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Ten Pieces - Symphony No. 5 (First Movement)
Part of this piece of music was broadcast as a morale-boosting signal over Allied radio during World War 2.

Ten Pieces - Symphony No. 5 (First Movement)

Which is your favourite of the BBC Ten Pieces? We have a KS2 Music quiz on each of the ten composers, along with a quiz on the specific pieces too. This one is all about the 1st movement of Beethoven's Symphony No. 5.

The opening movement of Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 has to be one of the most enduring 'ear-worms' of all time. It is known all over the world and regularly appears in culture including pop music, film and television. Even Walt Disney used it in the film Fantasia 2000. If you haven't heard it before - where have you been?!!

How well do you actually know the piece, though? Let's find out.

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1.
As though the shape of the notes and phrases were not enough, at numerous points Beethoven marks the music to be played sf. What does this mean?
It should feel and sound like a gigantic Science-Fiction epic
SF stands for 'super firmly'
Sforzando essentially means 'play this with as much power as your body and instrument can provide'
SF stands for 'suddenly frightening'
Even an orchestra of the size Beethoven would have known, and playing instruments as they were in his day (probably not quite as loud or strong as ours in a larger 'full modern symphony orchestra'), at full-throttle can produce an unforgettably impressive body of sound.
2.
The famous, seemingly simple 'Da-da-da-DUM' rhythm runs almost constantly through the piece, like lettering through a stick of rock. How many times do we actually hear it in one performance?
About 250
About 320
Just over 400
Almost 500
Counting from the actual score (including the repeated first section), and depending only slightly on what you accept as a strictly recognisable repeat, your present analyst reckoned about 315 iterations. You are welcome to check for yourself!
3.
The Symphony as a whole requires about as big an orchestra as could be mustered in Beethoven's day (a little over 2 centuries ago), but several of the instruments that he calls for in the final movement of it are not called upon to play in the First Movement ~ perhaps surprisingly, given how loud and startling it sounds. Only ONE of the instruments in the list below is heard in the First Movement: which one?
Piccolo
Horn/s
Contra- (or double) bassoon
Trombone/s
There is a very loud, clear solo cue for the horns just before Beethoven introduces his second 'subject' (the rather smoother tune, first played by the strings). This short section of the piece is technically known as a 'bridge passage' since it leads between two distinct, usually contracting chunks of musical material.
4.
One particularly zany take on this towering piece is when it is 'broadcast' with two commentators as though the performance were a sporting fixture (this track is nowadays available on YouTube). The man behind this version is an American musicologist called Peter Schickele, but what is/was Schickele's more usual stage-musical persona?
'P D Q Bach'
'Fred Beethoven'
'Randy Mozart'
'Harry Haydn'
JS Bach had 13 surviving children (of 20 altogether) by his two wives; many of them became substantial musicians in their own right, and were differentiated from their father by their initials (JC, CPE and several others); 'PDQ' is fairly transparently an affectionate 20th-century spoof within this tradition. The 'sportscast' does actually shed quite interesting and accessible light on what Beethoven's 'players' are up to, at least some of the time.
5.
The basic rhythmic 'unit' in this piece has also been referred to as 'fate knocking at the door'. Which of these ominous circumstances was NOT the case at the time when Beethoven was working on this symphony?
Napoleon's troops occupied Vienna in 1805 during their campaign to dominate Europe
Beethoven was in his 30s and beginning to go deaf
He was launching not one, but two symphonies at the same four-hour concert in the week just prior to Christmas
His beloved pet dog was increasingly ill and had to be put down
Answers 1-3 are all substantially true and surely relevant; No.4 is complete make-believe.
6.
Before the movement really 'gets going', the theme is announced with a number of pauses. How many such pauses are there within the first 24 bars (about 30 seconds' listening)?
Two
Three
Four
Five
You can check this fairly simply by listening and counting: there are pauses on the end of the two first statements of the motif, and another one a little later on. After these apparent ~ yet deliberate, and ear-catching ~ false-starts, the movement largely continues steadily from the rhythmic point of view until the change into the middle, 'development' section; the repeat towards the end; and the very final passage.
7.
The four-note motif was also broadcast as a morale-boosting signal over Allied radio during World War 2 (even though its composer would effectively have been an 'enemy'). On what was it played in this context?
Tubular bells
Trumpet
Kettledrums
Cathedral organ
This was the 'V for Victory' sound-signal, perhaps linking with Churchill's famous finger gesture. The German-language word for Victory does not begin with this letter (although the flying-bombs were 'V-weapons', this was in fact short for Vergeltung [= 'revenge']); their word is Sieg (as in their chant Sieg heil! ['Hail, victory!']).
8.
How many symphonies did Beethoven write?
Around 100
13
9
7
The man with 100-odd to his credit was Haydn, the inventor of the form. As its pioneer he clearly deserves vast credit, but it might not unfairly be pointed out that his early examples were inevitably less complex or elaborate than what Beethoven and others did with the form ~ when they came along later.
9.
When Samuel Morse invented his telegraph code, a generation or two after Beethoven, which letter did he pair with this 'Beethoven' rhythm?
B
M
V
X
... 'V' also being the Roman numeral for '5' (the number of this symphony within the sequence that Beethoven wrote).
10.
The piece we are considering is the opening movement of the Fifth Symphony, but the 'interval' ( = pitch-distance) between the last two notes in its 'Da-da-da-DAH' motif is not an interval of a fifth. What interval is it?
An octave
A third
A sixth
A quaver
At different points it may be a major or minor third, but at the outset it is definitely three notes wide altogether (try setting it against Three Blind Mice). A quaver (Answer 4) is a rhythmic measure rather than one of pitch or potential harmony.

 

Author:  Ian Miles

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