As with Beethoven’s other concertos from this time period, this work has a relatively long first movement. (At twenty-five minutes, the Violin Concerto has the longest; Piano Concerto Nos. 4 and 5 each have opening movements of about twenty minutes.)
Portrait of Beethoven in 1804, when he had been working on the Sixth Symphony for two years.
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 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 composer said that the Sixth Symphony is “more the expression of feeling than painting”, a point underlined by the title of the first movement.
Lustiges Zusammensein der Landleute (Merry gathering of country folk): Allegro
Gewitter, Sturm (Thunder. Storm): Allegro
Hirtengesang. Frohe und dankbare Gefühle nach dem Sturm (Shepherd’s song; cheerful and thankful feelings after the storm): Allegretto
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.
Description of movements
Beethoven wrote a short descriptive note at the head of each movement.
I. Allegro ma non troppo
‘Awakening of cheerful feelings on arrival in the countryside.’
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, “the infinite repetition of pattern in nature [is] conveyed through rhythmic cells, its immensity through sustained pure harmonies.”
II. Andante molto mosso
‘Scene by the brook.’
This movement, titled by Beethoven “By the brook,” is in 12/8 meter; the key is B flat major, the subdominant of the main key of the work. The movement is in sonata form.
At the opening the strings play a motif that clearly imitates flowing water. The cello section is divided, with just two players playing the flowing-water notes on muted instruments, with the remaining cellos playing mostly pizzicato notes together with the double basses. Toward the end of the movement there 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).
‘Merry gathering of country folk.’
This 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 form of 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.
‘Shepherd’s song. Happy and thankful feelings after the storm.’
The finale is in F major and is in 6/8 time. The movement is written 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
Clara Schumann (née Clara Josephine Wieck; 13 September 1819 – 20 May 1896) was a German musician and composer, considered one of the most distinguished pianists of the Romantic era. She exerted her influence over a 61-year concert career, changing the format and repertoire of the piano recital and the tastes of the listening public. Her husband was the composer Robert Schumann. Together they encouraged Johannes Brahms. She was the first to perform publicly any work by Brahms. She later premiered some other pieces by Brahms, notably the Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel.
Clara Josephine Wieck was born in Leipzig on 13 September 1819 to Friedrich Wieck and Marianne Wieck (née Tromlitz). Marianne Tromlitz was a famous singer in Leipzig at the time and was singing solos on a weekly basis at the well-known Gewandhaus in Leipzig. The differences between her parents were irreconcilable, in large part due to her father’s unyielding nature. After an affair between Clara’s mother and Adolph Bargiel, her father’s friend, the Wiecks divorced in 1824 and Marianne married Bargiel. Five-year-old Clara remained with her father.
From an early age, Clara’s career and life was planned down to the smallest detail by her father. She daily received a one-hour lesson (in piano, violin, singing, theory, harmony, composition, and counterpoint), and two hours of practice, using the teaching methods he had developed on his own. In March 1828, at the age of eight, the young Clara Wieck performed at the Leipzig home of Dr. Ernst Carus, director of the mental hospital at Colditz Castle. There she met another gifted young pianist who had been invited to the musical evening, named Robert Schumann, who was nine years older. Schumann admired Clara’s playing so much that he asked permission from his mother to discontinue his law studies, which had never interested him much, and take music lessons with Clara’s father. While taking lessons, he took rooms in the Wieck household, staying about a year. He would sometimes dress up as a ghost and scare Clara, and this created a bond.
In 1830, at the age of eleven, Clara left on a concert tour to Paris via other European cities, accompanied by her father. She gave her first solo concert at the Leipzig Gewandhaus. In Weimar, she performed a bravura piece by Henri Herz for Goethe, who presented her with a medal with his portrait and a written note saying: “For the gifted artist Clara Wieck”. During that tour, Niccolò Paganini was in Paris, and he offered to appear with her. However, her Paris recital was poorly attended, as many people had fled the city due to an outbreak of cholera.
At the age of 18, Clara Wieck performed a series of recitals in Vienna from December 1837 to April 1838. Austria’s leading dramatic poet, Franz Grillparzer, wrote a poem entitled “Clara Wieck and Beethoven” after hearing Wieck perform the Appassionata sonata during one of these recitals. Wieck performed to sell-out crowds and laudatory critical reviews; Benedict Randhartinger, a friend of Franz Schubert (1797–1828), gave Wieck an autographed copy of Schubert’s Erlkönig, inscribing it “To the celebrated artist, Clara Wieck.”Frédéric Chopin described her playing to Franz Liszt, who came to hear one of Wieck’s concerts and subsequently “praised her extravagantly in a letter that was published in the Parisian Revue et Gazette Musicale and later, in translation, in the Leipzig journal Neue Zeitschrift für Musik.” On 15 March, Wieck was named a Königliche und Kaiserliche Kammervirtuosin (“Royal and Imperial Chamber Virtuoso”), Austria‘s highest musical honor.
The appearance of this artist can be regarded as epoch-making…. In her creative hands, the most ordinary passage, the most routine motive acquires a significant meaning, a colour, which only those with the most consummate artistry can give.
An anonymous music critic, writing of Clara Wieck’s 1837–1838 Vienna recitals