The fifth movement is in two big parts.
First part: After a very Serious (with a capital S!) opening from the orchestra, the solo violin comes in with some weighty pronouncements (1:20 on the recording above) and has a conversation with the solo cello (1:30) who is playing in a different key. (See bitonality.) Two other players join the conversation (two solo violas) (2:32) and a chime (2:47) in the background makes us remember that it’s very late (or early) and the sun will rise soon. But not before…
(Please forgive the horrible sound quality of these homemade videos, made with an iphone in a NYC apartment!)
Second Part: …It’s party time! In the Symposium, as the speeches are winding down, drunk Alcibiades crashes the party. A few minutes later, even more drunk revelers arrive. There’s lots of flirty, witty banter. Bernstein lets loose in all his rhythmic, jazz, playful glory. It’s like he’s time-traveled the party to his own era and provided the soundtrack. I can almost imagine Socrates and Agathon in their ancient Greek garb drinking and smoking and mingling with 1950s-clad artists and musicians in Bernstein’s New York City apartment.
The second part has four sections. The first (4:38) and the third (7:34) are exactly the same, and they are overall joyous. The second is short (7:16) and provides a bit of contrast (LB writes “with violence!”) and the fourth (9:28) is the big ending, summing it all up by combining lots of musical quotes from all of the other movements, swirling around in a big McFlurry of happy energy.
The form of the last movement is: