Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, op. 67
From it’s opening motive to it’s final chord, this composition is one of, if not the most
recognizable and greatest works of music of all time. Written by the great composer Ludwig van
Beethoven in the years 1807-1808, it is a great example of his Middle Period works.
The first movement, in C minor and played Allegro con brio in 2/4 time is, like in almost
all symphonies, sonatas and concertos, in sonata form. It begins with one of the most famous
motives of all time: the four note motive consisting of a short-short-short-long rhythm. It is first
stated by clarinets and strings. The descending third is repeated sequentially a step low. The
fermatas generate tension and a restless character by arresting the forward drive of the theme.
The bridge is played fortissimo by the French horns, generating a heroic character. It is
unusually short, only five measures long, and grows out of the opening motive. It abruptly
modulates to E flat major, the relative major key of C minor. The second theme is played by
woodwinds and first violins piano and legato to create contrast. This lyrical theme is
accompanied by the four-note motive played by cello and double basses to provide a persistent
background. The exposition, like most pieces in sonata form, is repeated.
The French horns open the development, which draws principally on the first theme.
Tension is generated by multiple techniques, including manipulation and breaking down of the
four-note motive, the filling-in of the interval of a third, inversion of the motive and expansion of
the passage through forceful repetition. Abrupt dynamic contrast also contribute to the dramatic
energy. At the end of the development, tension builds through repetitions of the basic theme
played fortissimo by the full orchestra in unison.
The recapitulation begins with the first theme, followed by a short, melancholy oboe solo
played freely and in an improvisatory manner. This is very unusual to happen in a symphony,
and demonstrates Beethoven’s creativity and innovation. The second theme returns
unexpectedly in C major instead of C minor. The codetta is also in C major, followed by a
lengthy coda that is similar to the development section, as it continues to fragment and expand
on the first theme. The movement then closes in dramatic fashion with a loud and solid perfect
authentic cadence in C minor.
The second movement is in A flat major, the submediant major key, and played Andante
con moto. The first theme, characterized by elegant dotted rhythms, grows out of a ascending
broken tonic triad in the low strings, and is marked dolce and played legato. The second theme,
presented by woodwinds and violins is also marked dolce and legato. An example of cyclical
structure, it is based off the short-short-short-long motive in the first movement. It begins in A flat
major, but shifts boldly to C major in measure 42, featuring br...