Ode to Nature: Beethoven's "Pastoral"

Ludwig van Beethoven loved nature. In long walks he found inspiration for his compositions.

By Beethoven-House Bonn

Beethoven-Haus Bonn

Beethoven with the manuscript of the Missa solemnis (1820) by Joseph Karl StielerBeethoven-House Bonn

Beethoven draws inspiration from nature

Beethoven's love of nature has always occupied artists. In the famous painting by Joseph Karl Stieler, Beethoven composes surrounded by plants. Do you see the forest in the background?

Ludwig van Beethoven on a walk (1894) by Franz Trau after two engraved silver plates by Joseph Daniel BöhmBeethoven-House Bonn

Notes on long walks

Ludwig van Beethoven spent many of his afternoons in nature. If an idea came to him, he immediately wrote it down in a small notebook that he always carried with him. This drawing shows him during one of his long walks.

Beethoven on a Walk in Rear View (1823) by Joseph WeidnerBeethoven-House Bonn

At home in the forest

"Almighty in the forest!" Beethoven wrote in 1815. "I am blessed, happy in the forest: every tree speaks through you. - Oh God, what glory! In such a forest, in the heights, there is peace, peace to serve it."

Symphony No. 6 (F major) op. 68 (Pastoral), parts (1809) by Ludwig van BeethovenBeethoven-House Bonn

The "Pastoral": A declaration of love for nature

In his sixth symphony, the "Pastorale", Beethoven musically expresses his longing for country life. "More an expression of feeling than painting," he writes, giving free rein to his romantic feelings.

"Awakening of cheerful sensations on arrival in the country" is how Beethoven titles the first movement. Very tentatively, the violins announce this feeling at the beginning of the symphony.

Symphony No. 6 (F-Dur) on. 68 (Pastoral)Beethoven-House Bonn

Birdsong from the orchestra

In the second movement the stream murmurs in the strings - until suddenly nightingale, quail and cuckoo make their big entrance. They are played by flute, oboe and clarinet. Anyone who can read Beethoven's writing can recognize it here in the notes.

At the beginning every bird is allowed to sing alone. Finally, the voices mix into a chirping trio.

Symphony No. 6 (F-Dur) on. 68 (Pastoral)Beethoven-House Bonn

A storm is coming

In the symphony's fourth movement, Beethoven creates a threatening thunderstorm mood. The piccolo flute whistles like the storm, the cellos and basses rumble like thunder and the violins leap through the score like lightning.

A great effect. You can really imagine how the audience must have flinched at the premiere.

Symbol for environmental protection

Today, the "Pastorale" is regarded as Beethoven's contribution to the relationship between man and nature. Artists all over the world devote themselves in their spirit to the relationship between man and nature.

A symphony to protect the earth

In Beethoven's anniversary year 2020, more than 300 artists from all over the world played their "Pastoral" to set a joint signal for climate protection. In the Beethoven Pastoral Project they support climate-friendly politics and science.

A well-kept treasure

The original manuscript of the symphony is now in the Beethoven-Haus in Bonn. These and many other original documents from Beethoven's life can also be viewed from home in the Digital Archive of the Beethoven-Haus.

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