Beethoven composed his Second Symphony between 1801 and 1802, at the time he discovered that he was going deaf. In 1801 he wrote to his friend, the physician Franz Gerhard Wegeler: ‘I must confess that I am living a miserable life. For almost two years I have ceased to attend any social functions, just because I find it impossible to say to people: I am deaf. If I had any other profession it would be easier, but in my profession it is a terrible handicap.’
It was during in the summer of 1802, while he was staying in Heiligenstadt, a village outside Vienna, that Beethoven added the finishing touches to his Second Symphony.
With four movements, the Second is not as revolutionary as the Third ‘Eroica’ symphony, but it does demonstrate how Beethoven was breaking new ground all the time. The first movement is memorable for a recurring two-note motif that frames the main melodic theme and the Second is the first example of Beethoven’s use of a scherzo for the third movement of a symphony (the miuet had been the convention before this).