Beethoven Finishes His Fifth Symphony

The Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67, was written by Ludwig van Beethoven in 1804–08.

This symphony is one of the most popular and best-known compositions in all of classical music, and one of the most often played symphonies. It comprises four movements: an opening sonata, an andante, and a fast scherzo which leads attacca to the finale. First performed in Vienna's Theater an der Wien in 1808, the work achieved its prodigious reputation soon afterwards. E. T. A. Hoffmann described the symphony as "one of the most important works of the time".

Beethoven's Fifth Symphony is the most famous symphony in the history of music, with the best known opening bars in all music. Yet try humming them and the bars that follow. Impossible. A motif rather than a theme, and so compressed and full of such energy that they are universally known.

For the first time in any symphony by any composer, the three-note theme is carried through the whole work. At the opening of the final movement, after a mysterious passage of ghostliness, an orchestral sound so rousing that at the first performance in Paris, an old soldier in uniform rose to his feet and cried out Vive l’Empereur!