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This week we are performing Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3. It’s guaranteed to take you through a wide range of emotions in the colossal first movement alone. However here we’ll focus on the second movement, a funeral march. Beethoven was rather good at writing sombre music themed around death, and in art and culture making your audience feel emotionally low is not a bad thing. In fact, it can be a great thing (especially when contrasted with more uplifting material, as Beethoven does in the middle of the funeral march).
This got us thinking about composers who tug at the heart strings, and so here are some top pieces (we think) to make you feel sad on a Monday morning. Welcome to a new week! Sob sob.
There is much intrigue around this piece. Mozart apparently wrote it from his deathbed and died before it was finished, raising questions about which notes he actually wrote and what was finished by others. It’s powerful stuff though, with the mythology surrounding it just adding to the weight and feeling of foreboding.
Bach wrote two solo violin concertos, one in A minor and one in E major. This soulful adagio from the E major concerto has moments of light which contrast to the dark, making it intensely emotional.
Coming on to some contemporary classical music, Polish composer Henryk Gorecki wrote his Symphony No 3 (also known as the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs) in 1976. Some people think this work was written in response to Auschwitz as many of Goreck’s family died in concentration camps, but the composer maintained that the work is an evocation of the ties between mother and child.
Here is the second of the three movements:
Written in 1893, this was Tchaikovsky’s final completed Symphony and premiered just nine days before the his death. Due to both the timing and the emotional turbulence of the last movement, many like to guess at the meaning behind the music. A common view is that of a suicide note written in music (whether his death was accidental or deliberate is unknown). The fact that the piece was dedicated to Bob Davidov, the nephew with whom Tchaikovsky was in love in his final decade, and the fact that his brother named the symphony the ‘Pathétique’, further fuels such debate and interest.
Whatever the meaning, the final movement screams of suffering, longing and anguish.
And finally, to the piece which inspired this post and which we are performing in both the Royal Festival Hall and at the Anvil: the funeral march from Beethoven’s Symphony No.3 (the Eroica Symphony). The symphony was originally dedicated to Napoleon, but Beethoven changed his mind when Napoleon crowned himself emperor!