Virtual Music Hour

  Beethoven 5 Archive

  Introduction to Beethoven Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67

  Listen to the Music

Movement 1:

Movement 2:

Movement 3:

Movement 4:


Welcome to Virtual Music Hour. In preparation for your listening experience, Assistant Principal Violist Catherine Beeson has made guides with activities that can be enjoyed alone, with your quarantine buddies at home and online, or with your students. These activities can be mixed, matched, and altered to create an experience that’s right for you, or as inspiration to create your own. Get as creative as you’d like. Share it with us on social media! If you like seeing and hearing the Colorado Symphony musicians online, imagine how uplifting it would be for us to see and hear you too!

It’s hard to imagine a more generally well-known composer or piece of classical music than Ludwig van Beethoven and his Fifth Symphony. It is a piece of music that stands as a monument to the grit and innate creativity of human culture, and with good reason. Enjoy learning a bit about this piece and listening to your Colorado Symphony’s performance.

  Beethoven composed Symphony No. 5 between 1804 and 1808, working on it primarily after 1807. He paused it to complete Symphony No. 4, and finished it while working on Symphony No. 6. It lasts approximately 35 minutes and is constructed in a typical four-movement structure.

  Often referred as the “Fate Symphony”, Symphony No. 5 premiered in a marathon four-hour all-Beethoven concert that included the premiere of the Sixth Symphony, three movements of the Mass in C, the Fourth Piano Concerto, and the Choral Fantasy. Oh, to have official merch from that event!

  The symphony is referenced in numerous pop culture sources, but possibly none so completely random as “Beethoven’s 5th”, a direct to video family movie featuring dog actor J.S. Barque as the title character, Beethoven (So meta… and reminiscent of the Colorado Symphony’s Director of Barketing, Wolfgang).

  Beethoven was an admirer of Mozart. In the opening of the 3rd movement of Symphony No. 5, Beethoven quoted the opening nine notes of the final movement of Mozart’s 40th Symphony. Whew! That’s a lot of words for “Beethoven sampled some Mozart in Symphony No. 5” (to really nerd out with us, refer back to Week 6 of Virtual Music Hour where these two examples are played by bassist Susan Cahill and Assistant Concertmaster Yi Zhao.)

  Beethoven’s score calls for 2 flutes and piccolo, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons and contrabassoon, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones and bass trombone, timpani, and the usual string section of violins, violas, cellos, and basses.

Here is a listening map that can guide you through your listening experience. Read it in advance or while you’re listening!

Movement 1

Allegro con brio
In English:  Quick with vigor

This music is the most recognizable, especially for the opening da-da-da-DAH gesture. This short, simple statement, often referred to as the “fate motive”, becomes a major motive and a unifying element in the entire symphony. Listen for the myriad ways Beethoven develops those notes and that rhythm into different shapes, lengths, and expressions.

Beethoven nicknamed or inscribed his Third and Sixth symphonies (Eroica, Pastorale) but left no written indications of a particular inspiration for his Fifth. The Fifth has a peculiar way of not only engaging a listener, but grabbing them and going straight to the heart of something intensely personal. Essentially, people find what they want to in this symphony.

Noted author, musician, and critic ETA Hoffmann wrote:

“How this wonderful composition, in a climax that climbs on and on, leads the listener imperiously forward into the spirit world of the infinite!”

Romantic era composer Hector Berlioz remarked that:

“[The Fifth] emanates directly and solely from the genius of Beethoven. It is his own intimate thought that is developed; and his secret sorrows, his pent-up rage, his dreams so full of melancholy oppression, his nocturnal visions and his bursts of enthusiasm furnish its entire subject, while the melodic, harmonic, rhythmic, and orchestral forms are there delineated with essential novelty and individuality, endowing them also with considerable power and nobility.”

And due to an assertion by Beethoven’s assistant that the opening rhythmic figure is ‘fate knocking at the door’ many people refer to it as the “Fate Symphony” and believe it is a triumphant blast against his worsening deafness.

  What do you and your quarantine buddies experience and personally connect to when you listen to Symphony No. 5?

  What elements of the music support these observations?

In Symphony No. 5, Beethoven started with a very short idea of just two notes and a simple rhythm, but by changing - or developing - his idea he made a whole symphony out of it!

The development of an idea is a little like a game of Telephone. The original idea changes bit-by-bit until it may be only marginally recognizable by the end. Musical ideas can be changed or developed in lots of different ways including changing the tempo (speed), dynamics (volume), pitch, or rhythm. You can also repeat it, turn it upside down or inside out, or even make it go backwards. Try it yourself!

  1. Sing or play a 5 (ish!) note idea. Write it down if possible.
  2. Alter it by just one element from the list above.
  3. Sing or play the new version.
  4. Compare it to the original and make any changes or edits.
  5. Repeat this process and re-order your new versions as you like.

  Voila! (not viola…)
You’ve composed and developed an original idea, just like Beethoven did!

Now that you’ve had a chance to consider, discuss, and get active around Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony it’s time to listen to the Colorado Symphony performance. There are all sorts of ways to engage as a listener, especially when listening at home instead of the concert hall. Sing/hum/whistle along, move and dance, journal or draw what you hear, or just turn the volume up and listen for sheer pleasure! Please share your experience with us! We would love to hear about it or see any of your activities, journaling, or creations!



Please share your musical adventure with us through social media! We would love to hear about it or see any of your activities, journaling, or creations!


What do you think?

Help us make your next Virtual Music Hour better by taking this quick survey.

Take Survey

Read Soundings:


Love the music?
Consider a donation!

Your support means more to us now than ever before - by making a donation, you are supporting the staff and musicians that are keeping this music alive.

Make a Donation

  Board of Trustee Site