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Home>Beethoven Music>Beethoven Symphonies>Symphony No.6

Symphony No. 6. The Pastoral Symphony

Heiligenstadt, probably the place that inspired Beethoven's 6th symphonySymphony No. 6 in F major, op. 68 ,“The Pastoral” was written almost simultaneously with The 5th Symphony, but differs from it in theme. If Symphony No.5 deals with the struggle and the joy of victory, “The Pastoral” represents the expression of the love the composer holds for nature.
     In a letter to Therese Malfatti in the summer of 1808, Beethoven said " How happy I am to be able to walk among the shrubs, the trees, the woods, the grass and the rocks! For the woods, the trees and the rocks give man the resonance he needs."
     Beethoven’s great love of nature, the delight in strolling through the woods of Heilllingenstadt, the fact that he always found his equilibrium in the heart of nature, all these led to the creation of his sixth symphony.

This programmatic endeavor is clearly expressed through the suggestive title of the symphony, as well as through the titles of each segment of it, through this initiating the later direction of his programmatic symphonies and even of his symphonic poems.
     When he found refuge in the midst of nature, he jotted down themes inspired by the trill of birds, the trickling of creeks or the rustle of leaves. In a notebook from 1803 was found an outline of a river’s trickling with the additional note: " The greater the river, the more grave the tone."
     Beethoven rose much higher than his predecessors who tried to capture the gist of nature, because he places man with his feelings and sensitivity in the heart of nature. And this is confirmed by the very title he places on the cover of the first edition (Breitkoph & Hartel) and that is: "Pastoral-Sinfonie oder Erinnerung an das Landleben. (Mehr Ausdruck der Emphindung als Mahlerey.)" – “Pastoral Symphony or Recollection of the Life in the Countryside”

Part I – Allegro ma non troppo – has as programmatic indication “Gefuhle bei der Ankunnft auf dem Lande” – " Awaking the emotions full of life upon arriving in the village ". This part has genuine popular sonority through the choice of instruments and the use of typically rural instrumental music. Musical themes are short, allowing shifts from one psychological state to another through their repetition.
     Theme I (one) brings a new climate, more of a motif, which through segmentation will ultimately create a natural setting in which man is shrouded in pleasure.

Excerpt from the Symphohy No. 6, Part I

Part II – Andante molto moto – Szene am Bach (Scene at the creek) is a wonderful scene of nature, with exceptionally musical themes in the pure pastoral air. It is more of a description of sensations rather than images. Only in the final part – the Coda – do we find the onomatopoeic sounds of birds. The title of the flute theme is Wachtel (quail) and that of the clarinet theme Kuckuck (cuckoo).

Part III – Allegro – “Lustiges Zusammensein der Landleute”(Joyful reunion of peasants) is particularly interesting from the point of view of the construction. The theme is built through the repetition of a motif, only on totally different structures (F major and then D major), as if it reflects the external position of the viewer with regard to the others.

Excerpt from the Symphohy No. 6, Part III

Part IV – Allegro – “Gewitter, Sturm” (The Tempest) has a free form. The composer seeks to render the stages of the storm as it unravels on the horizon and it moves closer more and more threatening. The instruments with grave chords – cellos and double basses – through their sounds announce the storm, then, the staccato sounds of the violins render the falling raindrops, and through the timpani and the flutes we sense the thunder and lightning. But above all these images we feel the tense disposition that captures man helplessly facing the state of nature. When the storm is over, all living creatures come to the surface, taking their place in the natural cycle; this is rendered by a choral of flutes, which come as a true sunray.

Part V – Allegretto – “Hirtengesang – Frohe und dankbare Gefunhle nach dem Sturm” (Pastoral Song – Feelings of joy and gratitude after the Storm) is a hymn of gratitude towards nature. This part, constructed as a sonata with rondo elements, impresses through its simplicity and constitutes a true idyll, a pastoral scene. This is a genuine idyll, infinitely strain from false musical-idyllic fantasies, so often reminding of Arcadian shepherds, in satin bowed shoes and sheep with pink or blue-sky ribbons. Beethoven’s Pastoral is just as majestic, through its simplicity, as Eroica, just as sincere and natural, wandering away from the artificial in the rhetoric parts.

Read more about all the other Beethoven symphonies

 Read more about Beethoven's music
  • The piano sonatas - Analysis of the sonata form and the most important Beethoven Piano Sonatas.
  • Trios - General discussion regarding Beethoven's trios for various instruments and ensembles.
  • Sonatas for Cello and Piano - Discussion about Beethoven's five cello and piano sonatas.
  • Sonatas for Violin and Piano - Overview of Beethoven's ten sonatas for violin and piano.
  • String Quartets - Brief analysis of Beethoven's seventeen string quartets.
  • The Opera "Fidelio" - The background, subject and influences of Beethoven's only opera.
  • The Concertos - Beethoven's five piano concertos, his violin concerto and triple concerto analyzed.
  • The Overtures - Brief overview of some of the most important Beethoven overtures.
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1. Beethoven: The Universal Composer by Edmund Morris;

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