“Eight ferocious notes open one of the most explosive pieces of music ever composed. Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony Number Five premiered in 1808, and quickly won acclaim. Its central motif and raw emotionality have continued to resound through the ages. So what exactly makes Beethoven’s Fifth so captivating?”
Hear these “three short notes followed by a lingering fourth”—a specific combination of music notes that “suggest the figure of fate knocking at the door”—in this animated TED-Ed story from music history. It’s a lesson by Hanako Sawada, directed by Yael Reisfeld: The secrets of the world’s most famous symphony.
From a This Is Why Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 Is So Incredibly Popular:
“Beethoven started his Fifth Symphony in 1804, and he knew he was going deaf. He wrote it over nearly four years, when he also was busy on other compositions, including string quartets, concertos, and two other symphonies. Grappling with fate, he summoned defiance and triumph, with transcendent innovation.
“‘The other thing which is very, very amazing and it was never written before,’ says Eschenbach,'[is] the transition from the third movement to the last movement. This misterioso with timpani, as soft as possible…. It’s mystery, and then it breaks into C Major!’
“Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony premiered in a concert in 1808. Over the next century and beyond, several new American orchestras chose it for their inaugural concerts, including The New York Philharmonic in 1842, and in 1900, The Philadelphia Orchestra.”
This recording shares how Ludwig von Beethoven would have heard his Symphony No. 5 with hearing loss.
• Beethoven Haus Bonn’s interactive for kids, ages 10 to 13, in German, English, French, Spanish, and Chinese
Watch these related classical music videos next:
• Line Riders ride to Beethoven’s 5th
• Beethoven’s Ode to Joy (a sort of flashmob)
• Beethoven’s Ninth on a Toolbox Glockenspiel
• How to read music
• How playing an instrument benefits your brain
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