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(1) An opera, pantomime, or ballet having a plot that gives an idealized picture of rural life. Pastoral music, which emerged under the influence of pastoral literature, enjoyed popularity in the 17th and 18th centuries, especially at the Italian and French courts. The composers of pastoral operas included Gluck, Mozart, J.-B. Lully, and J.-P. Rameau. In the opera The Queen of Spades, Tchaikovsky re-created the pastorale “The Shepherdess’ Sincerity.” Pastoral operas were occasionally composed even in the 20th century.
(2) A vocal or instrumental work presenting scenes from nature or from rural life. Characteristic of the instrumental pastorale are a serenely flowing melodic movement, often doubled in thirds; sustained bass notes suggesting the sound of bagpipes; and 6/8 or 12/8 meter. The pastorale was sometimes included as a movement in the concerto grosso, but it was usually composed as a separate work. Among the composers of instrumental pastorales are Vivaldi, D. Scarlatti, F. Couperin, and J. S. Bach. Symphonic pastorales were composed as parts of cyclical compositions, or they were complete cycles in themselves (for example, Beethoven’s “Pastoral” Symphony).