The first movement themes make great leaps over a syncopated pulse that creates a sense of breathless excitement, with four horns pitched in their high register adding powerful tension. The second movement centres on a calm dialogue between winds and strings while the courtly third movement gleams as the horns sound their high notes again. The final movement resumes the stormy mood of the opening.
Call of the Wild – what an evocative title! And the two movement titles are just as tantalising:
She stands at the Edge of the Incomprehensible
He Can Worship it Without Believing It
Whatever audiences were expecting after Beethoven’s titanic Eroica symphony, it wasn’t this. The Fourth tiptoes in, woodwinds piping hesitantly over dark cloudy chords, the suspense cranking up unbearably before the music launches into exuberant happiness.
But that simple contrast is just one of many surprises; of all Beethoven’s symphonies, this one’s moods are the most fickle. The gliding second movement is infused at times with the same suspense as the opening of the symphony; the jumpy third movement couldn’t be more different. The symphony ends with a cheerfulness that resolves everything.