Ludwig van Beethoven composed his Fourth Symphony in 1806 and led the first private performance at the Lobkowitz Palace in March 1807, in Vienna. The public premiere took place on April 13, 1808, in Vienna’s Burgtheater. Regrettably, the Fourth Symphony is frequently overshadowed by the more dynamic Third and Fifth symphonies. Following the celebrated Eroica and written during the sketches of the beloved Fifth Symphony, it was also surrounded by great works like the Appassionata Sonata, the three Razumovsky Quartets, the opera Fidelio, the Fourth Piano Concerto and the Violin Concerto Op. 61. Upon Beethoven’s death, Robert Schumann declared it “a slender Grecian maiden between two Nordic giants,” and one critic stated of Beethoven, after its premiere "That the composer follows an individual path in his works can be seen again in this work; just how far this path is the correct one, and not a deviation, may be decided by others. To me the great master seems here, as in several of his recent works, now and then excessively bizarre, and thus, even for knowledgeable friends of art, easily incomprehensible and forbidding."
The feature some such critics might have proclaimed ‘bizarre’ is the dissonance built in the introduction preceding the Allegro vivace, which is rich with melodies. The Adagio of the work is an expressive rondo in E-flat major and the third movement combines elements of Scherzo and Minuet with the trio section repeated. Here Beethoven created a five-part structure instead of the standard three-part form. The Symphony then concludes with perpetual motion in the Allegro with nods the work of Haydn. Even as late as the end of the nineteenth century, George Grove, of the renowned Dictionary of Music and Musicians, stated that this symphony “is a complete contrast to both its predecessor and successor, and is as gay and spontaneous as they are serious and lofty.”
Alixandra Porembski, English Language Annotator