I think of a big orchestral piece that starts or has this at a major phrase.

Two descending staccato octave intervals with a pause between on the 1st (8th) and 5th. Then a timp roll and a 3rd descending interval on the 1st.

Scored below. enter image description here What is this piece? Might be Tchaikovsky.

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    I've heard this piece --or at least the opening --hundreds of times, but I don't have the slightest idea what it actually is... It's used a lot as the sting on classical music stations. Aug 13 '21 at 13:43

It's the scherzo, the second movement, of Beethoven's 9th symphony:

Note the dotted rhythms; the tympani rhythm is actually the same rather than being a roll.

  • Thank you and well done in light of my misleading suggestions and scoring
    – EdL
    Aug 15 '21 at 20:41
  • @EdL it wasn't misleading at all. I recognized it right away. I too was surprised when I saw that rhythm written down for the first time. It typically is somewhat obscured by reverberation. (Also, later on in the movement, the motif develops into descending octave quarter notes, namely at the transition to the Presto section, here at 22:34.)
    – phoog
    Aug 15 '21 at 20:48
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    @EdL in fact, now that I think of it, I already recognized the piece from the description in the question title, when I was browsing the list of recent questions. When I saw the notation you provided after opening the question, that was just confirmatory icing on the cake.
    – phoog
    Aug 15 '21 at 22:38

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