Monday, February 6, 2012

Triumph in C Major

The year of 1808 was a time of change in Vienna.  Not many years before there was the American revolution followed by the French revolution.  It was an era transition and change.  Napoleon was building his empire and by the winter of 1808 had taken control of Vienna.  This created a sense of uneasiness of many, especially for one Ludwig van Beethoven.  All of this was the back drop to the creation of one of the greatest, most recognizable pieces of classical music in the world: Beethoven's 5th Symphony. 
But it didn't start out that way.  The first performance of the 5th was less then ideal. It was winter and the concert hall had no heating.  Without proper practice the orchestra made multiple mistakes during the perform and each time Beethoven would make them start again stretching the concert to over a staggering four hours.  It speaks highly of Beethoven's talent as a composer that the 5th was able to become so renown after such a rocky beginning.
If you are to pick up a copy of Beethoven's 5th symphony from the store the CD cover will read Beethoven's 5th symphony in C Minor.  This is really only half of the truth because you see it only begins in C Minor.
Many scholars refer to this as the triumphant symphony because of the fact that it starts in C Minor but ends in C Major.  Throughout the course of the 30 minute symphony you have bursts of C Major.  By the 3rd movement it becomes a battle between the despair of the minor chords and the strength of the major chords.   I can't help but imagine that Beethoven was trying to make a statement by doing this.  He was trying to say that even though they were living in uncertain times they were going to be victorious.  We will have a triumphal ending in C Major.
I am intrigued by this going back and forth of C Minor and C Major.  Many times in life because of our hardships and difficulties we are living in a minor key, in a fallen state.  The goal in life is to overcome our fallen state, to reach that major key just like the 5th does.
In the last part of the 4th movement Beethoven blares out 5 or 6 strong and powerful C Major chords.  He wants to make sure that his audience knows that the symphony is not longer in C Minor.  We are now gloriously in C Major.  We are going to have hard times in our lives, we just need to remember that if we are faithful and remain strong we will be gloriously rewarded with all the Father hath. 

Listen to the last minute of this to hear the triumphant C Major chords.

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