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The History of Beethoven's Destiny Symphony

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Table of contents

  1. Introduction 
  2. Background
  3. Overall Description
  4. 'As the fate knocks at the door.'
  5. Profound Impact of this work
  6. Conclusion
  7. Bibliography


Symphony No.5 in C minor, Op.67, also called ‘Destiny,’ was composed by Ludwig Van Beethoven in between 1804 and 1808. This work described as one of his famous classical works in his life, which expresses the positivity and striving spirit of humanity as they will never give up and defeated by the oppressive reality. ‘Destiny’ by Beethoven showed us his continuing struggle, unyielding to fate, and passion for life.


At the time Beethoven wrote this Symphony, he was facing the threat of deafness and life and death test. Because of his deafness, his health and finances were terrible that he even borrowed money from friends. Beethoven had been forced to break off the creation midway due to financial distress, so the completion of time Symphony ‘Destiny’ is relatively long. Until the year of 1808, Beethoven completed the Symphony of ‘Destiny,’ enduring both physical and mental pain. This Symphony once again reflects Beethoven’s creative talent and astonishing power; he spent much effort to complete this work, so the Symphony ‘Destiny’ is also one of Beethoven’s proud work.

Overall Description

1st Movement of ‘Destiny’ is in C minor, sonata form, and Allegro con brio. The theme of the beginning of the music called ‘as the fate knocks at the door’ by Beethoven. It is dark, cold, and dignified, playing with the muscular strength of strings and clarinet. Then, the theme appears in each part with weak intensity, as if it were the aftersound of an eruption as if doom were spreading everywhere. As the power grows, the theme of destiny reappears in the roar of the orchestra and rushes forward with a slight variation. It started a little panicky but gradually came to life, trying to dominate. Suddenly, two loud chords cut it off. After the momentary silence, a loud horn sounded in the horn part. Immediately, the second theme of lyricism is presented, which is the portrayal of the composer’s heart. In this tranquil and warm music, Beethoven expresses his longing for peace. At this time, the theme of destiny, hidden in the whisper, becomes more and more stubborn and determined, waiting for the chance to reoccupy the land, but a determined and robust melody drowns it out with irresistible momentum. The struggle of doom could still hear at the end of this music.

2nd Movement of ‘Destiny’ modulates to Ab Major——the subdominant key of C minor’s relative key (Eb Major), double variation form, and Andante con moto. The savage fate, appeared, at last, brooding and restless over and over in every tone, seeking its opportunity, peeping into the void, in order to intrude upon life and dominate it all. Then a clarinet sounded, calling men to struggle. Gradually, the music’s strength was weakening, and the areas of the voice exchanged frequently. The tone was low and unstable as if doubting and vacillating the struggle. All at once, the theme of fate intrudes again with ferocity. It shouts rudely and enters the third movement in the climax of the explosion.

3rd Movement of ‘Destiny’ goes back to C minor, ternary form — consisting of a scherzo and trio, and Scherzo: Allegro. It goes back to the first movement but slightly changed. The theme of destiny is still spreading, sometimes restlessly, sometimes eagerly. Suddenly the oboe struck a slow, melancholy note. It stopped its pace, and the tone seemed to be a lament for an unhappy fate. Then the theme of destiny moved on, and the attempt to dominate stronger. When the second theme played, the haze temporarily disappeared. Nevertheless, doom would not rest until a determined and robust melody swallowed it up. At the end of the movement, the struggle between people and fate becomes more intense. At first, the theme of destiny stands proudly with high strength and sound. Then, the clarinet plays, which forms a force to drive away from lousy luck together with the rising sound from the violin. After several fights, the person still could not get rid of the cruel fate, music in the fate of the theme of the spirit of the end of this movement.

4th Movement of ‘Destiny’ keeps in C minor, an unusual variant of sonata form — the music stopped on the dominant cadence at the end of development, and Allegro. The grand ensemble is also the core of the whole symphony. After the arduous struggle, people rely on the indomitable willpower and the spirit of fighting, never give up in the face of any difficulties and setbacks, the final will usher in an exciting moment of victory. The last chapter, as the closing part of the whole music, needs to pay attention to the grasp of rhythm, showing the majestic momentum and using the ensemble of various Musical Instruments to show the beautiful future after the wind and rain in front of people, so as to achieve the effect of head to tail echo and bring people the shock of the soul.

‘As the fate knocks at the door.’

The first movement is the eve of the struggle against fate. It begins with a short sentence of three short and one long four notes, that is, the knock on the door of fate. This motive is straightforward, but it contains excellent momentum and great suspense. At the beginning of the music, the strings and clarinet played out a rhythm that symbolized the percussion sound of fate, which shocked the whole space. This definite motive declared that ‘fate is knocking at the door.’ Its mood is cold, dark, and menacing, showing the cruelty and ferocity of the dark forces.

After this motivation, the strings repeatedly play the first theme, which is changed by the motivation in different sound areas. It seemed to be a stern warning, and the music was full of tragic and passionate fighting enthusiasm. As the rapid sound was interrupted by the whole band, the feeling of panic and anxiety intensified. The harsh ‘fate’ sound sounded in the field, which was frightening and disturbing, indicating the disaster of the oppressed people. Then the horn played out a firm and clear horn melody.

The emotion eased down, leading to the secondary theme of lyric and mild, together with the horn itself mild timbre, thus arousing people’s desire for light and happiness. Then the sobs of oboe and the sound of the whole string, deep and whirling, are incredibly restrained. Even the faint syllables handled as reliably and movingly as feathers floating in the air and falling gently on the ground or our bodies. Then, the strings string, as colorful as flowers, fragrant let us smell. Like the stars, bright let our eyes and heart together bright up. Followed by a full of lyrical, pure and rich feelings of the second theme played slowly, when the violin, clarinet, and flute playing the melody, the cello, and the bass played a ‘fate’ figure from time to time, the theme of the herald the struggle continues to expand, the character of the hero in the development of music quickly to bright and resolute and optimistic atmosphere.

The whole movement moves forward with a sense of turbulence. The first four notes were so powerful and frightening that almost everyone who heard them could never forget them. The classic passage full of power, so brief yet so haunting. The theme of the whole work is evident. We seem to see a scene of fierce fighting, every note; every melody seems to be playing the sword, fighting bravely. For the audience, the hero should be ourselves, and it is clear who the enemy is — destiny. Everyone faces the test of fate at some time. The theme repeats, the sound of terror reverberates as if the combatants have not conquered this formidable ‘adversary of destiny.’

Profound Impact of this work

Beethoven’s destiny symphony has an impact on people’s values: morality, the right attitude, and courage to face challenges. Firstly, Beethoven’s moral criterion is one of ‘integrity,’ he saw this morality as a spiritual force, a quality he saw as a character that made him superior to the nobility. In the old society, everyone determined their morality by social status and relationship. Beethoven’s moral standards are ironic to the feudal aristocracy. Moreover, ‘I will take fate by the throat; it will never bend me completely to its will’ shows how Beethoven against fate. Throughout his miserable life, he struggled, sought joy, and created happiness in his musical field. The beautiful nature nourished Beethoven’s tender and delicate emotions and comforted his unfortunate life. The simple melody and broad artistic conception in his music all come from the inspiration endowed by nature. His music works are full of longing for happiness, love, and affectionate praise. A positive attitude might turn a bad thing into a good one, while a negative attitude will only turn a good thing into a bad one. Only dare to face pressure in order to become active. Furthermore, Beethoven used his music to call on people to fight for freedom and happiness, angrily opposing the autocratic feudal uniform. During his last ten years, he was completely deaf, his health deteriorated, he lived in poverty and suffered mentally, but he still composed the Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 with a giant’s perseverance, which completed a glorious and epic life.


‘Destiny symphony’ is the most influential and representative works of music. It incisively and vividly expressed the struggling spirit when Beethoven was facing the miserable fate through the analysis and appreciation of music, the theme of the feeling, and tones. The Symphony makes people feel this piece contains profound thoughts and feelings, encourages people to have the courage to fight with fate, never giving up the hope of life, with a robust and optimistic attitude to face the challenge of fate.


  • Beethoven, Ludwig van, and Elliot Forbes. Symphony No. 5 in C Minor. New York: W.W. Norton, 1971.
  • Kinderman, William. Beethoven. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.
  • Indy, Vincent d. Beethoven. Place of publication not identified: Book On Demand Ltd, 2013.
  • Kinderman, William. Beethoven. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995.
  • Bekker, Paul, and M. M. Bozman. Beethoven. Temecula, CA: Reprint Services Corp.?, 1990.
  • Riezler, Walter. Beethoven. New York: Vienna House, 1972.

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