Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 is beyond any doubt the classical benchmark for the construction of a soundscape that evokes and recreates the pastoral ideal. A sound mosaic of acoustic signals that, like a locus amoenus, makes reference to the life and serenity of the natural landscape: birdsong, echoes of shepherds with their pipes, hunting horns and living waters that help celebrate the pure enjoyment of nature. This delighted and nostalgic action of looking at – or listening to – nature from the point of view of its ideal design is one of the achievements of the Enlightenment, in the same way as painted landscapes are, and is an essential paradigm for understanding the romanticism that would come later.
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Arnold Schönberg’s Transfigured Night takes its name from the eponymous poem by Richard Dehmel, a poet associated with German expressionism. The Viennese composer’s music very faithfully portrays all the tragedy contained in a poem that describes a night walk by a couple of lovers in which the woman confesses to the man that she is carrying another man’s child. Transfigured Night, an explosion of chromatic expression and tone brought to its limits, is possibly the key work to understanding turn-of-the-century Vienna.