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My Analysis of Ludwig van Beethoven, Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op.

67,” Allegro con brio” (first


movement)

Robert Rippey

C100 – Introduction to Humanities

A1. Initial Thoughts

When I first heard this piece from Beethoven, I had a few thoughts. At first, I recognized the melody

because every person alive has had to have heard it in one form or another in their lives. Then, I began

to analyze what was going on musically in the piece. I noticed that there was a lot of different elements

at work. The dynamics of the different instruments ranged from soft to very loud, then back to soft

again. It created a sort of tension and release. The main melody is also very memorable. The motif that

Beethoven used was very ingenious. He used staccato notes in the first 2 measures of the piece, then

shocks the listener by introducing more of a flowing type of melody. The string section offered a type of

counterpoint melodically in my opinion. The rhythm of the piece is very fast and progresses quickly (with

a few stops). I would say that I really like this piece.

A2. Aspect of Interest

Ludwig van Beethoven is considered one of the greatest composers in classical music. His pieces have

stood the test of time for centuries. They are still performed around the world by classical musicians. My

initial interest comes from being a musician myself, having been formally trained to play piano. Also, as a

lover of all types of music, I realize that every song, every composition has a story behind it. Classical

music is no different. Exploring this work gave me a chance to dig further into the life and mind of the

Neoclassical periods best and brightest musicians.


B1. Historical Context

Symphony No. 5 in C Minor was written between 1804 and 1808. This time period coincides with the

Neoclassical Period of the Humanities. Themes that were prevalent during this time were balance and

harmony. The musicians, artists, and writers of the period were trying to bring back the ideals of the

Classical Period.

There were many things that were going on in Europe at that time, specifically in Vienna, Austria. The

Napoleonic Wars were in effect, Vienna was occupied by Napoleon’s troops in 1805, and there was a lot

of political turmoil in Austria. Personally, in Beethoven’s life, on top of the politics of the day, he was

facing increasing deafness. By this time, he was already in his mid-thirties.

B2. Insights into the Work

When Beethoven released Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67, it was initially not well received. Fans of

his work were still smitten by his Third Symphony and his Seventh Symphony (which was considered

“The Crown of Instrumental Music”). Around 1801, he started to make public that he was having hearing

loss. At this point of his life, Beethoven decided that he would "seize Fate by the throat; it shall not bend

or crush me completely." He was always at odds with dealing with life struggles and the eventuality of

Fate. His new outlook on life began to become present in his music. The theme of a “Hero’s Struggle”

seemed to present a narrative in a larger scale. When Beethoven was composing this piece, he really

poured his heart and soul into it. All of his pent-up emotions and feelings were expressed musically; his

sorrows, his bottled-up rage, and his dreams. Melodically, harmonically, and rhythmically, all of these

elements could be heard and felt.


B3. Exploration into a Particular Theme

The music of the Classical period switched from the Baroque period’s counterpoint to more homophonic

qualities. Melodies became lighter and more lyrical in content. Beethoven’s Fifth illustrates a very light,

flowing, and lyrical melody that works in contrast with the 4-note motif in the very beginning of the

piece. Also, there was an emphasis on more complexity, but not at the cost of unity of all musical

elements. The melody, harmony, and rhythm seem to play off of each other so well by providing

contrast; almost a sort of call and response style that is reminiscent of the blues and gospel in American

music. But when the listener listens critically to the work, they see that all elements are working towards

that united theme of tension and resolution.

B4. Relevance of the Work

Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is perhaps his most celebrated composition. After he passed away, it gained

notoriety and critical acclaim as one of the premiere pieces of the Classical Period. Even though there

are only a small number of people who are actually fans of classical music, I still believe that the piece

still has relevance.

Back in the 1800s, there wasn’t an Internet, there were no televisions or radios, or even phones. There

were no motion pictures. People went to the theater or the symphony for entertainment. When people

would go into a symphony, they would escape their own lives and be taken on a journey created by the

composer. Great composers like Beethoven, Mozart, and Haydn knew this. Therefore, the compositions

that cause you to feel a numerous amount of emotions have stood the test of time. This is no different

than today when we go to the movies or binge watch seasons of our favorite shows on Netflix. We are

looking for escapism and great storytelling. These are themes that transcend time. It’s just that the
medium has changed over the centuries. By giving works like this from the past a chance and allowing

ourselves to get lost in them, we can find that same type of escaping reality.

C. Effect on Analysis of Perception

Before writing this paper, I already had a very wide array of knowledge of different types of music.

Classical music is one of those areas of knowledge. But I did not know a lot about the backstory of

Beethoven besides him losing his hearing. After having done research on his life and this piece, it has

given me an even greater respect for one of music’s most ingenious and celebrated composers. The

genius of his work has and will continue to stand the test of time.

References

1. Gibbs, C. H. (2006, June 09). Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67. Retrieved from

https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5473894
2. Western Governors University. (n.d.). Retrieved from

https://wgu.mindedgeonline.com/content.php?cid=42524
3. Kinderman, William (1995). Beethoven. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 122. ISBN 0-

520-08796-8