He may not have realised it, but Beethoven was an advocate of ecotherapy, which involves being outdoors in nature, long before anyone coined the phrase.
The composer would take daily afternoon walks in nature which helped him to think and provided him with inspiration.
Although he was born in Bonn, Germany, it was Vienna which captured the composer’s heart, from the nearby hills of Kahlenberg and Leopoldsberg, to the rural Helenental valley near Baden.
The landscape surrounding Beethoven had a huge influence on his music, particularly his 6th Symphony, which was completed in 1808 and first performed in a four-hour concert in Vienna that same year.
He described the Pastoral Symphony as “more the expression of feeling than painting”.
The Symphony has descriptive titles for each movement, including Scene from the Brookside, and Thunder and Storm, and different parts of the score were used to represent the birds Beethoven would often hear on his walks in the woods near his home – the flute for the nightingale, the oboe for the quail and clarinets to represent the sound of the cuckoo.
Birdsong is prevalent in much of Beethoven’s work and the call of one in particular, the ortolan bunting, is said to have inspired the “da-da-da-dah” of his 5th Symphony.
Incidentally, the 5th Symphony’s introduction was also played by the BBC at the beginning of its broadcasts during World War Two because the rhythm, “dot-dot-dot-dash” is the letter V in morse code – V for victory.
Being outdoors and immersing yourself in nature can benefit your mental and physical wellbeing.
Perhaps during Lockdown you have found, like Beethoven, that going for a walk and surrounding yourself with the world’s natural beauty, has helped to improve your mood and reduce your feelings of stress or anger.
Maybe Lockdown has encouraged you to become more active and has boosted your self-confidence.
When you listen to Beethoven, are you transported to your favourite outdoor space, or do you imagine him walking through the woods near his home which inspired so much of his music?
As the man himself once said: “How happy I am to be able to walk among the shrubs, the trees, the woods, the grass, and the rocks!
“For the woods, the trees and the rocks give man the resonance he needs.”
This week, The Hanover Band is releasing its own recording of the 6th Symphony as part of the Beethoven 250 series ahead of the anniversary of his birthday on December 16.
The orchestra recorded the Symphonies during the summer, during a period while UK Covid restrictions were eased, and has been broadcasting them online.
Initially, with the latest new travel restrictions, the recording of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony looked uncertain, with director Benjamin Bayl stuck in Lockdown in Vienna, however, the Band is delighted that Sir Mark Elder and soloists have now stepped in at short notice and this recording will be going ahead over the coming weeks.
The Online Festival Series can be viewed for free but any donations will be gratefully received.