Beethoven's 5th Symphony Analysis

The first movement opens with the four-note motif discussed above, one of the most famous motifs in Western music. There is considerable debate among conductors as to the manner of playing the four opening bars. Some conductors take it in strict allegro tempo; others take the liberty of a weighty treatment, playing the motif in a much slower and more stately tempo; yet others take the motif molto ritardando (a pronounced slowing through each four-note phrase), arguing that the fermata over the fourth note justifies this. Some critics and musicians consider it crucial to convey the spirit of [pause]and-two-and one, as written, and consider the more common one-two-three-four to be misleading. Critic Michael Steinberg stated that with the "ta-ta-ta-Taaa", "Beethoven begins with eight notes. " He points out that "They rhyme, four plus four, and each group of four consists of three quick notes plus one that is lower and much longer (in fact unmeasured). " As well, the ". . . space between the two rhyming groups is minimal, about one-seventh of a second if we go by Beethoven's metronome mark".


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