With the slow movement, a composer has the opportunity to change the emotions of the symphony yet again. At the Fifth Symphony’s premiere, many thought Shostakovich used this opportunity to expresses a deep sense of mourning. If so, whom or what has been lost?
Literally meaning ‘joke,’ the scherzo has often been a place where composers feel free to have some fun. Given the circumstances, does Shostakovich dare joke? And if so, about what and with whom is he joking?
The Third movement is all about play, as can be seen and heard in two short excerpts. Amidst the abundance of the fields and vineyards, Beethoven composes his own harvest of joy and affirmation, a renewed embrace of life in all its richness and mystery.
The moving second movement is shown in four annotated interactive excerpts. This “Funeral March” is a powerful musical evocation of the massive state funerals of the French Revolution. As we see the procession pass before us we ask ourselves the question, “who has really died here?”
The Finale is a culmination of the emotional scenarios in the three preceding movements. An individual has felt isolation in a crowd, but can still find gratification from the people around him. The dynamic between loneliness and fulfillment is both a universal human condition and a reflection of the deepest conflict in Tchaikovsky’s own life.