The First Four Notes: Beethoven's Fifth and the Human Imagination, by Matthew Guerrieri
A unique and revelatory book of music history that examines in great depth what is perhaps the best-known and most-popular symphony ever written and its four-note opening, which has fascinated musicians, historians, and philosophers for the last two hundred years.
Reaching back before Beethoven’s time, Matthew Guerrieri uncovers premonitions of the opening notes in the rhythms of ancient Greek poetry and the music of the French Revolution. He discusses the Fifth’s impact when it premiered, tracing the artistic, philosophical, and political reverberations across Europe to China, Russia, and the United States, from Romanticism to pop. This fascinating book is a treat for music lovers of every stripe.
"Matthew Guerrieri is a brilliant, impassioned, and witty observer not only of music but of the entire cultural landscape surrounding the art. A bit like Beethoven himself, Guerrieri finds a cosmos in four notes." —Alex Ross, Music Critic, The New Yorker
Guerrieri, music critic for the Boston Globe, offers what looks to be the only book available to lay readers offering an in-depth examination of Beethoven's beloved and magisterial Fifth Symphony.