Beethoven Finishes His Sixth Symphony

Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 6 in F major (Op. 68), known as the Pastoral Symphony, was completed in 1808.

One of Beethoven's few works of program music, the symphony was labeled at its first performance with the title "Recollections of Country Life".

Beethoven was a lover of nature who spent a great deal of his time on walks in the country. He frequently left Vienna to work in rural locales. He was, however, not the first composer of his time to depict nature symphonically; for example, Joseph Haydn's oratorio The Seasons, premiered in 1802, likewise portrayed the loveliness of nature, dancing peasants, a thunderstorm, bird calls, and so on. Beethoven did not write another oratorio, but a symphony, and thus escaped from the overly-literal character that a libretto would have imposed. As the composer said, the Sixth Symphony is "a matter more of feeling than of painting in sounds", and the same point is made in the title he attached to the first movement.

Symphony No. 6 in F major, op. 68 ,“The Pastoral” was written almost simultaneously with The 5th Symphony, but differs from it in theme. If Symphony No.5 deals with the struggle and the joy of victory, “The Pastoral” represents the expression of the love the composer holds for nature.

In a letter to Therese Malfatti in the summer of 1808, Beethoven said " How happy I am to be able to walk among the shrubs, the trees, the woods, the grass and the rocks! For the woods, the trees and the rocks give man the resonance he needs."

This programmatic endeavor is clearly expressed through the suggestive title of the symphony, as well as through the titles of each segment of it, through this initiating the later direction of his programmatic symphonies and even of his symphonic poems.

Beethoven rose much higher than his predecessors who tried to capture the gist of nature, because he places man with his feelings and sensitivity in the heart of nature. And this is confirmed by the very title he places on the cover of the first edition (Breitkoph & Hartel) and that is: "Pastoral-Sinfonie oder Erinnerung an das Landleben. (Mehr Ausdruck der Emphindung als Mahlerey.)" – “Pastoral Symphony or Recollection of the Life in the Countryside”

The Sixth, the Pastoral, Beethoven’s evocation of the countryside, and the only time Beethoven ever wrote down on paper exactly what it was he was trying to represent. Joyful feelings on being in the countryside. Bird calls, a running stream, a peasant dance, a storm, the shepherds’ hymn of thanks after the storm has passed.

Again, Beethoven had witnessed country folk swirling round to infectious rhythms, and he recreated them in this symphony. Beethoven loved nature: this is his homage to it.