethoven: Music, Thought, Imagination. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003.

Spitzer, John, and Neal Zaslaw.  The Birth of the Orchestra: History of an Institution, 1650-1815.  Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. 

Tellenbach, Marie-Elisabeth, and John E. Klapproth. Beethoven and His Immortal Beloved Josephine Brunsvik: Her Fate and the Influence on Beethoven’s Oeuvre. John E. Klapproth, 2014.

Thomas, Theodore and Frederick A. Stock.  Talks About Beethoven’s Symphonies. Edited Rose Fay Thomas.  Boston: O. Ditson, 1930.

Tolley, Thomas. Painting the Cannon’s Roar: Music, the Visual Arts and the Rise of an Attentive Public in the Age of Haydn, c.1750 to c.1810. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2001.

Tovey, Donald Francis. Essays in Musical Analysis. Vol. I & II: Symphonies. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1935.

Weingartner, Felix. On the Performance of Beethoven’s Symphonies. Translated Jessie Crosland. New York: Kalmus, 1906.

Will, Richard. The Characteristic Symphony in the Age of Haydn and Beethoven. New York: Cambridge, 2002.

Young, Jonathan Bell. Beethoven’s Symphonies: A Guided Tour. New York: Amadeus Press, 2008.