V. FATE symphony - c-minor, opus 67


Analysis of the I. movement


Movement form: sonata form.

Movement tempo designation: Allegro con brio, time signature: 2/4


I. Exposition


The first theme is in fact not a musical theme, but a motif, the so called. fate-motif. It consists of four notes. Three, short and fast notes is followed by a lengthened note. The motif is repeated. Allegedly, Beethoven said the following: “This is how faith knocks on the door.”  


According to experts, within the fate-motif resides extreme massiveness, fearful power, unprecedented concentration, burning tension and violent energy. Why? Because its united by contrast. Many believe, that Beethoven used Hegel’s thesis-antithesis-synthesis, the unity and battle of contrasts, in his compositions even before the famous philosopher.

These four notes determine the continuation. The sign of the fate-motif and its musical material is: A – This musical material is repeated.


The melody of the second theme can be divided into two sections.

The melody of the first section sounds on horns. The melody of the second section is the lyrical continuation of the first section: it first sounds on string instruments, then twice on a aerophones; then it is followed by downward moving, energetic sequence-passages.


So far the musical material of the exposition is as follows:  A A B,  – this musical material is repeated. Use of a flowing chart is not possible.


II. Elaboration


Here, the themes of the exposition are in arrangement, there is no need for further analysis. I recommend you to listen to it several times.


III. Reexposition


The repetition of the xposition begins with the fate-motif sounding on the whole orchestra. The musical material of the exposition sounds in a shortened form; its sign can be roughly outlined as: A B

In the „A”  part, a slightly melancholic melody sounds on oboe, which resembles the unhappy and joyless state of the people in oppression.    



IV. Coda:


In case of this symphony, the coda gains a more important role, as it functions as the peak of the movement. It has the same value as the musical material of the exposition and the elaboration. The role of the coda is to summarize. It is similar to a teacher’s summary at the end of a class of that day’s material. This is what happens at the end of a rhetorical speech, when the speaker summarizes what he said in the speech itself. Its most important role is to leave a positive and lasting impression of what has been said.



Analysis of the II. movement


Movement form: free variation form.

Movement tempo designation: Andante con moto, time signature: 3/8


In this movement Beethoven relieves the unprecedented tension of the previous movement. Its message: pondering on fate’s challenges; gathering strength for the upcoming battle. The movement’s musical material can be divided into four blocks, and it basically consists of two themes.



Contents of block A:

The music begins with the melody of the first theme, which is followed by the consequent part of the melody composed of the last four notes played on string instruments.

The second theme is not a real theme, since its melody is without conclusion. It is played twice:

a/ first softly and in „dolce”,

b/ then on the whole orchestra and with full volume.  


After a transition we reach the next block. Te musical material of the transition is composed of the 2. theme.


Contents of block B:

The music begins with the variation development of the first theme (marked as 1v), after which the musical material of  block A is repeated.


Contents of block C:

In the following the variation development of the first theme sounds for the third time, on whole orchestra. After a gradual crescendo, the orchestra comes to a pause.

This is followed by an interlude, then the forte version of the second theme. Finally, chordal figuration leads to the next block.


Contents of block D:

The music begins with the minor-version of the first theme (its rhythm is noteworthy), then we can hear scale passages in a short, transitional section. Then a powerful conclusion follows, which is composed of the first theme’s motifs. Finally, the consequent part of the first theme’s melody closes the block.




The coda begins with a short preparatory music, then an intimate melody, composed of the consequent part of the first theme, sounds first on the oboe, then, even more beautifully on violins. After this, the rhythmic variation of the first theme’s opening motif prepares the conclusion of the first movement.


Analysis of the III. movement


The traditional scherzo form is not marked, but actually it is in scherzo form. The movement’s music can be divided into three sections:

                   - first section                 : scherzo,

                   - second section            : of trio quality,

                   - third section               : repetition of scherzo + a short coda


Tempo designation: Allegro, time signature:  3/4



First section


The musical material of the first section, the scherzo consists of one theme and the fate-motif:

-         the theme is the so called  bass-theme,  

-         the fate-motif (also known as knocking-motif),  


This section can also be divided into three further short sections:


1/ It begins with an upward moving bass theme, which is repeated, then the repetitions of the fate-motif follows.


2/ The musical material is the same as in the 1/ section, with a few rhythmic and orchestrational changes (Varietas delectat!).


3/ First we hear the bass theme, then its countertheme (which has beautiful sound!), and then the fate-motif twice and a very short conclusion, which marks the end of the first section.



Second section


The movement’s seconds section has the quality of a “trio” and has one single melody, called the trio-theme, which has a fugato setting.

It is repeated three times with slight changes, then a transition section follows, leading to the movement’s third main section.



Third section 


The third section – the reprise of the scherzo – consists of two sections and the coda.


In the first section we hear the two themes of the scherzo, but here he rhythm becomes broken, the motifs stumble; the mood is gloomy, suffocating. Naturally, these are variations.


In the second section only the outline of the bass-theme remains, the previous bad mood deepens still. Its effect is grotesque.




The mood of the coda brings about tension and anxious suspense within the listener, and leads to the IV. movement without interruption. So the coda connects the III. and IV. movement.

The maintained musical tone gradually increases, then the IV. Movement’s first theme bursts in with elemental force, and rises higher and higher, which reverberates with feelings of triumph over fate itself.  





Analysis of the IV. movement


Movement form: sonata form.

Movement tempo designation: Allegro, time signature: 4/4


The way the III. movement continuously leads into the IV. movement, where Beethoven answers the dramatic question posed in the I. movement, shows the symphony’s unity,


I. Exposition


The first theme sounds with fortissimo dynamics right after the uneasy mood of the III. movement’s transition section; its melody can be divided into two parts.

The first part of the melody is extremely simple, yet it has an elemental force.

The second part of the melody is repeated three times, then concluded, and then followed by a short transitional section.


The transition into the second theme is in fact an independent theme, and it is also known as the second theme; it sounds twice on aerophones, then it is concluded.


The second theme

the first half sounds on string instruments, these are upward moving triplet-figures;

the second half moves downward; here the second theme is repeated.


We hear the closing theme /a short repeating melody/ first softly, then in forte version. The closing theme is followed by an energetic transition, while the music stops on an orchestral pause; then the elaboration follows.



II. Elaboration


In the elaboration part, one of the second theme’s motifs, the so called triplet-motif is developed. The main emphasis is on the bass-motif’s repetition. (It can already be heard under the triplet-motif, but only softly.) The entry of the trombones marks the climax of the elaboration.

After this – in pianissimo (dynamic shift, contrast!) – the repetitions of the a fate-motif follows.




III. Reexposition


In the reexposition, the musical material of the exposition is exactly repeated.



IV. The coda consists of three sections:


a/ First we hear the triplet-motif of the second theme, then the bass-motif wil become dominant; it is repeated several times, then chord-beats follow.


b/ It may seem ike that we have reached the end of the movement, but then a new, energetic, upward moving motif, the so called warning-motif sounds, then it is concluded, and finally repeated in a new instrumentation.


c/ The third section is the concluding section. First we hear the repetitions of one of the closing theme’s motifs, then the raving motif of the closing theme is repeated eight times. Beethoven then brings back the beginning of the first theme’s melody, then orchestral chords follow in succession, which end the movement, as well as the symphony.



What is this symphony about?


This is the “symphony of the most”: it is the most well known, most popular and most often played masterpiece, which gained the “FATE” title later.


Its opening night was in Wien, in the Theater an der Wien on the 22th of December, 1808. (This was the opening night of the VI. Symphony as well.) It was dedicated to baron Andrey Kirillovich (1752-1836), who was a Russian diplomat in Wien, ad who later became state chancellor in Russia.


According to Schering, a German musicologist (1877-1941), the symphony is not the symbol of a man’s struggle with fate, (however it cannot be excluded from what the music has to say!) but the composition of the oppression, fight for freedom, and finally, victorious liberation of a whole nation.


This symphony is the heroic story of men’s willpower and ability to fight. It is a brave opposition with fate and its struggles. In a philosophical sense it carries the most universal message for one single person as well as a larger community.



The I. movement begins with the frightening rumble of the fate-motif. “This is how faith knocks on the door.” – said Beethoven. This is the first theme, which is the musical formula for tyranny. It does not dominate only the first movement, but is present in all four.


The second theme expresses the people’s wish for freedom, and to be able to rise from oppression.

Thus the first movement presents the battles of tyrannical power and fight for independence. The tension is permanent and concentrated; the dramatic battle is about life and death, and it is not known whether tyranny or freedom will prevail.

In the movement – along with the dramatic tone – there is only one lyrical part. This short melody expresses the people’s immeasurable suffering.

The movement’s final outcome: so far tyranny has won, but hope for gaining freedom is not yet lost. The fate of the battle will be decided in the IV. movement.


The II. movement’s first theme – musical idea – expresses the suffering of the oppressed people. Beside pain and complaint there is the faith in freedom’s victory present. (The aerophone’s upward moving forte melody sections foretell freedom’s triumph) In our time, we say: NEVER GIVE UP!

The movement’s peaceful harmony relieves the I. movement’s unprecedented tension. As far as its message is concerned, it expresses the gathering of strength to achieve final victory.


In the III. movement, the people’s suffering continues, tyranny does not loosen the grasp of oppressing power. The fate-motif’s “knocking” is always present! Within this music there is no trace of joyous and amusing mood, as it would be usual in another III. movement. Beethoven, instead of Scherzo, prescribes only an Allegro tempo.

The movement is not independent; rather it is the preparation for the finale, the IV. movement. There is no break between the two movements, they are connected with transition music.


At the end of the movement it seems that all is lost, and there is no escape. The livid orchestra becomes faint, as if the dark veil of tyranny covers everything, and the orchestra goes silent. For a longer time some kind of tense anticipation emanates from the music. This is the transition’s music. (One time, during the symphony’s performance, a boy sitting next to Schumann grabbed his arms at this part, and whispered: “I am really afraid!”)

At the end of the transition, from one moment to the next the first theme of the IV. movement bursts on the whole orchestra with elemental force.


(In 1828 – seven years after Napoleon’s death – a small group of French veterans were listening to the symphony, and at this point, they yelled “The Emperor! The Emperor!”, jumped from their seats and the performance almost ended in failure.)


The theme’s melody soars upward, ascends higher and higher. This is the self-abandoned, rapturous jubilation upon triumph, it captivates the audience. None can stay indifferent as no one can back out of its effect.

In the elaboration section the fate-motif returns once more, but it no longer has power, it serves only as a memento, a warning, after which the themes and melody of freedom’s victory sound and reverberate again.


In Hector Berlioz’s (1803-1869) – French composer – memoir, the following story is noted down:


Lesueur (Berlioz’s teacher) did not want to acknowledge or become familiar with Beethoven’s music. He was cautious not to listen to any part of Beethoven’s works, not to witness the works’ sudden success, that was spreadin fast throughout France.

Once, after many persuasion attempts, Berlioz succeeded in taking him to the performance of the V. Symphony. Lesueur listened to the performance alone from a box seat. Berlioz, after the performance, met his excited, agitated teacher.


“Well, master?...”

– “Leave me! I need to go outside! This is incredible, this is wonderful! It unsettled and shook me so, that when leaving my box and trying to put my hat on, I hardly knew where my head was. Leave me. Tomorrow…”


When the enthusiastic Berlioz visited his master the other day, he found him in a calmer, reserved mood. He shook his head, and said with a peculiar smile:


– “Well, music like this should not be written!”

Then the quick-witted Berlioz could not stand to sharply retort:

– “Rest assured, dear master, no one will compose such music for a long time.”


Dénes, Bartha: Beethoven kilenc szimfóniájaZeneműkiadó Vállalat, Budapest – 1956, second edition – page 166..






After getting acquainted with the symphony’s movements 


I advise you to read from the selections section

Ø the poem of Illyés Gyula, its title: A sentence on tyranny. It was written in 1950, but published in print only on the 2nd of November, 1956.

Ø The poem Liberty, from Paul Eluard

Ø The Human Rights supplement


And if I don’t bore my fellow man with my further thoughts which arose when listening to this symphony, and which have kept me occupied, I would share them.


My thoughts when listening to the V. symphony


In European history, the XVII. century may rightly claim the title “the century of reason, since this was the time when those thoughts arose, which marks the beginning of the intellectual tendency we call enlightenment.


The following two quotations have the same value, as when they were first written down, and will have the same value in the future as long as people live on Earth.


J. J. Rousseau /1712-1778/ wrote the following sentence in his treatise The Social Contract /1762/: “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.”


Two famous sentences from the United States Declaration of Independence /1776/: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”


Beethoven was familiar with these thoughts, and it may not be a coincidence, that it is in his compositions, in which liberty, and wish for freedom can be felt as the strongest, and it is his music that can deliver this message the farthest. He did not compose on order, but for the aspiring middle class, and later, for the whole of humanity. Although he received donations from aristocrats, he was neither employee, nor slave; he is the first, consciously “free artist”. He proudly professed: “There are and will be a thousand princes; there is only one Beethoven.”


Beethoven was particularly susceptible to the advancing French ideas and thoughts. He was Rousseau’s enthusiastic follower throughout his life. At the age 23, he wrote the following: “To do good whenever one can, to love liberty above all else, never to deny the truth, even though it be before the throne!”


The idea of liberty is present in his artistic confession: „A művészet célja a mindenség célja: szabadság és haladás.”


Without further comments – here and now – the motto of enlightenment must be quoted: Sapere aude!” – Dare to think! In a looser interpretation: Have the courage to use your wit! It is obligatory even today!


The motto of the preceding historical period, the thousand year long Middle Ages, however, was: Credere aude!” – Dare to believe! In a looser interpretation: Do not think, oly believe! 


There is no need to further explain what has been said so far, but I’ll write a few lines about another important thought. The most important message of Martin Luther’s (1483-1546) life and legacy is only two words, which is valid for every age, every men or community: semper reformári – always improve. Only one thing is permanent: change and reform. Reform is the key and engine of progress. Be the one who is intelligent, the adherent of sensible reform!


After J. Haydn (1732-1809) and W. A. Mozart (1756-1791), it was L. v Beethoven (1770-1827) who culminates the Classical music style. They all compose in the same language, yet it is Beethoven, who is a reformer in every field of music. He differs, innovates, changes, moves on, not to throw away the old, but to express himself. His art opens the way for the cult of individuality.

His art has an elemental force (he was a prodigy, without limits),worthy of admiration. He is a part of the universal human culture, he has everlasting value. Only the art of Shakespeare or Michalengelo can be compared to his – wrote Bence Szabolcsi musicologist.


George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) wrote the following:“…without fear he exposed himself, and with it he expressed us, common folk as well (He received the Nobel Prize in 1925.)


Two centuries had passed since the composition of the V. Symphony, thus it is justified to ask: What thoughts does this unique symphony, this unparalleled work of art arouse, or if you like, what is its message for people in our time? 


There are many representatives of the notion that life’s aim is to fight. Sulla, the famous dictator of antiquity believed this. Hungary’s illustrious writer, Madách Imre in his work “The Tragedy of Man” believed this:

“Man: strive on, and trust!” – and there are many more examples…

I will quote Goethe as closing remarks.


Naturally our existence has many purposes, and it would be impossible to list them, but it is undeniable that without struggle there is no life, no true joy, maybe no happiness either: You have to fight for everything in life.


Life and fate has smaller and bigger challenges in store for everyone, and these cannot be evaded, ignored, concealed; one cannot wait for the problems to go away. One must take a stand: say yes or no; overcome or surrender. The most comfortable solution is to submit and tolerate how tings turn out. To fight is a thousand times harder, but it is worth it! Churchill believed the same: „”NEVER GIVE UP!” I do not know a better, truer, more human saying than this!


After this short digression, let us return to the symphony. What is this symphony about?

It is about the people’s fight for liberty against tyrannical power and oppression, then about the triumph over the achieved freedom. In short, it is about the battle o the forces of tyranny and liberty, more importantly, about struggling.

What does the word tyranny mean? – This is what Illyés Gyula’s one sentence poem writes about, which can be found among the selections.


What does the word liberty mean? – The Explanatory Dictinary writes the following: “The state in which someone, or something is free. In aphylosophical sense: “The possibility for man to decide in his actions based on recognized necessity” (There is possibility for someone to do something.)


Apart from the scientific explanation, the poem’s interpretation is closer to us and our life: tyranny robs people of everything freedom offers. (I again refer to the French poet’s poem: Paul Eluard: Liberty)


Liberty is the most universal leading idea and power of humanity. Freedom broadens the state of democracy, and to promote it is the sole and permanent duty of every man, group, community and state.


When we use the word liberty – whether we want it or not – it includes the state of human rights, the degree and quality of democracy, the success of justice and the state of legality, as well as the free flow of ideas, information and so on.


All of these questions are always present in relation to everyday relationships: in the relationship of man and fellow man, individual and community, employer and employee, manager and staff, husband and wife, loving boy and girl, teacher and student… and not only in general, but in particular, in small and large matters, below and above, all the time and under any circumstances…


Let us now concentrate on one question, the question of human rights. Liberty’s spirited poet, Petőfi Sándor in his poem “A nép nevében, in 1847 wrote the following:


„S a nép hajdan csak eledelt kívánt,

                   Mivelhogy akkor még állat vala;

                   De az állatból végre ember lett,

                   S embernek illik, hogy legyen joga.

                   Jogot tehát, emberjogot a népnek!

                   Mert jogtalanság a legrútabb bélyeg

                   Isten teremtményén, s ki rásüti:

Isten kezét el nem kerülheti.”



In the fifth stanza, he repeats more and more urgently:


                   Jogot a népnek, az emberiség

                   Nagy szent nevében, adjatok jogot,”


Many claim that Petőfi was a prophet, the prophet of Hungarian people, who foresaw the future, as he surpassed European politicians and thinkers by centuries, when he shouted and fought for human rights upon seeing and experiencing the era’s state of injustice and inhumanity


As we know, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (not its practice!) was written and signed by several nations of the world in 1946.

Despite this we can hear news from all around the world of injustice and tyranny every day.

In our time, many are afraid to tell their opinion in fear that they can lose their job and small salary, even though the Constitution provides the right of expressing our opinion.


There are even more problems concerning democratic rights and their practice, even though the népfenség joga??? is known for two thousand years. There is no free flow of information either. Let us look at one example: The Hungarian uranium contamination caused by the Chernobyl disaster. After the disaster (1986), the number of cancer deaths in Hungary increased by leaps and bounds;  there is no official information of the incident even today.


Today, in the year 2013, can we be satisfied with the state of freedom, democracy and justice?

Aren’t human rights infringed?

Does justice always prevail?


Dear young reader,


When you will have finished your studies, and start your journey in life you will experience at every step, how much injustice and illegality there is around you, and how democracy’s sublime ideas are humiliated day by day. The fundamental norms of coexistence are kept by fewer and fewer people, the human rights are constantly violated, so there will be much to fight for. No wonder then, that the following quotation often appears on high-school graduation invitation cards:


                   Bár zord a harc, megéri a világ

                   Ha az ember az marad, ami volt;

                   Nemes, küzdő, szabadlelkű diák.  


This is how things were in every age, and this is how it will be in your whole life and future. This is why I have emphasized that the most important goal in life is to struggle. Resourcefulness is gained through the will to fight.


Thus I can boldly state:

-         Struggle awaits everyone in every age,

-         Without struggle, there is no life, no success,

-   the reward of our struggles are        – true joy,

                       – self-abandoned joy,

– triumphant joy, as we can hear it in the IV. movement.



Finally, let me describe in a few sentences – as honestly as possible –, my opinion, thoughts and feelings – my whole experience when listening to the symphony.


Upon listening this symphony, I am close to Beethoven. His music amazes me and fills me with charm. It brakes me, lifts me up, its intellectuality captivates me.

I ascend to the realm of the sublime and true art, where my thoughts can soar freely without limits. They cannot be tied up, cannot be chained by shallow, earthly things and conceits. Here harmony advocates everlasting truths, and the fighters of a true cause are glorified; there is no vile, selfish interest at work here.


I feel that the melody I hear and the thoughts that arise from it fill me with the strength to act


-         they give me strength to carry out my work and my tasks in existence,

-         they give me strength to honestly stand my ground,

-         an inexplicable will to act overcomes me,

-         I am filled with energy,

-         I am set free from everyday’s trivial duties

-         my hopes strengthen; I trustfully look forward to tomorrow and the future,

-         I feel myself to be more than before.


Dear reader,


I may have written more than necessary, more than I planned, so I will conclude with a short quote from Goethe’s: ”Faust”, the words of the dying Faust at the end of the play.

For me these four lines express in the most beautiful and most concise way what I have tried to explain concerning the message and intellectuality of the symphony. These four lines answer the question: What is this symphony about?

It is about this:



“My will from this design not swerveth,

                    The last resolve of human wit,

                    For liberty, as life, alone deserveth

                    He daily that must conquer it.”



Dunaújváros, December 17th, 2007.