This unusual pairing was not without point. Towards the end of Ein Heldenleben, as Strauss's hero is lacerated with doubt as to the value and purpose of his existence, he contemplates becoming a shepherd. The idea does not persist. So complete a withdrawal from the world was too drastic a move for a young man possessed of so strong a sense of mission. (Strauss was only 34 when he wrote Ein Heldenleben.) The psychic upheaval has, however, caused him to understand the power of renunciation, a power that will bring true contentment when the time for retirement finally comes.
Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony has a not dissimilar trajectory. Beginning with the sensation of 'pleasant, cheerful feelings awakened on arrival in theRead more countryside', it ends with a sweet-sung finale during which Beethoven becomes the shepherds, sharing with them their mood of thanksgiving before a distant horn, emblem of autumn and the dying year, sounds its lament. To call either piece 'programmatic' is to misrepresent it. Beethoven's Pastoral does not so much describe nature as explore the feelings it arouses in the human heart and imagination; Ein Heldenleben is as much a study of evolving states of mind as a paean to the heroic ideal.
It is also worth remarking that both works offer ingenious adaptations of classical form. Where Beethoven adapts the four-movement symphonic structure by linking scherzo and finale by means of a Storm that takes the idea of a brief preface to the finale into hitherto unimagined territory, so Strauss confounds his critics by creating a tone-poem that has its roots in an extended classical sonata-form structure. There are six sections: first subject (the hero), transitional subject (his adversaries the critics), second subject (his wife and companion in love), development (deeds of war), recapitulation (works of peace and troubled self-analysis), and coda (fulfilment in retirement). - From the booklet note , Richard Osborne, 2009 Read less