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Pastoral Music
with John Dixon Hunt

On this edition of Milestones of the Millennium, we experience the great outdoors in music. Landscape architect John Dixon Hunt joins PT’s Lisa Simeone to discuss pastoral music--music depicting and inspired by life in the country. With the season of summer music festivals in full bloom, the time is ripe to explore the long-standing connection between classical music and nature. We begin the hour with two movements from the “Summer” concerto from “The Four Seasons” by Antonio Vivaldi, performed by violinist Gil Shaham and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra.

It’s hard to imagine Beethoven writing “country” music, but that's one way to describe his Symphony No. 6, also known as the “Pastoral” Symphony. Beethoven liked to get away from the city, and often depicted his own outdoor experiences with vivid musical imagery. We hear the opening movement of his "Pastoral" Symphony, “Awakening of Pleasant Feelings Upon Arrival in the Country,” performed by the Aspen Festival Orchestra and conductor David Zinman. Hunt says that the yearning to escape the civilized world has long made pastoral music a favorite theme of audiences. Realism has never been the goal; an urban aristocrat’s idea of what country life would be like could be just as potent, without revealing the daily drudgery of tending sheep. Such an idealized view of country life has had an "enormous hold upon imaginations for the last 2000 years,” says Hunt.

Imitations of shepherds’ pipes have been a common feature of pastoral music. We hear an example from an interlude in Handel’s “Messiah,” and Richard Strauss’s tone poem, “Don Quixote,” which even depicts the sheep. We also hear other selections that paint musical pictures of twittering birds and babbling brooks. After discussing the great pastoral traditions of English composers, we conclude our excursion with Ralph Vaughan Williams’ lyrical romance, “A Lark Ascending,” performed by violinist Hugh Bean with Sir Adrian Boult and the New Philharmonia Orchestra.

Join Lisa and landscape architect John Dixon Hunt for a survey of idyllic musical scenery, on this edition of Milestones of the Millenium. Note: Some music parts have been edited from the commentary due to internet rights issues. (This audio segment requires the free RealPlayer 5.0 or higher. You can also listen with a 14.4 connection)

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