Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 played in a major key is surprisingly unsettling

19 February 2022, 11:21

Beethoven in a major key
Beethoven in a major key. Picture: Getty

By Kyle Macdonald

The great composer’s iconic dark and broody notes, now in sunny C major? You probably won’t even recognise it!

The first four notes of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 are some of the most famous in all of music. Hummed the world over, they’re taken to symbolise drama, struggle, darkness and musical brilliance.

The opening of the symphony is marked Allegro con brio. In what is often described as ‘fate knocking at the door’, the orchestra plays in fortissimo unison, outlining a dramatic, minor chord. Beethoven then develops these themes in an entire movement full of minor chords and dark harmonies.

Read more: 10 works of Beethoven that actually changed the world

But what if the music all stayed the same, and that minor darkness was swapped directly for the sunniness of a major key?

YouTuber mead1995 used his computer-based composing software and a generous dash of music theory aptitude to create a score of the first movement of Beethoven’s fateful knock. But as a unique twist, he transposes it all from C minor into C major. 

Flattened 3rds, be gone – this is all major chords from now on. Sit back and have a listen...

What if Beethoven's 5th Symphony was in C Major???

And it’s incredible to hear the scale of the alteration that takes place. It makes you appreciate the difference a few flattened chords can make to the mood of an entire piece.

It left us with many questions. Including, can we please have our E flats back? But what a great effort and an interesting study.

Ludwig aficionados, while we have you, here’s a podcast you might enjoy: Beethoven: The Man Revealed with John Suchet dedicates 52 episodes to the life, struggles and of course music of this incredible, world-changing composer. You can listen to it now on Global Player.