Monday, October 17, 2011

Herbert von Karajan – Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony

Symphony in F Major, commonly known as Pastoral Symphony was finished in 1808 and premiered together with composers Fifth Symphony during one concert in Theater an der Wien, December 22nd, 1808. And this is not by coincidence these two works are so close. Ludwig van Beethoven begin to compose his Sixth Symphony in 1802. He was under great impression of just premiered oratorio Die Jahreszeiten by Joseph Haydn. Since we know he was wandering on every occasion by the rural outskirts of Vienna, it can be confirmation of his deep love to the nature and straightforward country living. And this affection made him try to render the beauty of countryside in series of symphonic visions.
Invoking most obvious situations, imitating sounds of nature and suggesting emotions he achieved much more than programmatic instrumental music. Formally it is first symphony of this kind in the history. It has five movements instead of four which we know as a rule according to classical principle. Composer gave series of tittles suggesting matter of every part and forming a kind of story beginning with arrival to the country, admiring idyllic scenes, surviving the storm, feeling gratitude and happiness.
He made this external program the most readable layer of his work but composition was constructed consequently as a symphonic cycle. Even if it is composed of five parts, fourth part is a kind of introduction to the real finale. This movement titled by composer as Gewitter, Sturm can be also seen as a second part of the scherzo which would be then consisted of two contrasting episodes. But the first option is more likely because of lack of final cadence in fourth movement of this symphony.

Herbert von Karajan – Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony

Beethoven was intentionally searching for best dramatic solution in frame of classical symphonic form. Scherzo in Pastoral Symphony has two trios what can be taken from idea of the rondo form balancing sonata rondo form in closing part of the work. Theodor Adorno considered this to be a pattern referred to by Anton Bruckner in his scherzos. Nevertheless three last movements are connected together and played attaca as one movement. And whole symphony is enough universal in it’s idea and realisation to be listen just as a symphonic cycle. And maybe this is why composer said it is „more the expression of feeling than painting”.
Among many phenomenal renditions of this work one is special. Recorded in 1962 with Berliner Philharmoniker and first published in 1963, Herbert von Karajan’s interpretation of Sixth Symphony is rare example of perfection. Every phrase appears, resounds and ends with soft coherence. And even if we would find somebody who can’t understand sound painting effects, emotional substance of this music should be build the inkling of future happiness. This kind of attainment is always dependent of the orchestra highest artistry but person determining the final vision of the work is a conductor. And Karajan was always personality with clear creative vision of final work and complete skills to achieve his aim.
In discography of Herbert von Karajan one can find almost every great composition from the history of orchestral music, but his privileged position was based on master interpretations of greatest nineteenth century symphonies. His cycle of Beethoven’s symphonies recorded in 1961 and 1962 was internationally acclaimed and in next decades published in many series of Deutsche Grammophon. This edition was released in series Accolade in 1978 for English market and marked conductor’s position in Great Britain.

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