Ludwig van Beethoven (1770- 1827)
Symphony No.1 in C Major, Op. 21
Symphony No.6 in F Major, Op. 68 "Pastoral"
Beethoven wrote nine symphonies, the first heralding thenew century, in 1800, and the last completed in 1824. Although he made fewchanges to the composition of the orchestra itself, adding, when occasiondemanded, one or two instruments more normally found in the opera-house, heexpanded vastly the traditional form, developed in the time of Haydn andMozart, reflecting the personal and political struggles of a period of immensechange and turbulence. To his contemporaries he seemed an inimitable original,but to a number of his successors he seemed to have expanded the symphony to anintimidating extent. In his early years in
Bonn Beethoven had planned a symphony, the naturalambition of any composer.
His first extant composition in this form, however, waswritten towards the end of the century and first performed in Vienna at the Imperial Court Theatre on 2nd April, 1800. The symphony was dedicated toBaron van Swieten, the arbiter of musical taste in Vienna, who had encouragedMozart and provided the texts for Haydn's later oratorios.
The programme for what was in fact Beethoven's firstbenefit concert was a substantial one. A Mozart symphony was followed by anaria from Haydn's Creation. Then came a piano concerto by Beethoven,with the composer as soloist. The Schuppanzigh Quartet was joined by threewind-players to perform a septet, by Beethoven. After this came the symphony.
As so often in Beethoven's career, reviews were decidedlycool, and we may gather that all did not run as smoothly as it should havedone. There was a quarrel about who should direct the orchestra, and theplayers did not listen to the soloist in the concerto, while in the symphonythe wind instruments were particularly unenthusiastic in their performance. Thesymphony later formed part of a concert in 1803, when Beethoven's oratorio Christon the Mount of Olives was first performed. On that occasion it was wellenough received, in spite of the length of the programme.
The First Symphony is scored for pairs of flutes,oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns, trumpets and drums, with the usual strings,and the Pastoral Symphony for additional piccolo and trombones.
The sixth of Beethoven's nine symphonies, the Pastoral,was first performed at a concert in Vienna in December 1808. The occasion wasan important one for the composer, since it was likely to prove the onlysignificant source of income for him that year. In preparation for the event hehad put aside work on his projected opera Macbeth and on the alternativetext of Bradamante, both supplied by Heinrich von Collil1, and assembleda programme of phenomenal length. The works played included the FifthSymphony, the Fourth Piano Concerto, a piano fantasia, items for soloistsand chorus and, in conclusion, a Fantasia for the Pianoforte which endswith the gradual entrance of the entire orchestra and the il1troduction of thechoruses as a fil1ale, the Choral Fantasia
Predictably the concert was an embarrassment toBeethoven's friends, compelled to sit for four hours in the bitterly coldTheater-an-der-Wien. As one otherwise sympathetic observer reported, it provedpossible to have too much of a good thing, and still more of a loud. Theconcert was under-rehearsed, and Beethoven had met considerable opposition frommembers of the orchestra. In the Choral
Fantasia instructions about repeats had beenmisunderstood, so that the work had to be started again, and Beethovenintervened with audible comments on mistakes.
Nevertheless the Sixth Symphony, which happilyopened the concert, was well enough received, in spite of its unusual length.
The advertisement for Beethoven's December concert billedthe Pastoral Symphony as A Recollection of Country Life, to bedescribed by the composer, in a careful attempt to dispel any suspicion that hehad written a crude imitation of nature, as more an expression of feeling thantone-painting In some ways the work may be seen as a conclusion and summary ofa tradition of music inspired by the country, although the Wordsworthiansuggestion of emotion recollected in tranquillity is very much of its period.