Beethoven completed the “Pastoral” Symphony in 1808. Its first public performance took place at a benefit concert organized by the composer himself in Vienna on December 22 of the same year. The concert consisted also of other works by Beethoven, including Piano Concerto No. 4, Op. 58, Chor Fantasie, Op. 80, and Symphony No. 5 in C-minor, Op. 67.
The most striking feature of the “Pastoral” Symphony is the inclusion of programmatic elements, a compositional concept that would become popular among the composers of the Romantic Era. In the “Pastoral” Symphony, Beethoven depicts his feelings towards nature. To make his intentions clear, the composer wrote at the beginning of each of the five movements the following suggestive words: for the first movement, “Pleasant, Cheerful Feelings which Awaken in Men on Arrival in the Country Side;” for the second, “Scene by the Brook;” for the third, “Jolly Gathering of Country People;” for the fourth, “Thunder, Storm;” and for the fifth, “Shepherd’s Song. Salutary Feelings with Thanks to the Deity after the Storm.” It is not difficult at all for a listener of the symphony to imagine the sceneries Beethoven wished to draw from the sound the orchestra produces. Incidentally, Walt Disney utilized a large portion of the “Pastoral” Symphony in his 1940 animated film, Fantasia. Not just children but adults, too, must also have enjoyed the superb collaboration between Beethoven’s music and the animated scenes, to which, according to the film, Walt Disney gave a “mythological setting.”
Symphony No. 6 is scored for an unusually large number of, from a view point of the beginning of the nineteenth century, wind instruments. Besides the usual set of woodwinds and brass instruments the symphony calls for a piccolo and two trombones.