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Unit 5, Classical Period (1750-1820)
Words like “natural” and “enlightened” are often used to characterize the Classical Period of
music. Simplicity is another key description of the period.
The composers of the Classical Period moved away from the “formal” and “elitist” forms rooted
in counterpoint during the Baroque Period in favor of more “natural” forms that were simpler,
with slower moving harmony, that were believed to be easier for the public to understand and
ultimately appreciate. While counterpoint didn’t entirely disappear, the pure technique was rare,
and instead, when Classical composers added independent lines to their music, the main melody
still dominated. The resulting sound is decidedly different from Baroque music, making it very
easy even for the most casual classical music listener to tell the difference between a piece by
Bach from one by Mozart.
Despite the move toward simplicity, one key element of the Baroque Period remained and was
even intensified during the Classical Period: tonal harmony. This included the tendency to
emphasize the melody and bass lines. Ultimately, the Classical Period has the dominance of
these two lines as a key characteristic of the style.
This was also the “age of enlightenment.” Enlightenment was a philosophical, intellectual and
ultimately a cultural movement wherein “reason” was the driving force for courses of action.
(See section 3 for further information on this subject and its impact on music.)
The roles of the church and women also changed during this period, with the church losing much
of its power in favor of secular institutions. Women continued to be active as musicians, but
certainly didn’t improve their societal position from the Baroque, as will be discussed in
section 7.
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Section 1: Main Musical Forms/Stylistic Elements
With the Classical Period’s move toward simplicity and greater understanding, there
consequently came new musical forms that allowed composers to provide strict organization of
their musical thoughts, and also to take advantage of the continuing evolution of musical
instruments.
Works like oratorios, Masses, and hymns remained a part of the compositional palette, as did
works for instrumental ensembles, and operas. In addition, new performing options, like the
piano and string quartets, drove the development of musical forms. Likewise, the “classical”
desire for simple, non-emotional music resulted in equally straightforward titles, like
“symphony” and “sonata” and “string quartet” instead of the more flowery titles of the Baroque.
Also known as “absolute” music, these works were written for their own sake, and not for
dancing or another special reasons, and were typically performed in concert and recital halls,
although there was an increasing movement of performance for personal pleasure in one’s own
home.
The stylistic elements, then, that are characteristic of the period are these:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
Dynamics: use of different levels of volume, like piano (soft) and forte (loud), as
well as gradations thereof (for example, crescendo-getting gradually louder and
decrescendo-getting gradually softer). In the case of the piano, this was done by
varying the finger pressure on the keys (unlike the harpsichord, which was either loud
or soft).
Melodies: more tuneful and easier to remember; these catchy, memorable tunes may
even have a folk or popular music “flavor,” with some composers even borrowing
snippets from popular tunes.
Texture: music is mostly homophonic (this is a texture in music where the melody
line is obvious and all the other notes are easily heard as harmony/accompaniment.
This is most of the music we routinely hear.)
Rhythm: greater flexibility and many different rhythmic patterns. In addition, there
can be unexpected pauses, syncopation, and even frequent changes from long to short
notes. Changes can also be sudden or gradual, resulting in great variety.
Basso Continuo: this practice was gradually done away with during the Classical
period. A main reason was that more music was being written especially for nonprofessionals who couldn’t improvise the accompaniment from a figured bass. Also,
because the period is marked by a desire for control, composers preferred to be very
specific in the accompaniment and its instrumentation to get the sound they really
wanted, rather than trusting it to musicians improvising the accompaniment.
Among the new forms that dominated compositions of this period were:
1. Concerto: a work featuring a solo instrument, accompanied by either orchestra or
keyboard
2. Opera Buffa: Comic opera. Developed in the 18th century, this style features comic
subjects from everyday life. First serving as a “break” or “intermezzi” between acts of
2
3.
4.
5.
6.
serious operas, the form soon became an independent, and very popular form in its own
right.
Scherzo: Literally “joke.” This became a standard movement that replaced the minuet in
multi-movement works. Usually written in a fast ¾ time, scherzos range in mood from
light to dramatic, with most in the lighter mood, reflecting their joking nature.
Sonata: Literally “to sound.” A sonata is an instrument work with several sections called
movements. Written for piano solo as well as instrumental solo with piano
accompaniment, “sonata” referred to any work that was played in the 16th century, and by
the Classical period became a dominant instrumental form.
Sonata Form: This is the most characteristic form of the Period. Specifically referring to
the form of the 1st movement of a sonata, “sonata form” refers to the structuring of a
piece based on key relationships, and with three sections: the exposition (initial
statement of thematic material), development (literally development, or “playing around
with” thematic material), and recapitulation (a restating of the thematic material).
Sometimes ends with a short section called a “coda.”
Symphony: Literally “a sounding together.” A symphony is a large scale orchestral
work, usually written in four sections called movements.
3
Section 2: Church Influences
By the Classical Period, the church in Europe was becoming ever less an influence on music,
with secular sources becoming many composers’ primary source of funding. By contrast, in the
“new world” of the United States, religion was still a driving force, certainly in large part due to
the fact that many of the earliest settlers came in search of religious freedom.
Let’s begin this look at the role of the church in the United States with a video tour of the
Ephrata Cloister in Pennsylvania. The Ephrata Cloister was established in 1732 by Conrad
Beissel in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The Ephrata Cloister was composed of members of
the German Seventh Day Baptists, one of the religious sects from Central Europe )and especially
Germany) that took refuge in the “new world.” Beissel was born in Germany in 1690, and
immigrated to the “new world” in 1720. Ephrata means “the beautiful,” and indeed the area
where Beissel established his semi-monastic community remains beautiful to this day.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_LrM4tb6M0Y&feature=related
Music played a vital role in the Ephrata Cloister religious services, with Beissel himself
organizing and teaching a chorus of such depth that it could sing in eight parts with antiphonal
singing also being an important feature of the music. Beissel is credited with having composed
more than one thousand hymns, and even set entire chapters of the Old Testament. While
instrumental accompaniment was not written out, the practice of the time was typically that the
lowest part was played by an instrument, with instruments also doubling the other voices.
Ephrata Community Songbook: “Die bittre Gute, oder Das Gesäng
der einsamen Turtel-Taube . . .” (Manuscript hymnal, 1746)
Photo source: http://rs7.loc.gov/exhibits/treasures/trm005.html
4
The Moravians continued their influential role in the United States during the classical period.
Also concentrated in Pennsylvania, the Moravians founded the city of Bethlehem in 1741. As
with the members of the Ephrata Cloister, music played a vital role in Moravian life in every
fact. In addition to vocal music, instrumental music was also very important. The group formed
a “collegium musicum” in 1744 which performed the works of Haydn and Mozart, among
others, often providing the first performance of these works in the United States. In 1820, they
created the Philharmonic Society. In his autobiography, Benjamin Franklin notes “While at
Bethlehem, I inquir’d a little into the practice of the Moravians: some of them had accompanied
me, and all were very kind to me…I was at their church, where I was entertain’d with good
musick, the organ being accompanied with violins, hautboys, flutes, clarinets, etc.”
The Moravians even had songs for walking to the fields and their various types of work. Most
notably, various Moravian composers created works for instruments, and trombone choirs were
especially an integral part of life from the earliest days to the present time. Some developed the
art of organ building in America. However, most brass, woodwind and string instruments were
still imported from Europe, since instrument making in the United States didn’t really get going
until early in the 19th century.
The following link features excerpts from a performance by the Raleigh, North Carolina
Moravian Church Band performance of hymn tunes, and features a trombone choir as a part of
the performance. This performance is from their concert at the North Carolina History Museum
on April 13, 2008.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L33ER3JupVg
The Shakers arrived in America near the end of the 18th century, and even on the ship taking
them to the “new world,” they were already developing their gift of song and their own “voice,”
shedding virtually every tradition from hymn to military march from the old world. By 1805, the
first true Shaker song is recorded in this simple and very short verse: “With him in praises we’ll
advance and join the virgins in the dance.” By 1806, “in the spirit of the work,” many hymns
were composed and sent out to the various Shaker communities for use in their union meetings.
Singing quickly became contagious, and a vital part of Shaker gatherings. Early on, the songs
were readily learned by rote or hearing. Quickly though, as the music became longer and more
complex, it became important to be able to notate the music and by the 1820s, hymns were being
introduced with written melody lines, and eventually full notation, accompanied by actual
instruction in singing and music. The hymns are truly “catchy” and it is believed that some
hymn writers may have borrowed a line or section from other songs that then evolved into purely
Shaker works.
There are hundreds of extant hymns and songs from the Shaker tradition. Perhaps two of the
most famous are “Simple Gifts” and “Lord of the Dance.” Both have been arranged countless
times and in countless ways, including Aaron Copland’s famous use in his “Appalachian
Spring.” This recording of “Simple Gifts” evokes a truer to the original performance. Featuring
the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles from a 2006 tour of South America, their beautiful
singing is accompanied by lovely, graceful choreography by Mark Chung.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AIx57ATBgZg
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This recording of “Lord of the Dance” features a complex arrangement by a Minnesota native,
and excellent choral arranger, Larry L. Fleming. The performance is by the Cardinal Singers
from Fond du Lac High School, and is from their 2008 tour of California. Note how the
arrangement starts out with a fairly simple and true rendering of the hymn tune, and then quickly
becomes very intricate, with voices weaving in and out, creating an elaborate tapestry of sound.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AzYRSV_6iiA
Without a doubt, the early Americans were prolific hymn writers! The desire to create truly
American “things,” including music, in addition to the desire for religious freedom and the
“throwing away” of most things European, likely led to this phenomenon.
Another famous hymn from the Classical Period in America is “Come Thou Fount of Every
Blessing.” Composed in 1757 by a Methodist pastor and hymn writer named Robert Robinson,
it is set to an American folk tune known as “Nettleton.” This tune was named for the evangelist
Asahel Nettleton who composed the tune. Robinson published the hymn in his “A Collection of
Hymns Used by the Church of Christ in Angel Alley, Bishopgate” in 1759. This recording is
especially peaceful and lovely, both from the listening and viewing perspectives.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a5YfNdFtesM
Jeremiah Ingalls (1764-1838), another “real American” composer, was born in Massachusetts.
He served as choirmaster at the Congregational Church in Newbury, Vermont from 1791 to
1805, and is most remembered for his 1805 anthology, “The Christian Harmony.” The book
contained works by other New England composers, as well as many of his own compositions,
plus a few folk hymns for which he wrote four-part arrangements. Many of the songs found in
“The Sacred Harp” were first published in “The Christian Harmony.” For reasons unknown,
Ingalls was excommunicated from the church in 1810. One of his best known hymn tunes is
“Northfield.”
“Northfield” is a fuguing tune, meaning it has a refrain in which the various parts enter
separately, echoing and “chasing” one another until they come back together at the end. (Think
of the popular kids’ round, “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”) This recording features four tunes:
“Russia,” “Northfield,” “New Jerusalem,” and “Nativity.” This video is especially helpful in
understanding this “fuguing” technique, as the leader perfectly demonstrates how the music must
have been done back in the day, with the leader cuing parts in, and physically moving to cue
each part at the correct time, creating the elaborate harmony resulting from the staggered
entrance of the voices.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PknhrXIyWTE
Ingalls remains a popular figure to this day. An annual “Sacred Harp” festival is held in
Newbury. To get a flavor of the festival, follow this link to the “trailer” promoting the 2008
festival.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-TqMdNb1mp8
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No study of the religious music of early America would be complete without looking at the
contribution of one of the first truly American religious composers, William Billings. Born in
Boston in 1746, Billings was not trained as a musician, but rather as a tanner and eventually
worked as a street cleaner. Although one of the most influential and enduring American
composers, he couldn’t earn his living as a musician! He was also an unlikely icon: some of his
biographers even call him a gargoyle! He had one short leg and a withered arm, and was blind in
one eye. He was called “an uncommon negligence of person” by a peer (someone we’d probably
call a “slob” in modern terms) and was a hopeless tobacco addict, continually inhaling handfuls
of snuff! In addition, his loud, deep voice was damaged by tobacco, making it rather unpleasant
to listen to by all accounts.
Despite his personal shortcomings, Billings is considered a main representative of early
American music. His hymns remain a part of many hymnals to this day, including such gems as
“When Jesus wept,” A friend of such important Revolutionary War figures as Samuel Adams
and Paul Revere, Billings was an ardent supporter of the patriots and even wrote several songs in
support of their cause. Most famous of these is “Chester,” which begins with the text “Let
tyrants shake their iron rod.” “Chester” ultimately rivaled “Yankee Doodle” as the anthem of the
revolution. The first verse of Chester is:
Let tyrants Shake their Iron rod
And slav'ry Clank her galling Chains
we fear them not we trust in god
New England's god for ever reigns.
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Follow this link to access an audio recording of “Chester.” Click on “download an mp3 file” to
hear “Chester.” There is also a wonderful recording of “When Jesus Wept” here as well.
http://www.gwynethwalker.com/billings.html
Billings, in describing his work, wrote: “For my own part, as I don’t think myself confined to
any rules of composition, laid down by any that went before me, neither should I think (were I to
pretend to lay down rules) that any one who came after me were in any ways obligated to adhere
to them, any further than they should think proper; so in fact I think it best for every composer to
be his own carver.” Interesting that his sentiments on writing music so closely echo those of the
freedom fighters of his generation! Billings was clearly blazing his own “trail,” just as did the
patriots whom he held in such high regard. He took advantage of the boredom many
parishioners were finding with the hymn music that had come with them from Europe, and even
added the innovation of using a pitch-pipe to set the starting note, rather than the free-for-all
cacophony that had been the tradition of starting hymns in most churches, plus adding
cello/continuo accompaniment to assure everyone stayed on pitch. He even started and led
singing schools, a common practice during this period, to teach the predominantly musically
illiterate singers how to correctly sing the music.
His first collection of hymns was named the “New England Psalm-Singer.” First published in
1770, the cover of the first edition featured an engraving by his friend, Paul Revere.
The image above is the frontispiece engraving for New England Psalm-Singer by Paul Revere
Before moving on to Europe, it is worth a short side journey to answer the question, so what is
up with the naming of hymn tunes? A hymn tune is simply a piece of music to which a hymn
text is sung. The naming of hymn tunes was a common practice in Billings’s day (and even
8
before), and is one in which tunes were labeled with place names, usually arbitrarily chosen.
The idea was that by labeling the tunes independent of their text, one could sing them with
different words without creating confusion. This also aided the learning of new hymns that used
old tunes, since when the practice began in Europe, most people were not musically literate and
learned music by rote. Thus, when a new hymn was to be learned, it was usually first called out
by its tune name to establish its melodic base, and then the new words added.
Thus, although “Chester” has no more to do with a town with that name than Billings’s hymn
“Africa” has to do with that continent, it was an expected practice that even the rule-shunning
Billings adhered to for the sake of clarity. Europeans went farther with this naming, sometimes
naming the tunes for their patrons (e.g., Rockingham), their churches of employment (e.g., St.
Audoën) and even themselves (e.g., Kresmer and Prescott)! For a fun side-bar on hymn tunes,
the following two web sites have a wealth of information on hundreds of hymn tunes, including
their names and hymns for which they are used, where they are found, the composer, and even
some biographical information. There are even midi file listening examples available.
http://lutheranhymntunemusic.pbwiki.com/Index+to+All+Tune+Names
http://www.cyberhymnal.org/
The proliferation of hymn tunes was especially heavy between the years 1791-1810. During that
time, over 19,000 tunes were printed in Great Britain, and another 22-23,000 in the United
States. All tolled, the number of hymn tunes published with English-language texts between the
years 1535 and 1820 was 159,123. As was alluded to earlier, many texts were published without
music, and only a reference to the tune, since many tunes were reused for many different texts.
The popularity of hymn tunes and their importance in creating an “American sound” was further
recognized in 1970, when William Billings was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Meanwhile, in Europe, the “big three” of classical music (Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven) were also
writing religious music, but typically at their own behest or that of a secular patron. (Full
profiles of these composers will be found in Section 6.)
Mozart’s “Requiem Mass in D Minor,” is particularly noteworthy. A requiem mass, in the
Roman Catholic tradition, is a service designed to pray for the souls of the departed. Regarded
as one of Mozart’s greatest masterpieces, Mozart died before finishing the work, and his wife,
Constanze had one of his pupils, Süssmayr, complete the final four movements of the work,
using some of Mozart’s own work in particular to complete the Lux Aeterna that concludes the
work. The Mass is all the more shrouded in history because it was written at the request of an
anonymous patron. The two movements featured in this video clip are from among those
actually written by Mozart, the Confutatis and Lacrimosa. This recording features the English
Baroque Soloists and Monteverdi Choir, as conducted by John Eliot Gardiner in 1991. The text
follows the video link. The Latin text is immediately followed by the English translation.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CQUFQ_N0JI8
9
Confutatis
Confutatis maledictis, (when the damned are cast away)
Flammis acribus addictis, (and consigned to the searing flames)
Voca me cum benedictus. (call me to be with the blessed)
Oro supplex et acclinis, (bowed down in supplication I beseech Thee)
Cor contritum quasi cinis: (my heart as though ground to ashes)
Gere curam mei finis. (help me in my final hour)
Lacrimosa
Lacrimosa dies illa, (O this day full of tears)
Qua resurget ex favilla (when from the ashes arises)
Ludicandus homo reus: (guilty man to be judged)
Huic ergo parce, Deus. (O Lord, have mercy upon him)
Pie Jesu Domine, (Gentle Lord Jesus)
Dona eis requiem. Amen. (grant them eternal rest. Amen.)
Among Haydn’s notable religious works are the “Stabat Mater,” and “The Creation.” The
“Stabat Mater” was written in 1767 for the Esterhazy court, and has 13 sections, with a nearly 70
minute performance time! The work was widely praised by his contemporaries, and was well
known throughout Europe.
“Stabat Mater” is actually a thirteenth century Roman Catholic sequence attributed to Pope
Innocent III. The title comes from the first line of the sequence, “Stabat mater dolorosa” (“The
sorrowful mother was standing”). The hymn was one of the most powerful Medieval poems, and
is a meditation on the suffering of Christ’s mother, Mary, during His crucifixion. It has been set
to music by composers throughout the ages, from Palestrina to Haydn to Poulenc and even by
modern period composers such as Kodaly. It was even set in the 21st century by the black metal
band Anorexia Nervosa, showing the enduring power of the text.
In the case of Haydn’s “Stabat Mater,” he humbly sent the work to the renowned composer,
Hasse, with the intention that the great master would correct his “errors” and make the work
better. Instead, Hasse invited him for a performance in Vienna in 1768, and in Haydn’s words,
“contrary to my merits, this unique artist honored the work by inexpressible praise, and wished
nothing more than to hear it performed with the good players it requires.”
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SSXu2AoLazY
Inspired by visits to England during the early 1790s, Haydn was inspired to write a large oratorio
along the lines of those he heard by Handel. Work on “The Creation” lasted from 1796 to 1798,
and was considered a profound act of faith by this deeply religious man, who commented after
the work was completed, “I was never so devout as when I was at work on The Creation; I fell
on my knees each day and begged God to give me the strength to finish the work.” It proved to
be the longest Haydn ever worked on a single composition, and, having worked to the point of
exhaustion, he collapsed following the premiere and was ill for sometime after that performance.
The premiere was sponsored by wealthy patrons, and was an invitation only event for patrons of
the arts, high-ranking government officials, and other prominent composers and musicians. The
“common folk” was so anxious to hear the new work, that 30 special police were required to
control the crowds outside the hall where the work was premiered!
10
“The Creation” is considered by many historians to be Haydn’s greatest masterpiece. The work
features the musical language of the mature classical style. The text depicts and celebrates the
creation of the world as described in the Bible, in the book of Genesis. This performance of
“Graceful consort!” (also known as Adam & Eve’s love song!) is from Part III of the oratorio,
and features soprano Leona Quek and baritone DaRen Lee.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6KCh94hBsYg
Beethoven’s “Missa Solemnis” was written between 1819-1823. It was premiered in 1824 under
the auspices of his patron, Prince Nikolai Galitzin. Generally considered by historians as one of
the Beethoven’s greatest works, it was overshadowed in its day and still today by his symphonies
and sonatas. As it was written around the same time as the 9th Symphony, it was far less admired
than that work.
Part of the problem with both Beethoven’s contemporaries and modern critics is that the work
was atypical for his compositional style. Beethoven was known for exploring his themes by
extensively developing the material, and while the huge fugues at the end of the Gloria and
Credo are in line with this type of development, overall, the work was essentially a long,
continuous musical narrative, almost without any repetition (again, contrary to his typical
development of themes). Regardless, the work is considered one of the greatest settings of the
Mass (along with Bach’s), and is a profoundly moving piece.
British musicologist Sir Donald Francis Tovey (1875-1940) perhaps put the significance of this
work best. “Not even Bach or Handel can show a greater sense of space and sonority. There is
no earlier choral writing that comes so near to recovering some of the lost secrets of the style of
Palestrina. There is no choral and no orchestral writing, earlier or later, that shows a more
thrilling sense of the individual colour of every chord, every position, and every doubled third or
discord.”
As you listen to the work, consider that the work was a reflection of Beethoven’s own
relationship with the divine. Three video clips are included below, presenting a sampling of
various parts of the entire Mass. The vocalists are accompanied by the Concertgebouw
Orchestra with Conductor Leonard Bernstein.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xpNiQLaX9_4&feature=PlayList&p=58776DA5185D1E3C
&playnext=1&playnext_from=PL&index=27 (Gloria)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9ktXTeRKdo&feature=PlayList&p=58776DA5185D1E3C
&playnext=1&playnext_from=PL&index=28 (Credo)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uSME7Bv4JE&feature=PlayList&p=58776DA5185D1E3C&playnext=1&playnext_from=PL&i
ndex=30 (Kyrie)
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Section 3: Other Influences/Factors
The Classical Period marks the true beginning of the “paid gig” concept in classical music,
wherein the public was paying money for tickets to public performances of new works, and
composers were no longer just reliant upon the generosity of nobles to support their art.
Although nobles still played an important role in the period, composers were now able to live as
independent contractors. As such, concerts were not limited to palaces and private halls
anymore. Instead, the public concert became increasingly popular, and many composers
attracted large, ticket-buying audiences for their performances. Orchestral concerts, in
particular, enjoyed public support, since they were naturally better suited for large-scale venue
performances. Because of this, symphonic music (including operas and oratorios) became
increasingly “extroverted” and their performances more of a spectacle. In turn, the orchestra
grew in size to accommodate the expanded scope of the music.
Music for personal enjoyment also became much more of a phenomenon in the Classical period.
Works were actually being written with an eye to the amateur performer, and especially small
chamber ensemble performances in homes, again, for personal pleasure. Playing music thus
became another way of socializing. Composers responded to this social phenomenon by writing
great amounts of chamber music, and paid attention to giving all instruments interesting parts,
and not just the violin, as had usually been the case during the Baroque.
Despite the move to “music for the people,” patrons did remain an important part of the musical
landscape during the Classical period. Perhaps the greatest example of this patronage is found in
the Esterhazy family. One of the richest and most influential families in the Austro-Hungarian
empire, the Esterhazy’s had a long history of artistic patronage in addition to their other areas of
interest and influence.
Perhaps the most noteworthy Esterhazy family member is
Prince Nikolaus I. Esterhazy (1714-1790). Prince Nikolaus
was Haydn’s patron for almost 30 years. He was renowned
for providing money for extravagant entertainment and
special celebrations, and of course, music to go along with
these events. Music was so important to Prince Nikolaus
that he made Haydn the third highest paid official on his
staff, behind only his property manager and personal
physician! A genuine lover of music, Esterhazy asked
Haydn to composer, perform, lecture, keep a library of
musical scores/catalog scores, and to assure maintenance of
the musical instruments.
By the end of the Classical period, as music clearly became a thing of the people and not just
nobles, views of music’s role had certainly changed from the statement Charles Burney made in
1776. In his “General History of Music,” Burney described music this way: “Music is an
innocent luxury, unnecessary, indeed, to our existence, but a great improvement and gratification
of the sense of hearing.”
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Section 4: Social/Historical Context
Enlightenment… René DesCartes…Jean-Jacques Rousseau…Revolution…Freedom…Rise of
the Working Class… Ben Franklin…Inventions…Scientific Advancements…Industrial
Revolution…Jane Austen…Lord Byron…Marine Band…these are but a few of the forces that
were at work in the world during the Classical period.
René DesCartes (1596-1650), a French philosopher, although not an
actual “Classical period” figure, is credited as being the “Father of
Modern Philosophy,” and as such, formed the basis for the thinking
of the Scientific Revolution in the Baroque period, and the
consequent “enlightenment” of the Classical period. DesCartes
brought forth the notion of “reason,” and coupled with Newton’s laws
of observation and experience as points of departure, the philosophy
is marked by an emphasis on the particular rather than the general,
observable facts rather than principles, and experience rather than rational speculation. This
included a critical questioning of tradition: institutional, customs, and morals. The
enlightenment period philosophers were, in general, humanist, secular, modern and scientific.
This was, then, as much a set of attitudes as it was a set of ideas.
Another prominent philosopher of this period was Jean-Jacques
Rousseau. His insights can be found in most of our contemporary
philosophy, and has been described by some historians as a forebear
of modern socialism and Communism, since in the course of
contending that man is essentially good, he also attacked the
institution of private property, and questioned the assumption that the
will of the majority is always correct. Regardless, he stands with his
contemporaries in the principles that politics and morality should not
be separated and that freedom is what the state is created to preserve.
He also embraced learning by experience.
Religion was consequently impacted by this philosophy, since it focused on humanizing
theological systems, and freeing people from physical coercion to comply. It has been
contended by some historians that the enlightenment did more to dislodge the church from its
control of society than did the Reformation, since science in particular made great gains
during this time, with natural science especially moving to the front of much of the
enlightenment discussion, and included in many philosophical writings of the period. The
18th Century, then, is known as the “age of enlightenment” as it was both the culmination of
DesCartes’ work and a new beginning, with new ideas and new approaches setting the “stage”
for the revolutions that also mark the period. Of particular note, then, is that the
enlightenment proponents worked for humanity and the “brotherhood of man” (Voltaire),
marked by the common man struggling for freedom against the aristocracy. Indeed, the
revolutions that mark the period are just such struggles:
•
•
1763-1783: The American Revolution (Declaration of Independence made in 1776)
1789-1795: The French Revolution
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The period is also marked by other struggles, including:
•
•
•
1812-1814: The War of 1812 (essentially “Part 2” of the American revolution)
1821: Gran Colombia formed (a nation of liberated Spanish American colonies, with the
war for freedom taking place during the years preceding this); Simón Bolívar (sometimes
described as the “George Washington of South America”) named president (later to be
president of Peru, 1824-1826 and president of Bolivia, 1825-1826) (Bolívar is credited
with contributing significantly to the independence of several present-day South
American countries, including Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Panama, and
Bolivia.)
December 1825: Decembrist Revolt in Russia (the first overt armed revolt against the
Russian aristocracy – the tsars – by a group of military officials that wanted a free
Russian state, with a federal government and constitution, instead of government under a
tsar; this was preceded by an invasion of Russia by Napoleon in 1812)
With increased personal freedom came the rise of the working class. The ability to earn enough
money not only to live, but to do so comfortably, afforded many people the luxury of
discretionary funds for personal pleasure. Music, in particular, benefited from this phenomenon,
since concerts were now no longer private affairs. Likewise, support for music was no longer
solely dependent upon wealthy patrons and nobility or the church. Instead, concerts and
performances became public events, with tickets being sold, with a “come one, come all” feel to
them. This certainly opened up additional revenue sources for composers, as well as freed them
up to pursue genres they might not otherwise have been able to under their patrons or the church.
Likewise, the “common man” was able to now enjoy concert music and to also, to some degree,
shape the popularity of certain genres by their ticket-purchasing power. The rise in amateur
musicianship among the “common people” also led to the rapid rise in popularity of certain
composers and genres, specifically targeting these types of musicians, and not just the seasoned
professionals. Greater intellectual ability, coupled with more readily available reading materials,
thanks to books, also contributed to the rise of the common man.
Scientific advancements were also strongly shaping the world, especially as European
universities moved to embrace new sciences and ways of studying science, specifically moving
them away from the influence of the church in this regard, as well. (The exception was in Spain,
where the Catholic Church retained its influence on the universities until over halfway through
the 18th century). Experimentation became the norm for studying science, with hands on a vital
part of the class work in addition to lecture. Disciplines included physics, chemistry, natural
history, anatomy, biology, geology, mineralogy, and zoology. Scientific academies and societies
that had their roots in the Scientific Revolution developed links with universities during the
Enlightenment (again, as the church lost its grip on these institutions). The distinction between
the two institutions at the time was that the university’s role was to teach knowledge, and the
society’s role was to create knowledge. Scholarly journals became important to spread the work
of societies in particular, and with the audience growing wider thanks to the working class,
coupled with advances in publishing, journals became very popular indeed. Likewise,
encyclopedias and dictionaries were also very popular, especially among the educated consumers
who could now also afford these texts. Public lectures were also a popular phenomenon of the
period. (The rise of the working class was a very important development in many ways, and not
just musically!)
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Women were excluded from scientific societies, universities and “learned professions” during
the Enlightenment. If women were educated in science at all, it was usually thanks to their
fathers, tutors, and possibly self-study. Worst of all, women were prohibited from using
scientific instruments – this ban went so far as to not allow midwives to use forceps in difficult
deliveries, resulting in male doctors to take over the role of midwives in childbirth. Some writers
went so far as to suggest that women interested in science were neglecting their true domestic
role! Jean-Jacques Rousseau was perhaps one of the most negative, suggesting that women need
not, nor out to be educated, writing, “A woman’s education must…be planned in relation to man.
To be pleasing in his sight, to win his respect and love, to train him in childhood, to tend him in
manhood, to counsel and console, to make his life pleasant and happy, these are the duties of
woman for all time, and this is what she should be taught while she is young.”
Despite the societal limitations, some women were able to make valuable contributions to
science during this period. These pioneers include Russian princess Yakaterina Dashkova, who
became the director of the Russian Imperial Academy of Sciences in 1783, making her the first
woman to hold this type of role anywhere. (This was believed to have been partly possible
because the Russian Czarina, Catherine the Great, was a personal friend.) Another pioneer was
Dr. Laura Bassi. A physicist, she received her Ph.D. from the University of Bologna and ended
up teaching there, as well. More often, though, women were able to participate only under the
auspices of a male family member. One such example is Caroline Herschel, who began her
astronomical career assisting her brother, William. In 1786, she discovered her first comet,
much to the delight of her fellow scientifically-inclined women, including Fanny Burney, who
commented “the coment was very small, and had nothing grand or striking in its appearnce; but
it is the first lady’s comet, and I was very desirous to see it.”
Ben Franklin/Inventions
Meanwhile, in America, Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), besides
helping found the United States, was establishing his legend as an
inventor, as well as a statesman. He is further remembered as an
author, printer, satirist, political theorist, politician, scientist, civic
activist and diplomat. His political activities helped secure
America’s independence and formed the basis for the country. His
scientific work earned him a place in history as one of the major
figures in the Enlightenment, and especially the history of physics
for his discoveries and theories regarding electricity. (Remember
the kite?! The painting at left is by Benjamin West, and is entitled
“Benjamin Franklin Drawing Electricity from the Sky.”)
Among his inventions were the lightning rod, bifocals, the Franklin
stove, an odometer for carriages, and musical instruments. In
addition, he formed the first public lending library as well as the
first fire department in Philadelphia.
You may recall he also found time to explore the newly developing
American music forms, as evidenced by his comment on Moravian
music (see section 2).
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The Industrial Revolution was another force that had a profound impact on society as a whole,
and music as a by-product thereof. From the late 18th century to the early 19th century, major
changes took place in agriculture, manufacturing and transportation (the “industrial revolution”)
that had a profound impact on both cultural and socioeconomic conditions, first in Great Britain,
and then throughout Europe and the United States. This marked a real turning point for all
persons, since it touched virtually every aspect of daily life. These innovations included
mechanization of making textiles, development of iron-making techniques and use of refined
coal. In addition, trade was expanding, thanks to the introduction of canals, railways, and
improved roadways. The introduction of coal-powered steam power and consequently powered
machinery, resulted in dramatic increases in production capability. All metal machine tools
came in the early 19th century, making it possible to build even better machines to help with
manufacturing. All of these innovations, of course, further improved the lives of everyone, and
most especially the “working class,” again making it possible for them to become more active
consumers of the arts, and music in particular.
In the world of literature, two women were making their place in history, while making strong
social commentary. Jane Austen (1775-1817) was an English novelist known for her realism and
use of irony, while making biting social commentary on the human condition, making her an
enduring and beloved writer to this day. Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) was also English, and
in addition to being a writer, was also a philosopher and feminist. Her best known work is “A
Vindication of the Rights of Women” from 1792, in which she argues that women are not
naturally inferior to men, and only seem so due to lack of education. She also argued that
women and men should be treated as rational beings, and envisioned a social order founded on
reason. (This was quite contrary to the prevailing sentiment about women’s inferiority and even
non-human status, in some quarters!)
Lord George Gordon Byron (1788-1824), an English poet, is remembered to this day as one of
the greatest European poets. His work includes the narrative poem “Don Juan.” However, his
personal exploits added to his fame then and now, including his passion for extravagant living,
love affairs and marital exploits, as well as debts. A contemporary, Lady Caroline Lamb,
described him as “mad, bad, and dangerous to know.”
Another Englishman, turned American (and then Frenchman!) was Thomas Paine (1737-1809).
Paine is probably best remembered for his work entitled “Common Sense” (1776) in which he
advocated the independence of the American colonies from Great Britain, followed by a series of
pro-revolutionary works between 1776-1783 entitled “The American Crisis.” Following the
successful American revolution, he went on to greatly influence the French revolution, writing
the “Rights of Man” in 1791, providing a guide to Enlightenment ideas. (He was ultimately
elected to the French governing body, even though he did not speak French!) Remembered as a
writer, revolutionary, radical, and intellectual, Paine is a renowned figure in American history.
All of these writers helped shape the society in which the working class was evolving, and at the
same time music was being created. In some ways, their thoughts and ideas found their way into
the musical creations of the time, both directly and indirectly. (For example, “Don Juan” the
womanizer was not only a popular literary topic, but also one for comic opera in the hands of
Mozart.)
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From a musical standpoint, perhaps one of the most interesting developments of the period came
from the United States military. While town bands, and even military bands had been in
existence in various forms earlier, the fledgling United States came forth with what became the
forerunner of a new and uniquely American genre. The United States Marine Band was formed
in 1798, and played its first presidential performances in 1801. The Marine Band is the oldest
professional musical organization in the United States. Early on, the band was distinguished
from the fighting marines by wearing reverse colors so they were distinctive on the battlefield for
the sake of the commander. Nickname “The President’s Own,” the band early on played the
masterworks for instrumental ensembles and continue to do so to this day.
Perhaps the most fitting musical example for this fine group is the national anthem of the United
States, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The lyrics were written in 1814 when Francis Scott Key, a
poet, wrote “Defence of Fort McHenry” after seeing the bombardment of Fort McHenry by the
British during the War of 1812. The poem was set to the tune of a popular British drinking song,
that was likewise popular in America, “To Anacreon in Heaven.” Although difficult to sing, it
quickly became well-known as an American patriotic song, eventually being recognized for
official use by the Navy in 1889 and by the President in 1916, and finally being made the
national anthem in 1931 by a congressional resolution that was signed by President Herbert
Hoover. (Prior to this, the de facto national anthem from Washington’s time and through the 18th
and 19th centuries, was “Hail, Columbia.” However, the War of 1812 saw the emergence of
“The Star-Spangled Banner” as the front runner to represent the nation.)
This recording is from a Marine Band concert and features the presenting of the colors prior to
the anthem actually being played. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d4mVkMi03nI
This photo of the Marine Band is from 1864 (Civil War) and is from the government’s
“memory” project. You can view more photos at this link:
http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/cwmhtml/cwmgallery05.html
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In summary then, society as a whole was changing drastically during this period, and as a result,
so was music. Music’s moving away from the sole influences of the church and nobility, along
with the rise of the working class, had perhaps the greatest impact. Music was evolving into a
popular art form, and away from the church, contrary to the opinion expressed by Andreas
Werckmeister at the end of the 17th century, just before Enlightenment swept the world. In
supporting the view that religion was the center of society, he wrote that it was “a gift of God, to
be used only in His honor.” Obviously, Enlightenment radically changed that notion and like
enlightenment’s notion that by using reason and logic, one could accomplish anything, thus,
instead of relying on the church to determine their beliefs, people were not able to make up their
own minds. This humanitarian approach led to great growth in the arts as a whole, and music in
particular.
In keeping with the ideals of balance and logic from the Enlightenment philosophers, composers
thus worked to maintain a “perfect order” in their music and form was vital to this. The goal of
music was simplicity over complexity, pleasing music without excessive emotion, and meeting
listeners at their level, and not requiring massive effort and/or musical education in order for
listeners to understand the music. In other words, music for the people (and even sometimes, by
the people!).
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Section 5: Instruments
Perhaps the most significant musical instrument to emerge as a dominant force during the
Classical period is the piano.
The piano opened up a world of sound and nuance
previously unavailable with the earlier keyboard
instruments, such as the harpsichord, virginals, and
clavichord.
The piano is a percussion instrument in that is produces
sound when its tuned strings are struck by hammers.
When the player presses down a key, a mechanism
“throws” the hammer at the correct string, releasing its
damper, and allowing it to vibrate freely, producing
sound. The sound is amplified by the soundboard, a
large flat piece of wood, acting like a loudspeaker.
Mozart’s “Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra in E-Flat Major, K. 365” features the piano in
all its glory. This performance is of the 3rd movement (Rondeux; Allegro) and features the Ostia
Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Carlo Rizzari, with soloists Braconi and Roverelli.
Follow this link to a recording of a work by Mozart for piano:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ggf57uJLwJ8
Also in the percussion family, the timpani or kettledrums became “fixtures” of the orchestra
during this period. Early timpani were difficult to retune, so two sets were often used to provide
the composer with four notes to use, instead of just two. (Modern tympani make pitch
adjustments using a pedal, allowing full range of notes and instant alteration.) Mozart introduced
three other instruments that quickly became mainstays of the orchestra: cymbals, triangle, and
bass drum. Originating in Asia Minor, these instruments long retained their cultural origins
thanks to their nickname of “Turkish” instruments.
Mozart’s opera, “The Abduction from the Seraglio” (premiered in 1782) makes notable use of
these “Turkish” instruments, and indeed has an intentional overall goal of a “Turkish flavor” to
the music, with use of the percussion instruments, in particular, necessary to do so. This
recording features the Overture (introduction) to the opera, as conducted by Mark Varshavsky.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rlQp2l4xl9I
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Cymbals
Timpani
Bass Drum
In the string family, the usual orchestral instruments (violin, viola, and cello) were enjoying new
popularity thanks to the emergence of the string quartet as a popular musical form, and one that
even amateur musicians could enjoy performing.
Development of the mechanism of the harp revolutionized how this
instrument could perform, allowing it to start to enter the “mainstream”
of classical music. Mozart, ever the creative genius, wrote this
concerto for harp and flute and orchestra in 1788 – a radical move,
since the instrument was considered little more than a “plucked piano”
at the time by some of his contemporaries.
The work was commissioned (but never paid for!) by the Duke of
Guînes, Adrien-Louis de Bonnières, a flautist, for himself and his
daughter, a harpist. The daughter was taking composition lessons from
Mozart at the time.
This concerto proved to be very popular, both for the musicians to play, and for the audience to
listen. This worked was composed with the audience in mind, with Mozart working as he
usually did, to make the work easily understood by his listeners. The form is similar to a
“popular” form in Paris during the same time, the “Sinfonia Concertante,” probably adding to its
appeal. Technically challenging, the work is rewarding for performers and listeners alike.
One thing to listen for is the use of the harp. The part, at times, sounds more like an adaptation
of a piano part providing counterpoint to the flute, rather than one written especially for the
harp’s unique technical abilities such as glissando (those amazing slides of fingers along the
strings to create a sparkling sound effect). However, the cadenza does allow the harp to show off
its prowess.
This recording features the 1st movement (Allegro), with soloist Patrick Gallois on flute and
Fabrice Pierre on harp. They are accompanied by the Orchestra Della Svizzera Italiana,
conducted by Sir Neville Marriner.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWefU6IxZEY
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In the woodwind family, the clarinet became a regular member of
the orchestra, with Mozart in particular embracing its unique sound
and tone quality. His clarinet concerto remains a landmark work
for the instrument.
Follow the link to this recording which features Carelys Carreras, a
Cuban clarinetist, accompanied by the Vienna Philharmonic
Women’s Orchestra, conducted by Izabella Shareyko.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ltNkfRFpeHc
In the brass family, the horn (also known as the French horn)
became a regular member of the orchestra, again, with Mozart in
particular embracing its unique sound and tone quality.
Follow the link to Mozart’s masterwork for horn, his “French Horn
Concerto.” This recording features soloist Jeffrey Ge on the 1st
movement, with conductor John Ferguson leading the Pro Musica
orchestra.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RzTE_TlNXAk
In the brass family, Beethoven embraced the
richness of the trombone, making them a
regular part of the orchestra.
In 1808, the trombone was a vital part of his 5th
Symphony.
These links will take you to a 1952 performance of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, at Carnegie Hall,
as conducted by the legendary Arturo Toscanini. Any one of the links will provide insight into
Beethoven’s use of brass (including the French horn). The others are provided for additional
listening as desired.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6K_IuBsRM4&feature=related (1st movement)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-mZ4_aWfH7s&feature=related (4th movement)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Mt7NIPFgQk (3rd movement)
With the addition of these various instruments, the orchestra as we know it today was almost
completely “set” in its members. The only missing element at this point is some additional “ethnic”
percussion instruments and most of all, the tuba, to join its ranks during the Romantic period.
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Section 6: Key Figures
The Classical Period has many excellent composers, but none more enduring than the “big three”
of Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven. In this section, the “big three” will be studied, as well as
Mozart’s rival, Salieri, and his alleged involvement in Mozart’s mysterious and untimely death.
In addition, the American classical music scene is beginning to take form, with significant
contributions coming from composers of African heritage as well, so representatives from these
areas will also be studied.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
(1756-1791)
Let’s begin with the boy genius, Wolfgang Amadeus
Mozart. Seen here is a painting with young Wolfgang at
the piano, his sister Nannerl beside him singing, and
accompanied by his father, Leopold, on the violin. This
is an enduring image of the young genius and his family.
Wolfgang displayed his musical gifts from a very young age, composing his first work when he
was five, and playing before the Austrian empress at age six. Leopold, ever the shrewd
businessman, sought every opportunity to display his children’s “God-given genius,” embarking
on a tour by mid-1763 of Paris and London, and visiting numerous royal courts along the way.
Mozart’s sister, Maria Anna (1751-1829), nicknamed “Nannerl,” was also a gift keyboard player,
but was immediately outshown by her younger brother, who dazzled audiences with his
precocious abilities. During the course of this first three-year tour, Wolfgang had his first music
published and also wrote his earliest symphonies. Between the ages of 14 and 17, Wolfgang
wrote his first two operas, and also several instrumental works. He continued to compose
prolifically until his death at age 35.
His life may have been short, but his catalog of works is impressive. All told, Wolfgang
Amadeus Mozart wrote more than 600 works, including: 15 Masses, 21 stage and opera works,
25 piano concertos, 12 violin concertos, 27 concert arias, 17 piano sonatas, 26 string quartets,
50+symphonies, and many other pieces in various genres. We have already experienced some of
Mozart’s religious work in Section 2, and some of his instrumental work in Section 5. Thus, in
this section we will explore only a select cross section of works by Mozart.
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First, let’s look at a work for violin, “Rondo,” from Serenade Number 7, K. 250 (“Haffner”) as
performed by the legendary Jascha Heifetz. A rondo, as you’ll recall from previous units, is a
work written …
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fVSgx7gKc_k
Our second example is from one of Mozart’s most beloved operas, “Le nozze di Figaro” (“The
marriage of Figaro”). This four act opera depicts action that takes place in a single day, all
surrounding the impending nuptials of a valet named Figaro. Figaro is to be married to a maid
named Susanna, who is being pursued by their employer, Count Almaviva. Almaviva’s wife, the
Countess Rosina, is desperate to regain her husband’s love, even as Figaro is determined to
outwit his master, and assure his wife-to-be remains only his! This comic opera was based on a
stage comedy from 1784 written by Pierre Beaumarchais. Mozart composed the opera in 1786 at
the behest of his patron, Austrian Emperor Joseph II, who is said to have commented after
congratulating Mozart at the premiere that “You must admit, however, my dear Mozart, that
there are a great many notes in your score,” to which Mozart replied, “Not one too many, Sire.”
The scene in the following clip is from Act II. Prior to this clip beginning, the Countess has been
working with Susanna to disguise a page, Cherubino, to attend a romantic encounter that the
Count had intended for Susanna. While they are doing this, the Count knocks on the door, and
upon being admitted, gets quite agitated when he hears a noise in the closet. Susanna helps
Cherubino slip out a window, and she takes his place in the closet. The scene closes with the
gardener complaining that a man jumped out the window, with Figaro coming in just in time to
say it was him in the closet with Susanna. The opera really plays upon the idea of disguises and
mistaken identity, and much craziness ensues as a result. Mozart is known for his skillfulness in
taking this kind of material, and treating the interplay between social and sexual tensions with
extremely sharp insight into the human condition.
This 1973 performance features the ultimate Countess Rosina as portrayed by Dame Kiri Te
Kanawa. Also appearing are Benjamin Luxon (Count Almaviva), Ileana Cotrubas (Susanna),
Frederica von Stade (Cherubino – yes, this male part is sung by a soprano!), with the orchestra
conducted by John Pritchard.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7T9-lAMwew
Before exploring Mozart’s music a bit further, it is worth a diversion to his musical nemesis,
Antonio Salieri.
Antonio Salieri
(1750-1825)
By all accounts, Salieri was a pretty decent composer. Not a
Mozart, but certainly able to provide good enough works that
Emperor Joseph II made him his Hofkapellmesiter in 1788, a post
he held until his retirement in 1824. In addition, he was also able
to compose operas. After Joseph’s death in 1790, followed by
Mozart’s death in 1791 and the final end of their “friendly
rivalry” though, Salieri gradually cut back his responsibilities as
Hofkapellmeister until his retirement. He also wrote piano
concertos, symphonies, masses, and various chamber works.
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Salieri was also a popular vocal and composition teacher, and even taught Mozart’s son after his
death, at the behest of Mozart’s widow, Constanze. This is a short example of Salieri’s work:
the Allegro Assai from his “Serenata per fiati in Sib.”
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RTN6j33qDmY&feature=related
Although short, this work was very much in keeping with the popular chamber music style of the
period. Despite this, though, Salieri, in some circles, remains the primary suspect in Mozart’s
alleged murder. In “Crimes Gone By,” Albert Borowitz explores the various theories
surrounding Mozart’s death, including the most popular, that Salieri was his murderer. While
not exactly vindicating Salieri, Borowitz does pose other interesting theories from the worlds of
medicine and law, that suggest everything from he may have died from kidney failure to mercury
poisoning! Since Mozart was buried in an unmarked grave, as was the practice in Vienna at that
time, we’ll never know for sure.
Regardless, there was always a tension between the two, partly because Mozart was so very
precocious, even as he grew older, that the senior Salieri, was often “one-upped” by the
impertinent youngster. This clip from the 1984 film, “Amadeus,” really sums up the conflict
between Mozart and Salieri, wherein the brash young Mozart “one ups” Salieri by playing his
music upon a single hearing, and then “bettering it” in his and the court’s presence! While
hilarious to watch, the clip really does call out the biggest “rub” as far is Salieri’s musical legacy
is concerned, and that is the relatively basic and uninteresting quality his music has versus that of
Mozart’s, that routinely displays sheer genius and creativity in even the simplest child’s study
piece.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ciFTP_KRy4&feature=related
The rumors of Salieri’s role in Mozart’s death were further aggravated by consequent musical
works, such as Rimsky-Korsakov’s one-act/two-scene opera, simply entitled “Mozart and
Salieri.” In this opera, which premiered in Russia in 1898 and the U.S. in 1933, RimskyKorsakov, in a libretto based on Pushkin’s 1830 verse drama of the same name, presents a story
wherein Salieri, overcome by jealousy for Mozart, poisons him, with Mozart dying while playing
the keyboard, and Salieri singing farewell over his body!
Again, whatever the truth behind Mozart’s untimely death, Salieri appears to be innocent of
murdering him, and, as the clip shows, isn’t the “hack” he is often portrayed to be.
Before leaving this part of history, let’s explore one more work by Mozart. This work, his Piano
Concerto Number 9 (K.271), is considered one of his first great masterpieces. Written in 1777
for Mademoiselle Jenamy, the concerto bears “Jeunehomme” as its nickname (“young man” –
also a favorite nickname for the young Mozart). The work is quite virtuosic and also displays a
wide range of emotions, from dramatic and intense to joy and happiness. This performance
features Mitsuko Uchida on piano, and conductor Jeffrey Tate leading the Mozarteum Orchestra
in a 1989 performance in Saltzburg.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hIkk3IPuoOU
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Joseph Haydn
(1732-1809)
“Papa Haydn” was trained as a choirboy while
young, and by age 18 was working as a freelance
musician, playing the violin and keyboard
instruments, and accompanying singing lessons.
He was encouraged to compose, and wrote his
first sacred works, as well as music for theater
comedies and also chamber music. In 1766,
Haydn became employed by the Esterhazy’s, one
of the leading Austro-Hungarian families. He
remained in their employ for the rest of his life,
and, for a time, was only allowed to write
and publish venues under the auspices of the Esterhazy’s. Eventually, they gave up exclusive
rights on his works, and he was published in most of the big European cultural centers. Haydn
was a prolific composer, writing hundreds of works, including 62 piano sonatas, 32 piano trios,
104 symphonies, 90+ string quartets, as well as concertos for various instruments, operas, and
many different types of religious works.
Haydn is viewed as the father of both the symphony and the string quartet. Even though he
didn’t originate either form, the longevity of his writing career allowed him to see the forms
through from their beginnings to the high level of sophistication and artistic expression that
marked the end of the Classical period. Indeed, Haydn laid the foundation for the larger scale
works that Beethoven was to produce in these forms to culminate the era, and his influence is
seen beyond in the work of later composers.
Haydn’s work is marked by melodic fluency, excellent command of form, and often a touch of
humor. His “Surprise Symphony” is perhaps the best known example of all these things. In it,
he presents a beautiful melody, in a masterfully organized piece, which is disrupted by a
“surprise” – a single, loud chord coming out of nowhere in the midst of a peaceful and gorgeous
melodic line. Legend has it that Haydn stuck the surprise in to assure that audiences that were
sometimes lulled to sleep during performances, especially in hot concert halls, would regain their
attention to his work. This performance features the Texas A&M University Orchestra
performing the second movement (Andante) from Haydn’s Symphony No. 94 (“Surprise”).
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4OBgKZAMY9A
Many of Haydn’s symphonies received nicknames, and for various reasons. Here is just a
sampling of some of his symphonies and their nomme de plumes.
•
•
•
•
•
•
Symphonies 82-87: “The Paris Symphonies” so named as they were commissioned by a
Paris publishing house.
Symphony No. 82: “The Bear” so named from the folk dance style of the final
movement
Symphony No. 83: “The Hen” so named for the “clucking” theme in the first movement
Symphony No. 85: “The Queens” so named since Marie Antoinette enjoyed it so much
Symphony No. 100: “The Military” so named for its feature of drums & percussion
Symphony No. 101: “The Clock” so named for its ticking sound
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Haydn’s “Trumpet Concerto in Eb” is one of the masterworks for the instrument. Haydn wrote
this work in 1796 at the request of a Viennese trumpeter named Anton Weidinger, the developer
of the keyed trumpet. Weidinger’s innovation allowed the trumpet to produce chromatic tones,
which are featured to good advantage in this work. Haydn apparently also had a personal
connection to Weidinger, and is believed to have been the best man at Weidinger’s wedding in
1792. This performance of the 1st Movement features the amazing Wynton Marsalis on trumpet,
accompanied by the Boston Pops Orchestra, conducted by John Williams.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vpFaWJQHwbA
No study of Haydn would be complete without a look at his many piano sonatas. While Haydn
wasn’t a virtuoso pianist like Mozart was, his sonatas are considered by many to be even better
than Mozart’s. This is in part because Haydn wrote music for gifted amateurs of his day,
including women. Mozart, on the other hand, wrote for himself and his students. In addition,
Haydn’s excellent command of form makes his sonatas readily learnable, adding to their appeal.
In addition, even though he is almost dogmatic about form, his creativity resulted in sixty very
different sonatas, even though they all essentially have the same formal structure. While his
tunes aren’t always as appealing as Mozart’s, he nonetheless wrote more than sixty wonderful
and even “charming” sonatas which remain a vital part of piano literature to this day.
This example is from his Sonata in E-flat Major (#29), the Allegro movement, and beautifully
provides insight into his command of form, as well as the charm his works convey. The pianist
is Ivaila Ivanova.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uETws6qcH38
Ludwig van Beethoven
(1770-1827)
German-born Ludwig van Beethoven represents the culmination of
the Classical period, even while foreshadowing developments to
come in the Romantic period.
Renowned during his lifetime as a pianist who played with fire,
brilliance and fantasy, he also enjoyed success as a composer,
especially with his symphonies.
Despite his hearing impairment, which first showed signs in 1802,
and became quite profound by 1812-1815, coupled with depression
from the resulting isolation his deafness caused, he produced some
of his most profound piano and symphonic works in his final years.
Beethoven, more importantly, was really the first “superstar” composer in history, becoming a
public figure as no previous composer had done. His appeal was that he was never a “pawn” of
the nobility; he instead lived into the time, and really helped create a world, where the composer
was an artist of the people, and the “property” of mankind, not the nobility or the church.
History has it that more than 10,000 people attended his funeral.
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Although he wasn’t known as a child prodigy, as Mozart was, Beethoven was first published at
the age of 12. Not surprisingly, given his piano virtuosity, Beethoven’s earliest works of renown
were for the piano, including the “Pathetique” Sonata (1799) and the “Moonlight Sonata” (1801).
While clearly displaying the classical style as his predecessors Mozart and Haydn had created,
Beethoven even early on incorporated a bold and dramatic style that lifted his work out, and
ultimately paved the way for the Romantic period’s expressiveness.
Beethoven’s work is typically divided into three periods. His first period includes works written
prior to 1802, and is characterized not only by his piano sonatas, trios and concertos, but also his
first two symphonies and a set of six string quartets. These works are known not only for their
obvious command of the classical style, but also for the innovations Beethoven was already
bringing to the table in terms of encompassing a bold and dramatic style as well.
His middle period is best characterized as “heroic.” This is the period immediately after he came
to terms with the incurable and gradual loss of his hearing, and overcoming feelings that death
was imminent, he created some very powerful works such as his opera, “Fidelio,” as well as
symphonies 3-8, two more piano concertos (including the “Emperor” known for its nobleness
and brilliance), as well as two very passionate piano sonatas (“Waldstein” and “Appassionata”).
He ended his piano playing career in 1808 and focused entirely on composing.
1812-1815 saw another bout with depression over his near total deafness, as well as personal
problems. Out of these trials, though, come his “late” works, which are considered by many
historians to be among his greatest, and certainly his most profound. These works include the 9th
Symphony, a Mass, more string quartets, and seven piano sonatas that clearly were setting the
stage for the Romantic period with their dynamic writing, expanded structural forms, and
incorporation of fugues (most notable is the “Hammerklavier,” characterized as “turbulent” by
many historians). Even though the light Italian opera of such composers are Rossini was
becoming the really popular genre of these late years, Beethoven nonetheless was widely
recognized for his visionary works, most especially the 9th Symphony, even though some
listeners found it and the late string quartets a bit challenging to their ears and minds.
All told, Beethoven wrote hundreds of pieces. In order to gain a better understanding of his
development as a composer, the listening examples for Beethoven will follow a progression
through his periods.
From the early period comes the “Pathetique” Sonata, Op. 13. The sonata was named by his
publisher (with Beethoven’s approval), who was quite taken with its “tragic” sound. It was
among the earliest of Beethoven’s works to gain widespread popularity, and remains so to this
day. Its popularity even extends into non-classical music genres, and was used as the theme in
the 2001 Coen Brothers’ film “The Man Who Wasn’t There,” and also in the chorus of a Billy
Joel song called “This Night” from his “An Innocent Man” album (a tribute to music of his
childhood).
The example is the well-known second movement, “Adagio cantabile”, and features pianist
Michael Schneider. Notice that the theme is played three times, separated by two minor mode
sections, with the final return of the theme becoming even richer sounding than the previous
iterations.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9oJfBb1MESU
27
The middle period is best characterized by his only opera, “Fidelio” (Opus 72). At the center of
the story is heroism, a recurring theme in his music from this period, after overcoming his first
bout of depression over his impending deafness. In addition, Beethoven found the story
appealing because of his strong feelings about the struggle for personal liberty that was taking
place in Europe during his life.
Set in Spanish state prison in the late 1700s, “Fidelio” is the story of Leonore, who disguises
herself as a prison guard named “Fidelio” in order to rescue her husband, Florestan, from death
in this political prison. The work was a challenge to Beethoven, who clearly found the difficulty
of writing and producing an opera not particularly enjoyable. In a letter to the librettist Georg
Friedrich Treistschke, who assisted with the 1814 rewrite, he wrote “I assure you, dear
Treitschke, that this opera will win me a matyr’s crown. You have by your cooperation saved
what is best from the shipwreck. For all this I shall be eternally grateful to you.”
Indeed, after two previous failed attempts (1805 & 1806), Beethoven finally found success with
“Fidelio” in 1814. (The 1805 production is believed to have failed partly because the audience
was primarily French military officers who clearly read between the lines of some of the scenes
and didn’t appreciate Beethoven’s political commentary!) This recording features a beautifully
sung quartet scene from Act 1, as performed by the Glyndebourne Festival Opera, produced by
Peter Hall, with featured singers Elizabeth Gale, Elisabeth Soderstrom, Ian Caley, and Curt
Appelgren.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MKyKNCiiuF8
The late period can only be represented by the 9th symphony (Opus 125). Completed in 1824,
when Beethoven was nearly completely deaf, it is not only considered one of his greatest
masterpieces, but indeed iconic, in that it so dramatically closes the Classical period and ushers
28
in the Romantic period. The work incorporates part of a poem by Friedrich Schiller, “An die
Freude” (Ode to Joy), the section by which the symphony is probably best known. The poem
was written in 1785, and in Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, the text is sung by soloists and a chorus
during the final movement of the work. This is particularly historic in that it represents the first
time a major composer used the human voice on the same level as the instruments of the
symphony, indeed paving the way for the gigantic scope of symphonic works during the
Romantic period.
The enduring importance of the work was perhaps best seen in 2003, when an original
manuscript of the work sold for over $3 million dollars at a Sotheby’s auction. Stephen Roe, the
head of Sotheby’s manuscripts area, noted that the work was “one of the highest achievements of
man, ranking alongside Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ and ‘King Lear’.”
This recording is in three parts, but is well worth the time to explore all of it. Leonard Bernstein
is conducting the Vienna Philharmonic, with soloists Gwyneth Jones, Shirley Verrett, Placido
Domingo, and Martti Talvela.
Following the links to the recordings you will find the German text, immediately followed by the
English translation. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZJ1Tgf4JL8
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H9V5yUsrmdg&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_5z0m7cs0A&NR=1
Baritone Solo:
O Freunde, nicht diese Töne!
Oh friends, not these sounds!
Sondern lasst uns angenehmere
Rather let us sing more
anstimmen und freudenvollere.
pleasant ones, and more full of joy.
Choral Bass join in:
Freude! Freude! Joy! Joy!
Baritone Solo:
Freude, schöner Götterfunken
Joy, beautueous spark of divinity,
Tochter aus Elysium,
Daughter of Elysium
Wir betreten feuertrunken,
We enter drunk with fire
Himmlische, dein Heiligtum!
Heavenly One, your sanctuary!
Deine Zauber binden wieder
Thy magic power reunites,
Was die Mode streng geteilt;
All that custom has strictly divided
Alle menschen werden Brüder,
All men become brothers
Wo dein sanfter Flügel weilt.
Where your gentle wing abides.
Chorus sans Soprano:
Deine Zauber binden wieder
Thy magic power reunites,
Was die Mode streng geteilt;
All that custom has strictly divided
Alle menschen werden Brüder,
All men become brothers
Wo dein sanfter Flügel weilt.
Where your gentle wing abides.
Solo Alto, Tenor, and Baritone sans Soprano:
Wem der grosse Wurf gelungen,
Whoever has been so fortunate,
Eines Freundes Freund zu sein;
To be the friend of a friend
Solo Soprano enters, Alto, Tenor, and
Baritone continue:
Wer ein holdes Weib errungen,
He who has obtained a dear wife,
Mische seinen Jubel ein!
Add his jubilation!
Ja, wer auch nur eine Seele
Yes, whoever also one soul
Sein nennt auf dem Erdenrund!
Can call his own in the earthly round!
Und wer's nie gekonnt, der stehle
And who never could, he should steal
Weinend sich aus diesem Bund!
Weeping from this fellowship!
All Chorus responds (Bass one beat ahead):
Ja, wer auch nur eine Seele
Yes, whoever also one soul
Sein nennt auf dem Erdenrund!
Can call his own in the earthly round!
Und wer's nie gekonnt, der stehle
And who never could, he should steal
Weinend sich aus diesem Bund!
Weeping from this fellowship!
Tenor and Baritone:
Freude trinken alle Wesen
All beings drink joy
An den Brüsten der Natur;
At the breasts of Nature;
Alto enters:
Alle Guten, alle Bösen
All things good, all things evil
Folgen ihrer Rosenspur.
Follow her rosy trail.
Soprano enters:
Küsse gab sie uns und Reben,
Kisses gave she us and wine,
Einen Freund, geprüft im Tod;
A friend, proven even in death;
Wollust ward dem Wurm gegeben,
Ecstasy is granted even to the worm
Und der Cherub steht vor Gott.
And the cherub stands before God
All Chorus responds:
Küsse gab sie uns und Reben,
Kisses gave she us and wine,
Einen Freund, geprüft im Tod;
A friend, proven even in death;
Wollust ward dem Wurm gegeben,
Ecstasy is granted even to the worm
Und der Cherub steht vor Gott.
And the cherub stands before God
Und der Cherub steht vor Gott.
And the cherub stands before God
(Alto a beat ahead) steht vor Gott.
vor Gott. vor Gott.
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Meanwhile, in America, one of the first truly “native” composers was making a name for
himself.
Francis Hopkinson
1737-1791
Francis Hopkinson was one of the signers of the Declaration
of Independence as a delegate from New Jersey. Born in
Philadelphia, he was a member of the first class at the College
of Philadelphia (today known as the University of
Pennsylvania, graduating in 1757, and receiving his masters
degree in 1760. He was admitted to the bar in 1761, and
worked under the Pennsylvania attorney general followed by
various other ventures, including customs collector and dry
goods business operator. Later he served on the Navy Board
as part of the fledgling American national government,
eventually becoming a U.S. District court judge.
In the midst of all his career ventures, Hopkinson also wrote several satirical pieces that served
to speak out against British oppression and lift up the spirit of political independence in the new
world, even while he was still accepting “royal favors” (all with an eye to career advancement).
Interestingly, once he became a judge, he deliberately avoided mingling in politics to assure the
stability and dignity of the new national government in America. Hopkinson’s own son, Joseph,
was later a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and also a Federal Judge.
Hopkinson was also well known as an amateur musician. He learned to play the harpsichord at
age 17 and became good enough to play with professional musicians in concerts. He also played
the organ at a Philadelphia church. In addition, he composed several songs, and also invented an
instrument called the “Bellarmonic” (combined a glass harmonica with a keyboard, making
sound by the tones of metal balls).
Hopkinson’s mentor was Benjamin Franklin, who had been a friend of his father’s. Upon his
father’s death when Francis was only 13, Franklin maintained a close relationship with the
family and eventually helped him through college. Hopkinson himself was a bit of an inventor,
and first shared his new creations with his mentor, further cementing their relationship.
Hopkinson also dedicated a set of songs to George Washington in 1788. Washington was clearly
a “fan” and wrote to Hopkinson in 1789: “But, my dear Sir, if you had any doubts about the
reception which your work would meet with, or had the smallest reason to think that you
should need any assistance to defend it, you have not acted with your usual good Judgement in
the choice which you have made of a Coadjutor; for should the tide of prejudice not flow in favor
of it (and so various are the tastes, opinions and whims of men that even the sanction of divinity
does not ensure universal concurrence) what, alas! can I do to support it? I can neither sing one
of the songs, nor raise a single note on any instrument to convince the unbelieving, but
I have, however one argument which will prevail with persons of true taste (at least in America),
I can tell them that it is the production of Mr. Hopkinson.”
This musical example is one of his songs, “Beneath a Weeping Willow’s Shade,” featuring the
Carolina Pro Musica ensemble (the text follows).
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PBNn47JjsXM
30
Beneath a weeping willow's shade,
She sat and sang alone;
Her Hand upon her Heart she laid,
And plaintive was her moan.
The mockbird sat upon a Bough
And listen'd to her Lay;
Then to the distant Hills he bore
The dulcet notes away.
Fond echo to her Strains reply'd,
The Winds her Sorrows bore;
Adieu, dear youth, Adieu, she cry'd,
I ne'er shall see thee more.
The mockbird sat upon a Bough
And listen'd to her Lay;
Then to the distant Hills he bore
The dulcet notes away.
Composers of African heritage were also starting to really make a name for themselves during
the Classical period. Two such composers are of note: Chevalier de Saint-Georges, an AfroFrench composer, and Ignatius Sancho, an Afro-British composer.
Chevalier de Saint-Georges
1745-1799
Sometimes referred to as “the Black Mozart” or “Don Juan
Noir” (“the Black Don Juan”), Joseph de Bologne, the
Chevalier de Saint-Georges, is one of the more interesting
figures of the Classical period. The son of a slave and
wealthy man, Joseph was born in the French West Indies. His
father was forced to flee the island in 1748 to avoid a charge
of homicide after a drunken fencing duel gone wrong. Joseph
and his mother accompanied him to France, where he started
school at the age of 8. The young Joseph quickly excelled in
a variety of subjects, and also became a master at fencing.
Despite government efforts to limit and regulate the number
of colored persons in France, thanks to Voltaire (and his
philosophy that persons of African heritage in particular were
inferior to white Europeans), Joseph de Bologne was among a small number of persons of color
who overcame this racism and entered the middle class of French society.
Indeed, despite his overall intelligence, as well as a flair for music, it was his fencing ability that
really raised him up in society. By the age of 19, everyone was calling him “Le Chevalier de
Saint-Georges,” the name that remains most enduring to identify him. While there was certainly
a question of whether or not he was entitled to use this title, his excellence at everything he did
made him a well known and recognizable public figure, even at this young age. In fact, in the
fencing world, he became known as “the god of arms.” He was also an excellent swimmer,
runner, skater and marksman. He also had the reputation of being an excellent dancer.
Joseph was early on known as an excellent musician, as well. He mastered both the violin and
the harpsichord, and even had works dedicated to him by such composers as Carl Stamitz and
Francois-Joseph Gossec, among others. He also is believed to have studied composition with
Gossec. An excellent violinist, he became concertmaster of Gossec’s orchestra, and along with
Gossec, became the earliest of the French composers to write for string quartets in particular.
“Le Mercure” (The Mercury), a French journal, reported upon the premiere of the string quartets
in 1772-1773 that they “received the greatest applause as much for the quality of playing as for
31
that of the composition.” Known as a master technician, Chevalier de Saint-Georges was also
renowned for the “velvety” quality of his tone, making his violin playing much sought out.
By 1773, Chevalier de Saint-Georges was working as both a conductor and a composer, and by
1779, was a favorite of Queen Marie-Antoinette, performing regularly for her at Versailles.
Some persons at the palace were not happy about this, since racism was a very real part of
French society at this time, and rumors abounded about his being a “Black Don Juan” partly due
to his handsomeness, as well as his personal qualities, and general excellence at all he did.
Interestingly, Chevalier de Saint-Georges never married, because he couldn’t marry a white
woman due to racial attitudes, but he also couldn’t marry a Black woman, as this would have
dropped his position in society.
This recording features pianist Richard Alston and includes a brief biographical introduction by
Karen Smyles.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NceM_9IkndE
Ignatius Sancho
1729-1780
Ignatius Sancho was born in Africa and taken to England
as an infant and given to three sisters who shared a home
in Greenwich (near London). Raised as a house slave in
an aristocratic household, the young Ignatius was also
well educate, thanks in large part to his neighbor, the
Duke of Montagu. He managed to leave their house, was
emancipated, and became a butler for the powerful
Montagu family, which enabled him to read everything he
could put his hands upon, as well as to write poetry and
prose, as well as compose music. In the employ of the
Montagu family, Ignatius also became an avid theatergoer, and ultimately became a figure in fashionable
London society, and friendly with actors and painters.
When he became chronically ill with gout, making it difficult to work as a butler, the Montagu
family gave him a small amount of money which allowed Ignatius to leave domestic service and
open a small grocery shop in 1773. Ironically, he was selling products connected with slavery,
as the writer James Walvin notes in the book, “Ignatius Sancho: An African Man of Letters”
(1997): “As Sancho tended to his counter and customer – taking tea with favoured or famous
clients – his wife Anna worked in the background, breaking down the sugar loaves into smaller
parcels and packets required for everyday use. Slave-grown sugar, repackaged and sold by black
residents of London, themselves descendants of slaves – here was a scene rich in the realities and
the symbolism of Britain’s slave-based empire.”
Interestingly, Sancho was one of the first Blacks to cast a vote in a British election (both in 1774
and 1780). Known more for his letters than his music during his lifetime, Sancho really was a
gift amateur musician and composer. A member of the English middle class, and extremely
literate, he was recognized in his lifetime as a man of cultivated taste in various artistic areas.
32
Sancho even published his “most appealing” works (amateurs had to pay for publishing their
music themselves). His music is noted for being in the “galant” style that was favored at the
time, and his songs include settings of poems of Shakespeare. As Jane Girdham, one of the coauthor of “Ignatius Sancho: An African Man of Letters” notes: “Although Sancho always
remembered that his was an adopted culture, his musical compositions are some of the best proof
of his assimilation into that culture.”
Another writer, Josephine Wright, places Sancho in history thus: “There can be no pretense that
the music of Ignatius Sancho equals that of the leading composers of his day. But his musical
compositions reveal the hndd of a knowledgeable, capable amateur who wrote in miniature
forms in an early Classic style. His compositions are of great historical significance in
understanding the roots and origins of a classical tradition among black musicians in the Western
hemisphere. His published music records the achievements of one black composer from the
eighteenth century who was active at a time when most persons of African descent were chained
by the bonds of slavery on both sides of the Atlantic.”
Unfortunately, there are no video or even live instruments recordings readily available of
Sancho’s music (although musical scores are readily accessible). However, there is a decent
midi recording of some of his music available at this link, which provides a nice introduction to
his works, and can provide an appreciation of their being, as the writer above notes, a “miniature
form” of early Classical style.
http://sanchomusic.synthasite.com/
Before leaving the male composers of the Classical period, it is worth a brief side trip to answer
a pressing question: “So what’s with the hair?!”
Men’s hair styles during the Classical period reflected a carryover from aristocracy, and likewise
saw a rapid demise especially in France and the U.S. in conjunction with their revolutions. Look
back at the pictures of the composers: most of the Europeans wore the classic wig, while the
American and French composers were clearly displaying their own hair.
The wig phenomenon began in 1624 when Louis XIII went prematurely bald, and disguised it
with a wig. His son, Louis XIV, was also “challenged” hair-wise, and also wore a wig. This
became a fashion trend that went pretty much universal in Europe by the beginning of the 18th
century.
Louis XIV (son of Louis XIII) in the Full
bottomed wig he made fashionable in the late
17th and early 18th centuries
33
Men’s wigs were very expensive, often costing more than an entire outfit, and likewise required
a great deal of maintenance from a hairdresser. By around 1715, lighter colored wigs became the
fashion rage, and people typically used white powder to lighten their wigs, since efforts to dye
bleached wigs were usually not successful. Powder became the “essential” for all dress
occasions and remained so until nearly the end of the 18th century.
While the most popular dress wig in the early part of the century was a long, full-bottomed wig,
it quickly went out of style except for lawyers, doctors, and judges, and went completely out of
style by around 1740, except for judges. It was replaced by the “bob wig,” a shorter wig that was
especially popular in colonial America. The “tie wig” was another popular style, and variations
with braids and curls were also popular.
Patrick Henry in a short tie wig
By the 1780s, young men were setting a new fashion, wherein they lightly powdered their
natural hair. By 1800, the tax the English government had placed on powder caused the demise
of both. (The wig died out by 1793 in France because of the revolution and its association with
the aristocracy.)
Image from Diderot's Encyclopedia: Shopping for Fashion c.1762 / wigmaker/barber
http://www.costumes.org/History/galleryimages/diderot/diderotfashion/pages/wigmakerbarber.htm
34
Section 7: Role of Women
Determination…technical competence…inventiveness…steady devotion to music… it took a lot
of all of these things (and more) to be a composer and a woman in the Classical period! Given
the ongoing debate by some philosophers on whether or not women were even “human,” it
stands to reason that women creating music in this period, both as performers and composers,
needed to excel in what they did.
Sadly, even women who made a name for themselves during the Classical period were quickly
forgotten within a few years of their deaths. Some didn’t even gain recognition during their
lifetime due to the “anonymous” status given to many women’s works during the period. Even
now, these composers are still among the “forgotten,” and just beginning to gain back the
recognition they so richly deserve. Because of all these things, images of the composers
themselves, much less recordings are few and far between. As such, some are represented
pictorially by their surviving scores, and musically by samplers, only.
The women to be studied in this section are representative of women musicians of their period.
There are both common folk and noble women in their ranks, yet each with a similar story of
ability, determination, creativity, and sadly, “disappearing.” Our study will include these fine
composer-musicians: the two Anna Amalia’s, Marianne Martinez, Maria Theresia von Paradis,
Margarethe Danzi, and Mary Ann Pownall.
The two Anna Amalia’s represent the role of noblewomen during the Classical period.
Princess Anna Amalia
of Prussia
An
(1723-1787)
The elder Anna Amalia was the daughter of Frederick I (King
of Prussia) and sister of Frederick the Great (King of Prussia
from 1740-1786).
Sadly, even though both Frederick and Anna Amalia were both
musically inclined, she was not able to receive formal music
lessons until after her cruel father’s death. Prior to his death,
she studied in secret, thanks in part to her brother, who gave her
first lessons on violin, flute and harpsichord. (Her father is
reputed to have dragged her across rooms by her hair.)
Despite the early challenges, Anna Amalia grew up in a rich
cultural setting, especially since her brother, renowned as an
enlightened despot, had a musical and literary circle that rivaled
Louis XIV’s. Anna Amalia was a gifted amateur composer who didn’t begin writing until the
age of 44. She wrote marches for the Prussian military regiments, which was quite unusual for
women composers of this period.
In addition, she was an avid collector of musical scores, and her library, the “Amalien
Bibliothek” contained autographed scores by J.S. Bach, as well as many other composers of the
Baroque and Classical periods. Sadly, much of the library was destroyed in a 2004 fire. Despite
35
this, the collection has and continues to not only reveal the high level of Anna Amalia’s musical
education, but also as an important resource for musicologist, theorists and performers alike.
In addition to her military marches, Anna Amalia wrote sonatas, chorales and songs. Her
musical style is clearly grounded in the enlightenment school of thought, with a clear and
relatively simple compositional style, and thus very accessible to both amateur and professional
musicians alike.
This sample is from a set of “Four Regimental Marches” entitled “March for the Regiment Graf
Lottum.” Written in 1767, the marches were possibly also written in support of her brother’s
political aspirations, since each was named for a leader of a regiment. Click on the link, then
scroll down to the listing for “Anna Amalia, Princess of Prussia” and click on the MP3 icon to
access the sample.
http://www.leonarda.com/le353.html
The elder Anna Amalia was also a generous patron of the arts, and sponsored many musicians,
including Anton Schweitzer, who was commissioned by her to write an opera entitled “Alceste”
in 1773. The work’s libretto is a reduction of Euripides’ drama of the same name, with only four
characters (including the invention of a sister to Alceste named Parthenia); the story focuses
entirely on social and private issues and questions of life and death. The music is typical of the
Enlightenment, with easily understood libretto and an equally understandable musical setting.
This recording is special and worth a listen, since the work is rarely staged, and this production
was done in conjunction with the re-opening of Anna Amalia’s library in 2007, following its
reconstruction after the 2004 fire. A very 21st century staging, the Concerto Koln is conducted
by Michael Hofstetter, with singers Simone Schneider, Cyndia Sieden, Christoph Genz and Josef
Wagner.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-gnC0REEaO0
36
Duchess Anna Amalia
of Saxe-Weimar
(1739-1807)
The younger Anna Amalia was the niece of Frederick the
Great and the elder Anna Amalia (her father was Karl I,
Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbuttel). A German princess, she
acquired her Duchess title upon marriage to the Duke of
Saxe-Weimar.
This Anna Amalia made more of a name for herself as a
composer than did her aunt. She is credited with bringing
together the great musicians and poets of her time to the
Weimar court where the German opera genre came into its
own under her patronage. In addition, she wrote her own
musical stage works, of which survives a “Singpsiel”
(musical play) entitled “Erwin und Elmire” from 1776. The
libretto is a text by Goethe, and the musical setting displays
her solid musical training and technical ability (her “chops”)
as well as her creativity.
In addition, her surviving compositions include a concerto, a divertimento, and a trio sonata.
Her musical style in “Erwin und Elmire” shows her great familiarity with the musical play style,
since she also was a patron and regularly featured these types of works in her court theater. In
addition, she was clearly in command of the popular opera seria and opera buffa styles of the
day. Coupled with knowledge of folk songs, Anna Amalia successfully blended these elements
into a dramatic work that has subtle nuances provided by the accompanying instruments as much
as by the singers. The story has been set by many composers, and as with all settings, the text
focuses on the restrictions between different social classes, coupled with a theme of
reconciliation. Set in a rustic area, the text was also a pointed critique on the social pretensions
of the then emerging middle class. In addition, there is an underlying theme/tension of the
difficulty of reconciling one’s steadfast virtues with one’s restless desires. Anna Amalia thus
successfully created an early masterwork in the German opera genre.
This sample will provide a brief insight into her fine setting of “Erwin und Elmire.” Click on the
link, then scroll down to the listing for “Anna Amalia, Duchess of Saxe-Weimar” and click on
the MP3 icon to access the sample.
http://www.leonarda.com/le353.html
This Anna Amalia also had a large collection of manuscripts (some 2,000 volumes) which can be
found to this day in the Zentralbibliothek der Deutschen Klassic, in Weimar. Together, the two
Anna Amalia’s not only created their own musical works and sponsored many of their
contemporaries’ musical efforts, but they also provided a lasting legacy of the music of the
Classical period in Europe.
37
Maria Theresia
von Paradis
(1759-1824)
Viennese composer Maria Theresia von Paradis was the
daughter of the Imperial Secretary in the court of Empress
Maria Theresa. Empress Maria Theresa was also her
godmother. Blind from the age of two, she studied piano and
singing under the guidance of the Empress throughout her
childhood, eventually singing the soprano part in Pergolesi’s
“Stabat Mater” in a performance before the Empress, while
accompanying herself on the organ!
She became acquainted with Mozart and Salieri in the mid1770s, and was known as a keyboard virtuoso with a
remarkable memory. Both Mozart and Salieri wrote keyboard
concertos for her, and she was idolized by the public for her
performing skills. In addition to being a remarkable
performer, Maria Theresia was also a prolific composer.
She wrote keyboard works, as well as vocal works, including cantatas, songs, operas, an operetta,
and even a melodrama. Her father was her “rock” and she toured throughout Europe as a
performer, thanks to his support. Following his death in 1808, she ended her performing career
to devote her time to composing and teaching. She spent the remainder of her life in Vienna, and
even founded an institution for music education for the handicapped there. Unfortunately, very
little of her music was published (a common situation for women during this period), so not
many scores are available for study.
Despite this lack of available scores, there are still some wonderful recordings available of her
music. One example is this performance of her “Siciliene” for harp and violin. The melody is
haunting in quality, and the work is quite expressive, certainly foreshadowing the nuances of the
Romantic period which emerged near the end of her life. The work is written in the key of E-flat
major, yet immediately establishes the minor version of the key in the opening notes of the
violin, thus creating the haunting quality of the music.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ueQ8ZXkQVs&translated=1
Marianne Martinez
(1744-1812)
Viennese composer Marianne Martinez owes her Spanish
surname to her paternal grandfather, a Spanish solider who
moved to Naples, Italy near the end of the 17th century. Her
father, Nicolo, served the Neapolitan rulers as a military officer.
He befriended an Italian poet named Metastasio and in the early
1720s, the two ended up at the Habsberg court in Vienna,
Martinez in the papal ambassador’s office, and Metastasio as
the court’s poet laureate. Marianne’s mother, Maria Theresia,
was Austrian. Born Anna Katharina Martinez, she changed her
name to first Marianna, and eventually Marianne (the German
spelling), and to avoid mispronunciation (the German-speaking Austrians often called her
“Martinetz”), she also respelled her name as “Martines” sometimes. Since her father was of
noble rank, she was also entitled to use of the “von” prefix for her last name, adding to confusion
38
over her name throughout history. This “name game” also creates challenges in researching her,
since references can be found under any of these names, and combinations thereof!
Regardless, she showed musical gifts from an early age, and her father’s friendship with
Metastasio allowed her the opportunity to develop them. She took voice lessons, often
accompanied on the harpsichord by a young musician who also lived in the townhouse where her
family did: Franz Joseph Haydn. Metastasio soon took over responsibility for Marianne’s
education, and she enjoyed training equivalent to or even better than that of the Viennese upper
nobility. She never left Vienna, but was conversant in French, Italian and even English, in
addition to her native German. Metastasio remained her mentor until the end of his life,
providing her with texts to set, in particular.
Her performances were especially legendary, and she was especially known for her keyboard
virtuosity. Charles Burney, the English music historian, when visiting Vienna in 1772, wrote:
“Her performance indeed surpassed all that I had been made to expect. She [sang two arias] of
her own composition, to words of Metastasio, which she accompanied on the harpsichord…and
in playing a ritornels [instrumental refrains], I could discover a very brilliant finger….After these
two songs she played a very difficult lesson of her own composition, on the harpsichord, with
great rapidity and precision.”
Marianne was well acquainted with Mozart, and they frequently performed together (on his fourhanded piano works). It is believed that Mozart may have written one of his piano concertos for
her, as well, although there is no formal dedication to her in his catalog.
On a personal note, Martinez never married, which was quite unusual for women during her
lifetime, as well as for women of her social place. She enjoyed a wide circle of friends and
despite rumors that she was Metastasio’s mistress, most historians believe that instead she
remained single because she could! She enjoyed financial independence as well as a satisfying
career as a musician throughout her life, which was certainly not something most women could
say during this period in history. She died of tuberculosis in 1812, and her sister, Antonia, who
had lived with her during her final years, died just two days later.
Legend has it that she performed for Empress Maria Theresa and gained her favor, and that she
may have even persuaded the Empress’s teenage son (the future emperor Joseph II) to turn the
pages of her music when she performed in the court as a teenager. As a teenager, she was also
showing her skills as a composer, and was trained in theory and composition by the Empress’s
court composer, Giuseppe Bonno, and composed her first mass at the age of 16.
Sadly, many of Marianne’s manuscripts were destroyed in a 1927 fire, so there are not many
surviving scores available for performance and study by contemporary musicians. Regardless,
what survives shows music with energy and originality, albeit fairly conservative in style. Her
reputation as a composer was such that she was the first woman composer inscribed in the
Accademia Filarmonica of Bologna’s roll (she was admitted in 1773). In addition, she was
completely forgotten with the dawn of the 19th century and all of the musical innovation that
marked the Romantic period. Fortunately, modern scholars have renewed interest in her work,
and recordings are now becoming available.
39
This sample is from her Sonata #3 in A major. Dating from around 1765, the work was written
in three movements: fast, slow, fast, in what later became known as “sonata form.” Like most
sonatas from this period, this sonata uses rhythms and melodies associated with other types of
music, such as a march, rondo, and even a minuet. The sample beautifully illustrates Martinez’s
flair for technique as well as a delightful, delicate melody. After you click the link, scroll down
the page to near the bottom and click on the link that says “from Marianne Martinez’s Sonata #3
in A major.”
http://www.fanfaire.com/cdgiveaway/womencomp.html
Margarethe Danzi
(1768-1800)
Margarethe Danzi (born and sometimes referred to
as Margarethe Marchand ) is a German composer.
She studied voice and piano while still a child, and
during the early 1780s lived in the home of Leopold
Mozart (Wolfgang’s dad), who nicknamed her
“Gretl.” She became an opera singer, renowned for
her performances of Wolfgang Mozart’s operas.
She married Franz Danzi, a cellist and well known
composer (and a student of Leopold’s) in 1790, and
died in Munich in 1800.
Her compositions for violin and piano, three sonatas,
were first published in 1800. Her melodies are
particularly remarkable, and many historians credit
her fine work to her singing experience; indeed, they
are very much like the violin “singing.” She also
demonstrates remarkable contrapuntal ability in her compositions. The relationship between the
violin and piano in each of the sonatas is really one of partnership, in which the two instruments
share both the melodic material as well as the accompaniment figures, interweaving the two
seamlessly.
Overshadowed by her composer-husband, Margarethe is another “forgotten” composer of the
Classical period who is only recently enjoying recognition again for her fine work. Sadly, there
are not any paintings or drawings of her readily available (although pictures of her husband are
numerous!), however, her scores are available, and she is represented thus in this history.
The link below will take you to a sampler of her sonatas. All three works for violin and piano
are represented, and there are samples available of all movements of all three works available as
well. A single sample will provide a marvelous insight into how beautifully she created
melodies, but you are encouraged to explore all the samples to fully enjoy her creativity.
http://www.classicsonline.com/catalogue/product.aspx?pid=582504
40
Meanwhile in America, the Colonial period was in full swing, and unfortunately, not many
works by women composers/songwriters were published or saved in any way. Even though
women were trained in musical performance, they were typically not trained in composition, and
as such, the early American women composers were all amateurs. Among the early American
women composers were Thomas Jefferson’s wife, Martha (as well as their two daughters), and
perhaps most notably, singer-songwriter Mary Ann Pownall (also known as “Mrs. Pownall”).
Mary Ann Pownall
(1751-1796)
Mary Ann Pownall is considered to be one of the
first “American” women to compose and publish her
songs. An English immigrant, she was well known
as a performer, and her popularity probably
enhanced her ability to be published. It probably
also assured that she was published in her own
name, as opposed to “anonymous” as was so often
the fate of so many women of this period.
The song, “Jemmy Of The Glen” is a great example
of her work. As you’ll hear in the sample, it is a
pretty upbeat work, but if you look at the words to
the song, it’s actually quite serious, even somber,
with a dark or sad message.
It is also significant to note that Mary Ann is
credited with both music and lyrics to her songs, not
the usual “recipe” from the Classical period,
especially for women composers. Stylistically, it is
written like many songs of the period, with written
piano accompaniment and interesting rhythms that
add interest and color to the text, even in a relatively
simple setting.
Lyrics to “Jemmy of the Glen:”
Where gent-ly flows sweet wind-ing Tay
the Val-lies gladd-'ning with its stream,
o'er ev-'ry copse and ev-'ry Brae
o'er ev-'ry copse and ev-'ry Brae
I mourn and Jem-my is my Theme,
he left my cot last Whit-sun Eve
and vow'd he'd soon be back a-gain
but ah poor Ma-ry he-'ll de-ceive
I ne'er shall see the Lad a-gain
Bon-ny Jem-my.
Click the link to access the complete journal article on “Women Composers in American Popular
Song” and scroll down to where you see the score, then click on the “midi version” to hear the
song.
http://parlorsongs.com/issues/2002-9/thismonth/feature.php
41
Section 7: Role of Women
Determination…technical competence…inventiveness…steady devotion to music… it took a lot
of all of these things (and more) to be a composer and a woman in the Classical period! Given
the ongoing debate by some philosophers on whether or not women were even “human,” it
stands to reason that women creating music in this period, both as performers and composers,
needed to excel in what they did.
Sadly, even women who made a name for themselves during the Classical period were quickly
forgotten within a few years of their deaths. Some didn’t even gain recognition during their
lifetime due to the “anonymous” status given to many women’s works during the period. Even
now, these composers are still among the “forgotten,” and just beginning to gain back the
recognition they so richly deserve. Because of all these things, images of the composers
themselves, much less recordings are few and far between. As such, some are represented
pictorially by their surviving scores, and musically by samplers, only.
The women to be studied in this section are representative of women musicians of their period.
There are both common folk and noble women in their ranks, yet each with a similar story of
ability, determination, creativity, and sadly, “disappearing.” Our study will include these fine
composer-musicians: the two Anna Amalia’s, Marianne Martinez, Maria Theresia von Paradis,
Margarethe Danzi, and Mary Ann Pownall.
The two Anna Amalia’s represent the role of noblewomen during the Classical period.
Princess Anna Amalia
of Prussia
An
(1723-1787)
The elder Anna Amalia was the daughter of Frederick I (King
of Prussia) and sister of Frederick the Great (King of Prussia
from 1740-1786).
Sadly, even though both Frederick and Anna Amalia were both
musically inclined, she was not able to receive formal music
lessons until after her cruel father’s death. Prior to his death,
she studied in secret, thanks in part to her brother, who gave her
first lessons on violin, flute and harpsichord. (Her father is
reputed to have dragged her across rooms by her hair.)
Despite the early challenges, Anna Amalia grew up in a rich
cultural setting, especially since her brother, renowned as an
enlightened despot, had a musical and literary circle that rivaled
Louis XIV’s. Anna Amalia was a gifted amateur composer who didn’t begin writing until the
age of 44. She wrote marches for the Prussian military regiments, which was quite unusual for
women composers of this period.
In addition, she was an avid collector of musical scores, and her library, the “Amalien
Bibliothek” contained autographed scores by J.S. Bach, as well as many other composers of the
Baroque and Classical periods. Sadly, much of the library was destroyed in a 2004 fire. Despite
42
this, the collection has and continues to not only reveal the high level of Anna Amalia’s musical
education, but also as an important resource for musicologist, theorists and performers alike.
In addition to her military marches, Anna Amalia wrote sonatas, chorales and songs. Her
musical style is clearly grounded in the enlightenment school of thought, with a clear and
relatively simple compositional style, and thus very accessible to both amateur and professional
musicians alike.
This sample is from a set of “Four Regimental Marches” entitled “March for the Regiment Graf
Lottum.” Written in 1767, the marches were possibly also written in support of her brother’s
political aspirations, since each was named for a leader of a regiment. Click on the link, then
scroll down to the listing for “Anna Amalia, Princess of Prussia” and click on the MP3 icon to
access the sample.
http://www.leonarda.com/le353.html
The elder Anna Amalia was also a generous patron of the arts, and sponsored many musicians,
including Anton Schweitzer, who was commissioned by her to write an opera entitled “Alceste”
in 1773. The work’s libretto is a reduction of Euripides’ drama of the same name, with only four
characters (including the invention of a sister to Alceste named Parthenia); the story focuses
entirely on social and private issues and questions of life and death. The music is typical of the
Enlightenment, with easily understood libretto and an equally understandable musical setting.
This recording is special and worth a listen, since the work is rarely staged, and this production
was done in conjunction with the re-opening of Anna Amalia’s library in 2007, following its
reconstruction after the 2004 fire. A very 21st century staging, the Concerto Koln is conducted
by Michael Hofstetter, with singers Simone Schneider, Cyndia Sieden, Christoph Genz and Josef
Wagner.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-gnC0REEaO0
43
Duchess Anna Amalia
of Saxe-Weimar
(1739-1807)
The younger Anna Amalia was the niece of Frederick the
Great and the elder Anna Amalia (her father was Karl I,
Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbuttel). A German princess, she
acquired her Duchess title upon marriage to the Duke of
Saxe-Weimar.
This Anna Amalia made more of a name for herself as a
composer than did her aunt. She is credited with bringing
together the great musicians and poets of her time to the
Weimar court where the German opera genre came into its
own under her patronage. In addition, she wrote her own
musical stage works, of which survives a “Singpsiel”
(musical play) entitled “Erwin und Elmire” from 1776. The
libretto is a text by Goethe, and the musical setting displays
her solid musical training and technical ability (her “chops”)
as well as her creativity.
In addition, her surviving compositions include a concerto, a divertimento, and a trio sonata.
Her musical style in “Erwin und Elmire” shows her great familiarity with the musical play style,
since she also was a patron and regularly featured these types of works in her court theater. In
addition, she was clearly in command of the popular opera seria and opera buffa styles of the
day. Coupled with knowledge of folk songs, Anna Amalia successfully blended these elements
into a dramatic work that has subtle nuances provided by the accompanying instruments as much
as by the singers. The story has been set by many composers, and as with all settings, the text
focuses on the restrictions between different social classes, coupled with a theme of
reconciliation. Set in a rustic area, the text was also a pointed critique on the social pretensions
of the then emerging middle class. In addition, there is an underlying theme/tension of the
difficulty of reconciling one’s steadfast virtues with one’s restless desires. Anna Amalia thus
successfully created an early masterwork in the German opera genre.
This sample will provide a brief insight into her fine setting of “Erwin und Elmire.” Click on the
link, then scroll down to the listing for “Anna Amalia, Duchess of Saxe-Weimar” and click on
the MP3 icon to access the sample.
http://www.leonarda.com/le353.html
This Anna Amalia also had a large collection of manuscripts (some 2,000 volumes) which can be
found to this day in the Zentralbibliothek der Deutschen Klassic, in Weimar. Together, the two
Anna Amalia’s not only created their own musical works and sponsored many of their
contemporaries’ musical efforts, but they also provided a lasting legacy of the music of the
Classical period in Europe.
44
Maria Theresia
von Paradis
(1759-1824)
Viennese composer Maria Theresia von Paradis was the
daughter of the Imperial Secretary in the court of Empress
Maria Theresa. Empress Maria Theresa was also her
godmother. Blind from the age of two, she studied piano and
singing under the guidance of the Empress throughout her
childhood, eventually singing the soprano part in Pergolesi’s
“Stabat Mater” in a performance before the Empress, while
accompanying herself on the organ!
She became acquainted with Mozart and Salieri in the mid1770s, and was known as a keyboard virtuoso with a
remarkable memory. Both Mozart and Salieri wrote keyboard
concertos for her, and she was idolized by the public for her
performing skills. In addition to being a remarkable
performer, Maria Theresia was also a prolific composer.
She wrote keyboard works, as well as vocal works, including cantatas, songs, operas, an operetta,
and even a melodrama. Her father was her “rock” and she toured throughout Europe as a
performer, thanks to his support. Following his death in 1808, she ended her performing career
to devote her time to composing and teaching. She spent the remainder of her life in Vienna, and
even founded an institution for music education for the handicapped there. Unfortunately, very
little of her music was published (a common situation for women during this period), so not
many scores are available for study.
Despite this lack of available scores, there are still some wonderful recordings available of her
music. One example is this performance of her “Siciliene” for harp and violin. The melody is
haunting in quality, and the work is quite expressive, certainly foreshadowing the nuances of the
Romantic period which emerged near the end of her life. The work is written in the key of E-flat
major, yet immediately establishes the minor version of the key in the opening notes of the
violin, thus creating the haunting quality of the music.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ueQ8ZXkQVs&translated=1
Marianne Martinez
(1744-1812)
Viennese composer Marianne Martinez owes her Spanish
surname to her paternal grandfather, a Spanish solider who
moved to Naples, Italy near the end of the 17th century. Her
father, Nicolo, served the Neapolitan rulers as a military officer.
He befriended an Italian poet named Metastasio and in the early
1720s, the two ended up at the Habsberg court in Vienna,
Martinez in the papal ambassador’s office, and Metastasio as
the court’s poet laureate. Marianne’s mother, Maria Theresia,
was Austrian. Born Anna Katharina Martinez, she changed her
name to first Marianna, and eventually Marianne (the German
spelling), and to avoid mispronunciation (the German-speaking Austrians often called her
“Martinetz”), she also respelled her name as “Martines” sometimes. Since her father was of
noble rank, she was also entitled to use of the “von” prefix for her last name, adding to confusion
45
over her name throughout history. This “name game” also creates challenges in researching her,
since references can be found under any of these names, and combinations thereof!
Regardless, she showed musical gifts from an early age, and her father’s friendship with
Metastasio allowed her the opportunity to develop them. She took voice lessons, often
accompanied on the harpsichord by a young musician who also lived in the townhouse where her
family did: Franz Joseph Haydn. Metastasio soon took over responsibility for Marianne’s
education, and she enjoyed training equivalent to or even better than that of the Viennese upper
nobility. She never left Vienna, but was conversant in French, Italian and even English, in
addition to her native German. Metastasio remained her mentor until the end of his life,
providing her with texts to set, in particular.
Her performances were especially legendary, and she was especially known for her keyboard
virtuosity. Charles Burney, the English music historian, when visiting Vienna in 1772, wrote:
“Her performance indeed surpassed all that I had been made to expect. She [sang two arias] of
her own composition, to words of Metastasio, which she accompanied on the harpsichord…and
in playing a ritornels [instrumental refrains], I could discover a very brilliant finger….After these
two songs she played a very difficult lesson of her own composition, on the harpsichord, with
great rapidity and precision.”
Marianne was well acquainted with Mozart, and they frequently performed together (on his fourhanded piano works). It is believed that Mozart may have written one of his piano concertos for
her, as well, although there is no formal dedication to her in his catalog.
On a personal note, Martinez never married, which was quite unusual for women during her
lifetime, as well as for women of her social place. She enjoyed a wide circle of friends and
despite rumors that she was Metastasio’s mistress, most historians believe that instead she
remained single because she could! She enjoyed financial independence as well as a satisfying
career as a musician throughout her life, which was certainly not something most women could
say during this period in history. She died of tuberculosis in 1812, and her sister, Antonia, who
had lived with her during her final years, died just two days later.
Legend has it that she performed for Empress Maria Theresa and gained her favor, and that she
may have even persuaded the Empress’s teenage son (the future emperor Joseph II) to turn the
pages of her music when she performed in the court as a teenager. As a teenager, she was also
showing her skills as a composer, and was trained in theory and composition by the Empress’s
court composer, Giuseppe Bonno, and composed her first mass at the age of 16.
Sadly, many of Marianne’s manuscripts were destroyed in a 1927 fire, so there are not many
surviving scores available for performance and study by contemporary musicians. Regardless,
what survives shows music with energy and originality, albeit fairly conservative in style. Her
reputation as a composer was such that she was the first woman composer inscribed in the
Accademia Filarmonica of Bologna’s roll (she was admitted in 1773). In addition, she was
completely forgotten with the dawn of the 19th century and all of the musical innovation that
marked the Romantic period. Fortunately, modern scholars have renewed interest in her work,
and recordings are now becoming available.
46
This sample is from her Sonata #3 in A major. Dating from around 1765, the work was written
in three movements: fast, slow, fast, in what later became known as “sonata form.” Like most
sonatas from this period, this sonata uses rhythms and melodies associated with other types of
music, such as a march, rondo, and even a minuet. The sample beautifully illustrates Martinez’s
flair for technique as well as a delightful, delicate melody. After you click the link, scroll down
the page to near the bottom and click on the link that says “from Marianne Martinez’s Sonata #3
in A major.”
http://www.fanfaire.com/cdgiveaway/womencomp.html
Margarethe Danzi
(1768-1800)
Margarethe Danzi (born and sometimes referred to
as Margarethe Marchand ) is a German composer.
She studied voice and piano while still a child, and
during the early 1780s lived in the home of Leopold
Mozart (Wolfgang’s dad), who nicknamed her
“Gretl.” She became an opera singer, renowned for
her performances of Wolfgang Mozart’s operas.
She married Franz Danzi, a cellist and well known
composer (and a student of Leopold’s) in 1790, and
died in Munich in 1800.
Her compositions for violin and piano, three sonatas,
were first published in 1800. Her melodies are
particularly remarkable, and many historians credit
her fine work to her singing experience; indeed, they
are very much like the violin “singing.” She also
demonstrates remarkable contrapuntal ability in her compositions. The relationship between the
violin and piano in each of the sonatas is really one of partnership, in which the two instruments
share both the melodic material as well as the accompaniment figures, interweaving the two
seamlessly.
Overshadowed by her composer-husband, Margarethe is another “forgotten” composer of the
Classical period who is only recently enjoying recognition again for her fine work. Sadly, there
are not any paintings or drawings of her readily available (although pictures of her husband are
numerous!), however, her scores are available, and she is represented thus in this history.
The link below will take you to a sampler of her sonatas. All three works for violin and piano
are represented, and there are samples available of all movements of all three works available as
well. A single sample will provide a marvelous insight into how beautifully she created
melodies, but you are encouraged to explore all the samples to fully enjoy her creativity.
http://www.classicsonline.com/catalogue/product.aspx?pid=582504
47
Meanwhile in America, the Colonial period was in full swing, and unfortunately, not many
works by women composers/songwriters were published or saved in any way. Even though
women were trained in musical performance, they were typically not trained in composition, and
as such, the early American women composers were all amateurs. Among the early American
women composers were Thomas Jefferson’s wife, Martha (as well as their two daughters), and
perhaps most notably, singer-songwriter Mary Ann Pownall (also known as “Mrs. Pownall”).
Mary Ann Pownall
(1751-1796)
Mary Ann Pownall is considered to be one of the
first “American” women to compose and publish her
songs. An English immigrant, she was well known
as a performer, and her popularity probably
enhanced her ability to be published. It probably
also assured that she was published in her own
name, as opposed to “anonymous” as was so often
the fate of so many women of this period.
The song, “Jemmy Of The Glen” is a great example
of her work. As you’ll hear in the sample, it is a
pretty upbeat work, but if you look at the words to
the song, it’s actually quite serious, even somber,
with a dark or sad message.
It is also significant to note that Mary Ann is
credited with both music and lyrics to her songs, not
the usual “recipe” from the Classical period,
especially for women composers. Stylistically, it is
written like many songs of the period, with written
piano accompaniment and interesting rhythms that
add interest and color to the text, even in a relatively
simple setting.
Lyrics to “Jemmy of the Glen:”
Where gent-ly flows sweet wind-ing Tay
the Val-lies gladd-'ning with its stream,
o'er ev-'ry copse and ev-'ry Brae
o'er ev-'ry copse and ev-'ry Brae
I mourn and Jem-my is my Theme,
he left my cot last Whit-sun Eve
and vow'd he'd soon be back a-gain
but ah poor Ma-ry he-'ll de-ceive
I ne'er shall see the Lad a-gain
Bon-ny Jem-my.
Click the link to access the complete journal article on “Women Composers in American Popular
Song” and scroll down to where you see the score, then click on the “midi version” to hear the
song.
http://parlorsongs.com/issues/2002-9/thismonth/feature.php
48
Section 9: Resources for Additional Study
Just as there are numerous recordings available of Classical music, there are also numerous
opportunities for further exploration of the period. This list is meant to provide a basis for
further study. For even more indepth study, also see the bibliography for Unit 5.
“The Grove Concise Dictionary of Music” is a magnificent resource for virtually every topic
related to the Classical period, including composers and genres.
Jezic, Diane and Elizabeth Wood. “Women Composers: The Lost Tradition Found,” Feminist
Press, 1994. (A marvelous look at women composers not only of the Classical period, but
preceding and succeeding periods as well.)
Marrocco, W. Thomas and Harold Gleason. “Music in America: An Anthology from the
Landing of the Pilgrims to the Close of the Civil War. 1620-1865,” W.W. Norton & Company,
Inc., 1964. (Contains music and information about American music.)
Pendle, Karin. “Women and Music: A History,” Indiana University Press, 2001.
49
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