Skip to content


Roll Over Beethoven: Four Famous Musical Notes

The history Beethoven’s Fifth in performance and in popular imagination:

One key to the Fifth’s own cultural malleability—or ambiguity—is found in those first four measures, a masterstroke of misdirection. We tend to remember the four notes as severe and brooding, with a ponderousness that sits at extreme odds with the allegro con brio marking. That is only one of several conundrums Beethoven presents to the listener off the bat.

If you’ve even seen the Fifth performed in person, you won’t doubt its power and originality.  Maybe the time has come for it to recover from its lost “battle against kitsch,” as the author puts it.  Although I’ll always have a soft spot for P.D.Q. Bach’s treatment of the 1st Movement.

Posted in Culture, Music.