While Beethoven's 5th symphony is the best known, his Symphony No. 6 in F major, Opus 68 "Pastoral" is among the best loved of his symphonies by those who know him best. With a total of five movements, after the 9th symphony it is the next longest. Here Beethoven expresses that expansive vision that is his signature nature. With the exception of the 9th, the breadth of this work is unsurpassed in the decades that came after it. It wasn't until Mahler in the latter part of the 19th Century when the romantic symphony began to expand beyond the breadth of Beethoven, and owes it's expansion to his insight and clarity. As with the 5th, in the opening here Beethoven relies on repetition and buildup of a few notes to the point of wonderful strength, never to be exhausted! It's wonderful to listen to and for this installment I wanted to find the absolute best performance I could find; and so, we return to Vienna and Christian Thielemann's handling of a performance once again by the Vienna Philharmonic. Unfortunately I was only able to find the first movement. However, if readers wish to explore these performances more in-depth, I've left a link to the official release of the Vienna Philharmonic's performances of all 9 of Beethoven's symphonies.
Fist things; if one desires to discover the frantic nature of Beethoven when working on his greatest symphonies, I find it interesting to observe his original manuscripts; which I doubt if anyone could make sense of apart from the apparent restless excitement he must have felt as the ideas and insight were imparted to him in a certain state of inspiration. Beethoven's scribbling shorthand does little justice to the final product.
The 6th is a "programatic" symphony, employing thematic elements that set a certain mood in celebration of nature. Rather than employing the typical Italian Tempo markings, Beethoven preferred to set the mood for each movement by description as follows:
I: "Erwachen heiterer Empfindungen bei der Ankunft auf dem Lande" (Awakening of Cheerful Feelings Upon Arrival in the Country): Allegro ma non troppo.
II: "Szene am Bach" (Scene at the Brook): Andante molto.
III: "Lustiges Zusammensein der Landleute" (Happy gathering of the Country Folk): Allegro.
IV: "Gewitter, Sturm" (Thunderstorm; Storm): Allegro.
V: "Hirtengesang. Frohe und dankbare Gefühle nach dem Sturm" (Shepherd's song; Cheerful and Thankful Feelings After the Storm): Allegretto.