Owen Jander's recent observation that the concluding birdcalls in the second movement of Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony reproduce the opening motive of his Fifth provides a starting point for considering the two symphonies together. Evidence derived from analysis, sketches, and compositional-biographical circumstances is used to establish and illuminate a process of modeling in which the Sixth Symphony adopts the procedural innovations of the Fifth while inverting their affective impact. Possible rationales for this modeling include Beethoven's preoccupation with transmutational variation and his desire to make the Pastoral more symphonic. More intriguingly, the modeling underscores parallel scenarios of divine reconciliation in the two symphonies, a theme shared more generally by the other works performed on the occasion of their public premieres in December 1808. In the Fifth, the struggle against Fate often heard in the first movement is resolved through the penitential march of the scherzo, while the "theophanic" storm movement in the Sixth (Richard Will's reading is extended here to account for the enigmatic birdcalls, whose "message" is echoed more pressingly in the scherzo) reorients secular appreciations of nature and country life toward thankful devotion. In each work, the celebratory finale rectifies an established schism between humanity and God.
A Tale of Two Symphonies: Converging Narratives of Divine Reconciliation in Beethoven's Fifth and Sixth
Raymond Knapp; A Tale of Two Symphonies: Converging Narratives of Divine Reconciliation in Beethoven's Fifth and Sixth. Journal of the American Musicological Society 1 July 2000; 53 (2): 291–343. doi: https://doi.org/10.2307/832010
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