VI. Pastoral symphony, F-major, opus 68


What does pastoral mean? It is an Italian word: it means pastoral play.

In the XVI. century pastoral plays were musical plays emanating a rural, idyllic atmosphere. It can be considered the predecessor of opera. It was most apprechiated in France.

Music: such an instrumental composition, which resembles the sound of shepherd’s pipes, bugles and bagpipes. /The Shepherd’s pipe and bugle can be heard in the beginning of the V. movement, while the bagpipe is present in the third part of the  III. movement./

Exceptionally, this symphony consists of five movements, as it includes a so called “stormmusic” movement, which serves as the “dramatic number” in the symphony: that is the IV. movement. See glossary: pastorale; idyll


IV. movement


Beethoven wrote the following above the first stave of notes of the movement: „Tempest. Thunderstorm.”

Tempo designation: Allegro, time signature: 4/4


In this movement we can observe how the composer, using the different tonal character of the instruments, magically creates – figuratively speaking – the following events:

o   The coming of the storm,

o   The fall of rain,

o   The whistle of the wind,

o   The outbreak, rage, and slow passing of the storm,

o   after which he presents the arch of the appearing rainbow in the sky with the slow melody and tone of the oboe; which he also repeats.


(Before the Classical music period, the instruments had different meaning: the oboe – distant drawing. Perhaps it is no coincidence, that Beethoven uses the oboe’s sound for the appearance of the rainbow.)


This type of music mimics the sounds of nature, for example the outbreak of a storm, its rage etc. – It can be described with a single word: “illustrative” – there is no trace of human emotions in it. In the structure of a symphony this can be viewed as a dramatic number. Then, after a short transition – without a pause – it proceeds with the V. movement. See later!


Here you can listen to te movement:               


Analysis of the II. movement.


The movement’s note: „At the brook.”

The movement’s form: free sonata form.

Tempo designation: Andante molto mosso, time signature: 12/8

The free sonata form means that the composer alters the form slightly and uses it with artistic freedom to fulfill the demands of the musical material.


I. Exposition:


The music begins with the plashing of the brook, the even rhythm of which is presented by the string instruments, and it proceeds throughout the movement; it appears in the themes of this soft lyric music several times.


During the plashing appears a short melody on the violin three times (consisting of six sounds), which imitates the song of the robin; this is the robin-motif.


Both the plashing of the brook and the song of the robin is nothing else than music that imitates the sounds of nature, in other words illustrative music. Beethoven forms a melody out of the robin-motif, which is played on string instruments; this is the first theme.


thema  greek – statement, preposition, principle; music: a melody, also known as musical statement, musical idea; a short, divided, closed unit; a simple tune that is repeated and developed in a piece of music. Not simply a melodic figure, but harmony, rhythm, dinamycs and its organic constituents.


This music reveals some emotions, the emotions of a human enraptured by nature, and of the connection between man and nature. After this the musical material is repeated with more beautiful and enriched orchestration.


Following this sounds a melody on the violins, let us call it refrain,that is repeated twice; it is inimate, full of emotions. Throughout the movement this melody appears the most often, just like the refrain in a poem. Beethoven uses this melody to separate and link the musical themes and thematic elaborations.

Then comes a short but interesting musical section, which illustrates (and conventionalizes) the silence of nature; it appears five times, this is the silence-motif.


The silence-motif in a few words.  


Animals living in the forest live their lives instinctively and possess a refined perception of danger. Not even the smallest noise or distant rustle can escape their attention.


For example, in numerous movies we can see deer remain motionless for several moments, observing their surroundings suspiciously with their head held high; Is there any danger or approaching hostile animal threatening their lives?


Eyes pry into the distance.

Ears reveal strained attention.

Their nose can sense the smallest of breeze.


This is the moment when only silence is present. They listen to the silence and the messages it carries within.

For them, the silence means:

o   There is no danger, no disturbing circumstance,

o   Everything is alright, life can continue. 


After this, again we can hear the song of the robin three times. Then sounds for the third time the beginning of the melody of the first theme; but it does not end, rather, after a transition, it commences with the second theme on bassoon, which is repeated twice on cello. (Perhaps it is one of the most beautiful tonal shifts; if we do not listen carefully, we may not even notice it!)


The musical material of the transition is “constructed” of partly the first theme and partly the second theme; it can be indicated with: Transition: (1+2) – it can be understood better when listened to!


The second theme is remarkably intimate, emotional, telling about the emotions of a human enraptured by nature’s beauty. We can hear the plashing of the brook throughout the second theme as well.

Next, Beethoven – after a short transition – repeats the melody of the second theme twice, and after another transition (in which we slowly enter the concluding refrain of the exposition, and epilogue), the refrain sounds four times, which is concluded by the epilogue (end section). (The melody of the epilogue was created from the refrain’s melody!)

What is worthy of note: the musical material of the epilogue gradually softens and fades away, just like how the small waves created by a stone thrown into the water become smoother and smoother. 


Now we are familiar with the musical material of the Exposition, and the whole movement! The thematic elaboration as well as the reexposition and the music of the coda – with minimal exceptions – is based on the musical material of the exposition.


Observation: thanks to the fact that the musical structure of the movement becomes visible, – and not only the main structural units, but also their detailed musical material –, we can observe how often repetition in music occurs. What is even more important is that we can make certain that the motifs and themes present in the statement of the theme – which is included in the exposition – determine the subject and material of the whole movement!



II. Elaboration:


In the exposition we became acquainted with the melody of the plashing of the brook and the song of the robin, and the first and second theme. This section presents the arrangement of the robin-motif, the first theme: in a slightly more beautiful, intimate way, and with richer orchestration. The arrangement can be divided into three sections, which are separated and connected by the “refrain’s melody”.


a/ All sections begin with the plashing of the brook. Another forest bird joins the song of the robin, the yellowhammer. This is a short ascending passage (consisting of six sounds). It repeats four times, alternately with the robin-motif.

In this section, along with the plashing of the brook we can hear the song-competition of the two birds, that evolves into the dialogue of two aerophone instruments, the clarinet and the oboe; then the section closes with the refrain, repeated three times.  


b/ In the second section the plashing is present along with the robin-motif, which is followed by the dialogue, then the refrain concludes the section.


c/ In the third section the plashing of the brook appears in richer orchestration, then we can hear the second half of the first theme. This is followed by a smaller musical climax, and finally the third section, and the elaboration, ends with the music of plashing.



III. Reexposition


According to the rules of the sonata form, the musical material introduced in the exposition is repeated: plashing of the brook, robin-motif – here we can again hear the yellowhammer-motif –, followed by the first and second theme (with transitions), and then the refrain. (We should listen to the music on the ppt-presentation, while observing the flow chart! The reexposition is not exactly the same as the exposition, it is shorter, more concise; Here Beethoven is summarizing, since he handles the sonata form with artistic freedom.)



IV. Now, the coda:


After a harmonic preparation the orchestra goes silent, and music imitating the sound of birds begin: the solo of the nightingale, quail and cuckoo trio can be heard, then there is a refrain, and following that comes again the song of the bird-trio, commencing with the repetition of the refrain four times, marking the end of the movement.


Before we would listen to the whole movement I will try to explain with words the message and mood of the music, the way I feel it.


In our country and worldwide more and more people live in smalltowns or bg cities. Whether we like it or not, we live our lives enclosed by walls – either at home or at a workplace.

Everywhere, we walk on concrete pavements, drive on smooth asphalt;

and from dawn till dusk familiar racket and noise trouble our more and more sensitive nervous system, as we drift further and further from Rousseau’s twohundred-year-old call: Back to nature!


Many of us cannot even imagine what a wonderful experience it is to go hiking or spend a short time strolling in the forest.

Only to take delight in nature’s peaceful beauty, to get caught up in its pleasant silence. To listen to the soft, gentle sound of leaves, the forest birds’ shrill songs and trills, that can be heard clearly, resonating among the foliage. Every tree is a concert hall, where the song, the dance, and the music is everlasting.


The rays of the sun lace through the mysterious half-light of the forest; here and there the light glints on the surface of the water in small pits by the forest path, on the wings of a dragonfly resting on the tip of a leaf, and on the wobbly quivering lacy spiderwebs on the bushes along the path.


Our sight dwells with pleasure upon the new colours of the autumn trees, or upon the velvet carpet of the verdant glades. We admire with envy the line of red berries that smile like rubies on the bushes.


Between curvy banks runs a narrow brook; from time to time the rhythm of its monotonous plashing is interrupted by the songs and melodies of the masterful singers of the forest.

May I ask: When was the last time you listened?


This mood is expressed by Beethoven in a confessional manner so intimately, like no composer before or after him could. He loved forests and nature passionately, and whenever he could, he strolled in the forests near Vienna. (Let us listen to the music in the ppt-presentation!)



Analysis of the V. movement.


Beethoven wrote the following above the first stave of notes: „Shepherd’s song. Feelings of joy and gratitude after the storm”.

The movement’s form: szabad szonátaforma.

Tempo designation: Allegretto, time signature: 6/8


I. Exposition:


The music of the movement starts with the horn-motif, which is repeated several times; the clarinet begins, followed by the horn.


What could the message of the horn-motif be? I will try and put it to words:


The horn-motif evokes the ancient pastoral life. Long ago, when people’s main activity was keeping livestock, shepherds and herdsmen living in the mountains signaled each other and sent messages – nowadays we would say “communicated” – with pipes and horns.


 Often they were pasturing real far from each other, but the sound of the pipes and horns flew far. Presumably, the primary signals were warnings of danger, for example “A storm is coming!”, “The forest is on fire!”, “I require help!” – we cannot be sure any more….


Beethoven creates a melody out of the horn-motifs: this is the first theme (first musical statement, musical thought), also known as pastoral melody, or paean, which is repeated twice in variational arrangements, in which the orchestration is enriched, and the dynamics intensify.

This melody, the first theme, expresses human feelings; the relationship between men and nature, and the love of nature.

Let us take a glance at the movement’s note: “Shepherd’s song. Feelings of joy and gratitude after the storm.”

I suggest, or rather ask you to read the article entitled “On the level of imagination” found under the “Selections” section.


I will try and describe the natural image that appears before us after the storm:


…after the storm had released its rage, we hear the rumble of the sky ever fainter. The dark clouds had passed, and the arch of the rainbow slowly appears…


The sun shines again, mountains and valleys bathe in its light, the sky is shining, - woods and fields gain their beautiful colours again,


The sky’s shepherd drives the fleecy clouds above the mountains,


Birds preen, colorful butterflies circle, animals once terrified by the storm appear: the tame deer, the shy rabbits; life is starting again.


What emotions could fill the shepherd?


Let us rejoice, for the storm had passed and everything is alright!

Let us rejoice, for the sky is clear again, peace has returned.  

Let us rejoice, for lie is ample and beautiful!!



This passage also shows us how Beethoven composes. Just like nature. Something large, from something small; from something simple, something great! The planted wheat grain sprouts, grows and finally ears. The planted sapling grows, spreads, and four years later ripes fruit.


If we accept that in Beethven’s music the whole universe is reflected, then in this small passage there is much more than the paean of shepherds, because Beethoven lifts this musical theme – this extremely simple melody – to the rank of heavens and hymns, widens the musical thought to a universal level, which advocates the joy of a lifestyle for each and every one of us.


Why do humans live? – a poet asks, then answers it this way:

„For happiness, even if little. To find a true friend, a loving mate, in good and bad. So that we may not be alone; for community to welcome us within their nest.”


And we could continue: to find pleasure in our work, to rejoice over the slightest good, to be glad for the success of our fellow man; I need not go no.


Another observation: In this movement the beginning musical passage is: ho-m-r 1 1v 1V – the “cause” itself – every development, every musical event – is the “effect”- both philosophiocally and logically.


Following this comes the transition part. Scientific literature call the musical material between the first and secnd theme interlude. Beethoven forms a motif from the last two sounds of the first theme, this is the so called shrieking-figure, which is repeated several times (here, two times), ascending higher and higher, carrying you away. Next to this upward repetition joins a small, downward little melodic figuration, which is again improved, and from which evolves the second theme with a dance-like rhythm, repeated three times. (Always moving downward, precisely every 4 seconds.)

I advice you to listen to the transition passage several times! /Ppt, slide #22!/


The second theme is closed by the epilogue, whose melody is repeated. With this ends the xposition; and now we are familiar wit the musical material of the whole movement.





The elaboration can be divided into two sections.

1./ The first section begins with the repetition of the horn-motif, then we can hear the first theme once. The second repetition does not end, the melodic line alters, – it is called: the beginning of the first theme –, then after a transition Beethoven introduces a new, second theme full of emotions. This is followed by the consequent part of the second theme, which is repeated. This second theme is the true, heavily emotional theme, melody of the movement.


2./ In the second section we can hear the horn-motifs, mainly in bass, which are “decorated by” the rapid violin scale passages.  



Reexposition (or reprise)

Is next, which begins with the repetition of the horn-motif, followed by three variants of the first theme, then after a transition we hear the dance-like second theme, finally closed by the epilogue.





The sound of the additional horn-motif signals the beginning of the coda, then we can hear the beginning of the first theme (truly poetic!), which evolves into a smaller orchestral climax. Again come the horn-motifs, then the first theme in a variational arrangement (on bassoon), then the beginning of the fisrt theme, which evolves into the true climax of the movement.




In the finale, Beethoven forms a new melody out of the horn-motifs, let us call this the farewell-melody, which is the most intimate from among all the melodies; its material is concluded, and the horn-motifs begin as if they are heard from the summit of distant mountains, and with two orchestral chords the movement ends, as well as the symphony.


The farewell-melody is best described with the often quoted Shakespeare lines:


“That strain again! it had a dying fall:

O, it came o’er my ear like the sweet sound,

That breathes upon a bank of violets,

Stealing and giving odour!”



I tried to put the message of the melody to words:


Nature is preparing for its usual, everyday rest..


Slowly swrling clouds settle themselves on the tall pinnacles of the proud peaks.


The red disc of the sun quickly descends on the horizon. (When was the last time you saw it?) It sends golden woven rays as farewell, and colours the sky’s blue curtains with its scarlet shades.  


It I colder and colder, the forest animals return to their peaceful homes, or create occasional nests for the night; the forest goes slowly silent.


The flock retunrs to their pen, huddling together; the twilight stealthily falls.


In a sheltered valley the tired shepherd returns to his simple little shack, and after a humble meal goes to sleep.


A day has ended, peace and quiet preserves the landscape. Everything is silent.


Before listening to the V. movement in whole, I suggest we listen the IV. movement, so we could experience the music that follows the storm even deeper: the blossoming natural images, human feelings.


Analysis of the III. movement


The movement’s note: „Cheerful peasant revel.”

The movement’s form: „similar to scherzo” (this means, that the composer slightly depart from the strict rules of the scherzo form)

Tempo designation: Allegro, time signature: 3/4 (the same metre as of the English waltz, now, however, we are not listening to English waltz)


The movement depicts three rural images. (Here, no flow chart is necessary, as I have given the main points of time.)


A./ Rural revel. The sounding music depicts the hastily gathering people for the revel. Following this we hear a dance of ländler-rhythm, but lifted to the rank of Classical style. This rural image is ruled by these two melodies; these are repeated in alternation. /landler/


B./ Rural musicians. Humorous, comic depiction of the rural musicians, who while playing fall asleep from time to time, and when they wake they blow a sudden sound – always the same sound, motif –; this is the three sounds of the bassoon.                                                                         


C./ The boot-stamping dance of the villagers. The name is excellent for the music’s character, no explanation s needed.                          


As soon as the three rural images end, they are repeated, unaltered. The scherzo begins for the third time as well, but the dance stops, he orchestra goes silent; silence means change; the next is the dramatic number, the IV. Movement, whose note is: „Tempest. Thunderstorm.”



Analysis of the I. movement:


The movement’s note: ”Cheerful feelings awake upon arriving to the village.”

The movement’s form: sonata form.

Tempo designation: Allegro ma non troppo,  time signature: 2/4

The aesthetical quality characteristic of the movement’s music is „idyllic”. The music is not dramatic, rather harmony that emanates peace and tranquility.




The music begins with the first theme right away, then one of the motifs of the melody is repeated again and again (thirteen times); after the repetitions the first theme starts twice: first on oboe, then on the solo of the klarinét and bassoon, finally the first theme unfolds in its full beauty on full orchestra. Now the image of the peaceful village unfolds before us.


After a Transitiont passage – it consists of repetitions. The effect of the music is similar to the event when, while strolling, we stop here and there to listen to nature’s silence.


The second theme follows, which contains two melodies simultaneously. One melody is played on violins, the other on cellos. When repeated, the two instruments are swapped. When repeated for the third time, we here the tunes on the whole orchestra, with stronger and stronger dynamics.  


After this we hear the third theme. The first half of the melody has strong dynamics, while the second half has a softer tone, and is repeated.


Then the powerful closing theme follows, which is based on a short motif (consisting of three sounds), and this quick motif is repeated three times; first moving upward, then downward. After a short pause this is repeated, then only one of its motifs is repeated countless times, slowly whortenned and fading away.


We are now familiar with the musica material of the exposition (and the whole movement as well), which can be listened to in whole in the ppt-presentation. According to the rules of the sonata form, the presented musical material is repeated.  





The elaboration can be divided into two parts.


a./ In the first section we hear the beginning of the first theme, then the constant repetition of  one of its motifs – called theme-motif – while the orchestration is enriched, and we arrive to a smaller dynamic climax.  (the number of repetitions within the two sections of the elaboration is 72 altogether)

After some time, the series of repetitions is interrupted by the play of the violin and the bassoon.


b./ In the second section, the motivic play continues, then, after the dialogue of the “vi-ba” (violin-bassoon) comes the repetition of the motiv chosen from the second part of the theme’s melodya, which similarly reaches a smaller climax. This is followed by a light motivic material, which serves as a reexposition, or more presicely, as preparation for the entry of the first theme.




As soon as the first theme sounds on the whole orchestra, the music is structured the same way as how it was structured in the exposition. (In the Ppt-presentation, let us compare the two lines of the flow chart!)  




As the motif-repetitions gradually fade away, the beginning of the first theme begins, which turns into a motif; it is the triplet-motif of the closing theme, which repeats several times before evolving into a musical climax. The motif is reduced to a single sound, and retains only its rhythm, while the volume gradually goes silent. 


The conclusion begins with a motif – called concluding-motif –, which is joined by the dialogue of the clarinet and the bassoon. As usual, in the concluding section Beethoven recalls the beginning of the first theme, whose melody is take over by the flute, finally “two pleasant chords” close the movement.


Summary of the I. movement in a few words


Beethoven was fond of the tranquility of the rural landscape, and its sight that emanates peace, “the harmony of rural life”, and whenever he could he traveled to the countryside.


When we listen to the movement, let us think about the sentence Beethoven wrote on the top of the first page of the printed music: ”Cheerful feelings awake upon arriving to the village.”


This is what this music is all about: solely human feelings. In it, we cannot find “illustrative” music that would imitate nature, like, for example in the II. and IV. movement. The fundamental mood is cheerful and merry throughout. Sir George Grove, (1820-1900) English engineer and composer described this movement as follows: “Its atmosphere is that of the May breeze”


Its mood is idyllic, its melodies soft, fluent. This is the purpose of the orchestration and the many intertwining motifs. It is also distant from the harsh, dramatic idiom and sound, and it is free of discordance and usage of sharp contrasts, etc.


It is just like lyric poetry. Music, that is about the feelings of humans longing and searching for tranquility, which is evoked by the simplicity and peace of the rural landscape – both in the harmony of the music and within our soul. And this was not merely true two hundred years ago, it is also true – perhaps even more true – today.

Beethoven has written the following in the score: “Pastoral symphony, or remembrance of rural life. Rather an expression of emotion, then painting.”


Before listening to the whole movement, I advise you to read the poem of the roman poet, Quintus Horatius Flaccus, entitled The Praises of a Country Life, which can be found in the Selections section


Reading the poem helps to fully grasp the atmosphere and mood of the music.



Concluding remarks:


This music tells us about the tranquility of village life, the majestic calm of nature, the secrets of silence and the harmony of peace; and it told the same at the first performance, which was held at the hall of the Theater an der Wien in Vienna on the 22th of December, 1808.

Bence Szabolcsi musicologist wrote the following about this piece:


„…we cannot ponder whether what we hear is a painted scenery or lifeless music schemed in advance; it is Vienna in the 19th century, or rather, the timeless wooded landscapes of Europe.”






idyll greek (eidüllion: „small image”) – a work of art or art piece that presents life or a part of life in a beautified form as simple and happy, without problems.

Idyll is created most often when the naïve method of glorification fills the whole piece of life. The idyllic method of portrayal can be found in almost every period of arts, however, it can only be among the characteristics of outstanding works of art in exceptional cases. It is the mostly the genre of rococo, the biedermeier, and rarely, classicism.

In literature idyll had a mush greater historical role. However, later it was pushed to the periphery, and it became the genre of operettes, and the shallow, cheap entertainment – prose and films. idyllic greek-latin  1. simple, natural, peaceful 2. intimate, pleasant and delightful in its gentleness  < vissza


ländler – /landler/, 

The most widespread folkdance in Beethoven’s time. Slow and waltz-like with a ¾ time signature; it was in fashion not only in the Austrian region, but also formerly in  Bavaria < vissza


pastorale italian i. e. pastoral play, rural atmosphere, idyll; it played a major role in France in the XVII-XVII. Century as pastoral opera and as a love scene in a rural environment. < vissza


pastoral play play with an idyllic theme, with shepherd characters. It became a convetion in the Renaissance to write eclogues in the vernacular. It is akin to mythological and allegorical plays.

Poliziano, the famous humanist was the first to write a mythological play at the age of 18 /Orfeo, 400 lines, 1472/. From a standpoint of content and form it was lifted to artistic levels by Tasso /Amnita, 1573/. A worldwide known example is Guarino’s Pastor fido /1590/. It was in fashion in the XVII. Century in France.