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Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 in C minor 1st movement

In what ways did Beethoven stray from the typical Sonata format in Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 in C minor 1st movement?

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21M011 (spring, 2006)
Ellen T. Harris
Lecture VII

Beethoven, Symphony No. 5 in C Minor
This complete four-movement work is discussed by Kerman/Tomlinson, pp. 227-233; it follows the typical symphonic pattern at the same time as it moves beyond it in multiple ways. The four-movement scheme is: sonata, slow movement (variations), "minuet-trio" (scherzo), finale (sonata form).

1st movement (K 3:6-14): perhaps known in some form to more people than any other classical work. It begins with a declaration of its "motive" in a four-measure phrase with a hold (fermata) on the second and fourth measures. In some ways this is a preliminary statement, a slow introduction reduced to its smallest components. There is no clear meter, nor even key (it could be E-flat major rather than C minor), certainly no melody to speak of?only this motivic "seed" from which the entire symphony takes sustenance. We have not heard a symphony with a slow introduction before the exposition of the first movement, but they were common. Haydn used them frequently, and Beethoven did as well in his earlier (and later) symphonies. Typically they present less formed material than occurs in the exposition: the harmony is often in flux and distant from the key of the movement, and the overall feeling is anticipatory. Never are they as profiled or chiseled as the four measures that begin the 5th Symphony. Further, the fermata at the end of the first theme brings into question whether the exposition has actually begun, even at this late point, or whether this is just an extension of the anticipatory section. Beethoven persistently keeps the listener on edge, upsetting convention and expectation.
It becomes clear pretty quickly, however, that the little, four-note motive is going to dominate the movement. It forms the four-bar "introduction," first theme, transition material and the bridge to the new key; it harps away under the more lyrical (major) second theme, and forms the closing (or cadence theme) as well. In the development the bridge theme of four notes is reduced to three, to two and then to one (!) note, but the theme is so dominant that even the one note is recognizable as thematic. The recapitulation begins with the motivic announcement again, suggesting maybe that this IS a part of the 1st theme; slow introductions do not normally return at this point. Then over the fermata at the end of the ...

Solution Summary

Evidence to show that Beethoven digressed from the typical Sonata format in Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 in C minor 1st movement is given.