Beethoven’s Eighth Symphony is to all appearances harking back to the world of Haydn’s symphonies. Like the ‘Pastoral Symphony’, which is also in F major, it is humorous and cordial in its mood, but this surface level conceals an interesting and by no means conventional structure, particularly in the finale. The overall design is also quite original. It was premiered in Vienna in February 1814.
The first movement is a conventional opening movement in sonata form. It has recently been discovered that Beethoven apparently initially intended this material to go into the first movement of a piano concerto. Instead of a slow movement, the second movement is a playful Allegretto scherzando. Anton Schindler, Beethoven’s secretary in his later years, claimed that the movement was based on a canon written by Beethoven to celebrate Mälzel’s invention of the metronome, but this has since proven to be a bogus claim. For the third movement, Beethoven abandoned his usual scherzo for an archaic, stately minuet.
The last movement is the longest and most substantial. Its coda breaks all conventional bounds, accounting for nearly half of the movement’s duration – although it should be said that the structure of the movement has also been interpreted as containing two developments and two recapitulations. In a quintessentially Beethovenian surprise, a prominent unexpected D flat interrupts the main subject. In the coda, that D flat is reinterpreted as a C sharp that takes the music into the wildly distant key of F sharp minor before crashing back equally abruptly into F major.
Shortened from Kimmo Korhonen's work presentation
Translation: Jaakko Mäntyjärvi