Composed by

Ludwig van Beethoven (Dec 1770 - Mar 1827) during 1804 to 1808

Duration

Approx. 35 mins

Instrumentation

Piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani and strings

The Symphony No.5, widely recognised by its four-note opening motif, is arguably Ludwig van Beethoven’s best-known composition to date. Going down in music history as the “Symphony of Fate”, it is what comes first to most people’s minds when they think of classical music. Powerful, tragic, and angry, this symphony truly conveys Beethoven’s emotions at the time, as he was composing this symphony when he began to lose his hearing.

Quoted by the composer himself about the opening motif of the piece as “the sound of fate knocking on the door”, Beethoven started composing this symphony in 1803, shortly after finishing his Symphony No.3, Eroica. It comprises 4 movements, which is typical of a symphony in the Classical era.

First movement – “Allegro con brio” introduces and reinforces the main theme through various characters, sometimes foreboding, sometimes triumphant, passing through different sections of the orchestra.

Second movement – “Andante con moto” is a more simple and lyrical movement, consisting of two alternating themes in variations. Even so, the fury of the first movement can still be felt through the hammering of the second theme by the trumpets and the drums.

Third movement – “Allegro” opens gently, with the “fate” theme that started off the symphony, expanding and growing before shifting to a bold and busy climax, and calming down afterward before plunging into the fourth and final movement.

Fourth movement – Also named “Allegro”, it features the “fate rhythm” in a triumphant march, high in energy, and increasing in tempo and volume before closing the symphony in a jubilant major key.

Ludwig van Beethoven

  1. Hated giving piano lessons, only making exceptions for truly talented students, or young attractive women regardless of talent.
  2. His father was an alcoholic, and would often beat and abuse him for playing wrong notes.
  3. Suffered from illnesses throughout his life, and most notably, deafness.
  4. After losing his hearing, he still had his perfect pitch and continued composing until his death.
  5. Had a notoriously bad temper, often stopping his performances if he noticed anyone in the audience talking.
Beethoven
photo credit: Wikipedia

RECOMMENDED RECORDING

WIENER PHILHARMONIKER
Conductor: Carlos Kleiber

Performed on 1974

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