Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony [ENG]

Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is one of the most important and famous works in the history of music: as soon as it is evoked, its incisive initial motto immediately resonates in our mind. Yet, as this book explains, the composition imposes itself in the ears and the hearts of listeners in a very strange way.

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La quinta sinfonia di Beethoven recensita da E.T.A. Hoffmann

Con un dialogo tra l’autrice e Riccardo Muti

Donzelli Editore, Roma
2020, pp. 120


The story of the Fifth Symphony began in Vienna on December 22nd, 1808, when it was performed for the first time, among many other pieces, in a concert as famous as it was unfortunate. The difficulty of the compositions, an insufficient number of rehearsals, the length of the program and the coldness of the theatre decreed a half fiasco. Despite the composer’s fame, a chronicler wrote: “A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country.” Beethoven was furious and feared: “The Vienna smearers will certainly not fail to write their poisonous articles against me.” Instead he was wrong. Seven months later, in fact, the director of the most important German music magazine sent the reduction of the symphony for four hands to Bamberg, asking a review from one of his writers, the at the time still unknown E. T. A. Hoffmann, who would soon become the most important writer of German Romanticism. Hoffmann was the first to recognize that the Fifth Symphony, without doubt, was a masterpiece, and declared it loudly in a long essay, thus determining the fate of this extraordinary work. As the extensive multilingual bibliography shows, the review by E. T. A. Hoffmann plays a central role in the history of its music reception.


Until now unpublished in its integral form this review, amongst the most inspired of all time, finally appears in Italian – translated and edited by the music historian Benedetta Saglietti – together with other testimonies about the first performance and the writings of Johann Friedrich Reichardt and Hector Berlioz.

This journey through the Fifth Symphony, a piece that since the first performance continues to fascinate the listeners, starts with a conversation between the conductor Riccardo Muti and the author, offering to the readers his point of view as an interpreter.

Benedetta Saglietti, a music historian and Beethoven scholar, holds a Ph.D. in Early Modern History from the University of Turin (Italy). She is active as a researcher in different fields and a recognized expert in music iconography. Her most important publications include: Beethoven, ritratti e immagini (Edt-De Sono, 2010) which led to her invitation to the first Beethoven Festival (Chicago) in 2011; the editorships of Una visita a Beethoven (La scuola di Pitagora, 2014) and with Giangiorgio Satragni of Strawinski, by Alfredo Casella (Castelvecchi, 2016), among many other articles and scientific reviews. Saglietti was asked to contribute to the exhibition catalogue Ludwig van. Le mythe Beethoven (Gallimard, 2016).
Her multimedia project of Schönberg’s Pierrot lunaire, conceived together with Valentina Manchia, as based on the graphic designer Massin’s work, made its debut in 2018 at the renowned Stresa Festival. She works as a music critic and digital strategist.