Beethoven composed his E-flat Septet in 1799 in Vienna, where aristocrats of the city expressed a desire to support him. In major keys virtually through its six mvmts, the piece casts a jovial atmosphere. Essentially a divertimento in the Viennese style, the Septet received praise from the local critics, who praised the work having been “written with taste and imagination.” Heinz Becker notes that “the music seems to have left . . . superficial virtuosity and moved to the warmer region of symphonic thought.” The 4th mvmt Tema con variazioni became one of several Beethoven melodies adapted for use by other musicians.
Richard Strauss’ symphonic poem Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks (1894-95) takes its inspiration from a real person who lived in Lower Saxony and died in 1350. This poor and irksome peasant loved practical jokes, which spared none from his cruelty. The music sets a “once upon a time” mood, then proceeds to a marketplace, a church, a tryst with a young girl, some criminal antics; and, finally, Till’s hanging. In this arrangement, Franz Hasenoehrl excises the repeats and transitions to create a paraphrase of some nine minutes. His orchestral reduction appeared in 1954.