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The Septet in E-flat major for clarinet, horn, bassoon, violin, viola, cello, and double bass, Op. 20, by Ludwig van Beethoven, was sketched out in 1799, completed, and first performed in 1800 and published in 1802. The score contains the notation: "Der Kaiserin Maria Theresia gewidmet", or translated, "Dedicated to the Empress Maria Theresa."
Structure and analysis
The composition is in six movements and runs approximately 40 minutes in performance:
- Adagio – Allegro con brio (in E-flat major) (approx. 10 min.)
- Adagio cantabile (in A-flat major) (approx. 9 min.)
- Tempo di menuetto (in E-flat major) (approx. 3 min.)
- Tema con variazioni: Andante (in B-flat major) (approx. 7 min.)
- Scherzo: Allegro molto e vivace (in E-flat major) (approx. 3 min.)
- Andante con moto alla marcia (in E-flat minor) – Presto (in E-flat major) (approx. 7 min.)
The overall layout resembles a serenade and is in fact more or less the same as that of Mozart's string trio, K. 563 in the same key, but Beethoven expands the form by the addition of substantial introductions to the first and last movements and by changing the second minuet to a scherzo. The main theme of the third movement had already been used in Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 20 (Op. 49 No. 2), which was an earlier work despite its higher opus number. The finale features a violin cadenza.
The scoring of the Septet for a single clarinet, horn and bassoon (rather than for pairs of these wind instruments) was innovative. So was the unusually prominent role of the clarinet, as important as the violin, quite innovative.
The Septet was one of Beethoven's most successful and popular works and circulated in many editions and arrangements for different forces. In about 1803 Beethoven himself arranged the work as a Trio for clarinet (or violin), cello, and piano, and this version was published as his Op. 38 in 1805 in Vienna. Beethoven dedicated the Trio Op. 38 to Professor Johann Adam Schmidt (1759–1809), a German-Austrian surgeon and ophthalmologist, and a personal physician of Beethoven, whom he attended to from 1801 until 1809.
Conductor Arturo Toscanini rearranged the string section of the Septet so that it could be played by the full string section of the orchestra, but he did not change the rest of the scoring. He recorded the Septet for RCA Victor with the NBC Symphony Orchestra on November 26, 1951, in Carnegie Hall.
- Franz Schubert composed his 1824 Octet (in F major, D. 803) for the clarinetist Ferdinand Troyer who had requested a piece similar to Beethoven's Septet, and the works accordingly resemble each other in many ways.
- In 1840, Franz Liszt arranged Beethoven's septet for piano, first for two hands (S.465) and then for four hands (S.634). Several other piano arrangements have been published, by such figures as Carl Czerny, Ernst Pauer, Adolf Ruthardt, and Hugo Ulrich.
- Peter Schickele parodied the Septet with P.D.Q. Bach's Schleptet in E-flat Major, S.0, but replaces the clarinet and double bass with flute and oboe.
- British composer Peter Fribbins composed a septet (subtitled "The Zong Affair") for the same instrumentation as Beethoven's, but took his influence more from a painting by J.M.W. Turner called "The Slave Ship".
In popular culture
- The theme song for the Spanish dub of the French TV series Once Upon a Time... Man (Érase una vez... el hombre) is sung to the tune of the Septet, the lyrics was written by the Spanish singer-songwriter José Luis Perales.
- Anderson 1995, p. 3
- "Beethoven - Septet, Op.20 (trans. Liszt - piano 4 hands)" (PDF). IMSLP International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP) / Petrucci Music Library. Retrieved 2021-07-03.
- "Septet in E-flat major, Op.20 (Beethoven, Ludwig van)". IMSLP International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP) / Petrucci Music Library. Retrieved 2021-07-03.
- (no date) Available at: http://www.peterfribbins.co.uk/word-docs-pdfs/Zong%20Affair.pdf (Accessed: 13 October 2015)
- "Cuaderno de notas - Érase una vez...el septimino de Beethoven". RTVE.es (in Spanish). 28 September 2020. Retrieved 2 April 2021.
- "Música Clásica para Niños: Beethoven al alcance de los más pequeños". RZ100arte (in Spanish). 18 February 2016. Retrieved 2 April 2021.
- "Orquesta Sinfónica UdeC estrena online el Septiminio de Beethoven, la célebre melodía de la serie "Érase una vez…el Hombre"". Toda la Cultura (in Spanish). 12 June 2020. Retrieved 2 April 2021.
- Medina, Marta (3 September 2019). "'Érase una vez...', la serie que educó a nuestra generación y ahora descubre Pablo Iglesias". El Confidencial (in Spanish). Retrieved 12 December 2021.
- Anderson, Keith (1995). Beethoven: Chamber Music for Horns, Winds and Strings (CD). Naxos Records. 8.553090.
- Cooper, Barry (2000). Beethoven. United States: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0191592706.
- de Alvaré, Andrew L. (2007). Septets, Octets, Nonets: Romantic Chamber Music in its Cultural Contexts (M.M.). University of Nebraska–Lincoln.
- Holman, Peter (1992). Beethoven:Septet in E-flat/Sextet in E-flat (PDF) (CD). Hyperion Records. CDH55189.
- Watson, Angus (2012). Beethoven's Chamber Music in Context. Woodbridge: Boydell Press. ISBN 978-1-84383-716-9.