Ba ba ba bum... Wait, no. That's Beethoven's Fifth.
Everywhere you turn, somebody is quoting Beethoven. It may not be as famous as the Fifth, but you're probably more familiar with Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 than you think. It has been used again and again, in film and in television, to underscore both joy and sorrow.
Allegro con brio
Filmmaker Wes Anderson used this energetic movement to underline his signature comic aesthetic in "The Darjeeling Limited" (2007).
On television, the first movement was used in the 1980 premiere of Carl Sagan's documentary series "Cosmos," to underscore the vastness and diversity of Earth with what the English critic Edwin Evans called its "resplendent spaciousness."
Remember the tear-jerking scene in "Mr. Holland's Opus" (1995), when the high school music teacher (Richard Dreyfuss) drops the needle on the sombre second movement and recounts to his students the tragedy of Beethoven's later years, when he was going deaf? In the film, Holland's son is deaf and unable to share his father's passion for music. Intensified by the march of the Allegretto, the heartbreak is palpable.
The second movement also framed the climactic scene in the 2010 Academy Award winning film "The King's Speech." King George VI (Colin Firth) overcomes his debilitating stutter as he speaks to broadcast audiences across Europe, declaring war on Germany in 1939. The slow build of the Allegretto accents both his struggle and his perseverance.
For trivia fans: Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 can also be heard in early film noir like the 1934 film adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe's "The Black Cat" starring Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. On television, it was used in an episode of "Seinfeld," an episode of "Boardwalk Empire," and in the 1974 special "It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown!"
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