Symphony Nº. 4 in B-flat major, Op. 60
I. Adagio — Allegro vivace
III. Allegro vivace
IV. Allegro ma non troppo
Leonard Bernstein, cond.
Beethoven’s Fourth, one of the least performed of his nine symphonies, was completed in the period between 1804-1806, the astonishingly fruitful time which also gave birth to the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies , the Fourth Piano Concerto, the “Appassoniata” Sonata, the Razumovsky Quartets, and other works. Symphonies 4, 5, and 6 are thought to have been completed in the order indicated by number, but work on them overlapped considerably as they were all “in the oven” at the same time.
One reason for the relative obscurity of the Fourth lies in its reserved character falling between the two titanic outbursts of the Third and Fifth; Beethoven seems to have withdrawn into himself, and superficially the Fourth does not seem like an advancement.
But careful listening and analysis shows this is far from the case: within its highly classic frame, the Fourth abounds with experiments in syncopation, harmony (especially in its frequent use of enharmonic modulations), and orchestration—nowhere before the Fourth had the composer so colorfully and boldly defined new orchestral sonorities and their interplay. It is also worth mentioning that the Adagio of the Fourth would be the last truly “slow” inner movement of a symphony until the Ninth, with those in the interim passing at andante or better.