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Beethoven: Symphony No. 6: Shepherd’s Thanks

Can you guess this piece? Here’s a hint: We can see clearly now, the rain has gone…

Music doesn’t have to be about the Thanksgiving holiday to express profound sentiments of thankfulness. In this symphony, Beethoven depicts the images and emotions of the rural countryside. Premiered at the same concert as the Fifth symphony, the “Pastoral” actually initially bore the title of Beethoven’s Fifth (not Sixth). In this work, nature is idealized in forms that are both lovely and frightening: the babbling brook of the second movement, and the terrifying thunderstorm of the fourth. And, as had been the case since long before Beethoven’s time, shepherds are idealized as simple, carefree folk who happily dance, sing, and presumably feast on mutton rather than turkey. After a terrific symphonic thunderstorm, the sun comes out and shepherds express their feelings of joy and thankfulness.

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