Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Beethoven's 5th Symphony

Beethoven's 5th Symphony

Jennifer Fandel
For ages 12 and up
The Creative Company, 2007   ISBN: 978-1583414293

Many people, even those of us who don’t like or know much about classical music, can recognize the opening bars to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. There can be no doubt that the symphony is one of the most well known pieces of music of all time. And yet many of us don’t realize that the music has a wonderful story behind it. It is a story about a very special time in history and it is also a story about some very unique and brave man.

When Beethoven was working on his symphony, he was living in a world full of change. It was the early 1800’s and people were turning away from the logic and reason of the 18th century and embracing the new celebration of “emotions and imagination.” This was called the Romantic Movement and it set a tone for the era. In addition people were eager to explore new places and to learn about different cultures. Trade centers all over the world grew and the world opened up as never before.

This was Beethoven’s world, and the city in which he lived, Vienna, was very much affected by the Romantic Movement and the political changes that were taking place in Europe. Beethoven dreamed that one day he would take the place vacated by Mozart. It was a struggle for him however for Beethoven was steadily getting more and more deaf with each passing day. In addition he was an awkward and gruff man who did not get along with others easily. It was hard for him to fit into the elegant society that he so much wanted to be a part of.

By 1804, when he began the Fifth Symphony, Beethoven was very deaf indeed. He avoided people as much as possible and put all his emotions into his music. Beethoven was inspired by the beauty of the Viennese parks, which he would walk through for hours on end as he composed in his head.

The piece was finally finished in 1808 and, unlike his first four symphonies, the Fifth was a much more personal composition and it was full of unexpected breaks from tradition. It was not an immediate success but in time it gained popularity and today it is one of the most famous pieces of music ever written.

Full of wonderful annotated illustrations and photographs and with informative boxes on every double page spread, this title in the “What in the World?” series is a joy to read. Readers will be left with a real sense of what Beethoven was like and how much he came to represent his times. In addition they will come to recognize how much of an impact the Fifth Symphony had on the world and on the people who listened to it.