Go-to facts about Beethoven’s ‘Pastoral’ Symphony

Posted on: April 28, 2014 in: Concert Focus, Natural/Supernatural

Going to the pub with your music buff friend? Want to impress them with your abundance of classical music knowledge? Dying for an opportunity to show off your enormous classical-music-fact-filled brain? Recently ranked as the nation’s 8th favourite piece of classical music, it is fair to say Beethoven’s ‘Pastoral’ Symphony is on everyone’s lips (and in everyone’s heads too!). Because of its recent publicity (and because it’s a really great piece), we thought we’d create a list of go-to DID YOU KNOW?! facts you can use to flaunt your classical music prowess.

  1. DID YOU KNOW?! Beethoven loved the countryside and that’s why he wrote this piece. For him, there was nothing better than rambling through the great outdoors and taking in all of the beauty it had to offer. BeethovenWalkingInCountrysideThis Symphony is his most profound expression of his love of nature.
  2. DID YOU KNOW?! it was one of the first pieces of programme music ever written (music which paints a picture or tells a story) later influencing the likes of Berlioz.
  3. DID YOU KNOW?! the symphony featured in Walt Disney’s all-time classic Fantasia? During the Pastoral sequence, Disney depicted cute little winged horses learning how to fly in airy cloudscapes and handsome centaurs (half-human horses) and glamorous centaurettes (their female counterparts) playfully flirting among multi-coloured woods and serene waterways. Watch it here
  4. DID YOU KNOW?! the work is packed with musical representations of different sounds of nature? At various points in the symphony, Beethoven depicts a gurgling brook, pattering rainfall, crashing thunder, shepherd’s horn-piping and birdsong of a nightingale, quail and cuckoo.
  5. fantasia picDID YOU KNOW?! Beethoven used the symphony to poke gentle fun at (the sonic misgivings of) country band musicians? Beethoven knew the efforts of amateur country bands well and was rather amused at the way they played. In the third movement, entitled ‘peasants’ merrymaking’, he makes the oboe come in on the wrong beat and the bassoonists contributions comically mechanical.
  6. DID YOU KNOW?! the work was premiered during a humongous 4 hour concert which also included his Symphony No. 5, Choral Fantasia, Piano Concerto No. 4, the aria Ah! Perfido, a solo piano fantasia AND four excerpts from his Mass in C? Programmed during a concert of such length, it’s no surprise that his original audience weren’t too happy with it!

Listen live:

Natural / Supernatural
Thursday 1 May 2014, 7.30pm
Cadogan Hall

Mozart –  Overture from The Magic Flute
Gwilym Simcock – On a Piece of Tapestry (London premiere)

Gwilym Simcock – Cumbrian Thaw
Beethoven – ‘Pastoral’ Symphony No. 6