If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content
Current time:0:00Total duration:10:21

Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 5, analysis by Gerard Schwarz (part 1)

Video transcript

when a composer writes a symphony there's expectations it's supposed to be a big piece it's supposed to be a long piece it's supposed to have a lot of elements numerous movements and Beethoven comes from a tradition a classical tradition of Mozart and Haydn he was born in Bonn in Germany and soon emigrated to Vienna he wanted to go to the music capital of Europe as he saw it he played for Mozart did some improvisations Mozart was very impressed and said look out this man will be someone important he studied a little bit with hiden even though his main teacher was Albrecht's Berger he even studied with Salieri when he started writing his symphonies in the early part of the nineteenth century most of his symphonies he wrote in the first decade of the 1800s the first symphony was a remarkable work very much in the classical tradition of Hyden and Mozart the Third Symphony the Eroica is extraordinary and it's long symphonies usually take 25 30 35 minutes all of a sudden the Eroica is taking 50 minutes it adds a third horn it it extends the whole concept of the symphony to a larger language than Mozart and Haydn the fifth symphony is remarkable lots of ways obviously the most important thing is the way he developed this little motive think about the audience hearing these notes just played by the clarinets and the strings and he takes these notes and he develops them throughout the whole movement and in fact with the exception of the second moment that little motive is played in every movement something unusual for the time when you're listening to the symphony you don't really realize that that motive is going on all the time you don't even know where it comes from some of the time and awake I guess you're not supposed to you're just supposed to hear it and all of a sudden it's like oh this sounds familiar this is recognizable it's someone holds together but I thought I'd show you a little bit of what he does okay so he takes this this symphony and he starts it it this in a sense it's a wild energy because it's so much activity there's these little moving notes constantly there's no introduction he just jumps right in so you're in and you hear this motive which is in a sense of course the first theme and he even though it's what we call the exposition the first section of the PC develops it somewhat until the horns come in to introduce the second theme so they play so obviously it's the same three short and along but instead of because so he expands the interval from two and then he writes the second theme all within the framework of what the horns have just done just those notes but while he's doing your hearing the bass the the same rhythm as the opening if I didn't point it out to you you wouldn't notice it but if you listen to it you'll see that you'll hear that cello and bass playing that motive underneath that second theme which of course is a contrasting theme then Beethoven comes back develops the initial motive again and then we repeat the whole section so this whole exposition or first section is repeated and the next section and typical symphonic form is called the development section and you take the material from both themes and you develop it you go in lots of different directions clearly Beethoven was one of the great composers for development because he had this incredible ability to improvise and in a sense what you're doing when you're doing the development is you're improvising you're going in new directions you're adding new ideas and changing harmony and and a lot of contours and doing whatever you can do to keep the audience really interested and excited and instead of just repeating the same motive over and over again he extends it rhythmically and of course he includes the gesture and that keeps extending until all of a sudden he reduces it so it starts out by being as I just played and then becomes just those two notes and just single notes and there's this conversation between the woodwinds and the strings from two notes to one note changed the harmony and then he brings us back again with the same kind of excitement and then again single notes and then again he brings us back with that same gesture this time and and it builds and builds and builds just like it does in the first section we've now arrived at what we call the recapitulation so we've had the exposition we've had the development and now the recapitulation the recapitulation traditionally is a repetition of the first section with a slight variant and harmony but otherwise it's the same and Beethoven does that he has the same material everything goes and at the moment when we get to the to the big with the violins whole this.g instead of the violence holding the G a solo bow holds a G and then he plays a little cadenza how unusual right in the middle of a symphony first movement everything comes to a halt and there's the open after that we have what would be considered a relatively normal recapitulation and the movement comes to a remarkable conclusion of course is their differences and when the horns play the first time the second time in the recoup is played by the bassoon but you always hear this continuing motive of those three short and one long note whether it's an accompaniment or inability one other thing that's interesting is that the coda is always an important element in Beethoven's music so we have exposition development recapitulation and now we have another element Dakota in Beethoven's case the coda in the first moment of this fifth symphony is longer than any of the other sections kotas when they exist in classical form are usually short brief is just like the tag at the end so here's this great genius who makes the quota even more important well and length more important than the other sections of the movement