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Symphony No. 6 in F major op.68 (Pastorale)
No major contrast to fifth symphony is conceivable as the one that premiered in the same concert (Vienna, December 22nd, 1808) sixth symphony, and yet both are connected by the similar design at the beginning: The first movements only start after a motto. And on closer inspection, the overall concepts turn out to be two complementary expressions of a common artistic idea: the utopia of identity achieved, namely in the fifth symphony as political liberation (written 'in tyrannos') and in the sixth symphony as achieved harmony between man and nature. In both cases it is a question of final symphonies, but in two different perspectives. The reasons for this are to be found in the internal dramaturgy. The sixth symphony is, against all tradition and conventions, five sentences, but with a three-stage internal plan. A glance at the orchestra already reveals the cyclical structure. The first two movements with the same chamber music ensemble (woodwinds, horns, strings) follow, merging without a break and thus forming a block of their own, three further movements with initially growing and, in the finale, medium orchestral, that is: In the third movement, trumpets (contrary to tradition, not in connection with timpani!) And in the fourth movement small flute, trombones and, only now, kettledrums are added, while in the final round song, a kind of compromise is made, as it were, by the small flute and the (threatening ) Timpani eliminated and the trumpets moderated comparatively. As the change in orchestral line-up clearly shows, the 'thunderstorm' movement before the finale is the outer climax of the symphony, since it is where the greatest development of power occurs, but the inner climax is of course the final movement towards which the whole symphony is heading. The programmatic title of the finale (Shepherd song. Happy and grateful feelings after the storm) says this quite explicitly: It is about the unity of human beings (Shepherd song) and pacified nature (Calm after the storm). What the first two movements unfolded becomes a single song of praise in the finale.
The first movement shows people in nature (Awakening of cheerful sensations on arrival in the country), while the second movement (Scene by the brook) turns to the untouched being of nature itself. Regardless of the continuous block mentioned, the third and fourth sentences form a further pair of sentences, both in contrast to the first sentences of a stormy character and again first of the people (Village dance: fun gathering of the country folk) and then nature, this time in its unleashed, threatening form as a thunderstorm. The finale finally brings the conflict between man and nature, as threatenedly announced at the end of the village dance and then actually broke out in the fourth movement, to reconciliation and thus folds the overall development of the symphony together. Even the 'breakthrough' from minor to major in the fifth symphony When a dramatic event occurs, Beethoven invests, admittedly in a changed appearance, in order to make the transition from the threat of the elementary force of nature to peace and freedom evident, albeit in a natural-philosophical guise: the F minor of the thunderstorm movement is resolved In a sense of pleasure, in the pastoral (starting) key of F major, in which the symphony ends.
The sixth symphony is the epic sister of the dramatic, concentrated Fifth. The parallels down to the details are all the more striking. Both symphonies not only begin with a motto, but only really get going after a fermata. Furthermore, in both head movements, the initial motif is retained as a monothematic, because even the secondary themes are derived from it - as a lyrical variant. (In the fifth symphony The secondary theme is only a short episode anyway.) In both symphonies, the first movement, with all due respect for its richness of content, has the character of the 'preliminary', since only the finale brings the contentual fulfillment, the goal of the overall development. In keeping with its epic basic character, the sixth symphony on the (dramatic-discursive) motivic-thematic, even developing work and instead chooses the path of purely sonic processing of the uniform musical material, i.e. the expansion of a state instead of the principle of a dramatic intensification of the process. In the first movement, the idyll of a landscape spreads out, musically brought about by a sound surface statics unprecedented before Beethoven and a harmonious 'long-distance effect' that goes well into the late 19th century - just think of Wagner's natural scenes! - show in advance. In the development, which is otherwise the scene of greatest conflicts and dramatic nodal points for Beethoven (first movement of Eroica!), the area of the subdominant that is expressly not touched in the exposition becomes the starting point for four perspectively shifted sound surfaces (without modulation), which on the one hand are motifically uniform, on the other hand seek areas that are more distant in key than the immediate fifth step relationships, namely those that are based on the relationship of thirds . As was later the case with Schubert and Bruckner, a sound surface is illuminated from different angles. For the first time in music history, something like 'mood' appears.
But mood in Beethoven is not yet the vague concept that it became in later music; rather, he means that of the outside world - in the case of the Pastoral is that nature and country life - affected sensations. In this sense, Beethoven's note means his sixth symphony be a “memory of rural life”, not a nostalgic return to something irretrievable, but, on the contrary, a focus on something that is always possible: the perception of rural life, the subjective reflection of its appearances in an objectively binding form. Even if Claude Debussy scoffed at the fact that it almost smelled of a stable when he heard a performance, there is no question of cheap 'tone painting'. Even the well-known bird call point at the end of the second movement is, musically speaking, a special kind of solo cadenza of the woodwinds, a retarding moment before the conciliatory final gesture of the strings and, in terms of content, precisely the point of the inner action at which the voice of nature itself begins to sound. The violins afterwards represent the 'speaking' sphere of humans. As in all apparently 'tone painting' parts of the symphony, the 'naturalistic' bird calls are not captured here either - the cuckoo is known to sing the minor third in nature - but an analogy was found for this in the medium of music. Beethoven's compositional intention was to 'translate' the natural phenomena into music and he therefore also writes in the subtitle of Pastoral the words "more expression of feelings than painting", which means nothing other than "more expression of feelings when looking at rural life than painting of rural life". In this respect, the content of the sixth symphony a walk of man through nature with genuinely musical means. How exactly Beethoven used his musical means for the sake of this idea is shown by the thunderstorm movement: While all other movements of the symphony describe a state, whereby the finale is basically one huge, imaginary measure, the thunderstorm is as discontinuous as only possible somehow within the Viennese classical sentence technique. The break-in of the directly resistant and thus frightening comes about. And just as suddenly as it came, the musical thunderstorm leaves again. In terms of composition, Beethoven clarifies this through the thematically analogous bracketing. In this movement, too, Beethoven maintains his principle of musical autonomy: It is not thunderbolts that are imitated, but their effect (on people), namely the surprising and terrifying about them is translated into musical structure, namely into a heterogeneous sequence that is permeated by Unpredictable disturbances of the normative clock structure, for example when, at the external climax, the trumpets suddenly come on violently on the fourth beat.
There is therefore no need to ask whether Beethoven's sixth symphony a 'program' symphony. The unfortunate division of instrumental music into 'programmatic' and 'absolute' (since Richard Wagner) belongs to the realm of traditional disintegration in the bourgeois age of music.
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