Ludwig van Beethoven began to sketch the Fifth Symphony in 1804 and completed the score in the spring of 1808. The composer conducted the first performance on December 22 the same year as part of the famous Akademie concert in the Theater an der Wien. Symphony V was written during Beethoven’s prolific middle period which began in 1804 with the beloved Waldstein Sonata. Marked by the composers’ return to Vienna from Heiligenstadt, this period represents a significant change in musical style, now designated his "heroic" period. Beethoven had lobbied for the organization of the event to showcase his Pastoral Symphony, Fourth Piano Concerto and the Fifth Symphony as well as several movements of the Mass in C major for many months and expressed frustration at what he perceived to be the theatre directors procrastination. Ultimately, Beethoven got his way and the concert took place, but only after threats of departure from Vienna and the intimidation of a lawyer. Beethoven’s biographer Barry Cooper refers to the historic event, in terms of its content, as the "most remarkable" concert of Beethoven's career.
Indeed one can say without a doubt the most famous opening bars of any symphony are those of Beethoven’s Fifth. Phillip Huscher, musicologist of the Chicago Symphony, professed “This is the symphony that, along with an image of Beethoven, agitated and dishevelled, has come to represent greatness in music. Perhaps we are speaking only of the very opening seconds... It’s hard to know how so few notes, so plainly strung together, could become so popular.” Beethoven’s contemporary, Robert Schumann, also foresaw with great lucidity that “this symphony invariably wields its power over men of every age like those great phenomena of nature… This symphony, too, will be heard in future centuries, nay, as long as music and the world exist.” The Fifth was eventually overshadowed by the Ninth Symphony, which pointed to the culmination of the nineteenth century and reinvigorated generations of composers to expand their concept of the symphony, but it continues to be much-loved by audiences. Beethoven’s conception of the path from strife to triumph, personified by the Fifth Symphony, became a model for symphonic writing and continues to affect contemporary composition.
Alixandra Porembski, English Language Annotator