Beethoven's Impact on the Piccolo: Earning a Soloistic Position Within the Orchestra

Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Katharina Uhde


Arts and Sciences


Department of Music

Presentation Type

Poster Presentation

Symposium Date

Spring 5-3-2019


The piccolo flute is known for its high and powerful register. Very few solo works and orchestral parts were written for the piccolo until about 1800. Before the Romantic period, the only known works for the piccolo were three piccolo concertos by Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) and military pieces with minor piccolo parts in orchestral and chamber works. No one understood the piccolo's potential until Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), a pianist and composer from Bonn, Germany. Because of Beethoven, the piccolo finally became a part of the orchestra, gained importance as an instrument, and even gained recognition as a solo instrument.

Focusing on Beethoven's use of the piccolo in the fourth movement of his Fifth Symphony (1808), my research compares Beethoven's innovative treatment of the piccolo within his output. I investigate the use of timbre, register, thematic engagement, and texture to show how Beethoven revolutionized the piccolo's symphonic treatment. In orchestral works, the piccolo evolved into an important, necessary member of the woodwind section. Unlike some contemporary critics of the early 1800s, Beethoven saw the piccolo as an expressive, vibrant, and crucial member of the woodwind section. He demonstrated the piccolo's wide dynamic contrast and range, and highlighted its potential as an orchestral soloist. The fourth movement of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony gave the piccolo a chance to outshine other traditionally more important instrumental members of the orchestra and earn its well-deserved soloistic position.

Biographical Information about Author(s)

Sarah Zakowski is from South Bend, Indiana, and is a senior music education major at Valparaiso University. While focusing on her academics, she actively performs in VU's Chamber Concert Band and Jazz Ensemble, playing the flute, piccolo, and baritone saxophone. Prior to graduating in May, Sarah will debut as a soloist with the Chamber Concert Band at the upcoming Sousa Concert. As a future music educator, she looks forward to inspiring students to love music!

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