Beethoven's public concert at the Theater an der Wien on 5 April 1803 included (among others!) three new works by the great composer from Bonn: the oratorio Christ on the Mount of Olives, the Piano concerto No. 3 and the Symphony No. 2. While the press didn't say a word about the latter following the first performance, there were unrestrained criticisms two years later, after the work was published in Leipzig: "This is a gross monster, a pierced dragon which will not die, and even in losing its blood (in the finale), wrote a certain Spazier.
A "monster", really? This much-denigrated work shows no signs of the deep inner crisis that Beethoven went through in 1802, the year of the ill-fated "Heiligenstadt Testament". Driven to despair by his relentlessly increasing deafness, the musician wrote a letter to his brothers, which he never sent in the end: "(...) I was on the verge of ending my life - it was only my art that held me back. Ah, it seemed for me impossible to leave the world until I had brought forth all that I felt was within me (...)." Beethoven gave a foretaste of this creative power in his Symphony in D Major, which was mainly written during that year 1802. "I am now ready to embark on a new path," he then told his pupil Carl Czerny. Innovations are numerous and significant in this crucial work, which is characterised in particular by a powerful slow introduction, a decidedly vocal slow movement and a sweeping finale.