Symphony No. 6 (Beethoven)  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 6 in F major (Op. 68), known as the Pastoral Symphony, was completed in 1808. One of Beethoven's few works of program music, the symphony was labeled at its first performance with the title "Recollections of Country Life".


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 locales. He was, however, not the first composer of his time to depict nature symphonically; for example, Joseph Haydn's oratorio The Seasons, premiered in 1802, likewise portrayed the loveliness of nature, dancing peasants, a thunderstorm, bird calls, and so on. Beethoven did not write another oratorio, but a symphony, and thus escaped from the overly-literal character that a libretto would have imposed. As the composer said, the Sixth Symphony is "a matter more of feeling than of painting in sounds", and the same point is made in the title he attached to the first movement (see below).

The first sketches of this symphony appeared in 1802. The symphony has a plot, storyline, and programmatic titles; Beethoven remarked, "It is left to the listener to find out the situations ... Anyone that has formed any ideal of rural life does not need titles to imagine the composer’s intentions."

The Pastoral Symphony was composed simultaneously with Beethoven's more famous—and more fiery—Fifth Symphony. It was premiered along with the Fifth in a long and somewhat underrehearsed concert in the Theater an der Wien in Vienna, on December 22 1808. It was received rather coldly, mainly due to the excitement caused by its more flamboyant counterpart. Although the Sixth Symphony contains some of Beethoven's most beautiful writing, the crowds had been wanting another bold and adventurous work, and the relatively calm and introspective composition was not wholly to their liking.

Since this inauspicious beginning, however, the work has become one of the central works of the symphonic repertoire. It is a favorite of many listeners and is frequently performed and recorded today.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Symphony No. 6 (Beethoven)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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