Today on December 22nd 1808, Beethoven’s greatest masterpiece, the Fifth Symphony, debuts for the first time in Vienna.
Symphony No. 5, also known as the Fifth Symphony, is one of the most well-known compositions in classical music. Beethoven spent more than four years perfecting his masterpiece. It finally premiered at Vienna’s Theater an der Wien a few days before Christmas in 1808. Sadly, the world premiere failed to deliver initial positive reviews given the rough circumstances on which it was delivered. Despite its shaky start, Symphony No. 5 would eventually gain international prestige and recognition.
The city weather records note that it was a particularly cold evening on the night of the premiere. To make matters worse, the Fifth Symphony did not get played until halfway through the four hour long program. Beethoven actually had to stop the ensemble during one of the passages and made them start over from the beginning. Throughout World War II, Symphony No. 5 became associated with British military success and was frequently referred to as the Victory Symphony. In fact, the BBC used the opening four notes during its wartime broadcasts.
Ludwig van Beethoven is recognized as one of the most famous and influential composers of all time. He was born in Bonn, Germany, and was initially exposed to classical music from his father at the young of 12. He would go on to compose 9 symphonies, 5 piano concertos, 1 violin concerto, 32 piano sonatas, 16 string quartets and one opera, Fidelio. Unfortunately, Beethoven began exhibiting signs of hearing troubles by his late 20’s and was completely deaf by the end of his life at age 56.