|Symphony No. 6|
|by Ludwig van Beethoven|
Part of a sketch by Beethoven for the symphony
|Other name||Pastoral Symphony|
|Duration||About 40 minutes|
|Date||December 22, 1808|
|Location||Theater an der Wien, Vienna|
|Conductor||Ludwig van Beethoven|
The Symphony No. 6 in F major, Op. 68, also known as the Pastoral Symphony (German: Pastorale), is a symphony composed by Ludwig van Beethoven and completed in 1808. One of Beethoven's few works containing explicitly programmatic content, the symphony was first performed in the Theater an der Wien on 22 December 1808 in a four-hour concert.
Beethoven was a lover of nature who spent a great deal of his time on walks in the country. He frequently left Vienna to work in rural locations. The composer said that the Sixth Symphony is "more the expression of feeling than painting", a point underlined by the title of the first movement.
The first sketches of the Pastoral Symphony appeared in 1802. It was composed simultaneously with Beethoven's more famous--and more fiery--Fifth Symphony. Both symphonies were premiered in a long and under-rehearsed concert in the Theater an der Wien in Vienna on 22 December 1808.
The symphony is scored for the following instrumentation:
The symphony has five movements, rather than the four typical of symphonies of the Classical era. Beethoven wrote a programmatic title at the beginning of each movement:
|No.||German title||English translation||Tempo marking||Key|
|I.||Erwachen heiterer Empfindungen bei der Ankunft auf dem Lande||Awakening of cheerful feelings on arrival in the countryside||Allegro ma non troppo||F major|
|II.||Szene am Bach||Scene by the brook||Andante molto mosso||B♭ major|
|III.||Lustiges Zusammensein der Landleute||Merry gathering of country folk||Allegro||F major|
|IV.||Gewitter, Sturm||Thunder, Storm||Allegro||F minor|
|V.||Hirtengesang. Frohe und dankbare Gefühle nach dem Sturm||Shepherd's song. Cheerful and thankful feelings after the storm||Allegretto||F major|
The third movement ends on an imperfect cadence that leads straight into the fourth. The fourth movement leads straight into the fifth without a pause. A performance of the work lasts about 40 minutes.
The symphony begins with a placid and cheerful movement depicting the composer's feelings as he arrives in the country. The movement, in 2
4 meter, is in sonata form, and its motifs are extensively developed. At several points, Beethoven builds up orchestral texture by multiple repetitions of very short motifs. Yvonne Frindle commented that "the infinite repetition of pattern in nature [is] conveyed through rhythmic cells, its immensity through sustained pure harmonies."
The second movement is another sonata-form movement, this time in 12
8 and in the key of B♭ major, the subdominant of the main key of the work. It begins with the strings playing a motif that clearly imitates flowing water. The cello section is divided, with just two players playing the flowing-water notes on muted instruments, and the remaining cellos playing mostly pizzicato notes together with the double basses.
Toward the end is a cadenza for woodwind instruments that imitates bird calls. Beethoven helpfully identified the bird species in the score: nightingale (flute), quail (oboe), and cuckoo (two clarinets).
The third movement is a scherzo in 3
4 time, which depicts country folk dancing and reveling. It is in F major, returning to the main key of the symphony. The movement is an altered version of the usual form for scherzi, in that the trio appears twice rather than just once, and the third appearance of the scherzo theme is truncated. Perhaps to accommodate this rather spacious arrangement, Beethoven did not mark the usual internal repeats of the scherzo and the trio. Theodor Adorno identifies this scherzo as the model for the scherzos by Anton Bruckner.
The final return of the theme conveys a riotous atmosphere with a faster tempo. The movement ends abruptly, leading without a pause into the fourth movement.
The fourth movement, in F minor, depicts a violent thunderstorm with painstaking realism, building from just a few drops of rain to a great climax with thunder, lightning, high winds, and sheets of rain. The storm eventually passes, with an occasional peal of thunder still heard in the distance. There is a seamless transition into the final movement. This movement parallels Mozart's procedure in his String Quintet in G minor K. 516 of 1787, which likewise prefaces a serene final movement with a long, emotionally stormy introduction.
The finale, which is in F major, is in 6
8 time. The movement is in sonata rondo form, meaning that the main theme appears in the tonic key at the beginning of the development as well as the exposition and the recapitulation. Like many classical finales, this movement emphasizes a symmetrical eight-bar theme, in this case representing the shepherds' song of thanksgiving.
The coda starts quietly and gradually builds to an ecstatic culmination for the full orchestra (minus "storm instruments") with the first violins playing very rapid triplet tremolo on a high F. There follows a fervent passage suggestive of prayer, marked by Beethoven pianissimo, sotto voce; most conductors slow the tempo for this passage. After a brief period of afterglow, the work ends with two emphatic F-major chords.
Excerpts from the first movement were featured in the death scene in the 1973 science fiction film Soylent Green.