Analyse the Structure and Tonality of the Exposition of Beethoven's First Symphony

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Timed Music Essay on Beethoven’s 1st Symphony: Exposition

Time Started: 8:48 AM
Time Finished: 9:30 AM

Question: Write an informative account of the exposition of the first movement of this symphony.

Answer:

This essay will focus on the exposition of the 1st movement of the 1st symphony written by Beethoven. The exposition begins in bar 13 and ends in bar 109 and consists of four key areas: the 1st subject, the bridge passage, the 2nd subject, and the codetta. The piece is in sonata form.

The exposition begins with the 1st subject after the introduction (bars 1-12) and immediately introduces the 3-note rising motif consisting of G (5th), B (major 7th) and C, which is the tonic of not only the movement but also the symphony as a whole. This motif remains of utmost important throughout much of the piece.

Throughout the 1st subject, the motif is altered (c.f. b.15, in which it is used in staccato quavers) and transposed through various keys (c.f. b.19, in which the motif is used in D minor; and bars 25-30 in which it is used in G7). It is important to note that the motif is played mainly in the 1st violins, but also in the rest of the string section and the bassons from b.26-29. The motif is also preceded by a falling four-note semiquaver motif (c.f. b.18), which is the same as the four-note motif preceding the first bar of the exposition (c.f. b.12)- however it is a tone higher as it leads not into the key of C but instead into D.

The bridge passage begins in bar 33 and lasts until bar 52. It begins with high energy, which is created by the dynamics (fortissimo) and the tremolo in the strings. The first motif is not used in the beginning of bridge and is instead “replaced” by the four-note falling motif, which occurs twice, in bars 34 and 36.

However, the three-note motif is used as the key element of the transition within the bridge passage, which begins in bar 41 and ends in bar 44. From bars 41-43, the three note motif is used in...
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