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Beethoven: Symphony no. 5, Mvt. 1

Can you guess this piece? Here’s a hint: who’s that knocking?

The mystique and aura surrounding Beethoven’s fifth symphony sometimes threatens to eclipse the work itself. This is almost inevitable, given that the Fifth has become perhaps the single most famous and recognized work in the Western musical canon. Following an unusually extended period of composition—Beethoven actually started this symphony prior to beginning and completing his Fourth—the work premiered in 1808. Much lore has surrounded the work, and fueling the flames was Beethoven’s executor and biographer, Anton Schindler, who related Beethoven’s comment that the famous opening motive represented how “fate knocks on the door.” Unfortunately, Schindler’s proven tendency to romanticize and misrepresent his subject means we’ll probably never know for sure if this is what Beethoven meant. Schindler aside, however, the symphony soon acquired another highly influential champion, who we’ll encounter tomorrow…

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