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  • Ian Dorich

Beethoven and his Symphony No 6 “Pastorale”

Beethoveen revolutionized classical and romantic era music with his programmatic Symphony No 6 (Pastorale). This sparked the romantic era and the use of a storyline, or program as a basis for composition. Beethoven’s programmatic works inspired other composers such as Berlioz, a french composer, who was well known for his other works such as Symphonie Fantastique which was dedicated to his infatuation for Harriet Smithson, a beautiful Anglo-Irish Shakespearean actress and Romeo et Julliete which was his own musical form of telling Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Because of Beethoveen’s addition to composition technique of the time, a gateway was provided for scores of other composers to emulate.

Beethoven, generally regarded as one of the greatest composers of all time, was born in Germany in the year 1770 at the height of the classical period.

Symphony No 6 by Beethoveen depicts a “Merry Gathering of Peasants” that is interrupted by a “Tempest, storm” as mentioned in an article by NPR. In his program notes, Beethoven writes “Pastoral Symphony, more an expression of feeling than painting. First piece: pleasant feelings, which awaken in men on arriving in the countryside. Second piece: scene by the brook. Third piece: merry gathering of country people, interrupted by the fourth piece: thunder and storm, which breaks into the fifth piece: salutary feelings combined with thanks to the Deity.” Interestingly enough this is the symphonic piece that Beethoveen wrote program notes for and only one of two symphonies that he named in his career. By using the sounds of the percussion, strings, brass, and woodwinds, Beethoven is able to portray not only the sound, but ignite in people the emotions one might feel in the stories he is telling.

The ability to tell or retell a story with the music was revived by Beethoveen’s 6th Symphony. This piece completely changed the composition, performed, and listened to music adding another dimension to the purpose of musicians and composers in western culture.

Examples of programmatic music of the Romantic Era:


“Beethoven: Symphony No 6.” Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra,

“Ludwig Van Beethoven.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.,


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