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

Video transcript
- The second movement is a series of variations. This beautiful lilting theme is first played by the violas and the cellos. ("Symphony No. 5, Second Movement" by Beethoven) There's an answer to that played by the violins and the woodwinds. (orchestral music) Then comes the interlude, or you could call it a second theme, if you like. First, it starts played by the clarinet and bassoon. (orchestral music) And then it becomes triumphant. Played by the horns, trumpets and the full orchestra. (dramatic orchestral music) 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 the 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, the bassoons with a 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. (orchestral music) 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 themes always been soft. And now, the cellos and basses are playing this same variation on this theme in a very extroverted way. (orchestral music) And 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. (lilting orchestral music) 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. (piano notes) Even though it's full orchestra, the timpani, trumpets and horns lead that fade in. (orchestral music) So that we have a little interlude by the woodwinds. And then, we have a variation that the woodwinds play. So finally, they get to play one of these variations by themselves. If you can just see Beethoven's mind working. It's almost as if he had a checklist, "I'm gonna have some variations with the woodwinds. "I'm gonna have a 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 on that as well." (orchestral music) 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 impedes 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. (orchestral music) Another variation, is a variation for the solo bassoon. And there's this little comment from the oboe. It's like a conversation. The bassoon plays, (piano notes) and the oboe does things like, (lilting piano notes) a little comment. Until they come together at the end. (orchestral music) The final variation, he takes the same material and he does it in a kind of mysterious way. The woodwinds are playing quite softly. (soft orchestral music) And then it builds. (orchestral music) It builds. (building orchestral music) It builds. (dramatic orchestral music) And in wonderful Beethoven fashion, it ends strong and in a very positive way.