Da da da dah: the opening bars of Beethoven’s fifth symphony are arguably the most instantly recognisable in classical music.
RSNO – Naked Classics - Usher Hall, Edinburgh
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There are varied theories as to the origins of the “fate at the door” theme as Naked Classics presenter, Paul Rissmann, explained. For instance, Beethoven’s pupil claimed the composer was inspired by the birdsong of a yellowhammer.
The chirpy extract played could at a stretch resemble the famous theme but in many ways where it came from is irrelevant – it’s what Beethoven does with it that is quite extraordinary.
During the first half of the concert, when the orchestra illustrated various components of the symphony, Rissmann revealed how this insistent four note motif permeates nearly every phrase of the work. Furthermore, Beethoven unsettles the listener by writing the initial theme in a different key to the symphony’s home key of C minor.
Rissmann has these presentations down to a fine art, pitching them just right for a varied audience. There’s always a bit of humour too, although his suggestion that the sonata form had a similar structure to the format of a soap opera – especially Fawlty Towers – was a little far-fetched.
In the second half of the concert, conductor Baldur Bronnimann skilfully guided the orchestra through the symphony without interruption.
They were firing on all cylinders, especially the cello section who carry the lyrical andante as well as the mysterious cat-and-mouse theme which kicks off the scherzo, with all sections coming together for the triumphant finale.
Seen on 09.05.14