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Symphony No. 6 (Beethoven)

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Symphony No. 6
by Ludwig van Beethoven
Part of a sketch by Beethoven for the symphony
Other namePastoral Symphony
KeyF major
Composed1802 (1802)–1808
DedicationPrince Lobkowitz
Count Razumovsky
DurationAbout 40 minutes
Date22 December 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 alongside his fifth symphony in the Theater an der Wien on 22 December 1808 in a four-hour concert.[3][4]


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 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.

Frank A. D'Accone suggested that Beethoven borrowed the programmatic ideas (a shepherd's pipe, birds singing, streams flowing, and a thunderstorm) for his five-movement narrative layout from Le Portrait musical de la Nature ou Grande Symphonie, which was composed by Justin Heinrich Knecht (1752–1817) in 1784.[6]


The symphony is scored for the following instrumentation:


The symphony has five, rather than the four movements typical of symphonies preceding Beethoven's time, although there are no pauses between the last three movements. 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 unresolved cadence that leads straight into the fourth. A performance of the work lasts about 35-46 minutes, depending on the choice of tempo and whether the repeats in the 1st and 3rd movements are omitted.

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
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."[7]

II. Andante molto mosso[edit]

The second movement is another sonata-form movement, this time in 12
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 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.

Towards 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).

{#(set-global-staff-size 14)
\set Score.proportionalNotationDuration = #(ly:make-moment 1/13)
  \new StaffGroup <<
    \new Staff = "flute" \with {
      instrumentName = #"Fl."
    } {
        \new Voice = "up" \relative c'''{
          \set Staff.midiInstrument = #"flute"
          \stemUp \voiceOne
          \clef treble
          \once \hide TimeSignature
          \key bes \major
          \time 12/8
          g8^(^"Nachtigall." f) r g^( f) r g^( f) g16^(^> f) g^(^> f) g^(^> f) g^(^> f) f1.~\startTrillSpan f4.~ f16^( \stopTrillSpan  e f8) r
        \new Voice = "down" \relative c''{
          \stemDown \voiceTwo
          R1. R r2.
    \new Staff = "oboe" \with {
      instrumentName = #"Ob."
    } {
        \new Voice = "up" \relative c''' {
          \set Staff.midiInstrument = #"oboe"
          \stemUp \voiceOne
          \key bes \major
          r2. r4. r8^"Wachtel." r8 d16. d32 d8 r r r4 d16. d32 d8 r r r4 d16. d32 d8 r d16. d32 d8 r r
        \new Voice = "down" \relative c''{
            \stemDown \voiceTwo
            R1. R r2.
    \new Staff = "clarinet" \with {
      instrumentName = #"Cl."
    } {
       \new Voice = "up" \relative c''{
          \set Staff.midiInstrument = #"clarinet"
          \transposition bes
          \key c \major
          R1. e8^"Kukuk." c r r4. e8 c r r4. e8 c r e c r
          \new Voice = "down" \relative c''{
          s1. e8 c s s4. e8 c s s4. e8 c s e c s

III. Allegro[edit]

The third movement is a scherzo in 3
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.[8]

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 and 4
time, is the part where Beethoven calls for the largest instrumentation in the entire piece. It depicts a violent thunderstorm with painstaking realism, building from distant thunder (quiet tremolos on cellos and basses) and a few drops of rain (eighth-note passages on the violins) to a great climax with loud thunder (timpani), lightning (piccolo), high winds (swirling arpeggio-like passages on the strings), and heavy downpours of rain (16-note tremolo passages on the strings). With the addition of the trombones later in the movement, Beethoven makes an even more tremendous effect. The storm eventually passes, with an occasional peal of thunder still heard in the distance. An ascending scale passage on the solo flute represents a rainbow. 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.[9]

V. Allegretto[edit]

The finale, which is in F major, is in 6
time. The movement is in sonata rondo form, in an Intro-[A-B-A]-C-[A-B-A]-Coda structure. Like many finales, this movement emphasizes a symmetrical eight-bar theme, in this case representing the shepherds' song of thanksgiving.

The final A section starts quietly and gradually builds to an ecstatic culmination for the full orchestra (minus piccolo and timpani) with the first violins playing very rapid triplet tremolo on a high F. There follows a fervent coda 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 popular culture[edit]

  • The symphony was used in the 1940 Disney animated film Fantasia, albeit with mythology and alterations in the length of the piece made by conductor Leopold Stokowski.[10]
  • The beginning of the first movement is used in the "Itchy & Scratchy & Marge" episode of The Simpsons. The music underscores idealized scenes of children playing outside. The same excerpt would later be used again in the closing scene of the episode "Wild Barts Can't Be Broken", this time underscoring Springfield's elderly population having fun outside.
  • The first movement was used in the 1973 science fiction film Soylent Green (uncredited).
  • The first movement was also used in the beginning ice skating scene of 2005 Barbie fantasy movie Barbie and the Magic of Pegasus.

See also[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. ^ D'Accone, Frank (1996). "Musica Franca: Essays in Honor of Frank A. D'Accone". Festschrift Series. Pendragon Press: 596. ISSN 1062-4074.
  7. ^ Program notes for the Cleveland Baroque Orchestra
  8. ^ 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."
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ Culhane, John (1999). Walt Disney's Fantasia. Harry N. Abrams. ISBN 978-0-8109-8078-5.


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]