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Classical 101

Appreciating Ludwig van Beethoven's 6th Symphony

Boyce Lancaster talks with Maestro Albert-George Schram, former staff conductor of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, about Ludwig van Beethoven's 6th symphony, also known as the Pastoral Symphony, which, like his other even-numbered symphonies is underplayed and under-performed. Scharm, on the other hand, re-discovered its glory through the original instrumentation and tempi. Movements:

  1. Erwachen heiterer Empfindungen bei der Ankunft auf dem Lande (Awakening of cheerful feelings upon arrival in the country): Allegro ma non troppo
  2. Szene am Bach (Scene at the brook): Andante molto mosso
  3. Lustiges Zusammensein der Landleute (Happy gathering of country folk): Allegro
  4. Gewitter, Sturm (Thunderstorm; Storm): Allegro
  5. Hirtengesang. Frohe und dankbare Gefühle nach dem Sturm (Shepherds' song; cheerful and thankful feelings after the storm): Allegretto

[audio src="http://wosu.org/audio/Beethovens-6th.mp3"]

Highlights From This Interview:

Boyce: "Nobody ever talks about (the Sixth Symphony). In radio, they always gravitate to the odd-numbered symphonies." Albert-George: "Yes, because (they're) probably more viscerally exciting. I remember the old recordings of Beethoven's 6th. It's boring by today's standards." Albert-George: "About 25 years ago, people started to make recordings on the original instruments, and the sound was different, so it was a very interesting thing. But what it did - the concept of tempos changed." Albert-George: "For all of these years and for all of these generations, people did Beethoven's 6th with all these slow, romantic, overlay kind of thing that makes it slurpy and soupy. And suddenly, with the original instrument thing, original Beethoven's tempi came alive." Albert-George: "As a conductor, you cannot do any Beethoven without knowing about (his original tempi), and without having the refresher of original tempi. Beethoven's own tempi really do work. Beethoven had written a number of symphonies already before the metronome was invented. He put in metronome markings way after he had written a whole bunch of symphonies. People always ignore those metronome markings, decided that the man was deaf, and decided that they are not worthy. They are worthy."