It’s probably the most well-known fact in all of classical music that Beethoven started to go deaf. But he was also troubled by a whole host of other ailments: tinnitus (a persistent ringing in the ears), abdominal pains, severe constipation, rheumatic problems, and depression. So in 1811 he was sent off, on doctor’s orders, to the pleasant Bohemian spa town of Teplitz, famous for its allegedly curative waters.
It had been a good four years since his previous symphony, the sixth or ‘Pastoral’, and on his return to Vienna in the latter part of the year, refreshed by his stay in Teplitz, he began work on the seventh.
It opens with a long introduction. It was quite common for symphonies to begin with slow introductions before getting on with the main business of the first movement. But this was by far the longest introduction ever heard to date, unlike anything that Haydn or Mozart, or even Beethoven himself, had done before.