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

Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 Analysis by Gerard Schwarz (part 2)

Watch the full performance here . Created by All Star Orchestra.

Want to join the conversation?

Video transcript

- The second movement is a series of variations. This beautiful lilting theme is first played by the violas and the cellos. ("5th Symphony, 2nd movement" by Ludwig van Beethoven) There's an answer to that played by the violins and the woodwinds. Then comes the interlude, or could call it a second theme if you like. First it starts played by the clarinet and bassoon. And then it becomes triumphant played by the horns, trumpets, and the full orchestra. Then we're back to the original theme, except this time it's the first variation. So this variation has that original theme, but played still with violas and the cellos but with faster notes. It still has the response of the woodwinds and the strings, and again leads us back to the clarinets and bassoons with the second little theme. And the triumphant theme of the trumpets, horns, accompanied by the strings. Then we get to the second variation, which are faster notes yet, again played by the viola and the cellos. Then there's a little version for the violins. Finally, they get into the picture and play a little variation, and that leads to a kind of heroic one. So far the theme's always been soft, and now the cellos and basses are playing the same variation on this theme in a very extroverted way. Then a remarkable cadence leads us to a little interlude for the whole woodwind section. So now the woodwinds have a little something of their own. If you think of it the piece has the string section playing what they play, the woodwinds playing what they play, and when we get to the triumphant. (playing notes) Even though it's full orchestra, the timpani, trumpets and horns lead that thing. So then we have a little interlude by the woodwinds. And then we have a variation that the woodwinds play. So finally, they get one of these variations by themselves. You can just see Beethoven's mind working. It's almost as if he had a checklist. You know, I'm gonna have some variations with the woodwinds. I'm gonna have variations with the violins. I'll have one with the violas and cellos I'll add the basses in this variation. I'll have the triumphant theme played softly by the woodwinds and make that a variation, I'll add that as well. Beethoven alternated between the woodwinds, the brass, the strings back and forth. Obviously, he had variation, and he had contrast. Contrast, volume, contrast of the speed of the notes, contrast of the musical inflection, or the musical impetus that leads. He then even does the first theme, the one that we originally heard on the violas and cellos, in a heroic fashion, played by the full orchestra. Another variation is a variation for the solo bassoon. And there's this little comment from oboe. It's like a conversation. The bassoon plays. (playing notes) And the oboe does things like. (playing notes) A little comment, until they come together at the end. ("5th Symphony, 2nd movement" by Ludwig van Beethoven) The final variation, he takes the same material, and he does it in a kinda mysterious way. The woodwinds are playing quite softly. And then it builds. It builds. It builds. And in wonderful Beethoven fashion it ends strong and in a very positive way.