Monday, June 8, 2015

Musical Instruments Used in Beethovens Symphony 2 in D Major

Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 36” uses traditional instruments from the Classical period of music. This was the last symphony he wrote before his musical style drastically changed. The first and second symphonies are extremely similar to the symphonies of Mozart and Haydn. In his second symphony, he shows his ability to understand the Classical-period style of music and then expand the style in future symphonies. Beethoven introduced the trombone to the orchestra, but he does not utilize the trombone in the first four symphonies.


The woodwind section in the second symphony consists of two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets and two bassoons. These instruments carry much of the melody throughout each movement. The clarinets and oboes often split their parts between two octaves, with the flute on the highest pitches and the bassoons providing a strong bass woodwind sound.


The brass serves to accent chords and create chorales throughout the second symphony. The brass section functions as a cohesive unit to create complete chord voicing and reinforces downbeats. This section rarely plays the melody in the second symphony. The section balances with the woodwind section and contains two horns in D and E, as well as two trumpets in the key of D.


The string section is a typical Classical period grouping that includes violins, violas, cellos and basses. In the Classical period, orchestras were much smaller than those we have today. The violins were split into two parts in Beethoven’s second symphony and consisted of six first violins and six-second violins. The viola section consisted of four violas. The low strings consisted of three cellos and two basses. The strings play mostly continuously throughout the entire piece and provide the melody and harmony in the symphony.


Beethoven’s percussion section consists only of the timpani. There were only two timpani used throughout the entire work. Beethoven asked that the timpani plays two pitches throughout the entire work; that meant that no tunings were required in the middle of the composition. The two pitches used were the tonic and the dominant. In Classical music, these are the two most important pitches, as they help to identify the key of the piece.