Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 and Wordsworth’s The Prelude

The Culture Club has chosen for its next session to discuss Beethoven’s 6th Symphony and Wordsworth’s two-part Prelude of 1799, because both are related to the countryside. While reading around the subject, I came across this quote which reveals a deeper link between the two. This is from Richard Osborne’s chapter on Beethoven, from the book A Guide To The Symphony, edited by Robert Layton:

Beethoven summed up the impact he intended the [6th] symphony to have when he wrote: ‘The whole work can be perceived without description – it is feeling rather than tone-painting’. In other words, it is the spontaneous activity of the mind and the imagination in which Beethoven is interested; and in this he was at one with his contemporary, William Wordsworth. When Wordsworth revised his long autobiographical poem The Prelude, he saw more vividly than ever what Beethoven, writing his ‘Pastoral’ Symphony, was immediately aware of: that his art was not charting landscape or seasons or country happenings, but the interrelationship between landscape and the conscious mind. This is what Beethoven intends when he writes over the opening movement, ‘Awakening of cheerful feelings on arrival in the country’. Later, in the Finale, he becomes the shepherd sharing his sense of thanksgiving and even, perhaps, feeling a slight autumnal chill, the chill of dying life, as the muted horn winds into the distance on the symphony’s final page.
Richard Osborne, Chapter 4 – Beethoven, A Guide To The Symphony

2 comments

  1. I think the pastoral theme is intriguing and the website is wonderful. Juvenal is a hard case & good for that. Wordsworth, I’m not so sure. He needs a nine to five job. Having the score of the Beethoven is a great idea, and fascinating… (which way up does it go?)

    This has inspired me to poetry, viz. –

    PASTORAL (?)

    The city oppresses, the city pains
    In the countryside it torrents
    In the city it just rains…
    (Well, unless it’s a nice city like Florence…)

    Were I fit and able
    Yes! To the countryside, I’d de-camp
    But unfortunately I’m in a wheelchair
    So I’d need a bloody ramp…

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.