Composed between 1811 and 1812, Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony received its premiere in 1813 at a benefit concert in Vienna for injured soldiers.
Considering what it was intended for, it was always going to be a crowd pleaser and was popular from the start.
However, typically for Beethoven, crowd pleasing didn't mean sappy, half-baked, middle-brow froth.
The Seventh is a roller coaster of a journey, both musically and emotionally, and a work of utter genius in my humble opinion.
Regular readers may be aware that Beethoven is part of my holy square of B’s (Beethoven, Bach, Brahms and Britten), and this symphony is my absolute favourite to play.
My favourite movement is the second movement, the Allegretto. I find this to be one of the most stirring movements in Beethoven’s symphonic writing.
The music is exceedingly sombre but has an unrelenting drive forward, and courts both darkness and light.
It is deeply personal, but at the same time feels gargantuan in its expression.
This movement encapsulates the image we have of Beethoven, the sense of great struggle, passion and beauty.
Such beauty, not of the physical kind (the poor man seemed to suffer an eternal bad hair day), but of the intangible beauty that you can only sense and glimpse.
Without a doubt, even without realising it perhaps, you will know this movement.
The Allegretto of the Seventh Symphony has been used in numerous TV shows, commercials and films.
The Fall, a beautiful film from 2006, used the music as the backdrop of its completely wordless, black and white, opening scene, setting the dramatic tone of the film from the off.
The Allegretto’s most famous leading role to date however was probably in The King’s Speech (2010).
Colin Firth as the king gives his big war speech without a hint of a stutter and it is the Allegretto that accompanies him.
The music perfectly mirrors the king’s personal struggle, and the magnitude of the events happening in Europe.
Richard Wagner called Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony the ‘apotheosis of the dance’ and it would be very difficult to argue with that statement.
If you can keep still during the last movement, you really are a bit odd.
Pianist John Lill
Friday’s concert will also be an exceptionally special event, as it is our opportunity to celebrate the 70th birthday of the wonderful pianist, John Lill.
John is always such a joy to work with, a perfect gentleman, and I’m very much looking forward to hearing his Brahms Piano Concerto No 1 (another one of my B’s!).
The length and breadth of John Lill’s career is outstanding. Since winning First Prize at the 1970 Tchaikovsky Competition, he has remained steadfastly at the forefront of his field.
He combines his Visiting Professor role at the Royal College of Music with an enviable schedule of recitals and concertos with the world’s finest musicians.
Conductor Laureate, Tadaaki Otaka
Under the baton of our Conductor Laureate, Tadaaki Otaka, this will be a very special concert at St David’s Hall so I hope you can join us.
John Lill joins the orchestra for Brahms’s Piano Concerto No 1 on Friday 9 May at St David’s Hall, Cardiff.
For more information, visit the orchestra’s website or call the orchestra’s Audience Line on 0800 052 1812.