No one is infallible, except maybe God, and even He (or She) created Texas. This is especially true of artists, whose work can have a wide fluctuation in quality. The reasons for this can be wide-ranging: youth and immaturity, the need for a paycheck, censorship at the hands of the state, just plain bad luck, whatever. William Shakespeare is the greatest writer in the history of the English language, but he also wrote Cymbeline and King John. Steven Spielberg can’t count as high as the number of Academy Awards he has won, but he is also responsible for the Jurassic Park sequel. Frank Lloyd Wright designed many of the greatest buildings in the world, but he also designed the Sturgis House in Southern California, which looks like Noah’s Ark crash landed on a middle school. So it is with Beethoven, perhaps the greatest composer ever. Many critics quickly point to Wellington’s Victory as the low point of Beethoven’s musical output, but I vehemently disagree…no other work of Beethoven’s calls for musket fire, but that’s a post for another day. I’m writing this because I want help from music lovers to help me understand one thing: why do I hate Beethoven 6 so much?
I’ve searched for any possible explanation as to why I dislike the piece. Maybe Beethoven wasn’t really in tune with nature enough to express it musically? The 14th and 15th piano sonatas say hello. Maybe he was uncomfortable with F major? Not if the 8th Symphony has anything to say about it. Maybe he went through a tough stretch where he just wasn’t on his A game? Um, it premiered at the same concert as the 5th Symphony.
I genuinely want to understand and love the Pastoral, but I just can’t right now. I’m lukewarm on the first movement; it certainly conveys an atmosphere of being out on a gorgeous Spring day, but it doesn’t feel like it really goes anywhere (maybe that’s the point). I appreciate the raindrops music, but the fourth movement storm seems clunky. The fifth movement is harmonically static in large chunks, and the shepherd song of joy sounds more tired than anything else. I actually like the scherzo a lot, so I’ll leave that alone. The second movement is the biggest problem of all, for me. I feel like I could listen to an entire Mahler cycle in the time it takes the second movement to run its course. If I were by a brook, I would probably take my time doing lots of stuff, too, but it’s too much. I’ve performed the Pastoral twice, and it’s the closest I’ve ever come to falling asleep during a concert…and I’ve played Don Pasquale. I think I might have even fallen asleep on it during a conducting test in grad school, which would explain why I did so poorly (much better explanation than I just fucked up like a moron).
I’ve tried many different recordings, I’ve heard it live, and I still don’t get it. Help. I know my friend Ken loves the Sixth. I wonder if Ed over at The Daily Beethoven has some insight. All I know is that you could have read this post just over 70 times during the second movement alone, which would make my page view stats seem impressive for a change. I’m listening to the second movement as I’m typing this and erjn nka;nak;;ekj;nr;gekrjk;aaeeeeegjrngegvv e;;jngve eur;rnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnjhjhjhjhjhjhjhjhjhjhjhjhjhtjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjekkjjjhggggggggb olslk;;a;ellaqn;jk