Symphony No. 5
Ludwig van Beethoven has become synonymous with classical music: the introduction to the fifth symphony has been number one on the classical charts for hundreds of years. There are often two types of artists among the giants in the world of music: the traditionalists who refine and perfect an existing style or era (Bach, Mozart) and the revolutionaries who break new ground where no one has gone before (Wagner, Stravinsky). And there is no doubt that Beethoven is one of the latter.
Beethoven had to struggle with his music. “I carry ideas for a long time”, he said, and that was in fact an understatement. When it comes to the fifth symphony, he worked for eight years with the original ideas! The obvious opening, fate knocking on the door and immediately grasping the listener by the collar, went through several transformations before the perfect form was found. The rest of the symphony followed, one of the first featuring piccolo flute, adding an cheeky touch to the finale. Centuries later, it’s apparent that Beethoven’s efforts payed off – the fifth is the magnificent creation of a hard working genius.
Beethoven was a maverick who never had a steady position – the money came from patrons, clients and benefactors. Some money he could put in his pocket at his own subscription concerts. As a person, he was both grumpy and suspicious, perhaps it was due to growing up with an alcoholic father who beat him and forced him to play for his drinking brothers. A tough upbringing may create a tough person. But there is also a strong humanistic trait in Beethoven, with sympathies for the French Revolution’s slogans, freedom, equality and brotherhood.