Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony: The Analysis

This article starts off with times measures of Beethoven?s Fifth Symphony and follows with the written analysis of Beethoven?s Fifth Symphony.

1st Movement: Exposition:Theme 1?0:00?0:18 (1:15?1:39)Transition ? 0:18?0:43 (1:39?1:44)Theme 2?0:46?1:15 (1:44?2:11)Development ? 2:11?3: 25Recapitulation:Theme 1?3:25?4:08Transition ? 4:08?4:39Theme 2?4:39?5:02Coda- 5:02?6:17

2nd Movement: Theme A ? 0:00?0:26Melody ? 0:26?0:59Theme B ? 0:59?2:14Variation 1 (A) ? 2:14?3:05Variation 1 (B) ? 3:05?4:47Melody (embellished) 4:47?5:12Central Section ? 5:12?7:43Variation 3 (A) ? 7:43?8:36Coda ? 8:36?9:43

Third Movement: Scherzo ? 0:00?1:41Trio Trio A ? 1:47?2:01 (2:01?2:16) Trio B ? 2:16?2:42Scherzo Return ? 2:42?4:17Transition to last movement ? 4:17?4:27

Fourth Movement:

Exposition: Theme 1?0:00?0:29 (1:54?2:26) Theme 2?0:34?1:00 (2:26?2:52) Theme 3?1:00?1:25 ( 2:52?3:18) Theme 4?1:25?1:54Development ? 3:18?5:52Recapitulation: Theme 1?5:52?6:26 Theme 2?6:26?6:55 Theme 3?6:55?7:21 Theme 4?7:21?7:50Coda ? 7:50?9:28

Analysis of Beethoven?s Fifth Symphony:

The full audio component of Beethoven?s

The first movement of Beethoven?s famous 5th symphony opens with a striking first four notes. These first four chords are ominous and leave the listener unsure of what to expect next. Instead of carrying on in this dark tone, Beethoven switches to a lighter, sounding tune, although not quite bright or happy. In this passage, Beethoven uses spiccato to give the music a lighter, airier tune that builds up to the repetition of the famous clause that started the music, although slightly altered to be a little less grand-sounding. The next phrase includes what sounds like a call and response between the upper strings and the winds, building in anticipation until the climax of the first theme, ending in a solo from the horns. From here there is a short transition into the second theme. The second theme, if placed side by side with the first theme, might feel very out of character. Unlike Mozart?s music where there is a natural flow from the first theme to the second, Beethoven?s compositions require bridges between the first and second themes to tie them together. This mini-development helps connect the main ideas of the themes better in the listener?s mind. The second is much more upbeat and straightforward, but it does not lose the grandeur and regality that the first theme manages to convey. The first and second theme repeat, further conveying the juxtaposing ominousness of the first theme with the upbeat gaiety of the second theme.

The first movement of Beethoven?s 5th symphony starts off with four world-famous notes played by the lower strings and clarinets: GGGF, played short-short-short LONG. The famous refrain is then repeated a step lower. These four notes leave the listener with a sense of dread and anticipation for the music to come. The notes are filled with suspense, but the suspenseful theme is not necessarily carried on for the rest of the movement. Suddenly, the strings move into a piano, developing the opening motif. A long crescendo and loud chords lead back to the opening motif, this time played by the full orchestra, followed by the same sudden pianissimo. There is a crescendo and ascension, giving the music a lighter, airier tone which is juxtaposed with the timpani drums. Suddenly there is a stop in the music, and the horns have their call motif, which acts as a transition to the second theme of the sonata allegro.

The second theme of Beethoven?s 5th starts out very differently than the first theme. Unlike the suspenseful, dense, heavy opening to the first theme, the second theme opens gently. It is played first by the lower strings and then they are joined by the upper strings. This time the tone is more jubilant and happy. It employs flutes, piccolo, and the upper strings to reinforce the difference between the tones of the first and second themes instead of relying on the lower strings, brass, and timpani. Towards the end of the second theme the woodwinds and horns have a rapid descent, preparing the listener?s ears and minds for the repetition of the Exposition, a quick jump back to the somberness of the first theme.

In Beethoven?s first movement, unlike the music of Mozart and other composers, there is a transition between the first and second themes. Because the ideas and flavors of the two themes are so different, a transition is used to prepare the listener for the tones to come. Even though the switch in tones is not necessarily logical, the transition does help bridge the two ideas.

Next, Beethoven moves onto the development. The development opens with a horn motif in a fortissimo, followed by the low strings, then high chords from woodwinds and brass, still held in a strong fortissimo. Suddenly, there is another horn call, this time accompanied by the full orchestra and a couple key changes, the tonic and dominant keys ?battling it out.? The opening motif is repeated one last time, and the Recapitulation begins.

The first theme, transition, and second theme are played once again to remind the listener of the ideas explored in the opening portion of the sonata allegro. The Recapitulation is followed closely by the coda, which is very short. Towards the beginning of the coda there are short, forceful, repeated chords with long pauses to give the phrase a dramatic air. The horn-call is again repeated by the lower strings and bassoons along with a new violin melody in the tonic key. A short descending pattern in the violins leads to a completely new theme that seems to be leading up, something that the listener now more closely relates to the second theme in the Exposition and Recapitulation.

Once again, the fast, loud, opening motif of four notes is repeated by the full orchestra and the movement ends in a forceful fortissimo.

The format of the second movement is themes and variations, but it differs from most theme/variation movements by classical composers because, unlike those that have one theme and many variations, the second movement of Beethoven?s 5th symphony has two themes each with their own variations. The first theme starts out in the Tonic key (A flat major). The theme is first played out by the lower strings, but the melody is later picked up by the woodwinds. The melody continues with a call and response type alternation between the woodwinds and the strings. The second theme is first carried out by the clarinets, and is also in the tonic key (still A flat major). Suddenly, the clarinet theme is taken over by the violins, and the music crescendos as it transitions to a brass fanfare and a key change. The violins take back over the theme, but continue it as a pianissimo, signaling an end to the second theme.

The first variation is a variation on the first theme, written in the tonic. The melody is played by the violas and cellos, reinforced by longer nots by the clarinets. The first variation contains many notes from Theme One. The second variation is a variation on the second theme, and is more active. This variation (1B) is also played on the clarinet, but accompanied by fanfare from the brass section. This variation has many sustained chords, and spiccato chords from the lower strings, and the variation ends in a cadence. The third variation is 2A, back to a variation on the first theme. This variation has the smooth rhythm of the first variation, but is played twice as fast. This variation, played predominantly by the woodwinds, is embellished by the violins, and later by the lower basses. The variation is ended by rising scales. The third variation is 3A, a third variation on the first theme. In this variation, however; the melody is played by the full orchestra, concluded with rising scales and call/responses between the violins and flutes.

The coda comes at a faster tempo, and is started by a single bassoon and one oboe, who play a passage based on the opening of the movement. The tempo slows to the original tempo, the flute and strings join, and the last section of the first theme is played yet again by the violins. There is a cadence in tonic, and the intensity of the movement builds to a full cadence played by the full orchestra to end the coda.

The third movement is played in the scherzo and trio formation. This is the same format as a minuet and a trio, but a scherzo is generally much faster and more vigorous than a minute. The opening of the scherzo begins hesitantly, but builds to a blasting horn section which is repeated later by the full orchestra. The short-short-short-LONG rhythm of the first movement is repeated at the end of the scherzo.

The trio begins with the first section, a quick melody of unaccompanied cellos and bases. The second section of the trio has a few ?false starts? where the orchestra begins to build, but never reaches the climax of the phrase. Finally, the full orchestra leaps into the melody with a forte and a melody carried by the woodwinds.

Next, the scherzo returns with the original minor medley. The themes are carried out by the bassoons and cellos, and is embellished by pizzicato strings. There is powerful horn segment and more pizzicato strings. There is a cadence, and then the short-short-short-LONG returns for the end of the scherzo. Finally, there is a short transition to the last movement, marked by a long, low, ominous string note and timpani drums.

The fourth and final movement is the epic conclusion of Beethoven?s 5th symphony. The last movement, like the first, is in C major and sonata form. In this movement, however; Beethoven introduces four themes, but the overall tone changes to one that is bright, cheery, and leaves the listener with a resounding feeling of optimism. The first theme is march-like and is played by the entire orchestra, but the trumpets and brass are exceptionally prominent. This theme is in the tonic, C major. The second melody or transitional theme is also forceful, played in a fortissimo, and is also brought in by the horns. The third theme is light and played by the upper strings, the violins. This theme is played in the dominant key, G major. This theme is exposed with the short-short-short-LONG that is known around the world. The fourth and final theme is presented by the strings and woodwinds, and immediately repeated by the full orchestra at a forte, with repeating chords and ascending crescendo to a fortissimo. The whole exposition is repeated and the development begins.

The development utilizes the triplets that are played in the third theme with slowly ascending scales on the flute. Next, the short-short-short-LONG is played one more time by the strings, but in a pianissimo, transitioning to the recapitulation.

The recapitulation repeats themes 1, 2, 3, and 4, which lead to the coda. The coda further develops the third theme, and then variates into theme two. There is a series of piccolo scales followed by a return of the strings and an accelerando until the repetition of theme four by the violins. The full orchestra gradually joins in and then the first theme is once again repeated by the full orchestra in a fortissimo at a much higher tempo. The full orchestra until the grand finale, the whole orchestra playing a concert C in a forceful fortissimo.


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