Beethoven Symphony Basics at ESM

Symphony No. 6 in F, Op. 68 “Pastoral” (1808)

The Basics

General Information

Composition dates: 1808.

Dedication:  Prince Joseph Franz Maximilian Lobkowitz (also Wikipedia, and portrait) and Count Andrey Razumovsky (also portrait). Same dedicatees as Symphony No. 5.

Instrumentation (III, IV, V=mvts in which they play): Strings, PicIV, 2 Fl, 2 Ob, 2 Cl, 2 Bsn, 2 Hn, 2 TrIII—V, ATTbnIV—V, TimpIV.

First performance: 22 December 1808, Akademie at Theater-an-der-Wien. (Also Sym. No. 6.)   

Orchestra size for first or early performance: 12-16.3-4.3-4.3-5/single winds.

Autograph Score: Beethoven-Haus Bonn.

First published parts: April 1809, Breitkopf und Härtel, Vienna. IMSLP.

First published score: May 1826, Breitkopf und Härtel, Vienna. SJSU Link, or IMSLP.


Movements (Tempos. Key. Form.)

I. Allegro ma non troppo (MM=66). F Major. Sonata-Allegro. “Awakening of Happy Feelings on Arriving in the Country.”

II. Andante molto mosso (MM=50). B-flat Major (IV). Sonata-Allegro (no repeat of Expos.). “Scene by a Brook.”

III. Scherzo. Allegro (3/4 MM=108)—In tempo d’Allegro (2/4 MM=132). F Major. Scherzo/Trio (extended ternary).  “Joyful Gathering of the Country Folk.”  Attacca to:

IV. Allegro (MM=80). F Minor. Sequence of events/effects. “Thunder. Storm.” Attacca to:

V. Finale. Allegretto (MM=60). F Major. Sonata-allegro (no expos. repeat, rondo & variation elements.). “Shepherds’ Song: Happy and Thankful Feelings After the Storm.”


Significance and Structure

Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 in F, Op. 68 “Pastoral” is one of only two symphonies named by Beethoven himself, and the one that most exemplifies the “characteristic symphony” genre of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The full title, “Pastoral Symphony, or Recollections of Country Life,” and the subtitles of each individual movement, clearly show that this symphony is related to experiencing nature.  Given its position immediately following the stormy and yet victorious Fifth Symphony, and his “heroic” symphonic outlook during this time, Beethoven’s notion of the heroic in Symphony No. 6 is a figure at one with and in Nature, variously resting in its bosom, celebrating its bounty, fearful of its sublime might, and in the end, expressing thanks to its Creator for all of these states.  Beethoven’s own words expressed that his desire is to have the listener feel the journey, not just see series of images.  Thus, the heroic object of this particular symphonic journey is the subject—the careful listener experiencing the piece.

Many composers before Beethoven composed musical works related to nature, such as Vivaldi’s violin concerto The Four Seasons, and Haydn’s oratorios The Creation and The Seasons. But unlike many of these earlier works, Beethoven indicated in the score that his Pastoral Symphony was “More the Expression of Feeling than Tone Painting.” In other words, this symphony is not “merely a programmatic representation of the experience of being in nature,” (Lockwood, Beethoven’s Symphonies, 125) but it also expresses Beethoven’s personal and emotional connection to Nature.  Beethoven’s love of nature is evident in many letters he wrote to his friends and acquaintances. In a letter to Teresa Malfatti dated May 1810, Beethoven stated, “How delighted I shall be to ramble for a while through bushes, woods, under trees, over grass and rocks. No one can love the country as much as I do.” (Lockwood, Beethoven’s Symphonies, 124.) Nature did not only mean beautiful scenes and fresh air; its most importantly quality for Beethoven was the promise of the power of healing his suffering from deafness and loneliness.  In a letter to Franz Wegeler, Beethoven suggested that if his deafness would not be cured, Wegeler should “rent a house for me in some beautiful part of the country and then for six months I will lead the life of a peasant – perhaps that will make a difference. Resignation – what a wretched refuge!” (Lockwood, Beethoven’s Symphonies, 123.) This shows that Beethoven thought about living a country life if his deafness would no longer allow him to compose and make music. In some way, his longing for rural life might have saved Beethoven from ultimate despair, prevented him from committing suicide after writing the Heiligenstadt Testament in 1802.

From this perspective, the Sixth Symphony should not be considered as an imitation of nature, but more metaphysically as a yearning for the peacefulness of mind gained from experiencing it, communicated through the symphonic genre as an expression of feelings. In Beethoven’s sketchbook, he wrote that “Each act of tone-painting, as soon as it is pushed too far in instrumental music, loses its force.” (Lockwood, Beethoven’s Symphonies, 132.) Although there are obvious mimetic moments in the music such as the murmuring of the brook, calls of the nightingale and cuckoo, these are not the main purpose of this composition. Beethoven composed this symphony to express emotions, such as the joyfulness for being in the country at the beginning of the symphony, the energized spirit in the third movement’s folk dance, and the inner peace being achieved in the finale after the stormy fourth movement.

Beethoven’s key choice of F major has a long tradition of compositions related to nature, such as Bach’s aria, “The shepherd gathers now his flock.” The tradition characterizes the key as representing the pastoral world, as well as “an ideal picture at peace with itself.” (Geck, Beethoven’s Symphonies: Nine approaches to Art and Ideas, 105.)  Beethoven’s other symphonic works of the time, notably the Fifth Symphony composed the same year and premiered on the same concert in December 1808, rely heavily on the Sublime aesthetic for its dramatic journey.  Unlike its 1808 sibling, the Pastoral Symphony is dominated by the aesthetic of Beauty. According to Friedrich Nietzsche, the beautiful is rational, pleasurable and dream-like; the sublime, on the other hand, is irrational, ecstatic, and primordial. (Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy, 126.) In his Sixth Symphony, Beethoven desired to convey the overall feelings of pleasure and repose rather than overwhelming the listener. The sublime does make a weighty appearance in the fourth movement, which depicts a storm using  Sturm und Drang stylistic gestures.  This short sublime movement, with a unique structure impressing one as formless in the traditional sense, does not overwhelm the symphony, but instead offers a brief moment of terror that brings into further relief the calm, peace and finally joy of the journey.  Indeed, carefully considering the structure of the unusual five-movement format of this symphony in light of the traditional four-movement structure leads to a conclusion that the fourth “storm” movement is itself a structural interruption between the expected scherzo (third) and finale movements. Thus, the interruptive “sublime” movement upholds current Kantian aesthetic concepts of the beautiful and sublime: according to Kant, the beautiful involves the purposiveness of form, while the judgement of the sublime is to be found in a formless object. (Doran, The Theory of Sublime, from Longinus to Kant, 211.)  Furthermore, the brief foray into the sublime serves to emphasize the beautiful by giving it a sense of overcoming.  

[We refer the reader to the following recording for the ensuing discussion: Brüggen conducts Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century]

The serenity, easy-going opening of Sixth Symphony takes along the audience into a realm of sound that is completely different from the Fifth Symphony.  The first movement, “The awakening of happy feelings on arriving in the country,” is in sonata-form. It opens with the cello and bass playing a rustic open fifth while the violins play a lyrical and joyful melody which includes a simple folk-like melody (0:00-0:58) based on repetitive rhythmic and melodic motives that will be developed throughout the whole movement. The joyful simplicity of these materials is enhanced by its thorough use of major keys, especially F, the dominant key of C, and some substantial material in the subdominant B-flat. The first movement’s development section (4:56-7:18) features sudden and unprepared shifts to keys a third away (e.g. B-flat to D major, G to E major), as if rays of sunshine unexpectedly peek through a cloud, and a brief but effective move to the minor mode, which has been denied, just before the recapitulation.

According to Lewis Lockwood, Beethoven sketched an idea in 1803 labeled “murmurs of the brooks” with the words “the greater the Brook, the deeper the tone.” This comes to fruition with the second movement of the Sixth Symphony: “Scene by the Brook.” Lockwood continues: “Labeling this movement as a ‘scene’. . . evokes the concept of a theatrical situation, a dramatic action unit that contains one or more musical Numbers or even a single character singing in an aria.” (Beethoven’s Symphonies, 136.) This movement is composed in a four-part sonata form, and contains the most directly mimetic gestures of the work (with the possible exception of the storm scene fourth movement).  The brook’s motion (0:00-0:23) is depicted in the strings by repeated triplet figures, later subdivided into sixteenth-note patterns in the middle and lower register, but always in a continuous rhythmic, rippling motion, evoking the movement of a flowing river. The combined use of instrumentation (violin and flutes), trills, distinctive melodic figures and high register creates the sounds of birds. These trills are first long-held notes, then on short and graceful notes, creating the immediate picture of birds flying across the stream. Later, trills joined by a rising arpeggio in the high flute which Schindler called a “yellow-hammer.” (Lockwood, Beethoven’s Symphonies, 137.) As the brook gains in strengths and depth, the bird sounds such as trills and short figures increase in number and density, especially at the end of the development section and late in the recapitulation. The most directly-referenced bird songs appear at the end, where Beethoven specifically names three individual birds and labeling each bird on the score (11:29-11:48, 11:53-12:11)—the nightingale (solo flute), the quail (solo oboe),  and the cuckoo (two clarinets)—which combine to form a single passage that dominates the coda.

Following the relaxing pictorial “Scene by the Brook,” the remaining movements, including the peasants’ scherzo, interrupting storm, and “hymn of thanksgiving” finale, proceed without pause, as had the last two movements of the Fifth Symphony. Thus, the drama moves forward in an uninterrupted sequence depicting the vibrant gathering of peasants, whose frolicking is interrupted by a storm, and as the weather clears and calm returns, the peasants offer up a happy song of thanksgiving (Lockwood, 137). In the sequence, Beethoven avoids the decisive cadences at the end of each movement, suggesting he conceived of this symphony in two halves: movements I-II with the listener-observer in solitude, and movements III-V where other people—the peasants—are present, thus a more social event.

Marked “Lustiges Zusammensein der landleute (Joyous gathering of country folk),” the third movement is a modified scherzo-minuet form with five sections, as he had done in Symphony No. 4 and the earliest versions of Symphony No. 5. But there are differences from the earlier scherzo movements: the meter, tempo, and musical characteristics are sharply changed in the middle section of this movement. The scherzo section (0:00-1:47) begins with a juxtaposition of two contrasting phrases with different tonalities and articulations, the first phrase being played by the staccato strings in F major, responded to by a legato second phrase in D major played by strings and woodwinds. The unexpected third-related (mediant) modulation, which based on the pivot note A-natural, conveys a rustic pastoral folk tune humor, and connects it to similar modulations in the development of the first movement. The real “scherzo” characteristic, that of playing rhythmic tricks, is set up by clear, incessant downbeat gestures at the beginning of the movement which reappear at the end of the scherzo section: a scherzo motif (0:57-1:09) with tied downbeats is introduced by oboe, clarinet, and bassoon solo, as an amateur country dance band, over a steady dance accompaniment on the violins, and dominant— tonic motion in the low bassoons, viola and cello. Tonal changes are reminiscent of the development section of the first movement.  Trumpets (without timpani) appear for the first time in this symphony to end the scherzo section.  With its duple meter and faster tempo, the trio section (1:47-2:28) depicts the heavy foot stomping of a joyous Austrian country dance. (Lockwood, Beethoven’s Symphonies, 141.) In the last scherzo section, the unexpected liquidation in the second pastoral phrase and the following statement emphasizes the home key F major, ending with an accelerated presto with the whole orchestra strengthening the tonality of F major with sforzandi accents to raise yet higher the frenzy of the pastoral celebration. An abrupt interruption of the dominant chord dramatically signals the next, sublime natural scene.

As the subtitle “Gewitter, Sturm” suggests, the fourth movement Allegro depicts a storm, eventually giving way to sunshine after rain, that Beethoven would have witnessed all too often during his walks in the country. In this movement, the beauty and the power of nature are vividly transformed by special instrumentation. The movement starts with the tremolo on low strings imitating the remote thunder. The use of the diminished seventh chord and secession of unstable modulations accumulate the musical tension, which later explodes on tutti marked in fortissimo. Alone with the timpani roll (0:24-0:30)—the first sounds of drums in this work—the running notes and the juxtaposition of quadruplets/quintuplets on the low string successfully create the sound effect of a heavy thunderstorm, which builds up to the addition of two snarling trombones and the shrill whistling of piccolo.  When the thunderstorm gradually disappears and is replaced by the sunshine at the end (3:05-end), the brass and timpani fade away and instrumentation returns to the woodwinds-and-strings orchestral character of the first movement as the peaceful pastoral scene returns, but with a sacred majesty conveyed by the inclusion of trumpets and two trombones.

The remarkable bi-tonal (C and F major) opening of the finale “Hirtengesang. Frohe und dankbare Gefühle nach dem Strum (Shepherd’s song. Happy and thankful feelings after the storm)” begins a sweet last movement quite different from Beethoven’s previous symphonic works. It depicts the image of a cheerful Arcadian shepherd, gathering his joyous flocks after the dark thunderstorm. (Lockwood, Beethoven’s Symphonies, 140.) Written in 6/8 meter, the pastoral folk tune is played by clarinet and horn as an eight-bar introduction, supported by the tonic/dominant fifth on the low strings. The first theme (0:16-1:01) keeps the folk tune characteristic, played in legato first by violins, clarinet, and low strings with the tutti accompaniment, but like the first the of the Eroica Symphony, is stated three times, each one gradually fuller in its orchestration. The contrasting transition, second theme (1:01-1:48) and closing theme (1:48-2:09) motives are livelier with trills and staccato figures that suggest the reemergence of birds of the first two movements from their hiding places during the storm.  Harmonies and melodic motives that emphasize the interval of the fifth, which have appeared and connected the previous movements, are heavily reemphasized in the finale movement:  the F-C fifth is announced at the beginning and the end by the low strings as the structural signs, modulations by keys a fifth apart in the development depict a peaceful pastoral scene, and the long coda (6:34-end), the fifth-key progression D-G-C-F is repeated seven times, making a beautifully organic closing scene. As Lockwood states, the ending seems to confirm the peace of nature and the peace of the soul that the work had promised from the beginning, the feeling for which the composer had been longing all his life. (Beethoven’s Symphonies, 140.)

Contributors: WZ, YS, ZW, MER


Beethoven’s Words

“It is left to the listener to discover the situation . . . Anyone who has the faintest idea of rural life will have no need of descriptive titles to enable him to imagine for himself what the composer intends. Even without a description one will be able to recognize it all.”  Beethoven regarding the Pastoral Symphony in a notebook of 1807; quoted in Antony Hopkins, The Nine Symphonies of Beethoven, 167.  


Beethoven offers two main insights in this comment:  one, he assumes that contemporary audiences would be familiar with particular topics, or topoi, particularly within the tradition of the characteristic symphony, and two, he desires for the work to rise above simple “tone-painting” in its formal design and compositional cogency, placing the hearer into the center of the work as the subject. 

In the eighteenth century, composers often created effects through the use of musical conventions.  Specific keys, instruments, rhythms, and textures had topical associations.  For example, the “majestic” topic was characterized by dotted rhythms, a march-like meter in two or four, and a slow or moderate tempo (all influences of the French Overture style).  A “pastoral” topic included many of the gestures we find in Beethoven’s Sixth: relaxed triplet or sixteenth note accompaniment figures, trills imitating bird calls, excessive use of the flute and oboe, particularly in solos or duets, soft horn calls, lyrical melodies, emphasis of open-fifth sonorities.  By Beethoven’s time, these topics were familiar enough for audiences to recognize them when heard. The ubiquity of pastoral gestures through the entire Sixth Symphony and Beethoven’s textual labels for both the symphony as a whole and the individual movements place this symphony in the lineage of the “characteristic symphony.” Broadly defined, the term “Characteristic” was, according to Richard Will, “used in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries to indicate instrumental music in which a subject is specified, usually by a text.” (Will, The Characteristic Symphony in the Age of Haydn and Mozart, 1.)  The term was connected specifically to the symphonic repertoire by composers before Beethoven, notably Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf (1739-1799) and Paul Wranitzky (1756-1808). The amount of text used to describe the subject varies across the repertoire.  Some composers used a single word for an entire work; others short phrases for each movement, as in Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony.   Unlike the later programmatic symphony, which sought to create a specific narrative (e.g. Berlioz’s Symphony Fantastique), the Classical characteristic symphony usually aimed to create a more general feeling in the listener.  While Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony does contain overt, specific allusions—thunder, bird calls—his quote clearly indicates that he did not intend to lay out a specific storyline.  Rather, he wanted to compose music that would help the listener reflect on their own experiences and emotions.  Beethoven wanted to create a work that would mirror the emotional states of a human experiencing Nature, and as the composer himself stated, particularly Nature’s ability to “give back the echo which man desires to hear.” (Lockwood, Beethoven’s Symphonies, 124.)  By eschewing a specific narrative with an assigned protagonist, the symphony allows each individual listener to become the hero of the story.   

Beethoven’s comment also has echoes of a letter that he sent to a publisher that included in the symphony’s title, “More the Expression of Feeling than Tone Painting.” While this subtitle supports the labeling of the symphony as “characteristic” in the late eighteenth-century tradition rather than “programmatic”—an emerging nineteenth-century structural practice—it also reveals Beethoven’s discontent with many contemporary works that were too literal in their pictorialisms.  Haydn’s great oratorios, especially The Creation, were receiving such criticism. Beethoven desired to show that illustrative music could be raised to new artistic standards.  As Lockwood states, “he aimed to write a work whose high level of expressive and formal cogency would match that of his recent path-breaking symphonies” (Lockwood, Beethoven’s Symphonies, 135). Simply put, Beethoven wanted to raise the artistic merits of the tradition of pastoral instrumental works. 

Contributors: CH, MCho, MER


Others’ Words

“But Beethoven’s poem!… these long periods so full of colour!… these speaking images!… these scents!… this light!… this eloquent silence!… these vast horizons!… these magic hideouts in the woods!… these golden harvests!… these pink clouds like wandering specks in the sky!… this vast plain dozing under the midday sun!… Man is absent!… nature alone reveals herself glorying in her splendour… And the deep rest of everything that lives! And the wonderful life of everything that rests!… The little stream that pursues its murmuring course towards the river!… the river, the source of all water, which descends towards the ocean in majestic silence!… Then man appears, the man from the countryside, robust and full of religious feeling… his joyful play interrupted by the storm… his fears… his hymn of thanksgiving…” Hector Berlioz, “A Critical Study of the Symphonies of Beethoven,” from A travers chants (1862).  Translated by Michel Austin, The Hector Berlioz Website.


In 1862, Berlioz wrote with his usual flair of the pastoral and programmatic character of Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony. Beethoven greatly enjoyed nature and the countryside, seeing it as a release from his impending deafness and despair as detailed in the Heiligenstadt Testament. Lockwood verifies this by saying, “If we regard Beethoven’s love of nature not only as a trait of character—one that was both highly personal and typical of the German Romantics—but as a release from his persistent loneliness and deafness, it gives us a new perspective on his impulse that attains its highest artistic form in the ‘Pastoral’ Symphony.” (Lockwood, Beethoven’s Symphonies, 123.)  The topic of the pastoral revolves around the depiction of the countryside through literature, art, and music. Berlioz’s description touches on this aspect using such words as images, scents, lights, horizons, woods, and harvests.  While these are depicted in the pastoral qualities of this symphony in varying degrees of mimetic directness, Beethoven emphasizes the human experience throughout, taking the listener through an emotional journey into his place of calm and respite.

Note the use of movement titles, chosen by Beethoven himself. “Erwachen heiterer Empfindungen bei der Ankunft auf dem Lande” (Awakening of happy feelings on arriving in the country) starts with a quiet dynamic, going only a few seconds before landing on a fermata, perhaps reminding the listener of someone opening their eyes to a morning sunrise. The thin instrumentation also evokes a quiet morning atmosphere, with only strings, bassoon, and horn guiding the ensemble, which gradually builds to the full wind/string compliment, where the listener can envision, or rather “feel,” the sun coming up to full splendor.  “Scene am Bach” (Scene by the brook), is full of running rhythmic lines that suggest the motion of running water. As the movement proceeds, the rhythmic division increases, giving the impression that the water is running faster. (Lockwood, Beethoven’s Symphonies, 137.) Helping create a more calming scene, Beethoven chose the subdominant key of B-flat Major for this movement, marking a return to his conventionality followed in the First and Fourth Symphonies. This movement also contains the iconic bird calls of the nightingale, quail, and cuckoo, imitated by the flute, oboe, and clarinet, respectively. Beethoven idolized these ideas of the pastoral, insisting to his copyist that the birds’ names be included in the original 1809 publication.Lustiges Zusammensein der Landleute” (Merry gathering of the countryfolk) is a lively Austrian peasant dance, switching between duple and triple meter modeling the traditional dances of the day. (Lockwood, Beethoven’s Symphonies, 141.) Beethoven clearly idolized these traditions, and wanted his listeners to experience the joy and energy felt through the dance.  Some of the most notable pastoral depictions come during “Gewitter, Sturm” (Thunder, Storm). It begins with a sudden shift from F Major to a tremolo D-flat in the cellos and basses, emulating the thunder, and this also marks the first substantial use of F minor by Beethoven. Lightning strikes are played by the first violins, and sharp sforzandi invoke the feeling of nature rearing its ugly head. Chromatic scales and whistling piccolo mimic the wind ripping through the forest, until the equally sudden shift commencing the “Frohe und dankbare Gefühle nach dem Sturm” (Cheerful and thankful feelings after the storm). The motive of a horn call permeates this movement through several instruments, hearkening the shepherds calling their flocks.

Beethoven was not the only composer who wrote works with similar pastoral “programs,” but no contemporaneous work reached the same artistic level as his “Pastoral” Symphony. Beethoven denied his work was programmatic in a specific, picturesque sense, and in general showed disdain for almost all overtly program music of his time, saying, “each act of tone-painting, as soon as it is pushed too far in instrumental music, loses its force.” He specifically wanted his listeners to experience the music for themselves and to be immersed, rather than viewing sketches of the countryside in their minds. His process while sketching the “Pastoral” Symphony revealed his intention to use music to depict specific scenic aspects. (Lockwood, Beethoven’s Symphonies, 132-134.) The third and fourth movements of the Sixth Symphony especially seem no less descriptive than Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique. (Mendl, Beethoven as a Writer of Programme Music, 173-174.)

But Beethoven may have accomplished something the later programmatic symphonies did not. The symphony still would have held together well as an instrumental work, and would have sounded no different, even if it was simply named Symphony No. 6 without the titles given for each movement. It would still arouse in its audiences not only pictorial associations, but also universal emotions that all humans can experience: the peace, serenity, and healing Romantics associated with being in nature. But its structural and compositional properties are equally important in unifying this piece into an artwork whose artistic value could match that of his greatest symphonies. Perhaps that is the reason for Beethoven’s grudging acceptance of program music, for he wanted his music to work towards the higher values than being merely sensational. As Lockwood and Richard Will point out, the “Pastoral” Symphony is both a formalistic symphony and a “programmatic symphony as it was practiced, not by Berlioz and Liszt, but by Beethoven’s contemporaries and predecessors,” as it follows “the pastoral tradition that employs many of the time-honored pictorial devices known to the programmatic genres, and uses them in such a way that listeners could indeed delight in recognizing and enjoying his imitations of natural sounds within the fabric of the composition.” (Lockwood, Beethoven’s Symphonies, 135.) Regardless of the controversy, it is fair to say that this work greatly influenced Romantic composers of program music, including the author of the above quote, Hector Berlioz.

Contributors: JF, YLiu, MER


Topics and readings for further inquiry

Rhetorical Topics or Topoi in Classical Music
Ratner, Leonard. Classic Music: Expression, Form, and Style. New York: Schirmer, 1980.

The Characteristic Symphony Tradition
Will, Richard. The Characteristic Symphony in the Age of Haydn and Beethoven. New York: Cambridge, 2002.

Beethoven and Program Music
Mendl, R. W. S. “Beethoven as a Writer of Programme Music.” The Musical Quarterly 14, no. 2 (1928): 172-77. Accessed July 22, 2020. JSTOR link.


Online Resources

Early Editions of Score and Parts
Holograph manuscript, n.d.[1808].

First Published Edition: Leipzig: Breitkopf und Härtel, n.d. [1826]. Plate 4311.

First Complete Scholar Edition. Ludwig van Beethovens Werke, Serie 1: Symphonien, Nr.6.Leipzig: Breitkopf und Härtel, n.d.[1862]. Plate B.5.

Parts (First Edition): Leipzig: Breitkopf und Härtel, n.d.[1809]. Plate 1337.

Modern Edition of the Score
1989 Dover Edition (Reprint of the Braunschweig: Henry Litolff’s Verlag, No. 2770, n.d. (ca.1880))

1976 Dover Edition (Reprint of the edition by Leipzig: Ernst Eulenburg, n.d. [1938])

New York Philharmonic score with annotations from Leonard Bernstein.

New York Philharmonic score with annotations from Erich Leinsdorf.

Recordings available online
Period/HIP Performances—
Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Harnoncourt
1st movement, 2nd movement, 3rd movement, 4th movement, 5th movement
Complete set of Beethoven Symphonies

Orchestra of the 18th Century, Brüggen
1st movement, 2nd movement, 3rd movement, 4th movement, 5th movement
Complete Set of Beethoven Symphonies by Orchestra of the 18th Century and Brüggen
An excellent interpretation by another leading early music expert and his period instrument ensemble, both from Netherland.

Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, Gardiner
1st movement, 2nd movement, 3rd movement, 4th movement, 5th movement


Important Recordings by Modern Orchestras—
Tonhalle-Orchestra Zurich, Zinman
1st movement, 2nd movement, 3rd movement, 4th movement, 5th movement
Modern orchestra recording, but one of the first to use Jonathan del Mar’s critical edition (Bärenreiter) of the symphony, which tries to capture some of the HIP spirit.

Bernstein conducts Wiener Philharmoniker
1978 live, with the conductor’s commentary.

Royal Flemish Philharmonic Orchestra, Herreweghe
1st movement, 2nd movement, 3rd movement, 4th movement, 5th movement
Complete Set of Beethoven Symphonies by RFRO and Herreweghe
Modern orchestra led by one of the most important early music experts of our time.

Munich Philharmonic, Celibidache
1st movement, 2nd movement, 3rd movement, 4th movement, 5th movement
One of the slowest interpretations of this symphony, actually the conductor’s iconic slowness.

 Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Thielemann
1st movement, 2nd movement, 3rd movement, 4th movement, 5th movement
Probably VPO’s most important Beethoven symphonies cycle during the first 20 years of the new century. Representative interpretation of the so-called German-Austria tradition.

 Bayerisches Staatsorchester, Kleiber
1st movement, 2nd movement, 3rd movement, 4th movement, 5th movement
Remastered from a cassette recording of the broadcast. Transparent sound, fast tempo, vigorous emotion, and energetic spirit.

Berlin Philharmonc, Cluytens
1st movement, 2nd movement, 3rd movement, 4th movement, 5th movement
André Cluytens with BPO’s 1960 cycle is the earliest stereo recording of Beethoven Complete Symphonies in the history of recording. It is also the first Beethoven Complete Symphonies under a French conductor. Pastoral has gained some of the highest praise and acknowledgment.

Descriptions available online (videos, program notes, etc.,)
Comments by Hector Berlioz, from “A Critical Study of Beethoven’s Nine Symphonies,” p. 71.
Web version (different translation; easier to navigate)

Graphic score, for site visitors who do not read music.
1st movement, 2nd movement, 3rd movement, 4th movement, 5th movement

Video Analysis (color-coded score) showing motivic development in the 1st movement.

Interview with Leonard Bernstein
Demonstrating at the piano (excerpt from the 1978 commentary listed above).

Giancarlo Guerrero (Music Director, Nashville Symphony) discusses the symphony.

Symphony No. 6: Pantheism and camaraderie | Gardiner and the ORR on Beethoven’s Symphonies

Marianne Williams Tobias, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra Program Notes

John Henken, Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl Program Notes

Christopher H. Gibbs, Philadelphia Orchestra Program Notes

Phillip Huscher,  Chicago Symphony Orchestra Program Notes

Aspen Music Festival program notes
Discusses background and programmatic/musical qualities of each movement.

Classical Notes
Very detailed notes on background, genesis, structure, programmatic nature, influence, performance issues, and notable recordings.