Do you know that the first symphony or note that sounded on earth was an E natural? It was produced around 165 million years ago by a katydid. Music is such an integral part of life that none can live without it. Consider insects, such as a mosquito, a male mosquito when wishes to attract a mate, he makes a sound- a kind of symphony to allure their female counterparts. Similarly happens with bees and fireflies.
Nightingales are earth’s natural singers, male nightingales that sing throughout the night are thought to be single birds, trying to serenade migrating females down as they fly over. Thus, we are supremely musical animals and our life without music is incomplete.
Talking about music and not considering Ludwig van Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is an insult to the music itself. Only four motifs long this symphony is so famous around the world that hardly any succession of notes can even be compared to it. One can predict that Ludwig if alive today- would have been royalties among royalties just because of his fifth symphony.
Ludwig van Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony in C minor from 1808 has gone down the music history as the Symphony of Fate.
One of the world’s most explosive pieces of music ever composed can be heard easily through the cinema. It was first premiered on 22 December 1808 at a mammoth concert in Vienna. The symphony was just a small part of the lengthy concert however it managed to combine the emotions of the audience to the next level. Despite the highly under-rehearsed orchestra, the symphony won acclaim. It was directed by Beethoven himself.
The premier was four hours long and Beethoven presented a total of six symphonies to the audience and his fifth symphony was dedicated to two of his patrons, Prince Franz Joseph von Lobkowitz and Count Razumovsky.
One of the music critic E. T. A. Hoffmann describes the symphony as – “Radiant beams shoot through this region’s deep night, and we become aware of gigantic shadows which, rocking back and forth, close in on us and destroy everything within us except the pain of endless longing— a longing in which every pleasure that rose up in jubilant tones sinks and succumbs, and only through this pain, which, while consuming but not destroying love, hope, and joy.”
The symphony became the central item in the orchestral repertoire, but how was it created and what makes it so captivating? To understand this, it’s important to look at the life of Ludwig van Beethoven.
Ludwig van Beethoven was one of the most iconic composers of history but his life was full of ups and downs. He was the son of Johann and Maria Magdalena Keverich. He was born in the 1770s, but there is no documentary proof of this. His father was a keyboard and violin teacher and was the first to taught Beethoven about music. Later in life, Beethoven had several teachers who taught him about music compositions and instruments. His regime was very harsh and he would often be dragged out of bed to the keyboard early in the morning. The intensive routine would reduce him to tears yet his father was adamant about making him a child prodigy. That is why he even attempted to claim that Beethoven was six (he was seven) on the posters for his first public performance in March 1778.
But as fate has its way, Beethoven freed himself from the shackles of expectancies. While his patrons produced works for religious purposes, Beethoven was the first freelance composer and made his living by selling the music he would compose. He would participate in concerts to showcase his skills to the public in several countries. His first major orchestral work ‘the First Symphony’ was premiered in 1800.
The Fifth Symphony
With his starting works, he would compose music in a classical form but with his fifth symphony, he experimented with Romanticism. Troubled by increasing deafness, he managed to put up the notes together and weaving them into his own emotions.
The first movement is in the traditional sonata form acquired by his idols, Haydn and Mozart. Sonata goes through complex improvement with a dramatic outlet section called the recapitulation which is approximately three-quarters of the manner. Accompanied by two dramatic fortissimo phrases that command the attention of listeners.
The initial motif of the symphony is taken as a symbolic representation of Fate knocking at the door. The three short notes followed by a lingering fourth suggest a knock at the door. If we go by the melody of these notes, the three short notes suggest similar patterns that blend perfectly with people’s emotions however the long fourth note in itself displays doom. A kind of emotional roller coaster that inhabits listeners’ attention like a beam of light.
The key of the Fifth Symphony in C minor represents Beethoven’s stormy and heroic modulation. The repetition of the opening motif throughout the symphony in a rhythmic manner reflects as a single melody with short notes going up and down at crucial points. The usage of C minor ending with C major symbolizes his artistic character.
Ludvig van Beethoven soon became completely deaf and had still produced several works under battling with deafness. He died on 26 March 1827 at the age of 56. His funeral in Vienna was attended by 10,000 people.
In the second World War, the ‘V’ in the Morse code represents victory and Beethoven’s fifth symphony represented this victory. Throughout the time, the music has been used through a number of movies, performances, orchestras, and inauguration events. It was first recorded by the Odeon Orchestra under Friedrich Kark in 1910. The First Movement was even featured on the Voyager Golden Record in a phonograph record containing a sample of the images, common sounds, languages, and music of Earth, sent into outer space aboard the Voyager probes in 1977.
Ludvig Van Beethoven’s fifth symphony is insanely beautiful piece of music.