The Genius of Beethoven's Symphonies

Thomas Kelly – Harvard University

Beethoven’s symphonies are sometimes referred to as a “cycle,” as though they had been composed together and were intended somehow to belong together. In fact they represent compositions for public performance from all periods of Beethoven’s life. There is also evidence of symphonies, or plans for symphonies, from before and after the symphonies that we now know.

Some of Beethoven’s symphonies do belong together, in a sort of complementary pairing that reflects something about each member of the pair. We’ll discuss what else was going on in Beethoven’s mind as he composed these symphonies as well as the context, and the possible pairing, of the Ninth Symphony, which Beethoven did not intend to be his last!