Breaking Down Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67
Beethoven’s 5th debuted 211 years ago yesterday. This 2006 article from NPR takes a look at one the most recognized symphonies ever.
In the fall of 1801, at age 30, Beethoven revealed for the first time the secret of his increasing hearing loss and stated in a letter that he would “seize Fate by the throat; it shall not bend or crush me completely.” It has not been difficult to relate such statements directly to his music. The struggle with “Fate” when it “knocks at the door,” as he allegedly told his assistant Anton Schindler happens at the beginning of the Fifth, helped endorse the favored label for the entire middle period of his career: Heroic. The Fifth Symphony, perhaps more than any of his other symphonies, more than those with explicit extra-musical indications like the “Eroica,” “Pastoral,” or Ninth, seems to present a large-scale narrative. According to this view, a heroic life struggle is represented in the progression of emotions, from the famous opening in C minor to the triumphant C-major coda of the last movement some 40 minutes later.
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