Septet (Beethoven)

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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.[1] The score contains the notation: "Der Kaiserin Maria Theresia gewidmet", or translated, "Dedicated to the Empress Maria Theresa."[1]

Structure and analysis[edit]

The composition is in six movements and runs approximately 40 minutes in performance:

  1. AdagioAllegro con brio (in E-flat major) (approx. 10 min.)
  2. Adagio cantabile (in A-flat major) (approx. 9 min.)
  3. Tempo di menuetto (in E-flat major) (approx. 3 min.)
  4. Tema con variazioni: Andante (in B-flat major) (approx. 7 min.)
  5. Scherzo: Allegro molto e vivace (in E-flat major) (approx. 3 min.)
  6. 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.


In popular culture[edit]


  1. ^ a b Anderson 1995, p. 3
  2. ^ "Beethoven - Septet, Op.20 (trans. Liszt - piano 4 hands)" (PDF). IMSLP International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP) / Petrucci Music Library. Retrieved 2021-07-03.
  3. ^ "Septet in E-flat major, Op.20 (Beethoven, Ludwig van)". IMSLP International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP) / Petrucci Music Library. Retrieved 2021-07-03.
  4. ^ (no date) Available at: (Accessed: 13 October 2015)
  5. ^ "Cuaderno de notas - Érase una vez...el septimino de Beethoven". (in Spanish). 28 September 2020. Retrieved 2 April 2021.
  6. ^ "Música Clásica para Niños: Beethoven al alcance de los más pequeños". RZ100arte (in Spanish). 18 February 2016. Retrieved 2 April 2021.
  7. ^ "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.
  8. ^ 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.

External links[edit]