Ludwig van Beethoven

Symphony No. 1 in C major, Op. 21

    Description by Michael Jameson

    The year 1800 marked a watershed in Beethoven's development. On April 2 in Vienna, he made his debut as a composer of symphonies during a concert he had arranged and financed himself. Beethoven began to work intensively on the symphony in 1799, completing the work the following year. The symphony, though enthusiastically received at its premiere, already carried portents of the composer's coming radicalism. At the time, some observers commented upon the work's prominent use of wind instruments, but few noted the first symphony's masterstroke; it opens with the "wrong" chord -- a dominant seventh of the subdominant key of F major, and not the expected tonic chord of C major. The English musicologist Sir Donald Francis Tovey dubbed this work "a comedy of manners." It is, in some sense, a skit on the deeply engrained style and vocabulary of Classicism itself, though the humor is unquestionably Beethoven's own. The opening movement begins with the celebrated discord mentioned above, which ushers in the slow introduction, questioning and insistent. It leads to the start of the exposition, again interrogatory in character. Fanfares add a martial flavor to the music, which is offset by the more lyrically inclined second subject group. The exposition is repeated, according to Classical convention, and the development that follows is terse and far more acerbic in manner, and does not allow the same contrast between songful and martial elements. Already extremely mature and "studied," this austere development is relieved only when the recapitulation arrives, now with great forcefulness. The imitative dialogues between wind and strings are predictably Classical in style, as is the jubilant coda. The Andante seems more subdued and relaxed, but the manner in which it preserves the latent drama associated with symphonic form is particularly subtle and entertaining. It begins with a fugal motif, derived from the rising tonic triad heard at the start of the first movement's exposition, and used so emphatically in its coda. An ingenious piece of orchestration occurs at the close of the Andante's exposition. Triplet figures in the violins and flute and off-beat accompanying chords are supported by regular drum taps, perhaps pointing forward to the start of the Concerto for violin and orchestra, Op. 61, and to the closing bars of the Concerto for piano and orchestra, No. 5, Op. 73, "Emperor." The third movement's marking raises the question of whether Beethoven could have intended this to be a stately Haydn minuet before he increased the tempo indication. The incisive rhythmic energy suggests something wholly new, and the movement already has the manner of Beethoven's later scherzi -- it is one in all but name. While a more static episode in D flat follows the main material, and the central trio section is more reserved, it is significant, surely, that several Beethoven manuscripts (including that of his Symphony No. 3 in E flat, "Eroica") contain similar third-movement tempo markings. Tovey likened the explosive start of the finale to the release of "a cat from a bag." The whole orchestra plays a unison fortissimo chord of G, the dominant, an effect that recalls the slow introduction of the first movement. The main motif is derived from nothing more complex than a rising scale on the tonic, but throughout the movement, Beethoven's use of scalar figures becomes increasingly obsessive, as the theme is heard in a variety of keys, and is often heard in inversion when various instruments are in dialogue. The development features a daring harmonic treatment of the scale theme, and Beethoven employs much dense counterpoint before the work ends in a positive and triumphant reassertion of C major.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Adagio molto - Allegro con brio
    2. Andante cantabile con moto
    3. Menuetto. Allegro molto e vivace
    4. Finale. Adagio - Allegro molto e vivace

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2018 Edition Taschenphilharmonie ETP 010
    2018 Alpha 380
    2018 Decca
    2018 Decca 4832566
    2018 Warner Classics
    2018 Sony Classical 88985495052
    2018 Capriccio Records C 7275
    2018 Warner Classics
    2018 Decca / Deutsche Grammophon 4798418
    2017 Warner Classics 0190295886691
    2017 Berlin Classics 0300926 BC
    2017 Decca / London
    2017 Tafelmusik Media TMK 1034CD
    2017 Decca / London
    2017 Solo Musica WS 013
    2017 Warner Classics 0190295824600
    2017 Accentus ACC 80322
    2017 Nimbus Records NI 1713
    2017 Pentatone Classics / PentaTone Classics PTC 5186248
    2017 Ars Produktion ARS 38831
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 4795805
    2016 LPO LPO 0093
    2016 Warner Classics 0190295975098
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 4795977
    2016 RCA Red Seal 88875169792
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 4796314
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 002894795516
    2016 Berliner Philharmoniker BPHR 160091
    2016 Tacet TACET 974
    2015 Analekta AN 291505
    2015 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler PH 14026
    2015 Deutsche Grammophon
    2015 Sony Classical / Sony Music Distribution 88875112822
    2015 Resonus Classics RSN 10151
    2015 BR Klassik 900138
    2015 Sony Classical 88875123912
    2015 Orchid Classics ORC 100045
    2015 Andromeda ANDRCD 9079
    2015 Alpha ALPHA 470
    2014 Deutsche Grammophon
    2014 ICA Classics 5120
    2014 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099999356521
    2014 Warner Classics 2564627829
    2014 Melodiya MELCD 1002228
    2014 Tafelmusik Media TMK 1023CD2
    2014 Nimbus Alliance NI 6259
    2014 Archipel ARPCD 0556
    2014 Decca / Eloquence
    2014 Warner Classics 2564633735
    2014 Warner Classics 545117
    2014 Philips / Universal 4758147
    2014 Urania WS 121178
    2014 Deutsche Grammophon
    2014 Sony Classical 88843014642
    2014 Deutsche Grammophon
    2014 RCA Red Seal 88843003502
    2013 Brilliant Classics 94630
    2013 Crystal Classics DELTA 80006
    2013 Warner Classics 83085
    2013 Teldec 175708
    2013 MDG MDG 9371756
    2013 BR Klassik 900119
    2013 Oehms Classics OC 090
    2013 Naxos 8501204
    2013 Deutsche Grammophon 4791046
    2013 Supraphon SU 41402
    2012 Decca / Universal
    2012 Decca 4783511
    2012 Brilliant Classics 94289
    2012 Haenssler / Hänssler Classic HAEN 93285
    2012 Challenge Classics / North Star Records CC 72550
    2012 Warner Classics
    2012 Decca 001653502
    2012 Deutsche Grammophon
    2012 Deutsche Grammophon 4783616
    2012 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099963655
    2012 EMI Classics
    2012 Broken Audio BRAU 0791
    2012 Teldec Classics International / Warner Classics / Warner Classics International 61890
    2012 Glossa GCDSA 921116
    2012 Archipel 0460
    2012 Deutsche Grammophon 002894770055
    2012 Roslin Records Rod 3710
    2012 Andromeda ANDRCD 9093
    2012 Andromeda ANDRCD 9111
    2011 Deutsche Grammophon
    2011 Deutsche Grammophon
    2011 Deutsche Grammophon 4779830
    2011 Musical Concepts MC199
    2011 Brilliant Classics 94052
    2011 Naïve V 5258
    2011 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099909794
    2011 Warner Classics
    2011 Challenge Classics 72364
    2011 Centaur Records CRC 3088
    2011 Cascavelle VEL 3154
    2011 Sony Classical 88697927172
    2011 Supraphon SU40512
    2011 Music & Arts CD1252
    2011 Decca
    2011 Royal Philharmonic Masterworks / RPO 28280
    2011 Warner Classics 63779
    2011 Denon Records
    2011 Pentatone / PentaTone Classics PTC 5186312
    2011 Newton Classics 8802077
    2011 Ambroisie / Naïve AM 204
    2011 Decca
    2011 Decca 4782721
    2011 Erato 2564698905
    2011 Haenssler CD 94215
    2011 IDIS 6610
    2011 Membran 233373
    2010 Denon Records
    2010 Digital
    2010 Fuga Libera 564
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon
    2010 Decca
    2010 Archiv Produktion 477 864-3
    2010 Archiv Produktion / Deutsche Grammophon 4778643
    2010 Sony Classical 8869768365
    2010 Sonoma Entertainment SBT 20107
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon
    2010 Teldec / Warner Classics 256469004
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Berlin Classics 0115162BC
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 RCA Red Seal 733835
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Denon Records
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    2009 Denon Records
    2009 BIS 1825/26
    2009 Telarc Distribution 80756
    2009 Tahra 673674
    2009 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler 9068
    2008 Deutsche Grammophon 4777578
    2008 Berlin Classics 0184442
    2008 SOMM 70
    2008 Landscape Classics / Zebralution
    2008 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099921763
    2008 PentaTone Classics 5186313
    2008 Col Legno 60001
    2008 Sony Classical 45891
    2008 ZYX Music 10321
    2008 Zig Zag Territoires 80402
    2008 Bella Musica / Zebralution
    2008 EMI Classics
    2008 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099951586
    2008 Col Legno 60006
    2008 Deutsche Grammophon 4630882
    2008 Deutsche Grammophon 4775864
    2008 Universal Classics & Jazz
    2008 Corona Records 0002672CCC
    2008 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099951203
    2007 Disques XXI 1489
    2007 Hungaroton 41007
    2007 Music & Arts 1203
    2007 Brilliant Classics 93525
    2007 Cascade Records 2200
    2007 EMI Classics 367530
    2007 Oehms Classics 521
    2007 Ambroisie 9993
    2007 Berlin Classics 0185902
    2007 BIS 1716
    2007 Testament 1405
    2007 Rhino
    2007 Arch Entertainment 5186318
    2007 Sony Music Distribution 5185082
    2007 EMI Classics 87739
    2007 EMI Classics 3777672
    2007 Deutsche Grammophon 000966502
    2007 Decca 4759090
    2007 Opus KURA 7027
    2007 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler 6044
    2007 Archipel 0361
    2007 Hyperion 44301
    2007 Brilliant 93178
    2006 LSO 90
    2006 LSO 590
    2006 LSO LSO0090
    2006 Elatus
    2006 Document 224051
    2006 LSO Live 598
    2006 Warner Music 63779
    2006 Weitblick 56
    2006 Madacy 52319
    2006 Pro Organo 7183
    2005 Guild 2307/8
    2005 Brilliant 92766
    2005 Warner Classics
    2005 Oehms Classics 605
    2005 Elatus
    2005 Arte Nova 636450
    2005 EMI Classics
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    2005 Pentatone Classics 5186142
    2005 Philips 4756883
    2005 Teldec / Warner Classics / Warner Music 4618902
    2005 Document 221790
    2005 PentaTone Classics 5186126
    2005 Deutsche Grammophon 4775838
    2005 Audiophile Records 101508
    2004 Arts Music 47700
    2004 Brilliant 99793
    2004 Guild 7274
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    2004 High Definition Classics 037
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    2004 ASV 6066
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    2004 Naxos 8508007
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    2004 EMI Music Distribution 575751
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    2004 Philips 4752722
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    2004 Music & Arts 1146
    2004 Biddulph Recordings 008
    2003 NM Classics 97017
    2003 Capriccio Records 50000
    2003 EMI Classics / EMI Music Distribution 57445
    2003 EMI Music Distribution 57564
    2003 Haenssler 93084
    2003 Deutsche Grammophon 1462
    2003 PentaTone Classics 5186118
    2003 Telarc Distribution 80187
    2003 Naxos Historical 8110856
    2003 Madacy 2983
    2003 EMI Classics
    2003 Apex 4604522
    2003 Classic Collection 99867
    2003 EMI Classics
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    2003 Opus KURA 2038
    2003 Music & Arts 1117
    2003 Teldec 092749768
    2003 Haenssler 93089
    2003 RCA 89109
    2003 Deutsche Grammophon 474018
    2003 RCA 55702
    2003 Sony Music Distribution 87328
    2003 Deutsche Grammophon 000165536
    2003 Delta Distribution 40031
    2003 Arbiter ARBITER138
    2003 Deutsche Grammophon 000085402
    2003 Tahra 495/496
    2003 Living Stage 35160
    2003 Andante 2060
    2002 BCI Music (Brentwood Communication) 40181
    2002 Brilliant 99927
    2002 Deutsche Grammophon 471487
    2002 Teldec 8573830852
    2002 Opus KURA 2015
    2002 Classica d'Oro 1063
    2002 Legacy 89838
    2002 Testament 1284
    2002 Sony Music Distribution 87885
    2002 D Classics 70616
    2002 Supraphon 36692
    2002 EMI Music Distribution 75130
    2002 La Scala 045-46
    2002 Andante 4988
    2001 RCA 66656
    2001 Haenssler 98375
    2001 RCA 66458
    2001 CBC Records 5201
    2001 Philips Classics 4681052
    2001 Decca
    2001 Classica d'Oro 1020
    2001 EMI Music Distribution 67490
    2001 Seraphim Classics
    2001 EMI Music Distribution 74275
    2001 RCA 89108
    2001 Erato / Virgin 7243561943
    2001 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 7243567496
    2001 Disky 70708
    2001 Naim 009
    2001 History 204573
    2000 APR (Appian) 5538
    2000 Teldec 28144
    2000 Decca
    2000 Deutsche Grammophon 469000
    2000 Teldec 83085
    2000 Naxos 110927
    2000 CPO 99474-2
    2000 Tring 033
    2000 Amadis 18501
    2000 Teldec 27838
    2000 EMI Music Distribution 73895
    2000 Disky 70527
    2000 Pearl 0074
    2000 Deutsche Grammophon 469109
    1999 Arte Nova 65410
    1999 Deutsche Grammophon 447901
    1999 EMI Music Distribution 573323-2
    1999 Arte Nova 63645
    1999 EMI Music Distribution 72846
    1999 Iron Needle 1419
    1999 RCA 55835
    1999 Dutton Vocalion 1014
    1999 Sony Classical 60967
    1999 Brilliant 99093
    1999 Intersound 3858
    1999 Vanguard 9010
    1999 Simax 1179
    1999 BCI Music (Brentwood Communication) 223
    1999 Biddulph Recordings 020
    1999 Grammofono 2000 78032
    1998 Music & Arts CD1027
    1998 Angel Records 72923
    1998 Nimbus NI1760
    1998 Angel Records 66792
    1998 Intersound 2838
    1998 Teldec 3984213352
    1998 Grammofono 2000 78826
    1998 Grammofono 2000 78805
    1998 Disky 703732
    1997 Point Classics 267011
    1997 Virgin 61374
    1997 Dutton Laboratories 5004
    1997 Deutsche Grammophon 453701
    1997 L'Oiseau-Lyre 452551
    1997 L'Oiseau-Lyre
    1996 Harmonia Mundi 2905225.30
    1996 Grammofono 2000 78012
    1996 Arts Music 47370
    1996 Philips 454032
    1996 Arts Music 47246
    1996 Berlin Classics 0021952
    1996 Harmonia Mundi HMA190 1573
    1996 Leningrad Masters LM1318
    1996 Naxos 8 553474
    1996 RPO 33
    1996 Chandos 7042
    1996 Music & Arts CD-942
    1996 Carlton 30369
    1995 Carlton Classics 6800025
    1995 Harmonia Mundi 2901192.98
    1995 EMI Music Distribution 54501
    1995 ZYX Music 4051
    1995 Sony Music Distribution 64460
    1995 Laserlight 14256
    1995 Laserlight 15947
    1995 Supraphon 1937
    1995 Seraphim UK 568518
    1995 Berlin Classics 0021942
    1995 Madacy 1000
    1994 Archiv Produktion 439 900-2AH5
    1994 Music & Arts CD-792
    1994 Deutsche Grammophon 439681
    1994 London 440627
    1994 Naxos 505001
    1994 EMI Music Distribution 68057
    1994 Philips 442156
    1994 Berlin Classics 0020052
    1994 Bescol 9
    1994 Philips 442 073-2PB5
    1994 Madacy 5602
    1993 Deutsche Grammophon 439200
    1993 Deutsche Grammophon 439001
    1993 Berlin Classics 0010352
    1993 RCA 61399
    1993 Classical Heritage 1201
    1992 Sony Classical Essential Classics 47514
    1992 Chesky Records 74
    1992 Erato 45759
    1992 Nonesuch 75708
    1992 Sony Music Distribution 48236
    1992 Nimbus 5144
    1992 Sony Music Distribution 48396
    1992 London
    1992 Erato 45763
    1991 RCA 60252
    1991 Sony Music Distribution 46532
    1991 Teldec 46452
    1991 EMI Classics 63606
    1991 Sony Music Distribution 48099
    1990 RCA 60324
    1990 Laserlight 15900
    1990 Deutsche Grammophon 4290892
    1990 Deutsche Grammophon 423481
    1990 Laserlight 15904
    1990 RCA Victor Red Seal 60091
    1990 Decca
    1990 Decca 430400
    1990 Deutsche Grammophon 429036
    1990 Deutsche Grammophon 427306
    1989 EMI Classics 63033
    1989 RCA Victor Red Seal 60090
    1989 EMI Music Distribution 763310/5
    1989 Telarc Distribution 80200
    1988 Naxos 550179
    1987 Deutsche Grammophon 4190482
    1987 Delos 3013
    1980 Tahra 126
    1980 Tahra 1012
    1980 Tahra 1025
    Compose Records 9146
    Sony Music Distribution 66845
    EMI Music Distribution 494872
    EMI Music Distribution 749852
    Classical Diamonds 4013
    EMI Music Distribution 49852
    Excelsior Recordings 321351
    Amado Classics 03001
    Cascade Records 2201
    Smithsonian Collection of Reco 320
    Excelsior Recordings 041
    ART 003668
    Obc 4
    Arkadia 591
    Brilliant 92766/1
    EMI Music Distribution 63354
    EMI Music Distribution 49746
    Ambroisie 120
    CBS Masterworks 45532
    Seraphim UK 69718
    CBS Records 42009
    Bescol 524
    World Classic Compact Disc 44010
    Sony Music Distribution 5037
    Opus 3 19504
    CBS Records 44775
    CBS Records 38469
    IMP Classics 929
    L'Oiseau-Lyre 414338
    Smithsonian Collection of Reco 321
    Grammofono 2000 78900
    Excelsior Recordings 4266
    BCI Music (Brentwood Communication) 224
    Brilliant 93525/1
    D Classics 706172
    Classic Art
    Disky 705232
    Menuet 160017
    Capriccio Records 10451
    Classic Art 161
    Brilliant 99793/1
    Brilliant Classics 8635/45
    Laserlight 14821
    RCA 7197
    Brilliant 93178/6
    Brilliant 92387/1
    D Classics 703742
    Iron Needle 1310
    EMI Music Distribution 69782
    Everest 9100
    Philips 426782
    Grammofono 2000 78892
    Virtuoso 2697162
    RCA 60002
    Intersound 379
    CBS Masterworks 45532-1
    Sony Music Distribution 46532
    RCA 61720
    RCA 60128
    Grammofono 2000 78540
    Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler 9060
    Laserlight 35604
    Capriccio Records 10451-55
    Arkadia 755
    Theorema 121143
    Smithsonian Records 320ND
    EMI Music Distribution 49488
    Stradivari 6102
    Musique d'Or 1024
    Denon Records 8012
    Supraphon 111120
    As Disc 11030
    Decca 467892
    Iron Needle 1411
    Lys 178
    Nimbus 5003
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    Madacy 52320
    BS 9
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    RFCM Symphony Orchestra
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    Musica Classica 2005/6
    Stradivarius 2005
    Music & Arts 711
    Berliner Philharmoniker
    Lys 222
    Music & Arts 1005
    Philips 416329
    Tahra 126/8
    Originals 862
    History 205640
    Masters of Music 3060
    Document 921/22
    Grammofono 2000 78001
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    Grammofono 2000 78007.11
    Iron Needle 1372
    History 204574