Friday, 3 December 2010

My Kind of Music(2)


It's a good job somebody somewhere could read Beethoven's writing, otherwise the world would be a good deal  poorer. This manuscript is from another piece of music I fell for in my teens: Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony. It probably, luckily, coincided with my discovery of Wordsworth. There always was a close kinship between the two.The Prelude, I think, came out in 1799, the Pastoral was finished in 1808. As Richard Osborne puts it:

Beethoven summed up the impact he intended the [6th] symphony to have when he wrote: ‘The whole work can be perceived without description – it is feeling rather than tone-painting’. In other words, it is the spontaneous activity of the mind and the imagination in which Beethoven is interested; and in this he was at one with his contemporary, William Wordsworth. When Wordsworth revised his long autobiographical poem The Prelude, he saw more vividly than ever what Beethoven, writing his ‘Pastoral’ Symphony, was immediately aware of: that his art was not charting landscape or seasons or country happenings, but the interrelationship between landscape and the conscious mind. This is what Beethoven intends when he writes over the opening movement, ‘Awakening of cheerful feelings on arrival in the country’. Later, in the Finale, he becomes the shepherd sharing his sense of thanksgiving and even, perhaps, feeling a slight autumnal chill, the chill of dying life, as the muted horn winds into the distance on the symphony’s final page.

From: A Guide to the Symphony by Richard Osborne

Anyway, for weeks on end I'd come in from school, stick it on the record player and flop on my bed to listen to it. I'd usually start at the beginning. (You can listen to it all on the net - for example, on the Pastoral Symphony Wikipedia Page). This is the 4th movement which, appropriately, interrupts the conventional  four movement structure of the classical symphony: it's a violent thunderstrom that interrupts the previous movement, "the happy gathering of the countryfolk":

5 comments:

George said...

Thanks for this posting, Dominic. I enjoyed the 4th movement all the more after reading your commentary.

Jessica Maybury said...

I also care very much for Beethoven. I used to be obsessed with tracking his slow progession from hearing to deafness that you could follow in the music. Well. That I thought I could follow in the music. Everything changes.

I like the thought of your teenage self flopping down to listen to this :) And I never made the connection before about Wordsworth and Beethoven! Of course! Genius.

patteran said...

I went for the 'Pastoral' in a big way as a kid as well. Thanks for this glorious extract.

Gwilym Williams said...

Beethoven's a favourite here too. I particularly like the piano concertos (esp: Alfred Brendel & Vienna Philharmonic, conductor Sir Simon Rattle). Pastoral is wonderful. It was written on walks through the vineyards and woodlands around Vienna. Unfortunately for LvB who liked to take a tipple the local vintners added dangerous substances such as lead to the wines to make them taste better. Hence the headaches, craziness and eventual deafness. Today there's a path into the Vienna Woods named 'Beethoven Weg' - one of his regular walks from Grinzing.

e said...

Bethoven's life was as fascinating and volitile as his music...Thanks for this. I don't know if you can get a DVD of Finding Beethoven, made in the US, but it is worth seeing.