Beethoven’s 5th Symphony

The beginning of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony contains the most memorable four note theme in classical music. But there is something even more beautiful to be found in the first movement of Beethoven’s masterpiece – a short oboe solo. I have always been moved by this brief piece, and only recently have I been able to describe why it produces such an incredible sensation.

The solo emerges from the rapid and forceful melody of the entire orchestra with notes that are long and exquisite. The listener feels as if the burden of gravity has been lifted, and that he is soaring through space. A sense of serenity and profound understanding is evoked. But gradually the notes become fainter and sadder. Something beautiful is dying. And then the orchestra returns with its fury. The oboe sounds one more sorrowful note before it is drowned by the force of the orchestra.

To me, the oboe solo represents mankind. It emerges out of the chaos of the universe. It is so beautiful that the activity of the universe is suspended for a few moments, as if it is surprised by the beauty that has materialized. But mankind’s strength begins to ebb, and then the power of the universe overwhelms the last whimpers of humanity.

9 thoughts on “Beethoven’s 5th Symphony

  1. I could not have described this anywhere near as well but I have longed felt the same about the oboe segment and have never before heard anyone mention it. nice

    • Thanks for your kind words.

      I am surprised that there is not more commentary upon this solo. I have not been able to find any analyses or interpretations on the Internet. The Wikipedia entry barely even mentions it: “During the recapitulation, there is a brief solo passage for oboe in quasi-improvisatory style, and the movement ends with a massive coda.”

  2. The first movement of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony is so familiar to us that we take it for granted; it took me decades to finally listen, with intent, to the entire 1st movement, as well as the symphony in its entirety. And it paid off–I can understand why this masterpiece is so familiar us (strangely, why it’s used in so many television commercials). Like Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor, Beethoven’s 5th is a work epitomizing Western classical music for those who are new to Western classical music.

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