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Music with Ease > Classical Music > Concert Guide: Classical Era > Symphony No. 6, in F ("Pastoral"). Op. 68. (Beethoven)

Symphony No. 6, in F ("Pastoral"). Op. 68.

Ludwig Van Beethoven

1. Allegro ma non troppo. (The Cheerful Impressions excited on arriving in the Country.)
2. Andante molto moto. (By the Brook.)
3. Allegro. (Peasants' Merrymaking.)
4. Allegro. (Thunderstorm.)
5. Allegretto. (The Shepherd's Song; Glad and Thankful Feelings after the Storm.)

The Pastoral Symphony was composed by Beethoven in 1808, and was first performed at a concert given in Vienna, December 22 of the same year.The composer has left his own explanation prefixed to each movement. In the sketches it is entitled "Sinfonie caracteristica. Die Erinnerungen von dem Landleben" ("Symphony Characteristic. Memories of Country Life"), and the following note is appended : "Man uberlässt dem Zuhörer sich selbst die Situationen auszufinden" ("The hearer must find out the situations for himself"). When the symphony was completed, however, Beethoven gave explicit descriptions of the meaning of each movement, prefaced, however, with the significant caution : "Mehr Ausdruck der Empfindung als Malerei" ("Rather expressive of sensations than painting") -- or actual desription.

This symphony, in fact, is the masterly expression of that happy and contented feeling which the lover of Nature experiences during a ramble in the country. The motives employed are apparently of the simplest kind, but demonstrate the evolution of intense thought. They are short and close in design and to a great extent lean on the tones of the hunting horn. We quote a few that will attract the hearer's attention:

[Music excerpt]

The first movement, of which the above are the themes, is an Allegro ma non troppo, and is in keeping with the general description we had given of the music.

The andante molto gives voice to the listless dreaming of the wayfarer who is resting at the bank of the brook. The monotonous accompaniment, sustained through nearly the entire movement by the strings, is of a flowing figure, containing a gentle rise and returns to its level. The first violins give out the principal melodic theme, while the wind instruments respond with the second phrase. Short figures abound, flitting about among the different instruments, sometimes in imitation, again in euphonious thirds or sixths, and at times a brief trill or the short snapping of pizzicato notes. Its effect is that of the evening air alive with songs of the birds and the buzz of insects. In the last twelve measures of this movement, the composer even introduces the bird songs -- a preceeding which has been pronounced childish and utterly unworthy of Beethoven, which to the unprejudiced listener seems to belong in its connection.

The third movement, representing the Minuet, introduces the purely human element. The first eight measures usher in the country people tripping briskly along. In the next phrase we approach the dance proper with its "band accompaniment." The minuet-like movement is interrupted by a short Tempo d'allegro, which seems like the change to another dance, though being rather more boisterious it comes to a close by two short pauses, as if to give the dancers a chance to catch their breaths before returning to the triple time in the Minuet closing the movement.

The next movement, an Allegro in A flat, is entitled "Thunder-storm," and brings before us the lowering sky, the distant rumbling of thunder, the sultry air, and the storm breaking forth in all this fury. It soon passes over, however. Without interruption, the closing measure leads into the last movement -- the shepherd's song of joy, and his feeling of relief from the dangers of the tempest. The motives are formed from the representative intervals of the instruments chiefly used by shepherds, and move in the steps of the chord rather than in the sucessive notes of the scale, although the middle section of the movement brings the violins to the front with just such runs as were excluded from the first part, which more strictly represent the song of the sheperd. The movement closes with one of those dynamic contrast in which Beethoven delighted. After the horn once more sings the principal theme --

[Music excerpt]

softly, and while the violins are twining around it in a descending figure, the whole orchestra breaks in suddenly and without any preparation on the closing chord fortissimo, as indicated above.

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Renaissance Music
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Classical Era Music
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