Sound and vision blog

28 November 2016

Recording of the week: The first recording of Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony

This week's selection comes from Jonathan Summers, Curator of Classical music Recordings.

Many texts cite the very first recording of a Beethoven symphony to be that of the Fifth made by Artur Nikisch in 1913. This is incorrect because there were two earlier recordings of Beethoven’s masterpieces. One, a recording of the sixth symphony, the Pastoral, was made in November and December 1911.

Ba-obj-2092-0001-pub-largeRustic Contentment (Samuel Palmer, 1805-1881). Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

Symphony no. 6, op. 68, F major (Pastoral)_Side 1

Although the disc labels reveal very little with no conductor's name, recent research has confirmed this recording to be the Großes Odeon-Streich-Orchester conducted by Eduard Künneke (1885-1953). Indeed, it was Künneke who made the very first recording of a Beethoven symphony, the Fifth, in August 1911. The suppression of the conductor's name on the disc labels was due to the fact that by the time the recording of the Pastoral was released in 1913 and reached the shops in England, the country was already at war with Germany.

Beethoven Highlights Add MS 31766Sketch of the first movement from Symphony no. 6, op.68, F Major (Pastoral) - Ludwig van Beethoven (1808). Add. MS 31766

The full version of Beethoven's sixth can be heard on British Library Sounds. The digitised version of Beethoven's sketchbook for the Sixth (Pastoral) Symphony from 1808 can be explored here.

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