Classical Era Orchestral Genres, Part 2. The solo concerto was born. This was very important in classical music. The piano and violin as solo instruments were very popular. The viola is any stringed instrumented played a with a bow. Later, it was mostly played on the upper arm or shoulder. There are 4 principal instruments (soprano, alto, tenor, bass). They correspond to the violin, viola, cello and bass. The viola is a perfect fifth below the violin. Modern violins have chin rests. The instruments made by Amati, Stradivari are simply of top grade. These were Baroque instruments. Their instruments could endure the test of time. Fortepiano refers to early pianos made with wooden harps. The first drawings of a piano was invented by Cristofori in 1700. Pianoforte means soft-loud By 1800, pianos almost completely replaced the harpsichord. Mozart composed more than 40 concertos and was incredibly prolific. One simply cannot go wrong with Mozart. Sometimes, there will be a solo theme exclusively for the soloist. The soloist, most of the time, would also prepare a cadenza or a solo. Listen to mozart’s piano concerto no. 1. Mozart’s piano concertos are one of the most famous and best ever composed.
Send in the Buffone. Opera in the Classical Era. It is late 17th century Baroque Italian opera now. The Metastasio was composed between 1698 to 1782. It was known as opera seria, or serious opera. Rosseau hated opera serias and the aristocracy of Italy. His ideas were controversial. Opera Buffa was invented in the streets. Rosseau embraced this style of opera. Listen to Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, La Serva Padrona. Listen to Mozart’s operatic ensemble. Mozart composed over 22 complete and incomplete operas. One famous one is the Magic Flue in 1791. Don Giovanni was composed in 1787. It is Italian for Don Juan. Beethoven emerged just after Mozart passed away at 35.
A Revolutionary Artist for a Revolutionary Time – Ludwig van Beethoven. Was Beethoven an 18th or 19th century man? He changed the face of Western music. Listen to Haydn’s symphony no.88 and Beethoven’s Symphony 5. Hadyn was more upbeat. Beethoven’s is ferocious and modern and dark in character. Beethoven’s is in C minor. Beethoven’s theme cannot be sung. The phrases in Hadyn’s theme are rhymed. Beethoven’s symphony 5 doesn’t sound like other music in the classical era, but sounds completely modern. What did Beethoven take his music in this direction? Beethoven was a lonely child and did not have a social life. Bach’s music had more influence on Beethoven than Mozart. After his mum passed away, he took responsibility of taking care for the family. Beethoven focused on power, sound. He was a cocky character, who learnt from Hadyn. After he lied to Hadyn, Hadyn stopped teaching him. Beethoven was very strong willed, which made it difficult to teach him. His hearing loss began in 1796 and he was deaf in 1818. However, despite all that, he still continued composing and making a difference.
Beethoven’s Compositional Innovations. When the going gets tough, the tough innovate. He was influenced by Napoleon. From 1792 to 1802, he composed mostly classical style of Hadyn and Mozart. The heroic period is between 1803 and 1815. Many of the string quartets and piano concertos were composed during this period. The late period is from 1816 to 1829. They contain the last 5 piano sonatas, the 9th symphony and the diabelli variations. He composed 9 symphonies, 16 string quartets and 32 piano sonatas. He believed that music is a form of self-expression. He simply uses classical form to where they serve his expressive needs. There are also motivic development and on-going dramatic narrative. He placed great emphasis on learning and development as an artist. Many other composers were influenced by his works. All of his innovations can be heard in the first movement of Symphony 5. The music grows from violent to lyric triumph. Theme 2 was in E-flat. Theme 2 follows on smoothly from theme 1. Now, we enter the development section. Motivic development and fragmentation have deep metaphorical meaning. Later he switches to C major. C major is the key of hope and life. Essentially, he was a Romantic composer.
My art is for me, not for you. What I feel, see, and hear is important, and I/my art will express what I feel, what I see, what I hear. Take it or leave it. – Robert Greenberg
It is the struggle between C minor and C major, between despair and hope, between death and life, that is the large-scale dramatic narrative in Beethoven’s 5th symphony. It is a struggle that is won by C major during the third movement, a victory that is celebrated in the blaring and giddy 4th movement. – Robert Greenberg
Isn’t it Romantic? The Music of the 19th Century. This is the period from 1827 to 1900. It meant a poem that dealt with legendary people. In the 19th century, it refers to something outside of the everyday. There is much expanded expressive content and incremental changes. Franz Liszt was from the Romantic era. Many respected Beethoven as the ‘Moses’ of new music. There are 4 romantic era trends. They are fascination with emotional states. Tchaikovsky wrote the fantasy overture to Romeo and Juliet in 1869. This represents explicit emotion. The second major era is musical nationalism or use of folk music. The third era was a fascination with nature. Nature was pure and was worshipped. Beethoven’s Symphony 6 represents a summer evening’s storm. It is known as the Pastoral symphony and has a 4th movement climax. There was an even greater shift to individual styles.
All art aspires to the condition of music. – Robert Greenberg
Structural Problems: Formal Challenges in early Romantic Music. Alternative structures needed to be formed. People started composing shorter pieces and without structure. Program music flourished in the 19th century. Richard Strauss’ Don Quixote is about Don Quixote in 10 episodes. A symphonic overture is a 1 movement program written in sonata form. Schumman, Mendelsson, Mahler, Dvorak all composed a few pieces based on traditional structures. Brahms was flexible, like Beethoven. Schubert created the ballad or a lieder, or a song. He composed the Erlkonig (Elf King) for Baritone and Piano. Schubert was incredibly prolific for someone who passed away at 30. He composed 9 symphonies, 13 operas and hundreds of songs. The piece is from a poem. A father attempts, vainly, to save his young son from the clutches of the ‘Elf King’. This is one person mini opera. The father is in baritone. The voice of the boy is set high. The narrator is set medium low and the Elf King is smooth. This is one of the compact, power of the German song. Schubert went from one piece to another. Both Chopin and Liszt continue to define piano music up to today. Chopin was born in 1810. He was composer for piano. He composed 16 polonaises, 4 impromptus, 21 nocturnes, 20 waltzes, 4 scherzos, 58 mazurkas, 27 etudes, 28 preludes. Chopin has unwavering commitment to the piano. His pieces are also very short.
Going Beyond Beethoven. Franz Liszt said that his talent ennobles me. He believed God bestowed him with a gift. Many composers were influenced by Beethoven. They wrote program music. Listen to Hector Berlioz’s Symphony Fantastique, composed in 1830. He took creative risks. He was a self-indulgent man. He composed it when he was only 27. However, it’s his most bold and influential work. It was his symphonic autobiography. It was one of the most ground-breaking works. It was a story about an artist in love. His passion for Harriet Smithson took centre stage. It was a combination about music and literature. The piece was 5 movement long. The first movement is about reveries – passion. The second is that he finds her noble and shy, yet the image is linked with a musical idea. It hardly resembles the sonata form anymore. The second movement, the image of his beloved appears wherever he goes. The third movement is dark, one of despair. He hopes that his loneliness will be over. Nature is the metaphor in this case. There is a weeping descent too. In the 4th movement, he poisons himself with opium. The ‘March of the Scaffold’ is one of the most famous movement. The author was accused of killing his beloved and his severed head was displayed to the howling mob. The fifth movement is about hallucination. ‘She’ joins the Sabbath and takes part in devilish orgy. This piece of music is stunning in how original it was.
19th Century Italian Opera – Rossini and Bel Canto. The focus is on French and Russian opera. They were very influential in the 19th century. Operas were being performed in many places. It was cultivated in the large Italian cities. Opera was supposed to delight and move the listener. The operatic style is bel canto or ‘beautiful voice’. Rossini, Bellini were some of the composers. Rossini composed William Tell, an opera. He is one of the most quotable composers of all time. Most of the time, operas were not published and they passed off old material as new. Rossini used the same overture in 4 different operas. The Barber of Seville, was however, very famous indeed. It is one of the greatest opera buffe ever composed.
Giuseppe Verdi – It’s All About the People (Dramatic Truth in Italian Opera). His name sounds European. He was no nonsense and to the point. Italian opera improved because of him. He was a prolific composer too. His wife and daughter passed away. Un Giorno di Regno was a complete failure. Nabucco was a hit. He used dramatic truth and momentum. Often he kept to his style and refused to bow down. He didn’t care what the critics thought of him. The orchestra played a much bigger role here. Aida was his most famous opera. The characters he chose resonated greatly with the audience. A lot was based on how human the characters were portrayed.
Nineteenth – Century German Opera (Von Weber and Wagner). This was about nationalism and experimentation. In 1821, Carl Maria von Weber’s Der Freischutz was played. German opera was not prominent. The Italian ones always reigned supreme. The singspiel type became very popular and gained huge prominence. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was outstanding and was able to capture the literary beauty of the German language. Music was tended to be dominated by minor keys. The opera tends to contain supernatural beings and happenings and a background of nature. The pattern of good over evil tend to be present. Carl Maria von Weber was a virtuoso pianist. He wanted a fully inclusive artwork. German opera was a lot more free form than Italian language ones. Richard Wagner was a controversial composer and was a revolutionary. He created over 13 musical-dramatic productions. He wanted to combine Greek drama, myth, Shakespeare and Beethoven together into an art form. Tristan und Isolde is a very influential piece. Wagner invented the Leitmotif, a thematic melody or progression that represents a person, a thing, or even an idea. A descending chromatic line represents death. Arthur Schopenhauer believed in the power of classical music. This idea helped shaped Wagner’s thinking. It cannot be denied that Wagner was revolutionary and created an alternative reality and arouses a sense of the mystical in us.
Of Thee I Sing (Music al Nationalism in the 19th century). The evolutions faltered. Political nationalism was outlawed. This led to a musical movement called nationalism. This was a powerful feeling. The basis here is largely folk music. We will explore the music of Chopin, Liszt, Brahms and the group of composers known as the Russian Five. Chopin loved Poland and some of his works are styled like Polish dances. Listen to Polonaise for Piano in A Major. It is like a waltz. This one is the most heroic. There is a simple form A-B-A. Later, he saw his income dry up as he got older. He hated performing. Liszt was an amazing piano prodigy. He was impressed by how Paganini played the violin and wanted to be the Paganini of piano. His works are very difficult to play. Many saw him as the God of piano and women were extremely impressed with him. He was virtually one of the greatest who ever lived. Later on, he composed orchestral music as well. Hungarian Rhapsodies were Hungarian folk music. The Rhapsodies are very fun. He was proud of his music. The most famous piece is Hungarian Rhapsody the 2nd in C sharp minor. It was played in Tom and Jerry too. There are constant shifts between major and minor. Nowadays, musicians could play part of their ‘ethnicism’ too. Brahms was very impressive too. He composed Hungarian dances and other works. Listen to Brahm’s Hungarian Dance 5.
Romantic Nationalism, Russian Style. Russian nationalism also emerged because of political events. St Petersburg is the most westernized city in Russia. After Napoleon’s defeat in 1812, pride swelled. One of the famous composers in Mikhail Ivanovich Glindka. Later, he composed an opera. The Russian 5 were Cesar Cui, Modest Mussorgsky, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Alexander Borodin, Balakirev, Glindka. They studied music carefully and analyzed them. They didn’t like Rubinstein as they were a threat to Russian music. Listen to Nikolai Rimsky Korsakov. He mastered proper compositional technique. He became very influential. Listen to the Russian Easter Overture. It is very nationalistic. This was the spirit of romanticism. Next we will explore the different factors that affected 21st century music.
A Modern Music for a Modern World. This is a period for change. Music changed dramatically. For those who liked classical music, 20th century music might seem dissonant. They are acquired tastes. However, we might feel so because people need to get used to the music. You will need to understand the context of the music and the historical perspective. The period of Beethoven was known as romanticism. Mahler’s symphony 9 is still a Romantic composition. Mahler was a complex and difficult man. He was almost homeless and never welcomed anywhere. He was ‘forced’ to conduct for a living. The first movement is pregnant with meaning. The cello notes represent his heartbeat as he was suffering from irregular heartbeats. Later, the music slips and spirals into the abyss. It is a fatal heart attack. Commercially recorded music was only available in the early 1900s. It has been a double edged sword. The speed at which we do things now will probably lead to over-stimulation in someone from the 19th century. Because people demanded more, we cannot simply play the same old music over and over again like in the past. This affected music creation. Einstein’s theory of relativity forced us to re-consider the way we live. There was an extremely great desire to be relevant.
I want my music to be as relevant to the 20th century as the aeroplane. – Claude Debussy
‘Commercial recording made it possible for anyone to hear anything, anywhere. But, unfortunately, the record industry also created the passive listener: the couch potato. With the availability of commercial recordings, it was no longer necessary to attend a concert or learn how to play an instrument yourself if you wanted to hear music. – Robert Greenberg
Two hundred years ago, people thought nothing of sitting in a carriage for 5 days to travel 250 miles; of taking 30 days to cross the Atlantic; of writing a letter and having it answered months later; of reading a 2000 page novel.- Robert Greenberg
Revolutions, Evolutions, and ‘-isms’ galore. Making New Music in the Early 20th century. The French music revolution was emerging. France is the musical marsupial of Europe. Their music tend to celebrate timbral nuances. The French language is nuanced and flexible. This is a sense of pride for the French. Claude Debussy was revolutionary. His music was characterized by finesse and nuance. He was born in Paris and hated German music. Debussy liked to eat only small portions of food. Some of his works were influenced by the French language and romantic expression/literature and Impressionism. Impressionism was about art, light, blurred edges etc. He had an original approach to rhythm, melody. Listen to ‘Nuages’ from Three Nocturenes for Orchestra. His music doesn’t have any clear theme. His style has been greatly imitated. He sees every chamber group as individual instruments that can be used in any way he pleases. The harmonic colours are often interwined. His music was not well received by critics. Often, his music contained a lot of vague floating shapes and this was not well received by many. Debussy’s music is what modern compositional music sounds like.
From Russia with Rhythm – Igor Stravinsky, Stravinsky’s teacher was Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. He was a late bloomer and was not very talented when young RK accepted him as a student. Serge Diaghilev spotted Stravinsky’s talent. Stravinsky’s first great work was The Firebird. It was based on a Russian folk tale. There was plenty of innovation being used. The dance has asymmetric beats. Another work with rhythmic asymmetry is The Rite of Spring. It is the product of primitive Fauvist spirit. The dramatic narrative is created via rhythmic asymmetry.
No Waltz in the Park – Arnold Schoenberg’s Vienna and Expressionism. Vienna was the heart of the Austrian German musical tradition. His music was a continuation from German music. Many Germans and Austrians share the same language and cultural heritage. In the 19th century, expressionism was born. Schoenberg was a pure Romantic. To him, the artist should express himself to the fullest. He was born in Austria. The good thing about Vienna was that there were many composers there. He eliminated dissonance from his music. He composed 21 songs known as Pierrot Lunaire. It is basically a set of sophisticated cabaret songs. The poems follow a A-B-A form. Pierrot is the clown who has the ability to commit heinous crimes. The piece is so revolutionary that it can’t be compared with anything else.
The sound and expressive content of a given era’s music – are a function of the larger environment and a composer’s response to that environment. – Robert Greenberg
When we listen contextually – with the life and times of the composer in mind – we realize that no great piece of music is conventional. – Robert Greenberg
Johann Sebastian Bach – Brandenburg Concerto 2; Fugue in C minor; Cantata no. 140; Passacaglia in C Minor; Brandenburg Concertos
Ludwig van Beethoven – Symphony 1, 2, 3, 6, 5, 9 ; String Quartet in E-flat Major; Piano Sonata in G major; concerto in D Major for violin and orchestra; Diabelli variations for piano
Hector Berlioz – Romeo and Juliet; The Damnation of Faust; Symphonie Fantastique
Johannes Brahms – Hungarian Dance No. 5; Piano Quartet no. 1; Concerto in D Major for violin and orchestra; clarinet quintet in B minor; piano quartet no. 1 in G minor
Frederic Chopin – Mazurka in A minor; Polonaise in A major
Claude Debussy – Three Nocturnes for Orchestra
Mikhail Glinka – A life for the Tsar
George Frideric Handel – Messiah Overture; Messiah Hallelujah Chorus
Joseph Hadyn – Symphony no. 92, 88
Gustav Mahler – Symphony 3 and 9
Felix Medelssohn – Symphony no. 4
Wolfgang Mozart – Eine kleine Nachtmusik; 12 variations on twinkle twinkle little star; Symphony 39, 40, 41; Piano concerto 17; the Magic flute; The Marriage of Figaro; Don Giovanni
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov – Russian Easter Overture
Gioachino Rossini – The Barber of Seville, ‘Una voce poco fa’
Arnold Schoenberg – Pierrot Lunaire no 1
Franz Schubert – Erlkonig and Symphony no. 9
Richard Strauss – Don Quixote
Igor Stravinsky – the Firebird; The Rite of Spring
Peter Tchaikovsky – Romeo and Juliet; Fantasy Overture
Richard Wagner – Tristan und Isolde