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Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 5, analysis by Gerard Schwarz (parts 3 - 4 )

Video transcript

- Third Movement is very different because again coming from the tradition of Mozart and Haydn, the Third Movement was supposed to be a minuet called A Minuet and Trio. The minuet part was a dance form in three not too fast, and the trio part was called that because it was usually played by contrasting instruments so if the first section was played mainly by the strings, the trio would be with the woodwinds and you would have a trio. You'd have a baseline and two treble lines, so an oboe, a flute and a bassoon or something like that. And then, you go back and do the beginning again. That was called ABA form. You had the very beginning, and then you had the trio, and even when it wasn't three instruments, a trio, we still called it a trio. Now Beethoven followed that form. It was the initial material, trio, and the recapitulation or the A section again. So, what did he do that was unusual? First of all it's a scherzo. The scherzo is a faster. It starts again with the lower instruments of the orchestra. This time not the cellos and the violas, but the cellos and the basses. The theme (piano music) is kind of mysterious. This whole (piano music) very softly. (soft orchestral music) It leads to, in a sense a proclamation. (piano music) Now, what do you notice about that? (piano music) The theme is the theme from the scherzo, but it's the same rhythm isn't it? Three short and one long played by the horns. Horns play it strong and then the full orchestra comes in and then it leads again back to this original theme that the cellos and basses play in mysterious way. (strong orchestral music) And that gets somewhat developed and it leads us to the trio section, to the middle section. Now, this section usually is played by some contrasting instrument. So if the piece starts with the cellos and the basses by now you'd figure the woodwinds or the violins or somebody would play that trio section. In this case its the cellos and basses again. It's one of the more famous passages for cellos and basses. In fact, if you're a bass player and you go to an audition for an orchestra very often you'll play this because the clarity of pitch and the quality of sound is very crucially important. So this begins, it's loud even though the tempo, the speed of the movement, is the same, they're faster notes. So, it feels faster, (fast orchestral music) and there's a little, what we call, fugato. So the cellos and basses start it, and as time goes on the violas come in, the second violins come in, first violins come in, and then that's repeated. (orchestral music) And again, it happens a second time, and then the woodwinds join into this trio section. Eventually, Beethoven does it again. But the third time he does it, it's all soft. Everything's soft, and in fact with soft, in the case of the violins, becomes more legato, smoother. So, again it's Beethoven's checklist. I did it loud a few times, now I gotta do it soft, and maybe I should do it actually long rather than short. It's just this incredible imagination. Now, does he think that way? I don't know. But, that's certainly the way it appears. (orchestral music) The scherzo's in three sections, ABA, so now we're back to A, so this should just be a repeat. During Mozart and Haydn's time very often they would just say back to the beginning and you'd do it again and stop. Well, Beethoven didn't do that very often. He did it on occasion for a symphony he did it. Second Symphony he did it. But in this symphony he doesn't, but what he does with that melody, he has the orchestra play it, the strings pizzicato, which meas they pluck the strings. It starts out with the bassoon. (bassoon music) (bassoon and violin music) And instead of this heroic theme remember this (loud piano music) instead of that you hear a clarinet going (quiet piano music) and then you hear an oboe playing (quiet piano music) so it's the same idea, except it's all wrong. Soft, short, little notes, not heroic at all. And it goes like that continually. It's all that way. (orchestral music) And then (orchestra music) what does do? He has the timpani play the melody. So the strings hold this simple chord. (piano music) And the timpani goes... (piano music) And that in a sense becomes a melody even though it's a single note. (orchestral music) It's the timpani playing this and nothing happens until all of a sudden the violins play. (piano music) So, what are they doing? Remember the opening theme? (piano music) They are just doing that (piano music) over and over again (piano music) and varying it slightly. (orchestra music) But it's still mysterious. It's still all soft. Nothing much happens, and it's all suspended. (orchestral music) Then, in a short amount of time, there's this huge crescendo, and we have the triumphant last movement. (loud orchestral music) It is a remarkable moment. To this time, it's probably the most remarkable moment in music to have this suspension, to have nothing happening, and everybody is just waiting. What is he doing? So soft. What's gonna happen? All of a sudden there's an explosion and people often talked about it from darkness to light. Remember the first movement was (piano music) in C minor (piano music) but now he's in C major. (piano music) So people talk about the transition from this minor (piano music) to major (piano music) as darkness (piano music) to light (piano music) Also the theme is obviously a very heroic theme (piano music) played by the trumpets, horns, he adds piccolo, he adds trombones, he adds contrabassoon. (loud orchestral music) The second theme isn't so different from the first played by the horns. (piano music) Still heroic. (piano music) (loud orchestral music) The third theme changes a little bit. It's a more dolce, more sweet theme. (piano music) But it too, doesn't stay that way very long, and it becomes again a nice strong theme. And so now we have the three themes, and we repeat that again. (orchestral music) Then after that repeated section, we have the normal development section of this and he uses those trombones now not just for weight and brilliance, but he uses them melodically as well. He has a few piccolo solos. The contrabassoon has an important role, and the development is quite extraordinary, but what happens in the middle of the development and it's going like gang busters, and then all of a sudden you add these big... (piano music) These big chords. (orchestral music) (piano music) The same material from the scherzo which is very much a three short and one long note. (quiet orchestral music) Can you imagine what it must have felt like in 1808 when the audience was sitting there hearing this great triumphal last movement, and it actually feels pretty comfortable, and then he stops in the middle of it, and just by repeating this one note (piano music) and it gets softer and softer, and it becomes the scherzo again? It gives Beethoven the chance to extend the movement and repeat that great transition that he used from the scherzo to the last one. After that, we have the recapitulation. (loud orchestral music) So, we have the exposition, the first theme, we have the big development, and then we have this interlude of the scherzo coming back, and the connection to the now recapitulation. So, all the material is brought back. Then at the end, and as I mentioned there's some solos for the trombones, for the piccolo, he really extends the orchestra. And then he leads to the coda. The coda in this case is at a faster tempo. It's a presto tempo. And again it ends triumphantly. And it is without question one of the great masterpieces of symphonic music of all time. (orchestral music)