Beethoven did not invent program music nor was he the

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Beethoven did not invent program music, nor was he the first to understand the capacity of music to convey physical gesture. His Sixth Symphony, though, is a magnificent and unsurpassed example of such musical attributes. The program is fairly simple. Each movement begins with a brief description of what the music is intended to convey: Movement I: “Awakening of cheerful feelings upon arrival in
the country” Movement II : “Scene by a brook” Movement III : “Merry gathering of the country people” Movement IV : “Thunderstorm” Movement V: “Shepherd’s song: Happy and thankful feelings after the storm” Symphonies at this time were normally four movements in length, but this one is five. An extra movement is inserted after the scherzo and trio, “Thunderstorm,” before final movement. Whether driven by programmatic or musical considerations, the addition of the “Thunderstorm” provides needed tension in what is otherwise a remarkably consonant, cheerful, and serene symphony. We will listen to two movements from the “Pastoral” Symphony: Movements I and IV . Let’s begin by taking a look at the score. Symphony No. 6, Score Let’s look at a facsimile of the 1 826 Leipzig edition, published by Breitkopf & Hartel.
“Pastoral” Symphony-First Movement 1 The opening movement of the “Pastoral” Symphony is scored for two French horns (“Corni in F”), two flutes (“Flauto 1 and 2”), two oboes, two B-flat clarinets (“Clarinetti in B”), two bassoons (“Fagotti”), and string orchestra (violins 1 and 2, viola, cello, double bass). The tempo marking, “Allegro ma non troppo” (“fast, but not too”) is accompanied by a metronome marking, “Metr. d. M. half note = 66,” which means 66 half notes to the minute. Beethoven was an
early advocate of metronome markings (and he was a friend of the inventor Johann Nepomuk Malzel, who filed a patent for the invention of the “metronome” in 1 815). For centuries now, musicians have debated the merits of adhering closely to Beethoven’s metronome markings. There is general agreement, though, that Beethoven’s indicated tempos are on the fast side of any viable tempo ranges for performances of his works. Let’s listen to the first movement of the Sixth Symphony, from a February 2 001 performance by the Berlin Philharmonic at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome, Italy, Claudio Abbado conducting. Symphony No. 6, First Movement, Exposition: Principal Tonal Area The first movement of the “Pastoral” Symphony is a sonata-allegro form. In the opening measures, the first violins present a motive— a motto—that will serve as the basis for remarkably organic motivic transformations throughout the entire movement. Notice the harmonic simplicity we hear in the strings that accompany this opening gesture. A tonic pedal point (I) in mm. 1- 3 yields to dominant harmony (V) in m. 4, giving us a Half Cadence at the point of repose. Let’s look at these measures as we listen.

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