Review of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony

Hans Hofmann (1880–1966), Green Paradise, 1960.

Review of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony


Commentary by the German writer on the music of his contemporary.

The reviewer has before him one of the most important works of the master, to whom no one today will dispute the first place among composers of instrumental music; he is impregnated with the object he is supposed to talk about and no one can take him wrong if, going beyond the usual limits of reviews, he aspires to express in words what he has felt in the depths of his soul with this composition.

When talking about music as an autonomous art [selbständigen Kunst], one should think only of instrumental music, which, despising any help and any mixture of another art, expresses in a pure way the essence of art [Wesen der Kunst], which is only recognized in her. She is the most romantic of the arts [romantischste aller Künste] – one could almost say: the only purely romantic one. Orpheus' lyre opened the gates of Orcus. Music opens up an unknown realm to man; a world that has nothing in common with the external world of sense that surrounds him, and in which he leaves behind all feelings definable through concepts, to surrender to the ineffable.

How little have composers of instrumental music recognized this characteristic essence of music, in trying to represent those determinable feelings, or even events, plastically treating the art that is most opposed to the plastic arts! The symphonies of this genre composed by Dittersdorf,[I] as well as all these recent Batailles des three Empereurs,[ii] etc. they are ridiculous mistakes, which must be punished with total oblivion. - On the corner [vocal], where poetry suggests definite affections [Bestimmte Affekte] through words, the magical force of music acts as the miraculous elixir of the sages, of which a few drops transform any drink into something splendid and delicious. The music covers each of the passions with the purple splendor of romanticism – love – hate – anger – despair, etc., just as the opera gives us; and even the [feelings] we experience in life lead us out of life: into the realm of infinity [Reich des Unendlichen] So powerful is the magic of music, and, acting more and more potently, it would have to break all the fetters [which bind it] to the other arts.

Certainly it is not only due to the greater ease of means of expression (improvement of instruments, greater virtuosity of performers), but also to a deeper and more intimate knowledge of the characteristic essence of music, that genius composers have raised instrumental music to its present height. . Haydn and Mozart, the creators [Creator] of the new instrumental music, were the first to show us the art in all its glory; who contemplated it with full love and penetrated its most intimate essence was – Beethoven. The instrumental compositions of these three masters breathe the same romantic spirit [romantic geist], which is precisely in the same intimate understanding of the characteristic essence of art; the character [Character] of his compositions, however, differs considerably.

In Haydn's compositions, the expression of a naive and happy spirit dominates. Its symphony leads us through vast and verdant woods, to a happy and colorful crowd of happy people. Boys and girls pass by in their round dances; smiling children, peeking out from behind the trees and rose bushes, play throwing flowers at each other. A life full of love, full of bliss, just like before the original sin, in eternal youth; no suffering, no pain; just a sweet and melancholy desire for the beloved figure, who hovers in the distance, in the splendor of twilight, without approaching or disappearing; and as long as she is there it does not get dark, for she herself is the incandescent twilight of mountains and forests.

Mozart leads us into the depths of the spirit realm [Geisterreich]. The fear [Furcht] surrounds us: but without martyrdom, it is rather a presentiment of the infinite [Ahnung des Unendlichen]. Love and melancholy resound in benevolent voices, the night of the spirit world [spirit world] rises in luminous purple radiance, and in unspeakable yearning [unaussprechlicher Sehnsucht] we follow the figures [Shape] who cordially call us into their ranks, and soar in the eternal dance of the spheres through the clouds. (For example, the Symphony in E flat major,[iii] by Mozart, known by the name of “Swan song”).

So too does Beethoven's instrumental music open up the realm of the colossal and immeasurable. Incandescent rays pierce through the deep night of this realm, and we recognize the gigantic shadows that roll like waves and surround us, closer and closer, and annihilate everything in us except the pain of endless yearning [Schmerz der unendlichen Sehnsucht], in which every pleasure [Lust], which rises swiftly in jubilant sounds, dwindles and submerges, and, [like] ecstatic visionaries [entzückte Geisterseher], we go on living only in this pain that, consuming in itself – but without destroying them – love, hope and joy, wants to make our chest explode with the resounding together of all the passions.

The romantic taste [romanticische Geschmack] it's rare; even rarer is romantic talent; it is probably for this reason that there are so few who manage to make resound that lyre that unlocks the marvelous realm of infinity [wundervolle Reich des Unendlichen] Haydn has a romantic conception of the human in human life; he is more commensurate to most [people]. Mozart resorts to the superhuman, the marvelous, which dwells in the inner spirit. Beethoven's music makes use of terror [shower], the fear [Furcht], the horror [fright], the pain [pain ], and stirs up that infinite longing [unendliche Sehnsucht], which is the essence of romanticism. Beethoven is a purely romantic composer (and, precisely because of that, a truly musical composer).

Perhaps this is why he does not do so well in vocal music – which admits of [no] indeterminate yearnings, but on the contrary represents only the affections designated through words, as they are felt in the realm of infinity – and his music instrumental rarely pleases the crowd. This same crowd, which does not penetrate Beethoven's depth, does not deny him a high degree of fantasy [Imagination]; on the other hand, she often sees in her works only the products of a genius who, without worrying about the form and choice of ideas [gedanke], abandons himself to the ardent and sudden inspirations of his imagination [Einbildungskraft] However, as far as clarity of conscience is concerned[iv] [prudence], he should be placed alongside Haydn and Mozart.

He separates his self [I] of the inner realm of sounds and commands it as absolute lord. Just like the aesthetic artists-meters [Meßkünstler] often deplored the total lack of true unity [unity] and internal coherence [inneren Zusammenhang] in Shakespeare; and only the close look [apprehends] that a beautiful tree, [with its] buds and leaves, flowers and fruits, results from a single seed: likewise, it is only a very thorough examination of the inner structure of Beethoven's music that reveals the Master's heightened clarity of consciousness, which is inseparable from true genius and is nourished by continual study of the art. It's at the bottom of your heart [mind] that Beethoven carries the romanticism of music, which he expresses with high genius and clarity of conscience in his works.

Never has the reviewer felt it more vividly than in the present symphony, which, in a climax that builds in intensity towards the end, reveals that romanticism of Beethoven more than any other of his works, and which impels the listener irresistibly into the wonderful spiritual realm of infinity.

The first Allegro, in 2/4 time, C minor, begins with a main idea [Hauptgedanke] of just two bars, which will reappear later in multiple forms. In the second measure, a fermata; then a repetition of that idea a tone lower, and again a fermata; both times only string instruments and clarinets [are heard]. Not even the tonality is defined yet; the listener assumes [the tone of] E flat major. The second violins start the main idea again; in the second bar, the root note [keynote] C played by cellos and bassoons [cp. 7 ][v] defines the tonality of C minor, while the violas and the first violins enter into imitations, until finally the latter add two bars to the main idea, which, repeated three times (the last one with the entry [cp. 18] of the entire orchestra) and ending in a fermata [cp. 21 ] over the dominant, make the listener's spirit sense the unknown, the mysterious.

The start of the Allegro until this pause decides the character [Character] of the entire play and precisely for this reason the reviewer inserts it here for the reader's examination [cp. 1-21]:

After this fermata, the violins and violas imitate the main idea, remaining in the tonic, while the basses play, from time to time, a figure that imitates that idea, until an episode [Zwischensatz, cp. 33-44] ever-increasing, which again raises that premonition [idea] more strongly and urgently, leads to a Tutti [cp. 44 ] whose theme has the same rhythm as the main idea and which is closely related to it:

The sixth chord [Sexten-Akkord] on the reverse note [cp. 58 ], prepares [the modulation for] the relative key of E flat major, in which the horn [cp. 59] imitates the main ideas again.

The first violins [cp. 63] now expound a second theme, which though melodious, remains true to the yearning character [Sehnsucht] apprehensive and restless that is expressed in the whole movement. The violins present this theme in alternation with the clarinets [cp. 67], while every three measures [cp. 65] the basses resume that previously mentioned imitation of the main idea, through which that theme is artfully woven into the fabric of the whole [geese] Continuing this theme, the first violin and cello repeat five times a two-bar figure in the key of E-flat minor [cp. 83 ], while the bass rises chromatically, until finally a new episode [cp. 95] leads to the cadenza, in which the wind instruments repeat the first Tutti in E flat major and, finally, the entire orchestra concludes with this often mentioned imitation of the main theme in bass in E flat major.

the second part[vi] begins again with the main theme in the first form, but now [transposed] a third higher and played by clarinets and horns [cp. 125]. The phrases of the first part follow in F minor [cp. 130], C minor [cp. 146] and G minor [cp. 154 ], but now presented and instrumented differently, until finally, after an episode [cp. 158] – which, again, consists of just two bars taken up in alternation by the violins and the wind instruments, while the cellos play a figure in counter motion, and the basses in an upward motion – the entire orchestra plays the following chords [cp. 168 ]:

They are sounds with which the chest, oppressed and terrified with forebodings of the colossal, is violently relieved; and, like a lovely figure that, shining and illuminating the deep night, pierces through the clouds, now enters a theme that had only been sketched by the horns, in bar 59 of the first part, in E-flat major. This theme is now performed by the violins alla 8va [cp. 179 ], first in G Major, then in C Major, while the basses perform a descending figure that, in a way, recalls the phrase in Tutti from measure 44 of the first part.

The wind instruments begin this theme in F minor fortissimo [cp. 195 ], but after three bars the strings take over the last two bars [cp. 198] and, imitating these bars, the string and wind instruments alternate five more times, and then alternately again [cp. 210] and ever decreasing,  perform isolated chords. After the sixth chord [cp. 214] : the Reviewer would have expected G-flat minor in the later chord chain, which could then be enharmonically transformed into F-sharp minor, to modulate to G major, as it does here. But the chords played by the wind instruments, and which follow that sixth chord [aforementioned] are written as follows:

Soon after, the string instruments attack the F-sharp minor chord [cp. 216], which is then repeated four times, alternating with the wind instruments and always lasting one measure. The brass chords continue to be written in the manner indicated above, for which the Reviewer finds no justification. Then follows, in the same way, the sixth chord: ever weaker and weaker [schwach]. This again has a foreboding and horrifying effect! – The orchestra erupts [cp. 228] then with a theme almost entirely identical to the one begun 41 bars earlier [cp. 187 ], unison, in G Major, and only the flutes and trumpets support the dominant D. But already in the fourth bar this theme is interrupted. The string instruments, alternating with the horns and then with the other wind instruments, play the diminished seventh chord seven times in pianissimo [cp. 233 ]:Then the bass resumes [cp. 240] the first main idea about a unison of the other instruments and, in the second measure, the remaining instruments in unison; for five measures the bass and upper voice imitate one another in this way, then unite for three measures, and in the fourth measure the whole orchestra [cp. 248 ], with timpani and trumpets, attacks the main theme in its original setting. The first part is then repeated[vii] with minimal differences; the [second] theme, which before[viii] it began in E flat major, now enters C major and leads jubilantly to the cadenza in C major [cp. 370] with timpani and trumpets. However, with this same cadence the phrase turns to F minor. For five bars the entire orchestra plays the sixth chord [cp. 382] . Clarinets, oboes and horns [cp. 387] follow piano with an imitation of the main theme. A Compass of Silence [cp. 389]; then for another six bars [cp. 390 ] . All the wind instruments follow again as before: and now the violas, cellos, and bassoon perform a theme which had already appeared before in G Major, in the second part,[ix] while the violins, entering in unison in the third bar [cp. 400 ], execute a new counter-subject. Now the phrase remains in C minor, and the theme (which had begun in bar 71 of the first part) is repeated, with some slight variations, at first only by the violins and then alternating with the wind instruments. Getting closer and closer (first a measure, then half a measure); it's such rush and movement - it's an overflowing river, and whose waves crash higher and higher - until finally, 24 bars before the end [cp. 478], the beginning of the Allegro is repeated once more. A pedal follows [Orgelpunkt], upon which the theme is imitated, until, at last, the conclusion follows, strong and robust.

There is no idea [gedanke] simpler than the one the Master used as the foundation of the entire Allegro:

and with admiration we realize how he, through rhythmic procedures, knew how to add all the secondary ideas and all the episodes to this simple theme, so that they only served to unfold more and more the character of the whole [Charakter des Ganzen], which that theme could only indicate. All the phrases are short, consisting of only two or three bars and are, moreover, distributed in a constant alternation of string instruments and wind instruments. One would have thought that from such elements only something fragmented and difficult to understand could emerge: but, on the contrary, it is precisely this arrangement of the whole, as well as the constant and successive repetition of short phrases and isolated chords , which keep the spirits [mind] in an ineffable longing [unnennbaren Sehnsucht]. – Apart from the fact that the contrapuntal treatment bears witness to a profound study of art, it is also the episodes and constant allusions to the main theme that allow us to recognize how the Master not only conceived the whole [the whole] in his spirit, with all full traits of character, but still, that [the whole] was deeply reflected [well thought out].

Like a graceful voice of the spirits, which fills our chest with consolation and hope, resounds after that the soft theme (yet full of content) of the Andante in A flat major, in time 3/8, played by the viola and the cello. The elaboration [Design] ulterior of the Andante recalls some intermediate movements in Haydn's Symphonies;[X] as it happens so often there, here too the theme is varied in multiple ways after the entry of each episode. As for originality, [this movement] cannot be compared to the Allegro – even though the pompous phrase in C major [cp. 32 ], with timpani and trumpets, which appears between passages in A flat major, produces a surprising effect. The transition to C major occurs twice [cp. 28-30 and 77-79 ], through enharmony [cp. 28 ]:

after [this transition] comes that pompous theme and then the modulation back to the dominant chord of A flat major happens as follows [cp. 41-48 and 90-97 ]:

The way in which flutes, oboes and clarinets prepare the third transition [cp. 144] for that theme in C major is simpler, but quite effective [Effect]:

All the Andante phrases are very melodious, and the main theme is quite delicate; but [even] the course of this theme (which passes through A flat major, B flat minor, F minor, B flat minor, and only then returns to A flat), the juxtaposition of the major keys of A flat and C, the modulations chromatic – express again the character of the whole [Charakter des Ganzen], of which, precisely for this reason, Andante is a part. – It is as if the terrible spirit, which took and distressed the spirit [mind] on the Allegro, threatening at every moment, would emerge from the stormy clouds in which he had disappeared, and then, before his gaze, the amiable figures that surrounded us in a consoling manner would quickly flee away.

The Menuett that follows Andante is again as original [original] and moves as much the soul of the listener as one might expect of the Master in composing this part of the Symphony – which, according to the Haydnian form, which he followed, must be the most piquant and witty of the whole. They are mainly the peculiar modulations, the cadences in the major chord of the dominant, whose fundamental [keynote] the bass resumes as the tonic of the following theme in minor mode [cp. 44] - that very theme which expands ever after in just a few bars - , which vividly express the character of Beethoven's music, as the Reviewer has indicated above, and which excite again those forebodings of the wonderful realm of spirits [Ahnungen des wunderbaren Geisterreichs], with which Allegro's phrases harassed the listener's spirit. The theme in C minor, performed only by the basses, turns to G minor in the third measure, the horns support the G and the violins and violas, with the bassoons in the second measure [cp. 6] and then with the clarinets [cp. 7 ], perform a four-bar phrase that runs in G [cp. 8 ]. The basses then repeat the theme, but after the third bar, G minor moves into D minor [cp. 13 ], then to C minor [cp. 16 ], and that phrase from the violins [cp. 15] is repeated. The tubes [cp. 19 ] now expound a phrase that goes to E flat Major, while the string instruments play chords in quarter notes at the beginning of each bar. The orchestra, however, expounds the theme further on in E flat minor [cp. 28] and cadence in dominant Bb Major [cp. 44 ]: but in the same measure the bass begins the main theme, and he expounds it exactly as at the beginning in C minor, only now in B flat minor. Also the violins etc. repeat his phrase [cp. 49 ] and a fermata in F major follows. The bass repeats that theme, but amplifies it by running in F minor [cp. 56 ], C minor [cp. 58 ], G minor [cp. 60] and then return to C minor [cp. 72 ], after the Tutti, which first occurred in E flat minor [cp. 28 ], leads the phrase, through F minor [cp. 80 ], for the C major chord [cp. 96 ]; however, just as it happened before in the B flat major passage [cp. 44 ] for B flat minor, the bass returns to the fundamental C as the tonic of the theme in C minor [cp. 97 ] The flutes and oboes [cp. 101 ], with the imitation of clarinets in the second bar [cp. 102 ], they now play the phrase that had been played earlier by the string instruments, while they repeat a bar [cp. 101] which had previously been played by Tutti [cp. 79 ]; the horns hold the sun, the cellos begin a new theme [cp. 101 ], to which the opening phrase of the violins is added in another elaboration [Design], and then a new phrase [cp. 116 ] in eighth notes (which had not yet appeared). Even the new cello theme contains allusions to the main theme, and thereby, as well as through the same rhythm, closely related to it [the main theme]. After a short repetition, that Tutti concludes this part of the minuet with timpani and trumpets in C minor fortissimo [cp. 133 ] The basses begin the second part (the Trio) with a theme in C major [cp. 141 ], which the violas imitate in the dominant in a fugacious way [cp. 147 ], followed in an abbreviated manner by second violins [cp. 153 ], and likewise by the first violins [cp. 155] in stretto [restriction]. The first half of this part[xi] cadence in G major [cp. 160 ]. In the second part [of the Trio], the basses start the theme twice [cp. 162] and stop, continuing the third time [cp. 166 ]. To many, this may seem farcical [joking]; in the Reviewer it aroused an uneasy feeling. – After several imitations of the main theme, it is resumed by the flutes [cp. 182 ], sustained by the oboes, clarinets and bassoons, while the horns sustain the fundamental G; later, the theme dies down in isolated notes, played first by the clarinets [cp. 229 ] and bassoon, and then by basses [cp. 231 ]. Then follows the repetition of the theme of the first part [cp. 236] by the low ones; instead of violins, it is now wind instruments [cp. 241 ] who execute the phrase with short notes, which end with a fermata [cp. 244 ]. After that, as in the first part, [you hear] the expanded main phrase [cp. 245 ], but instead of half notes, we now have quarter notes and quarter note rests; it is with this configuration that the other sentences of the first part also return, most of the times abbreviated [abbreviated] – The restless yearning [unruhvolle Sehnsucht], which the theme carries within itself, is now intensified to the point of fear [Anxiety], who squeezes the chest violently; only a few interrupted and isolated sounds escape from it. The G major chord [cp. 323] seems to lead to the end; but the bass now sustains the fundamental note A flat [cp. 324 ], in pianissimo, over fifteen measures, violins and violas also sustain the third C, while the timpani plays the C [cp. 325] first in the rhythm of that oft-mentioned Tutti, and then once per bar [cp. 328 ], over four measures, then twice per measure [cp. 332 ] for four measures, then in quarter notes [cp. 336 ]. Finally the first violin resumes the first theme [cp. 339 ] and leads the phrase to the seventh of the dominant of the fundamental tone, for 28 bars and always alluding to that theme; all this time the second violin and viola held C, the timpani played C in quarter notes; the bass, after making an A flat scale [cp. 341] to F sharp [cp. 344] and go back to A flat [cp. 348 ], plays the fundamental Sol [cp. 350] in quarter notes. So they attack the bassoons first [cp. 366 ], one measure later the oboes [cp. 367 ], and three measures later the flutes [cp. 370 ], horns and trumpets, while the timpani continues playing C in eighth notes, after which the phrase immediately transitions to the C Major chord, with which the last Allegro begins. – Why the Master left the C note dissonant to the chord, on the tympanum, until the end, is explained from the character he intended to give to the whole. These muffled and dissonant blows, which act like a strange and terrible voice, arouse the terror of the extraordinary – the fear of the spirits. The Reviewer has already mentioned above the effect that intensifies with the theme that expands in a few measures. To make this effect clearer, he presents these enlargements here, all together:

In the repetition of the first part [cp. 245 ], this sentence appears as follows:

Equally simple, and yet – when observed again through the later phrases – as arresting in effect as the theme of the first Allegro, is the idea of ​​the opening Tutti of the Minuet [cp. 27 ]:

With the sumptuous and exultant theme in C major of the last movement, it attacks the entire orchestra, to which the piccolos, trombones and contrabassoons are now added – like a brilliant and dazzling ray of blinding sunlight, which suddenly illuminates the dark night. The sentences of this Allegro are treated at greater length than the preceding [sentences]: not so much melodiously as strong [strongly] and suitable for contrapuntal imitations: the modulations are comprehensible and without affectation; especially the first part has almost the momentum of the Overture. For thirty-four bars this part in C major remains a Tutti of the entire orchestra; while the basses play a vigorous rising figure, a new theme [cp. 34] in the upper voice modulates to G Major and leads to the dominant chord [cp. 41] of that tonality. Then comes a new theme [cp. 45 ], which consists of quarter notes alternating with triplets. As for its rhythm and its character, it diverges totally from the previous ones, and provides an impetus and impetus, like the phrases of the first Allegro and the Minuet:

Through this theme and its elaboration [Design] later in C major [cp. 58 ], going through A minor [cp. 53 ], the mood is transported back to a mood full of foreboding, which departs from it for a moment with an elation and jubilation. With a short, blustery Tutti, the phrase turns to G Major again, and the violas, bassoons, and clarinets begin a theme in sixths [cp. 53 ], which is then resumed by the entire orchestra [cp. 72 ] After a short modulation to F minor [cp. 77] (with a vigorous bass figure [cp. 80 ], which the violins resume in C major and, again, is performed by the basses al rovescio) [cp. 84 ], the first part ends in C major. The figure mentioned is maintained at the beginning of the second part[xii] in A minor [cp. 86-89] and that characteristic theme [cp. 90 ], consisting of quarter notes and triplets, enters again. With abbreviations [Abbreviations] and stretti, this theme is developed over thirty-two bars, and in this character development [Durchführung der Charakter], which was already expressed in its original aspect, [the theme] is completely unfolded, to which the added secondary themes, the sustained sounds of the trombones, the timpani, trumpets and horns that play in triplets, contribute to no lesser extent. Finally, the phrase rests on the pedal in G, performed first by the basses, but while they execute a cadential figure in unison with the violins, the trombone-bass, trumpets, horns and timpani enter. Then, for fifty-four bars, that simple theme comes in again.[xiii] from the Minuet:

and in the last two measures the first transition from minuet to allegro occurs, only now in a more concise manner. With small differences and persisting in the main tonality, the phrases of the first part now return[xiv] [cp. 207] and a stormy Tutti [cp. 312] seems to lead to the end. After the dominant chord [cp. 317 ], however, bassoon, horns, flutes, oboes and clarinets successively perform the theme that had just been mentioned:[xv]

It again follows [cp. 334 ] a cadential phrase [Schlußsatz ]; again the stringed instruments pick up that phrase, and then the piccolo [cp. 337], oboes and horns, and then again the violins [cp. 339]. It goes again to the cadence, but with the cadential chord in the tonic, the violins resume in Presto [cp. 362] (a few bars before a Più stretto begins)[xvi] the phrase played in bar sixty-seven of the Allegro[xvii]; and the bass figure is the same that appeared in bar twenty-eight of the first Allegro[xviii], and which, as already noted above, vividly recalls the same, through its rhythm which is intimately akin to the main theme. The entire orchestra [cp. 390] (the basses enter a bar later [cp. 391 ], imitating the upper voices in canon), with the first theme of the last Allegro, leads to the conclusion, which happens after forty-two bars that stop at various pompous figures and full of joy. Final chords are placed in a peculiar way: namely, after the chord which the listener assumes to be the last [cp. 432 ], there is a pause measure [cp. 433 ], the same chord, a bar rest, again the chord, a bar rest, and then for three bars [cp. 438 ], each containing once that chord in quarter notes, a rest measure [cp. 441 ], the chord [cp. 442 ], a rest measure [cp. 443 ], C unison played by the entire orchestra [cp. 444]. The complete appeasement of the mood, provided by several successive concluding figures, is neutralized by these isolated chords with pauses (recalling the isolated strokes of the Symphony's opening Allegro), and the listener is in a new state of tension through the last chords. Its effect is like that of a fire that was believed to be extinguished, and which once again strikes the heights with clear and burning flames.

Beethoven maintained the usual order of movements in the symphony; they seem to succeed one another in a fantastic manner, and the whole would seem to many a genial rhapsody: but the soul of every sensible listener will certainly be seized intimately and deeply with an enduring feeling, which is just that ineffable, foreboding yearning. [unnennbare, ahnungsvolle Sehnsucht], and will remain there until the final chord; and even after a few moments after the end of the piece, the listener will not be able to get out of that wonderful realm of the spirits, where he is surrounded by pain and pleasure configured in sounds. In addition to the internal layout of the instrumentation, etc., it is above all the intimate kinship of the themes to each other that engenders that unity [unity] that keeps the spirits up [mind] of the listener in a state of mind [Mood]. This unity reigns everywhere in the music of Haydn and Mozart. It becomes clearer to the musician when he discovers the fundamental bass [Grundbass] common to two distinct phrases, or when the link [send email now] between two sentences reveals [this unity]: but there is a deeper kinship which cannot be explained in this way, and which often speaks only of spirit to spirit, and it is this kinship which reigns between the sentences of the two allegros and the minuet, proclaiming lucid genius [besonnene Genialität] of the Master. The Reviewer believes he can sum up in a few words his judgment of the Master's splendid work of art by saying: that it was ingeniously invented and crafted with deep clarity of conscience [prudence], and that it expresses to a very high degree the romanticism of music [Romantik der Music].

No instrument has difficult passages to play, but only an orchestra extremely sure of itself and trained, animated by a unique spirit, can risk playing this symphony, because the slightest mistake made, in any passage, would irreparably ruin the whole. The continuous alternation, the inputs of strings and wind instruments, the isolated chords to be played after a silence, all require the highest precision; so it is advisable for the conductor not to be content, as is often the case, with playing the first violin part louder than necessary. It is better that he keep the orchestra permanently [under the control of] his eye and his hand. To this end he will be helped by editing the part for the first violin, which contains in it the entry for the obligatory instruments [obligate].

The engraving is correct and legible. The same publisher published a reduction of this symphony for piano four hands, under the title:

Cinquième Sinfonie de Louis van Beethoven, arranged for the Pianoforte at four mains. Chez Breitkopf et Härtel in Leipzic.(Pr. 2 Rthlr. 12 Gr.)[xx] For the rest, the reviewer is not especially favorable to these arrangements: yet it cannot be denied that the pleasure of a masterpiece heard with full orchestra, [when heard] in a solitary room often excites the fancy as before, and puts the mood in the same mood. The pianoforte restores the grandiose work, as does an outline [Umriß] with a large painting, which fantasy enlivens with the colors of the original. For the rest, the arrangement of the symphony was done with understanding and discernment; the needs of the instrument were properly taken into account, without erasing the particularities of the original.

*TA HOFFMANN (1776-1822) was a writer, composer, designer and jurist. Author, among other books by Murr Cat Reflections (Liberty Station).

Translation: Mario Videira.

Originally published on Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, No. 40 (July 04, 1810, pp. 630-642) eno. 41 (July 11, 1810, pp. 652-659).

Translator's notes

[I] Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf (1739-1799): 6 Symphoniennach Ovids Metamorphosen (Kr. 73-78)

[ii] Probably Hoffmann is referring to the compositions of Jean-Jacques Beauvarlet-Charpentier (1734-1794) – La Bataille d'Austerlitz surnommé La Journée des Trois Empereurs – and Louis-Emmanuel Jadin (1768-1853) – La Grande Bataille d'Austerlitz surnommé La Journée des Trois Empereurs.

[iii] WA Mozart. Symphony No. 39, KV 543 (1788)

[iv] We adopted here the solution of Rubens Rodrigues Torres Filho, who translates the term “Besonnenheit” as “clarity of conscience”.

[v] The measure numbers in square brackets are not in the original. They were added by the translator in order to facilitate the comparison of the analysis with the score of the work.

[vi] That is, development.

[vii]  That is, re-exposure begins.

[viii] That is, on display.

[ix] That is, in development.

[X] For example, Symphonies Nos. 70, 90, 101 and 103.

[xi] That is, from the Trio.

[xii] That is, development.

[xiii] Cf. with measure 255 of the third movement.

[xiv] That is, re-exposure begins.

[xv] Cf. measure 35.

[xvi] In fact, Beethoven indicates “semper più Allegro”.

[xvii] 4th. Movement.

[xviii] 1th. Movement.

[xx] In French in the original.

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