Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1: A nod to his lineage that was worth the wait

Photo: Beethoven Symphony 1 slide

But this bold, iconoclast who broke free of musical reigns was smart enough to wait his turn to write a symphony.

He moved to Vienna in 1792 to stake his musical ground, but Haydn and Mozart essentially owned the symphony at the time.

Beethoven was 22. His first order of business was finding a piano, a wig-maker and the teacher he came to study with -- Joseph Haydn. (He'd hoped to study with Mozart, who died the previous year).

The new kid from Bonn, Germany, first made a big noise with small works. Those blazing piano improvisations. Sonatas. Chamber music.

He eventually stepped out into the world of symphonic writing with his Symphony No. 1 of 1800.

It shows Beethoven honoring his musical lineage with complete command of the structures and styles that preceded him.

It also shows early glimpses of Beethoven's free spirit.

And he already was losing his hearing, the scourge that would grow worse as his music blossomed.

We're exploring Symphony No. 1 each Saturday in January -- and listening to a fresh interpretation by a different orchestra each week-- as part of our Beethoven 9 project. Click the audio above to hear my discussion of Symphony No. 1 with Beethoven biographer Jan Swafford.

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