Classics Explained: BEETHOVEN - Symphony No. 6, 'Pastoral'

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Classics Explained: BEETHOVEN - Symphony No. 6, 'Pastoral'



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2 hours 33 minutes


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Classics Explained: BEETHOVEN - Symphony No. 6, 'Pastoral'

An exploration of Beethoven's Symphony no. 6 narrated by Jeremy Siepmann

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Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 6 in F major, Op. 68, "Pastoral": I. Awakening of Cheerful Feelings on Arriving in the Country

On Beethoven's Openings

Opening phrase of the 'Pastoral': ood, Symbolism and Musical Function

Musical Acorns: the outline of melody; the shape of a question

The 'question' in the 'Pastoral' repeated...

...and answered

The opening phrase ends on a note full of pregnant expectation

Starting with a stop

The rhythmic profile of the opening phrase; a two-part construction

Phrase One, Part One

Phrase One, Part Two

The properties of rhythmic ambiguity; the 'question' of Phrase One answered

Phrase Two: from meander to march

The makings of a conversation: contrast and variation

Repetition as a major factor, but it's never mere repetition; each time something new is added

From soft to loud and back again; instrumental enrichment from horns and double-basses

Mega-repetition: violins play exactly the same little fragment ten times in a row

But no two repetitions are quite the same; varieties of contrast

More variation: pitch rises; violins joined frist by the clarinet, then by the oboe

Return to opening idea, but with new instrumentation and articulation

Clarinets, horns, bassoons and flutes now join expansive variation

'New' insistent rhythm derived from the first four notes of the piece

With the dawn chorus, a whole forest is waking up; feelings of rapture

First violins play a derivative of the opening figure, joined by wind and strings

Sudden change of key, from the home key (tonic) to the dominant

Arrival at the hightly contrasting second main theme

Unusual properties of second main theme

Rhythmic clash between simultaneous groups of three beats and groups of two

winds fall selent as the violins and violas interrupt with a new theme

Winds answer with the same morse-like rhythm but at half the speed

Crescendo leads to strings' acceleration of the pace with no increase in tempo

Beginning of coda, directly based on morse-like rhythm of the main theme

Strings reiterate small fragment of the new theme 13 times in a row

A simple, rising violin phrase leads to a repeat of the Exposition

The nature and function of the Development section in sonata form; 'harmonic' rhythm explained

The nature of harmonic rhythm illustrated

A typically Beethovenian exercise in the frustration of expectation

Repetitiousness and magic effected largely through instrumental colour

Then come four, almost identical bars

Even greater magic, with sudden switch of key and tone colour

Entire Development section up to this point

The Development continued

Increased unease and suspense as harmonic rhythm accelerates

Arrival at the point of Recapitulation; back to the beginning, as a reminder

Beginning of Recapitulation

More Beethovenian frustrations of expectations which he himself has just set up

Harmonic rhythm speeds up, giving the impression of an accent on every beat

Prevailing mood restored; new theme from clarinets and bassoons

Violins and violas take up theme; horns, cellos, double-basses accompany

A hush falls, followed by a return of the movement's most familiar tag in strings

Clarinet takes up the running triplet figures of the main closing theme

First violins take up the opening phrase again, accompanied by double-basses

Beethoven slips in one last surprise; cue to complete movement

First movement (complete)

Ludwig van Beethoven: Second Movement: Scene by the Brook

General introduction; the birth of a melody

Brook music quickens; syncopated horns; theme changes hands; evocation of birdsong

The 'motto' theme introduced by violins and treated to round-like overlappings

Transitional 'bridge' theme sets off for new key group. But is it? And does it?

Will he, or won't he? Beethoven keeps us guessing

The run-up to the Second Group

Arrival at the Second Group; but where is the actual Second Subject?

A new tune is introduced by the bassoon

Tune is repeated three times

...which the full orchestra now takes up in varied form

Theme carried by flutes and first violins in a charmingly waltz-like development

A reminder of precedent

Back to the prevailing triple-metre with violins, bassoons and flutes

Another reminder of precedent...

...and a cue to some unexpected departures

The transformational magic of Beethoven's 'tone-painting' - and a new varation

Conversation of clarinet, flute and oboe on the way to the Development

Harmonic movement emphasised by violins; oboe takes up the First Subject

Flute and oboe discuss the First Subject, before arriving together at the Transition

Gains in volume and intensity lead to a new key-change

More thematic transformation through the agency of tone-colour

Harmonic fluideity - instability - as the central engine of the Development section

Harmonic instability, thematic dissolution increase, then lessen with approach of Recapitulation

Recap. and transformation: key and material are right, but what a change of presentation!

Just when we know what's coming, Beethoven changes the rules (or at least the harmony)

Transformation by reorchestration; switch to long sustained chords; then everything stops

The silence is broken by voices of nightingale (flute), quail (oboe) and cuckoo (clarinet)

First violins bring back motto theme

Cue to complete movement on CD 2

Second movement (complete)

Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 6 in F major, Op. 68, "Pastoral": III. Merry Gathering of Country Folk

Beethoven and the Scherzo: an introduction; Part One of opening phrase taken by the strings

Immediate response; Part One is answered by a march more singing, continuous legato

Entire orchestra gives out opening theme, this time fortissimo and with powerful accents

A mustical ball game. The contrast of this and the first two movements could hardly be greater

After quietly teasing suspense, Beethoven mocks village band, first the oboe, then the bassoon

Clarinet joins in, then horn takes the tune - the dance no longer boisterous but lyrical

Strings sweep the village musicians aside and hurtle us into the new, boisterous 'Trio' section

The air is alive with the sound of (mock) bagpipes, tambourines and fifes

Coda; begins as the movement itself begins, but soon diverges in harmony and instrumentation

Original layout compressed; order of events is changed nd Beethoven springs a big surprise

Third movement (complete)

Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 6 in F major, Op. 68, "Pastoral": IV. Thunderstorm

Unparalled portrait of nature's power over humanity, with some stupendous orchestration

Self-generating form and terror of total unpredictability; 'anxiety motif' from the violins

The 'lashing rain' motif - downward-driving arpeggios from the first violins and violas

The 'lightning' motif, and its recurrnece later in the movement

'Rain' motif, derived from descending scale pattern from the violins at the outest

Shivering tremolandos from the strings and increasingly eerie harmonies from the wind

Steady crescendo in strings; terrifying, downward spelling-out of chords in the violins

Extremes of dynamic contrasts; the unsettling, disturbing, undermining effects of chromaticism

Abandonment of melody, and most traces even of rhythm; sustained, discordant harmony

Storm dispersed, the sun reappears, bathing sodden earth below with its life-giving rays

Cue to complete preformance of Fourth Movement

Fourth movement (complete)

Ludwig van Beethoven: Fifth Movement: Shepherd's Song - Happy and Thankful Feelings After the Storm

'Yodelling' figure from clarinet, then horn, the violins, who introduce the main theme

Details of instrumental magic in the interplay of horns, cellos, clarinets and bassoons

Main theme heard three times in a row - and yet never the same way twice

Now we get the whole orchestra, playing full out, with violins all double-stopping

Transition to the next section, based on the last two notes of the main theme

The rhythmic basis of new transition theme, first in violas, then takes up by first violins

Another rhythmic details of extended transition comes increasingly into the foreground

...and is then heard in expanded version, taken in sequence by the strings, from the top down

New phrase, introduced by violins, brings us resoundingly back to the opening material

Main theme, re-orchestrated; unexpected drift into another key and a new, gently flowing theme

Hints of a return to main theme; long 'pedal point'; running commentary from the violins

Main theme returns, but significantly altered, and not entirely intact

Running commentary now heard in the middle, with alternating pizzicatos both above and below

Part Three of main theme given to entire orchestra, leading to final appearance of Theme two

Extended coda; overlapping variations of main theme, rather in the manner of a round

Suddenly the scene changes. A variation of the 'running commentary' cited in Tracks 34 and 36

The crowning glory, as the Shepherd's Song of Thanksgiving takes on a 'heavenly' magnificence

Cue into complete performance of Fifth Movement through the 'gateway' of the Fourth

Fourth and Fifth movements (complete)

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