When Beethoven wrote his Symphony No 1, he was young and at the height of his powers as both a pianist and a composer of chamber music, but he had also lived more than half his life. This symphony couldn’t have been written by Mozart, that’s for sure, but what about Haydn? I guess you’d always think another hand was at work. Harmonically, it’s a bit more stable than Haydn, a bit more Romantic, and in some ways more mischievous even, but it’s still a lot ‘safer’ than what Mahler or Elgar did in their first symphonies. Beethoven uses a standard, late-Haydn orchestra, full-sized, with clarinets but nothing radical or distinctive, such as contrabassoons, piccolos or trombones. Maybe he thought he’d carry on writing in this style, until deafness made him rethink his future.
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