Symphony No. 6 (Beethoven)

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Symphony No. 6
by Ludwig van Beethoven
Beethoven sym 6 script.PNG
Part of a sketch by Beethoven for the symphony
Other namePastoral Symphony
KeyF major
OpusOp. 68
PeriodClassical period
FormSymphony
Based onNature
Composed1802 (1802)–1808
DedicationPrince Lobkowitz
Count Razumovsky
DurationAbout 40 minutes
MovementsFive
ScoringOrchestra
Premiere
DateDecember 22, 1808
LocationTheater an der Wien, Vienna
ConductorLudwig van Beethoven

The Symphony No. 6 in F major, Op. 68, also known as the Pastoral Symphony (German: Pastorale[1]), is a symphony composed by Ludwig van Beethoven and completed in 1808. One of Beethoven's few works containing explicitly programmatic content,[2] the symphony was first performed in the Theater an der Wien on 22 December 1808[3] in a four-hour concert.[4]

Background[edit]

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",[5] 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.

Instrumentation[edit]

The symphony is scored for the following instrumentation:

Form[edit]

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 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.

I. Allegro ma non troppo[edit]

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."[6]

II. Andante molto mosso[edit]

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).

Cadenza of bird calls in second movement; bird species are noted in German.

III. Allegro[edit]

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.[7]

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.

IV. Allegro[edit]

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.[8]

V. Allegretto[edit]

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.

In film[edit]

The symphony was used in the 1940 animated film Fantasia, albeit with alterations in the length of the piece made by conductor Leopold Stokowski.

Excerpts from the first movement were featured in the death scene in the 1973 science fiction film Soylent Green.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Symphony No. 6 in F Major, Op. 68 Pastorale (Schott), ed. Max Unger, pg. viii
  2. ^ Jones, David W. (1996). Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 (Cambridge Music Handbooks). Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-45684-5.
  3. ^ Jones, David W. (1996). Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 (Cambridge Music Handbooks). Cambridge University Press. p. 1. ISBN 978-0-521-45684-5.
  4. ^ Symphony No. 6 in F Major, Op. 68 Pastorale (Schott), ed. Max Unger, pg. xi
  5. ^ The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed., Stanley Sadie (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), vol. 20, p. 396.
  6. ^ Program notes for the Cleveland Baroque Orchestra
  7. ^ Theodor W. Adorno, Beethoven: The Philosophy of Music, edited by Rolf Tiedemann, translated by Edmund Jephcott. Stanford: Stanford University Press (1998): 111. "The Scherzo is, no doubt, the model for Bruckner's scherzi. ... The caricatured dance with the famous syncopation is practically as independent of the Scherzo itself as a trio, and is also in the same key. The movement is self-contained like a suite of three dances."
  8. ^ The parallel is noted by Rosen (1997:402), who suggests that the Sixth Symphony be regarded as fundamentally a four-movement work, the storm music serving an extended introduction to the finale.

References[edit]

External links[edit]