Symphony No. 5 (Beethoven)

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The Symphony No. 5 in C minor of Ludwig van Beethoven, Op. 67, was written 1804–1808. It is one of the best-known compositions in classical music, and one of the most frequently played symphonies.


{\clef treble \key c \minor \time 2/4 {r8 g'8[ g'8 g'8] | ees'2\fermata | r8 f'8[ f'8 f'8] | d'2~ | d'2\fermata | } }

Quotes about Symphony No. 5 (Beethoven)

  • DA-DA-DA DAAAAAA! This is not London. It is our orchestra rehearsing the first movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, all of which I had written from memory. That DA-DA-DA DAAAAAA had given me enormous pleasure.
    • Fania Fénelon, Sursis pour l’orchestre, with Marcelle Routier (Paris:Stock, 1976), quoted in Esteban Buch, Beethoven's Ninth: A Political History (2003)
  • There is an “oracle” at the beginning of the Fifth Symphony–in those four notes lies one of Beethoven’s greatest messages. We would place its translation above the relentlessness of fate knocking at the door, above the greater human-message of destiny, and strive to bring it towards the spiritual message of Emerson’s revelations–even to the “common heart” of Concord–the Soul of humanity knocking at the door of the Divine mysteries, radiant in the faith that it will be opened–and the human become the Divine!
  • ...orgy of vulgar noises.
  • So in Beethoven’s mind there was presumably some dramatic scenario behind the Fifth Symphony, but he decided that, like most of his works, this one did not need to be nailed to a stated narrative. For those equipped to understand it, the gist would be clear enough in the notes. That story would be as direct as the rest of the symphony: a movement from darkness to light, from C minor to C major, from the battering of fate to joyous triumph.
    The compaction of material flows from the first gesture, that unforgettable explosion of three Gs and an E-flat. Once again, for Beethoven the opening idea, das Thema, is the embryo of a work. Here he boils down das Thema to just four notes that still function like a Thema: they are the symphony in essence.
    In the symphony’s first moment, in that percussive da-da-da-dum, we hear the primal rhythmic figure that will dominate the first movement and persist as motif and rhythmic scaffolding to the end. We sense the force-of-nature energy of the movement. We hear the bluntness of effect, the simplest harmonies proclaimed as if discovered for the first time. We hear the muscular quality that will mark the orchestral sound. We are misled by the key; it seems to be E-flat major but is actually C minor; that ambiguity creates tension. The propulsive effect of the primal “&-2-& 1” rhythmic tattoo comes from its beginning on a void, a charged rest on the beginning of the 2/4 measure, then three eighth notes driving into the next measure, in which a new start of the figure is usually overlapped to drive forward again. Call the effect of this tattoo dominating the movement a monorhythm.
  • So, there's this man, he has a time machine. Up and down history he goes — zip, zip, zip, zip, zip — getting into scrapes. Another thing he has is a passion for the works of Ludwig van Beethoven. Then, one day, he thinks, "What's the point in having a time machine if you don't get to meet your heroes?" So, off he goes to 18th Century Germany, but he can't find Beethoven anywhere. No one's heard of him. Not even his family have any idea who the time traveler is talking about. Beethoven literally doesn't exist. This didn't happen, by the way. I've met Beethoven. Nice chap. Very intense. Loved an arm wrestle. No, this is called the bootstrap paradox. Google it. The time traveler panics. He can't bear the thought of a world without the music of Beethoven. Luckily, he'd brought all of his Beethoven sheet music for Ludwig to sign. So, he copies out all the concertos and the symphonies, and he gets them published. He becomes Beethoven. And history continues with barely a feather ruffled. (the Doctor turns on an amplifier and plugs in his electric guitar) My question is this: who put those notes and phrases together? Who really composed Beethoven's Fifth? (the Doctor plays the opening notes to Beethoven's Fifth on his guitar)
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