Great albums: Beethoven Symphonies No. 7 & 8

These are my favorite of Beethoven’s “more approachable” symphonies. Symphony No. 9 is my favorite, but it requires a bit more context to take in. Further, it’s a solid seventy minutes of music, ramping up the difficulty of attention span.

Symphony No. 7 (hereafter Seven, etc.) is my favorite outside of Nine, which is sort of its own pivotal thing. It’s a definitive no-skip symphony. Every movement is sublime in its own way. The first movement for its vigor and speed. The second for its solemn opening that builds and builds into a big, emotional moment. The third for its frolic. The final movement for feeling several minutes of emphatic, resolving punctuation and resolution.

Symphony No. 8 has a wonderful opening. The structure and melodic quality is closer to what came before Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1. It sounds like a nod back to Haydn or Mozart, Beethoven’s predecessors. But the harmony and orchestration is distinctly of Beethoven. It’s a great bridge from Beethoven’s Very Good symphonies to his Amazing Symphony Number 9, The One with Ode to Joy (not the official title as recognized by music historians).

These two symphonies fit together really well on CDs. So, you can find basically any conductor/ensemble you prefer performing it. I listened to the Karajan/Berlin Philharmonic version when I was playing music in high school. I’ve found this piece easy to hear little variations between conductors, so if that’s your thing, queue up a few interpretations and go hunting for little distinctions!

Adam Keys @therealadam