Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C major, Op. 67 is an extremely popular work. It contains one of the most famous openings in all of classical music; one that springs at you and seemingly grabs you by the throat. This was Beethoven taking the Classical symphony to places it had never gone before!
This work which introduces trombones, piccolos and contrabassoons to the orchestra (alien to typical Viennese ensembles of the early 19th century) had a huge effect on its contermporary audiences. We cannot experience the shock of it today as they did, since they had never before heard anything like it, but it a good performance still makes an impression on the listener.
In this symphony, Beethoven lays bare his inner struggles. There is much conflict in this music; conflict that ultimately gets resolved in the splendid finale. The finale grows seemingly from a pinpoint of light until it seems to fill the universe only to be questioned once more. Finally the symphony ends in C major with all conflict resolved – for the moment, at least!
There are many fine performances of this work but non can quite match the glorious recording of Carlos Kleiber directing the splendid Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra of the 1970s.