Beethoven loved nature and the open air. He spent most of his summers away from Vienna in the country retreats of Heiligenstadt, M.dling and Baden, where he would walk the woods and fields notebook in hand, and even back in the city short strolls were a regular part of his work routine. ’No one can love the countryside as much as I do’, he once said, ’for surely woods, trees and rocks produce the echo which man desires to hear.’
But nature was not just a balm for the senses; for Beethoven it was evidence of the Creator’s hand. Raised on the tolerant attitudes of the Enlightenment, he had little interest in conventional formal religion, and it was in the outdoors, amidst the wonders of the natural world, that he found himself closest to God. He was hardly alone in that – such feelings were part of the spirit of the early Romantic age – but it was perhaps his unique placing at the threshold of the Classical and Romantic eras in music that allowed such a work as the ’Pastoral’ Symphony to achieve greatness.