From around the 1770s through to the late 1820s, central Europe was mad about harmoniemusik: music for wind ensemble. The classic harmonie line-up comprised matching pairs of oboes, clarinets, horns and bassoons (the wooden flutes of the period would have been inaudible) - an ideal ensemble when music was to be performed out of doors, at banquets and social gatherings; anywhere, basically, where it had to be heard over background chatter.
It’s hard to imagine Beethoven tolerating that: but this isn’t (despite the opus number) late Beethoven, but very early Beethoven – composed in Bonn in 1792 before he left for Vienna and only rediscovered after his death. It’s the work of a young composer out to make an impact, and some money – energetic, unashamedly cheerful and taking an obvious delight (especially in the headlong Minuetto) in the endless colours that can be created, kaleidoscope-like, by blending and contrasting those eight basic instruments. The finale is practically a musical fit of the giggles.
BEETHOVEN Octet in E flat op. 103