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1808 – Beethoven Symphony No. 6 (Pastoral)


1808 Ludwig van Beethoven Symphony No. 6 ‘Pastoral’
Movements I: Allegro ma non troppo ‘Awakening of joyful feeling on arrival in the country (F) II: Andante molto mosso ‘Scene by the brook’ (Bb) III: Scherzo: Allegro ‘Peasants merrymaking (Bb) IV: Allegro ‘Storm’ (f) V: Allegretto ‘Song of thanksgiving after the storm’ (F)
Instrumentation Strings, 2 flutes (plus piccolo), 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, timpani
 Overview  This symphony is very different in tone from its predecessor (i.e. No. 5), being mostly gentle and pastoral in tone. Beethoven offers programmatic titles (see above) and occasional notes (e.g. identifying bird songs) on the score so the narrative is much more explicit than, for example, Symphony No. 3.

See a full score here.

Essay Points
A) Overall form The five movements are driven partly by the loose pastoral narrative described by the movement titles.  Without the storm, the remaining movements broadly follow the traditional pattern, including Andante and Scherzo middle movements. Many later five-movement symphonies adopt this basic plan of an extra movement before the finale.
D) 3rd mov. / Minuet This movement is more rustic peasant dance than refined courtly minuet. It is unusual in its form in that the Trio is played twice, making five main sections in total, although the last repeat of the scherzo is considerably shortened.

In this extract you hear the first Trio section (a rusting sounding dance in 2/4) followed by the opening of the middle Scherzo (in a fast 3/4).

F) Dev. of orchestra Although the orchestra is no larger than that for fifth symphony, Beethoven uses some innovative effects, especially in the storm movement. The composer includes rumblings of thunder depicted by fast and dissonant writing in the lower strings and tremolo whilst there are dramatic flashes of lightning in the higher woodwind.

Beginnings of rumbling thunder:

Full thunderstorm


G) Harm. / tonality Diminished sevenths play a major role at the beginning of the storm movement.
H) Drama / progr. Each movement loosely depicts a scene from nature including the very obviously programmatic fourth, which represents a storm (see above). Beethoven also includes bird calls in the slow movement and a representation of a village band in the third. The idea of creating a symphony that depicted a relatively concrete sequence of events was enthusiastically picked up by some later Romantic composers.