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Two articles about Beethoven

Jonathan Figueroa

Beethoven’s music has brought joy to humankind but at the same time a lot of questions.

Many scholarly articles deal with all kind of interrogations about his music. In this assignment, I

will discuss two articles that involve Beethoven’s Symphony No.6 “Pastorale”. The first article is

Time, Morality, and Humanity in Beethoven's "Pastoral" Symphony by Richard Will, and the

second will be Beethoven’s Struggle for Simplicity in the Sketches for the Third Movement of the

“Pastorale” Symphony by Alan Frogley.

In Richard Will’s article, he presents to us how others have approach Beethoven’s 6th

Symphony before writing his own opinions. The first example is Donald Francis Tovey’s claim

that Pastoral Symphony structure is based more on the traditional classic-period forms rather

than following a program as it is usually perceived. Tovey claims that passages that resemble

nature and tone-painting may be coincidental because what they really aim is to fulfill a form

purpose. Another contrasting point of view presented is Frederick Nicks’s opinion that

Beethoven’s Pastoral was one of the greatest programmatic works and he claimed that the

programme affected directly to the form of the piece.

After many examples about how Beethoven’s symphony was perceived, the author finally

arrives at his own investigations and tell us what are the concepts he has worked on which are

not too obvious in the programme. One of this concepts is the effect of time on pastoral idylls

and the other one is the role of morality therein. He also highlights that this work is a result of
the juxtaposition of a symphony and a programmatic symphony, which gives it the freedom to

embrace diverse concepts.

The author also mentions how many other programmatic symphonies bring the Pastoral’s

subject. He explains how are they different from Beethoven’s work, and also, he introduces to us

other symphonies that also include the idea of a storm in the pastoral context.

After this, the author gives us a detailed analysis of how is structured the “storm” movement

and how it is linked with the previous movement and its subsequent movement. He calls this

merge of movements “run-on” connections and makes a detailed list of some other compositions

that have this same treatment.

Richard Will then give us his point of view about how the program does not describe us one

thing: the relationship between the scenes. He expresses that the way that time seems to pass

(sometimes faster, sometimes slower, continuously or intermittent) contributes to the

representation of the pastoral life, as he says that time plays a very important part in pastoral

context. Also, he presents the idea of the storm as the power of God over life.

In the end, the author expresses his idea of this work “as a progression from idyll through

destruction to moral redemption”. He concludes that this work deals with human concerns about

morality and about the effect of time. In the words of the author “Pastoral Symphony reminds us

that Beethoven, too, told more than just heroic stories”.

On the other hand, we have Alan Frogley’s article, which focuses only on the third movement

of Beethoven’s Pastoral. He opens his article by talking about scherzos and mentioning some of

their characteristics, one of them being the rhythmic importance they contain.
He also talks, in the particular case of Beethoven, about how little attention is directed to the

dance movements of his symphonies, even with the wave of Beethoven’s sketch research

initiated around 1970. He is interested in the rhythmic emphasis necessary to create momentum

and energy on his Scherzo.

Alan Frogley explicitly expresses his intentions in this article: “The purpose of this

investigation is to illuminate further the unique and somewhat paradoxical character of the

Pastorale Symphony, and also the way in which Beethoven brought this into being.” He uses in

great amount Beethoven’s sketches and the autograph score that has survived as his sources for

this investigation

This is how he starts to join the pieces of the puzzle to discover what the sketches can reveal.

He offers great detail of how one sketch can reveal links to another part of the score and show

how they are related. This way he starts making assumptions on how his compositional process

would have been.

Frogley defines a clear structure of the movement: S T1 T2 S T1 T2 S’ (“S" being Scherzo and

“T” trio). He highlights that this is the first time that Beethoven uses an additional trio. Also, he

starts a complete analysis of the movement. He also presents a table that contains a list of all the

sketches used in the third movement entered into the Pastorale Symphony Sketchbook.

This research based on Beethoven sketches (primary sources) reveals numerous findings. One

is as he mentioned a “subtle complexity and variety, against a background of extreme simplicity

and regularity”. On another hand, he talks about other sketches which intended function is

unclear but may have characteristics of hunt-music.

To conclude, the author talks about the ambiguity surrounding the end of Beethoven’s

sketching process, which emphasizes the composer’s challenges when writing this piece. He also

ends by saying that a lot of the Beethoven decisions in this movement have more to do with the

large-scale plan of the movement and of the symphony, rather than creating impact with one

particular theme.

As the reader, I can notice a couple of differences between the authors’ approach to the topic.

In one hand, in Richard Will’s article wants to create a new statement about what this piece is

really about, offering other points of view of previous researchers, and on the other hand, we

have Alan Frogley’s article in which he offers a new analysis based on the direct source, but only

focusing on the third movement. In both cases, they offer an individual understanding of the

piece their, different from the traditional conception of seeing this piece as only programmatic.

Both articles use strong sources to prove their points, with the difference that Frogley’s article

is more based on Beethoven’s sketches and manuscripts. This takes the research to completely

different paths but having a goal in common, which is presenting an innovative understanding of

the piece.

For research purposes on Beethoven works, but articles could be very useful. There are a lot of

passages that could be quoted in a research paper, mainly those when the author arrives at a

conclusion and present his own thoughts.

I found both articles very persuasive in their points, and it wonders me how much research has

to be made in order to prove an own statement. Even though both articles are sustaining different

claims, they both offer a very complete analysis, which is very useful for comparing sources and

learning from secondary sources.