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Happy Birthday Ludwig!

Beethoven was an urban guy. He was born in the city of Bonn, Germany and spent his professional career in Vienna. However, he loved visiting the countryside for weekends and holidays, enjoying the idyllic scenery and slower pace.

His Symphony No. 6, The Pastoral Symphony, is a musical hommage to the countryside he loved so much. It is one of the very few examples of program music in his entire ouevre. Almost all of Beethoven's compositions are "absolute" music, which is essentially music for music's sake in which the composer gives no indication of what the music is about. It is music that wants us to experience it in our own personal way without any indication of meaning from the composer.

Program music, on the other hand, is specifically describing a scene, a place, an event, a picture - something outside of music- and the composer tells you what it is either by subtitles or an accompanying text. Publishers and listeners have often tried to "program" Beethoven's instrumental music resulting in nicknames for some of his works. The so-called "Moonlight Sonata" was never named that by Beethoven and we have no idea if that is what he was thinking about when he wrote it, but the name has stuck. The same with the "Pastoral" piano sonata. A publisher gave it that name, not Beethoven.

The Pastoral Symphony is different. Beethoven subtitled each of the 5 movements to explain what he is portraying musically: his happiness at arriving in the countryside, a babbling brook, a country dance, a thunderstorm, and the flute-playing shepherds after the storm.

This year was the 250th anniversary of Beethoven's birth. Have a listen to his Pastoral Symphony as well as enjoying our "pastoral" Christmas Eve concert!

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Pastoral indeed! Thanks for this article Cynthia. Hazzards was a blast for all! I invite everyone now to listen the the Pastoral here and celebrate Beethoven in 2021!

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