Dah-dah-dah-dahhhh. A tune that is universal throughout the world. Beethoven’s 5th Symphony is a phenomenon of music literature and instills excitement in all that conduct, play, and hear the piece. Those opening notes in unison throughout the whole orchestra are some of the most challenging to play. Not only do the players have to be synced as one person, but the conductor has to lead the charge.
The piece follows the classical music standard of having four movements; the first movement is allegro (fast) in C minor, the second movement is slow in A flat major, the third movement is a minuet (a dance with three beats in a bar) in C minor, and the fourth movement is allegro (fast) in C major. The constantly returning dah-dah-dah-dah notes have been rumored to come from many things. Some say it reflects the sound of the Yellowhammer birds from Vienna or a time to reflect the revolutionary state of Europe or even the simple phrase of “Fate knocking at the Door”. No matter where the origin of that motif is, it has stuck for over 200 years.
One of the most intriguing parts of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony is that the motif repeats in every measure of the first movement. Although it is not obvious to the audience, the conductor and musicians in the orchestra are aware of the passing around of these 4 notes. They are played with different adaptations, but all with the same intention of keeping that heroic melody around.
While Beethoven was writing his most influential piece of music literature, most didn’t know that he was slowly going deaf. After being around music so intensely for many years without proper ear protection, he was losing his ability to hear what the orchestra and piece had to say. But he didn’t let that stop him. He kept writing and composing brilliant music that, whether you love or hate classical music, you have heard in your lifetime.
We can all learn from Beethoven. Music isn’t something that can be given up on–it lasts forever and its messages are always universal no matter where you come from. When listening to or performing this piece, keep these things in mind and you will have a stunning experience.
Listen to Beethoven's Symphony No.5: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jv2WJMVPQi8
“Beethoven's Instrumental-Music,” in E. T. A. Hoffmanns sämtliche Werke, vol. 1, ed. C. G. von Maassen (Munich and Leipzig: G. Müller, 1908), translated by Bryan R. Simms.
Team, StringOvation. “Secrets Stories Behind the Greatest Classical Compositions: Beethoven's 5th Symphony.” Connolly Music Company, www.connollymusic.com/stringovation/secret-stories-behind-beethovens-5th-symphony