Aggrieved - Beethoven Symphony No 6

I can't help feeling that Bob Crow, the trade union leader,  must be a bit aggrieved at having been shunted off his mortal coil while the party is in full flow.  A champagne socialist, he enjoyed the good things in life and luckily managed to have a three week holiday before he departed.  Crow was an avid Millwall supporter (the boys in my family tell me that says it all), as such both the football club and his union share the unofficial motto "Nobody likes us and we don't care"!!  He was also anti Monarchy (wanting Tony Benn as President), anti EU and pro the death penalty.  One can only hope there was a strike on the day he knocked at the Pearly Gates.

On a different note according to the Racing Post they were watering parts of the course at Cheltenham last week.  Bizarre - but at least there is no shortage of water with which to do so.

Sir Simon Rattle

Sir Simon Rattle

As it would seem that spring has sprung, the work I am going to recommend is Beethoven Symphony No 6 known as "The Pastoral Symphony" and the recording is by Simon Rattle and the Vienna Philharmonic.  This symphony has five movements rather than the typical four movement symphony of the Classical Period.

Beethoven wrote nine symphonies each one preparing the ground for the next and all of them culminating in Symphony No 9, the mighty Choral Symphony.  The Symphonies are a must for any music library, they are all glorious, uplifting and easy to listen to.

Beethoven

Beethoven

Beethoven was a lover of nature who spent a great deal of his time on country walks and Symphony No 6 is one of his few works which contains explicit program music - music which depicts a scene.  Hence in the second movement you can hear babbling brooks and birdsong, country dancing in the third and a raging thunder storm in the fourth.   He labelled the symphony "Recollections of country life" and each movement was given a subtitle which translates as follows:

1.    Awakening of cheerful feelings
2.   Scene at the brook
3.   Merry gathering of country folk
4.   Storm and tempest
5.   Shepherd's song, cheerful and thankful feelings after the storm

Many believe that this symphony houses some of Beethoven's most beautiful writing despite the fact that tragically he was almost deaf at the time of writing it.  Some say this was caused by lead poisoning but it ultimately led to his death.

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On this recording Symphony No 6  is coupled with Symphony No 4.  The latter was a commission from the Sicilian Count Oppersdorff and in general is sunny and cheerful with light instrumentation more akin to the symphonies of Joseph Haydn with whom Beethoven studied for a decade.  Symphony No 4 is often over-shadowed by by the revolutionary Symphony No 3 "The Eroica" and the much celebrated Symphony No 5.  But Hector Belioz was so enamoured with the second movement that he claimed it was the work of Archangel Michael and not that of a human.

Liverpool born Simon Rattle is one of the world's leading conductors.   He was appointed Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in 2002 which is one of the most renowned orchestras in the world.  Although there are rumours that he is coming back to the London Symphony Orchestra in the not too distant future.

Listen to an excerpt of Simon Rattle conducting the Berlin Philharmonic in the final movement of Beethoven Symphony No 6  on youtube   

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Posted on March 19, 2014 .