Pastoral [pastorale] (Fr It. pastorale; Ger. Hirtenstück, Hirtenspiel, Schäferspiel etc.)
- Geoffrey Chew
- and Owen Jander
[pastorale] (Fr It. pastorale; Ger. Hirtenstück, Hirtenspiel, Schäferspiel etc.)
A literary, dramatic or musical genre that depicts the characters and scenes of rural life or is expressive of its atmosphere. The term has been used in musical titles as both an adjective (Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony) and a noun (Franck’s Pastorale) and may be used both ways in referring to the type in general.
In its long history, the pastoral tradition has served a variety of audiences and artistic purposes. Accounts of it often stress the literary aspects of the tradition at the expense of the musical and pastorals addressed to cultivated audiences at the expense of the more popular, and in consequence the tradition often appears essentially artificial and unreal. Yet it has proved vital and flexible, not only as a self-contained genre, but (as in German Romantic music) occasionally in its ability to colour a variety of music not necessarily considered pastoral either by its composers or by critics. Arcadia or its equivalent can be an eschatological religious symbol, where the wolf lies down with the kid or where Christ is the Good Shepherd (as in Bach’s cantata no.104). Or it may be a symbol of Nature whose response to the sacred, or to art, is immediate and authentic (as in the Orpheus legend and in the popular pastoral tradition where animals speak on Christmas Eve). Or it may be a symbol of the ideal to which the artist vainly aspires. Moreover, within the pastoral setting, disruptive events may occur, and they are not always negligible or accountable in terms of ...