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PART II (after mid-term exams)
Lecture 7
Part A
Summary thoughts on Western (Greek) and Chinese thought patterns (similar to
Asian thought in general) that influenced music and culture:
I. Ancient Greek culture encouraged disagreement and disputation in natural philosophy and
science as in every other field.
II. In Ancient China the emphasis remained on consensus.
For Greeks, oral disagreement was a tool of competition. Without secure employment,
philosophers were teachers. They depended on skill in debate for livelihood and fame. They
tended to argue face to face and to expect the public to decide, just as it decided in the assembly
or at trials.
In Ancient China people who lived by their knowledge, with few exceptions, expected rulers to
support them--as "guests" (ke) in the local courts of the Warring States and as imperial officials in
the Han. They presented their ideas much of the time not to colleagues but rather to their patrons,
who expected advice but did not have to act on it, or even to reply to it. Disagreements with other
scholars were unimportant by comparison. Open attacks were usually written--and one-sided. Patrons
seldom showed patience for anything resembling intellectual debate.
On the whole, the Chinese valued consensus as much as the Greeks valued dispute. In China the
relationships of masters and disciples were based on the ritual transmission of written texts. A
teacher and his disciples formed an internally cohesive community that avoided attacking other
communities. Quarrels were not likely to be productive when teachers aspired above all to official
employment for their pupils, and when parents measured success by the same criterion.
The turbulent Greeks had to make their way in the "competitive hurly-burly of the Hellenic
world", whereas in gentle China an intellectual's concern "was first and foremost persuading a
ruler or his surrogates to want their advice.” When Chinese meets Chinese, then comes no tugof-war.
The adversarial attitude and aggression manifested themselves in a certain philosophical style.
"There is no record of public philosophical arguments in ancient China... The philosophic focus
remained on writing." But in Greece, dialectic and viva voce debate were the breath of philosophy.
There was public argument and public polemic.
Additional thoughts:
o Compared with their Chinese counterparts, Greek intellectuals were far more often isolated
from the seats of political power.
o Second, in Greece there was a "lack of bureaucratization: there was no institution analogous
to the Chinese astronomical bureau.”
o Third, a Greek was not required to produce any "formal qualifications" in order to teach or
to practice as a philosopher or scientist or doctor.
Part B
Timbre or Tone Color: the character or quality of a musical sound or voice as distinct from its
pitch and intensity.
Overtone - Extremely faint sound, in addition to the fundamental sound of an instrument,
caused by fractional vibrations of a string or air column within a pipe.
Instrumental classification:
– Aerophones (wind instruments – woodwinds and brass)
– Chordophones (string instruments)
– Idiophones (vibrating instruments)
– Membranophones (vibrating membrane instruments)
• Western instruments classification: strings, woodwinds, brass, percussion.
I. Strings (chordophones): instruments that produce sound when strings are bowed or plucked such
as the instruments of the violin family, harp and guitar.
BOWING: Violin, viola, cello, double bass
PLUCKING: Harp, guitar, lute
Violin - a string instrument; the soprano member of the violin family.
Viola - a string instrument; the alto member of the violin family.
Cello (violoncello) – an instrument of the violin family but more than twice the size of
the violin’s size; it is played between the legs and produces a rich, lyrical tone.
• Double bass - the largest and lowest-pitched instrument in the string family.
II. Woodwinds (aerophones): a group of instruments initially constructed of wood to make their
sound with the aid of a single or double reed, including the flute, oboe, clarinet, English horn and
• Piccolo – a small flute, the smallest and highest pitched woodwind instrument.
• Flute - a high-sounding member of the woodwind family; initially made of wood, but
more recently, beginning in the 19 century, of silver or even platinum.
• Oboe - an instrument of the woodwind family; the highest pitched of the double-reed
• English Horn - an alto oboe, pitched at the interval a fifth below the oboe, much
favored by the composers of the Romantic era. A double-reed woodwind instrument in
the oboe family.
• Clarinet - a single-reed instrument of the woodwind family with a large range and a wide
variety of timbres within it.
• Bass clarinet – a woodwind of the clarinet family with a low range.
• Bassoon – a low, double-reed instrument of the woodwind family.
• Contrabassoon – a low range bassoon in the woodwind family.
III. Brass (aerophones):
• Trumpet – a brass instrument of the soprano range
• French horn - a brass instrument that plays in the middle range of the brass family,
developed from the medieval hunting horn.
• Trombone – a brass instruments of medium to low range that is supplied with a slide,
allowing a variety of pitches to sound.
• Tuba – the bass member of the modern brass family.
IV. Percussion:
A. IDIOPHONES: xylophone, cymbals, triangle, claves, castanets, marimba, crotales, glockenspiel,
vibraphone, tubular bells, wood blocks, guiro, ratchet.
• Cymbals - a percussion instrument of two metal discs; they are made to crash together to
create emphasis and articulation in music.
• Triangle – a three-sided triangular shaped percussion instrument made of metal that
when struck by a beater produces a high sound of indeterminate pitch.
• Glockenspiel – a percussion instrument made of tuned metal bars that are struck by
B. MEMBRANOPHONES: timpani, bass drum, bongos, congas, snare drum, tenor drum, tom-tom,
chimes (pitched), tambourine (unpitched.)
• Timpani (kettle drums)– a percussion instrument consisting usually of two, sometimes
four, large drums that can produce a specific pitch when struck with mallets.
• Bass drum – a large, low-sounding drum struck with a soft-headed stick.
• Snare drum – a small drum consisting of a metal cylinder covered with a skin or sheet of
plastic that, when played with sticks, produces the “rat-ta-tat” sound familiar from
marching bands.
V. Keyboard instruments: piano, organ, clavichord, virginal, harpsichord.
• Harpsichord – a keyboard instrument especially popular during the Baroque era.
• Celesta – a small percussive keyboard instrument using hammers to strike metal bars,
producing a bright bell-like sound.
• Harp - an ancient plucked string instrument with a triangular shape.
Lecture 8
The Christian Church and Western Classical Music tradition
The early Roman Catholic Church as educator:
The early Roman Catholic church was the center of power in all aspects of the word. One of their roles
was to provide education, similar to today’s universities:
1) educating its members in many subjects, fostering further research and documenting findings, retaining
libraries of its knowledge to pass on to future generations;
2) much energy was spent in the development of musical skills since music was an integral part of the
process of worship;
3) transmission and continuation of Greek music theory (scales, modes, etc.)
Music innovation and development by the Catholic Church:
1) Invention and refinement of music notation;
2) Development of Gregorian chant;
3) Invention and further development of polyphony (Notre Dame School in Paris)
Christian chants were:
1) exclusively vocal (the use of instruments in worship was condemned because of the associations
of instruments with superstitious pagan rites, and the pure vocal utterance was the more proper
expression of their faith);
2) non metric, and with free rhythm according to the accents of the text;
3) sung in Latin (the language of the Roman Catholic Church).
Evolution of the music of the Roman Catholic Church:
(1) unison chant: The period in which the unison chant was the only form of church music
extends from the founding of the congregation of Rome to about the year 1100
• Duration: The notes have no fixed and measurable value. The length of each tone is
determined only by the proper length of the syllable.
• Rhythm: is that of speech, of the prose text to which the chant tones are set. The rhythm
is a natural rhythm, a succession of syllables combined into expressive groups by means of
accent, varied pitch, and prolongations of tone. The fundamental rule for chanting is: "Sing
the words with notes as you would speak them without notes."
• Form: The chant form is chosen because it does not make an independent artistic
impression, but can be held in strict subordination to the sacred words; its sole function is
to carry the text over with greater force upon the attention and the emotions.
(2) unaccompanied chorus music: The period of the unaccompanied contrapuntal (polyphonic)
chorus covers the era from about 1100 to the period of the Counter-Reformation of the sixteenth
century. This phase of art culminates in the works of Palestrina in Rome, Orlandus Lassus in
Munich, and the Gabrielis in Venice.
(3) mixed solo and chorus with instrumental accompaniment: since the 17th century this
style is dominant in the choir music of the Catholic Church - mixed solo and chorus music with
free instrumental accompaniment. This style arose in the seventeenth century as an outcome of
the Renaissance secularization of art. A major composer of is Johann Sebastian Bach.
I. Period of the “unison chant” (up to 1100)
Pope Gregory the Great (reigned from 590–604)
(1) He freed the church song from the constraints of Greek (language) prosody.
(2) He collected the chants previously existing, added others, provided them with a system of
notation, and wrote them down in a book called the Antiphonary of St. Gregory.
(3) He established a singing schooling.
(4) He added four new scales to the four previously existing, thus completing the tonal system of
the Church.
Gregorian chant is also called Plainchant, plainsong:
– vocal ‘monophony’, nonmetric melodies, sung in Latin, conjunct melody
– over 3,000 melodies anonymously composed
– text settings: syllabic, pneumatic, melismatic
– early chant: handed down through oral tradition
– later notated by neumes: square notes on four-line staff
– Church modes: precede major and minor scales.
‘Dies Irae’ (most famous Gregorian chant)
• The text of the poem from Dies Irae is generally attributed to a 13th century Franciscan monk.
After the Council of Trent, the chant officially entered the Catholic liturgy as part of the Mass of
the Dead (the Requiem Mass).
• The text itself is a vivid, desperate first-person account of the Last Judgment, a topic of vital
concern to Christians of the Middle Ages. The title Dies irae is commonly translated as “Day of
Wrath”, and this is the unforgiving mood that the text intends to convey to its reader.
Many composers have written requiem masses (including Mozart and Verdi) while others have
used the actual Dies Irae musical chant in their compositions (for example Berlioz “Symphonie
Fantastique,” Franz Liszt and others.)
Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179)
Hildegard of Bingen is the first composer that we know of in the history of Western classical music.
She was an abbess who founded a convent in Germany, a poet, composer, prophet and scientist.
She was the daughter of a noble couple given to the church as a tithe. Her legacy consists of
collections of visions and prophecies, music, and scientific writing.
II. Period of the “unaccompanied contrapuntal chorus” (1100 to 1600)
The period from 1450-1600 (Renaissance) was the height of polyphonic vocal music with Palestrina and
Josquin Desprez as the top composers.
Italy was the music capital in the 16th century. Other important centers included England, Germany, and
• Music was primarily vocal - if instruments were used, they doubled the vocal parts.
• Texture was polyphonic.
• Use of word painting/text painting.
• The rhythm “flows” and overlaps. Composers were less concerned with metrical accents.
• Melodies were predominantly stepwise and smooth, and overlapped rhythmically between voices.
• The church choirs were all male choirs (castrati.) (Women were not allowed to sing publicly in
The Renaissance Roman Catholic Mass
The Mass is the most solemn rite among the offices of the Catholic Church.
It is an elaborate development of the last supper of Christ with his disciples.
There are several kinds of Masses for different occasions.
A popular type of mass used by many classical composers is the Requiem Mass, where the Gloria
and Credo are omitted, and their places supplied by the Gregorian chant, Dies Irae, together with
certain special prayers for departed souls.
Palestrina (1525-1594)
The writing music style of Palestrina represents the culmination of the Renaissance and the 16th
century polyphonic vocal sacred style. Palestrina worked during and after the Council of Trent
(1545-1563) and he wrote music meeting the demands of the Council of Trent. His mass Missa
Papae Marcelli (1555) became a model for ‘mass’ composers in the Renaissance. He worked
primarily in Rome and was the music director at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
Council of Trent (1545-1563) addressed the following concerns:
Abuses and malpractice within the Church (for ex. indulgences)
Emergence of Protestantism
Role of music in Worship (some advocated return to monophonic music)
Resulted in the ‘Counterreformation’
Martin Luther 95 complaints against the Catholic Church.
Martin Luther (1483-1546) was originally a German Catholic priest that became the
leader of the Protestant Reformation.
- Wrote complaints against the Catholic church.
- He strongly refuted the claim that freedom from God's punishment for sins could
be purchased with monetary values (indulgences.) He confronted the Catholic
church with his Ninety-Five Theses in 1517. His refusal to retract all of his
writings at the demand of the Pope in 1520 and the Holy Roman Emperor Charles
V in 1521 resulted in his excommunication by the Pope and condemnation as an
outlaw by the Emperor.
- He translated the bible from the Latin into the vernacular.
The Chorale and the Lutheran Church
Chorales are German congregational hymns. The chorales were introduced by Martin Luther,
who wanted above all to incorporate congregational singing into the church service and to
encourage people to cultivate personal relationships with God.
The Chorales were collected from a variety of sources:
1) Adaptations of Gregorian chants
2) Existing German devotional songs
3) Secular songs given new words
4) New compositions
III. Period of the “mixed solo and chorus with instrumental accompaniment” (from 1600)
Johann Sebastian Bach and the Lutheran Chorale
J. S. Bach was born in a part of Germany that was dominated by Lutheranism and he was schooled in
the Lutheran faith since childhood. When he worked as an organist, his duties included
accompanying congregational singing using the Lutheran hymns (Chorales), and used them in many
of his compositions. For example:
– Chorale motets (polyphonic settings of chorales) – Bach wrote six ‘chorale motets’.
– Church cantatas and passions - It is extremely significant that Bach frequently placed the
chorale tunes in choral settings, because the melodies were originally created to allow
congregations to worship God as a collective body.
– Organ chorales (chorale preludes)
J. S. Bach’s Cantatas
• Chorales are used in Bach in all the cantatas. He wrote more than 200 chorale cantatas.
Bach’s Organ Chorales (Chorale Preludes)
• Chorales preludes (organ chorales) are compositions that employ either an entire chorale
melody or part of a melody at any time during the composition. They were designed to be
played immediately before the congregational singing of the hymn.
• The Great Eighteen Chorale Preludes - These pieces, conceived on a large and often epic
scale, have been described as the summit of Bach's sacred music for solo organ and Bach’s
greatest and most varied instrumental works.
J. S. Bach’s Passions
Bach wrote two Passions (St. Matthew, St. John) about the life and death of Christ. In his
Passions, Bach often used chorales to complete a scene.
J. S. Bach’s Chorale Harmonizations
• Bach also harmonized about 189 Chorales, which are left in a collection for us.
Haendel and the Oratorio
Haendel was a German born British composer who spend the most part of his career as a
composer in London, becoming well known for his operas, oratorios, anthems and organ
concertos. His Oratorio the Messiah is one of his most successful works
• Oratorio is a large work for solo voices, chorus and orchestra, based on a biblical story and
performed in a church or hall without scenery, costumes or acting. Usually a narrator depicts
the action.
Christianity’s legacy in Western Classical Music:
Many Western composers have written Christian Masses and used Christian ritual in their
Here are a few examples:
Monteverdi (Vespers);
Palestrina (Mass of “Papa Marcello” of 1555);
Pergolessi (Stabat Mater);
Mozart (Requiem, Coronation Mass),
Haydn (The Creation);
Haendel (The Messiah);
J. S. Bach (Passions, Mass, Cantatas, Christmas Oratorio, etc);
Beethoven (Missa Solemnis);
Brahms (Requiem); Verdi (Requiem);
Dvorak (Requiem, Stabat Mater);
Rachmaninoff (Vespers);
Britten (War Requiem).
Lecture 9
Mozart and the ‘Classical’ Period in Vienna
The profession of composer in the 18thcentury Habsburg empire
During Mozart’s time there was an extraordinary number of composers making a living in Vienna, such
as Gluck, Haydn, Salieri, Beethoven and others. Why was there an unusual profusion of talented
composers in the 18thcentury Habsburg empire?
• Because there was substantial demand and a profusion of jobs and employment opportunities
that attracted people into the profession of composer and provided hearings for their work.
These circumstances lead to a profusion of musical productivity.
Why was there a demand for composers in this period:
• the political division of the Holy Roman Empire and the Habsburg possessions into numerous
near-independent states (about 1800 states), each with its own court seeking entertainment and
prestige through new musical offerings.
• the rising prosperity of the 18th century – the beginning of the Industrial revolution and the rise in
the wealth and position of the small body of bourgeoisie8 as consumers of culture. This
prosperity lies behind the creation of a free market in musical composition.
• Music was cultivated as a status symbol, a way to put distance between the court and higher and
lower aristocracy, and all the way down to the middle class. Therefore composers were sought
Music Patronage in Vienna – from the Court Hofkapelle, to the aristocratic Hauskapellen, and to public
concerts and free-lance musicians
During the Renaissance (1450-1600), composers were employed either by the Church or by the Court,
royalty or nobility. In the 18th century, ‘private’ support continued, but the composer was beginning to
emerge from a state of servitude to take control of his own professional life. By the second half of the
18th century demand for the work of the composer derived from two sources:
o continued patronage of royalty and nobility, and
o the emerging free market.
In more detail, the history of high-culture music patronage in 18th-century Vienna includes:
the rise and fall of the imperial Hofkapelle (Court orchestra) under Karl VI and Maria Theresa,
the rise and fall of aristocratic Hauskapellen (house ensembles),
the emergence of dilettante (amateur) forums during the final quarter of the century, and
the emergence of free-lance musicians and the earliest forms of the Viennese version of the
public concert.
The increasing popularity of Kapellen throughout the 18th century was driven as much by aristocratic
observance of convention and by status consciousness, as by interest in music for its own sake.
Aristocrats, in order to conform to their role expectations, maintained ensembles commensurate to
their financial means and station. In other words, "Artists and the public also expected a well-off aristocrat to
assume the role of a generous patron, informed collector, appreciative friend of music and painting.
The rise of the aristocratic Hauskapellen (house ensembles), can be best viewed as a kind of fad or
fashion, in which, first, the upper nobility and, later, other aristocrats, major and minor, followed the
example set at court. Proximity to the court (and therefore status) could be demonstrated by
adopting its practices. Music then, was a vehicle (and, in Vienna, perhaps the most important vehicle)
with which one could demonstrate, gain, and even, presumably, lose status; it was a primary means by
which status was registered.
Conspicuous musical consumption, therefore, was not primarily for the benefit of social
inferiors; instead, it must be recognized that cultural displays were oriented upward and sideways
to those audiences the patron wished to imitate or be aligned with, and to audiences the patron
wished to compete with or impress. During the heyday of the Hauskapellen, impressing middleclass or minor aristocratic audiences (and thereby distancing themselves from these audiences)
was, for high-ranking aristocrats, a relatively minor concern.
Higher aristocrats were interested in imitating the imperial court, and lower aristocrats were
interested in imitating, and thereby "rubbing shoulders" with, the upper aristocrats. This
practice became a conventional and expected one as the century progressed. As a "typical"
aristocratic practice, some if not all aristocrats would have found musical activity to be of
intrinsic interest but that interest and love of music by no means provided the only impetus for
music patronage.
“I must confess indeed that I have a special fondness for delightful and agreeable music, but this is not the
principal reason why I was induced to engage the (opera) company. Rather, after I learned that Princess
Schwarzenburg was to take a cure only a mile from here on her husband's estate of Wildschutz . . . I hoped that
the illustrious princess would remain in the vicinity for the entire summer. It was decided that the opera singers
were to arrive here in the middle of June at the latest in order to entertain her with operas as well as comedies.”
Moore1987, p. 95]
During the 1790s, aristocrats began to abandon the taste for Italianate operatic music and the
amateur-oriented aesthetic of "general taste." And with the decline of the Hauskapellen (house
ensembles), attention within the repertory was concentrated on musical stars (Haydn, Mozart, and
Beethoven), who were programmed at the expense of most other occupational musicians. Based on
the public concerts presented in Vienna between 1791 and 1810, Mozart's, Haydn's, and Beethoven's
compositions appear to have occupied a special place in Viennese concert life. These composers can
therefore be understood as musical "stars” within the Viennese public concert repertory, their works
occupied a dominant position in the Viennese concert world and signified a growing concentration
of attention on musical celebrities. This leaning into "serious" music was associated primarily with
Vienna’s old aristocrats and was not associated with the middle class.
After around 1795, both the number of public concerts and the number of non-court controlled
concert locations rose steadily and, the public concerts were more accessible to non-aristocrats.
Although the custom of hosting private concerts diminished during the 1780s and 1790s, for most
bourgeois in Vienna, the prospect of hosting private salons on a regular basis was financially
prohibitive. A ticket or subscription to a concert or series, on the other hand, provided a more
realistic alternative.
Public concerts were often used by aristocrats as "showcases" for composers or performances that
had already premiered privately, a practice to which the circumstances of many Haydn, Mozart, and
Beethoven premiers attest. In this regard, aristocratically sponsored or organized public concerts can
be understood as communicating to a wider audience what was already occurring in the world of the
private aristocratic salons.
An increase in the number of public concerts and also increased upper- middle-class and "second
society" (ennobled members of the upper middle class) participation in privately sponsored music
affairs. Now, with less of an economic barrier to music participation, those who would not have
been able to keep any form of Kapellen could participate in musical life through the purchase of a
subscription ticket or through hosting a concert. The public-that is, the middle classes-did not
actually take control of musical life not before the middle of the 19th century.
"The practice of giving formal private concerts in the home (salons) began to trickle down the
social scale, with the lower nobility and the wealthy middle class assuming an increasingly active
role. By the end of the century, the musical salon had become firmly entrenched in the Viennese
cultural world, so that all segments of the population who had the means to participate in the
city's cultural life at all could have had access to at least one or two musical coteries"
Changes in society and in music in the
I. Economic change
• Industrial Revolution brought the expansion of the middle class and the economy.
II. Cosmopolitan age
• The 18th century was a cosmopolitan age, partly because of marriages between powerful families,
and foreign born rulers abounded: German kings in England, Sweden and Poland; a Spanish
king in Naples; a French duke in Tuscany; a German princess (Catherine the Great) as empress of
Russia. Intellectuals and artists traveled widely.
III. International music style
• Musical life reflected this international culture, German orchestral composers were active in Paris and
London, and Italian opera composers and singers worked in Austria. Germany, Spain, England,
Russia, and France. By 1785 a mixed style reflecting this international culture was universally
adopted. According to a prominent writer, there was only one music for all of Europe.
IV. Popularization of learning
• The pursuit of learning and the love of art and music became more widespread, especially among
the expanding middle class.
V. Social roles for music
o Public concerts (open to everybody with ticket purchase) flourished after 1720, offering
opportunities for performers and composers to supplement their incomes and to reach a
wider audience.
o Musical amateurs and connoisseurs: Amateur musicians bought music and music
publishers catered specially to them. Most of the published music for keyboard, chamber
ensemble, or voice and keyboard was designed for amateurs to perform at home for their
own pleasure.
o Musical salons were the basis of musical life in Vienna at the end of the 18th century with
a significant number of dilettantes and amateurs from various social strata. The highest
level salons would hire professionals to perform (such as Mozart).
VI. Musical taste and style
• Audiences reacted against the polyphonic complexities of the late Baroque style.
• Instead the audiences preferred music that was “natural,” free of technical complications, and
capable of immediately pleasing any sensitive listener. This style was written with a
homophonic texture (melody with accompaniment)
• Because of the popularity of opera, audiences enjoyed instrumental music featuring a vocally
conceived melody in short phrases over spare accompaniment.
• Composers felt that music should be universal (international) rather than limited by national
boundaries, and should appeal to all tastes at once.
Music style in EARLY Classical period
1) The ‘Galant’ style (part of the early Classical style)
Music had a quiet grace, noble simplicity, purity and serenity. The new style ‘galant’ consisted of
short-breathed, often repeated gestures organized in phrases of two, three of four measures
combining into larger units, lightly accompanied with simple harmony and punctuated by repeating
frequent cadences. This ‘homophonic’ style was prevalent from the mid- to late-18th century.
2) The ‘Sturm und Drang’ style (part of the early Classical style)
The ‘Sturm und drang’ was a literary style from Northern Germany of the 1760s-1780s (Goethe,
Schiller) that was highly influential in music (especially Haydn and Mozart).
The ‘Sturm und drang’ applied to music was characterized by:
• the use of minor keys to portray depressing feelings;
• used musical themes that were angular with large leaps and unpredictable melodic contours.
• Featured rapidly changing tempos and dynamics, and unpredictable syncopations.
Music style in the ‘mature’ Classical period (after the ‘gallant’ style)
Music was written in the style gallant combined with elements of the ‘sturm und drang’ that provided
emotional contrasts and a dramatic quality.
• New view of human psychology - emotions are not steady states but constantly change and
so the new music has the capacity for rapid changes in mood, texture and color. This gives to Classical
period music a new sense of urgency and drama.
• No longer necessary to use only “one affect” or mood per piece (or movement) as in the Baroque
music. Now the mood of a piece might change radically within a few short phrases.
• Textures may change quickly and composers call now for crescendos and diminuendos.
• Form and content: the new content is reflected in the Classical forms such as Sonata allegro
Elements of the mature classical style
- the theme is usually ‘tuneful’, catchy and even singable.
- Melodies are now simple and short with phrases organized around an antecedent (question)
and a consequent (answer).
- Harmony changes less often than in the Baroque (slower harmonic rhythm and more
- The new tuneful melody is supported by a simple harmony.
- The heavy basso continuo of the Baroque disappears.
- New accompaniment patterns such as Alberti bass are invented to prevent static harmony.
- more flexible and contrasting than in the Baroque.
- rapid motion may be followed by repose and then further quick movement.
- There is little of the driving, perpetual motion of Baroque rhythm.
- Lighter, more transparent sound, more homophonic and less use of polyphony.
- Clarity, symmetry, proportion, balance, and order.
Opera in the ‘Classical period’
The new musical idiom hailed by the Enlightenment writers, the gallant style, has its roots in vocal
music and in Italian opera beginning in the 1720s 1730s. The advent of the gallant style, with its
expressiveness and avoidance of contrapuntal complexity, made attendance at operas and concerts
more popular, and also facilitated amateur performance and the demand by amateurs of new
• Two separate traditions existed during the classical period: comic and serious opera. Italian
comic opera was the most popular.
- Italian Comic Opera (also called Opera buffa)
– Was sung throughout in vernacular language.
– Featured characters of ordinary people in the present day, in contrast to the stories from
myth or history in serious opera.
– This type of operas was aimed at primarily middle-class audience, and only gradually
gained aristocratic patrons.
– It was supposed to entertain and serve a moral purpose by caricaturing the failing of
character of aristocrats and commoners, vain ladies, miserly old men, etc.
Main centers of music in 18th Century Classical period
The three main centers of music were: Manheim, Vienna and Berlin.
• Vienna was the capital of the old Holy Roman Empire, which covered much of Western and
Central Europe.
- The careers of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and the young Schubert unfolded in Vienna.
During that time Vienna was the fourth largest city in Europe.
- The landowning aristocracy that congregated in Vienna patronized music, often enjoying it
together with middle-class citizens at public concerts. Vienna attracted musicians from
throughout Europe.
• Mainheim
- Manheim was a major focus of musical activity with its own “style” and magnificent
orchestra. The Mannheim orchestra founded by Johann Stamitz became renowned all over
Europe for 1) its virtuosity, 2) new dynamic range - from the softest pianissimo to the
loudest fortissimo, and 3) for the thrilling sound of its crescendo. The Mannheim School of
composers was of great significance to the development of the Viennese classical style and
of orchestral technique.
- The most famous orchestral techniques included: Manheim birds, sigh, crescendo,
roller, Grand pause, rocket.
Mozart (1756-1791)
- Born in Salzburg, his father, Leopold, was the author of a famous introduction to playing the
violin book.
- Mozart travelled throughout Europe as a child showing his skills as a pianist and composer. At
age of 8 he wrote his first two symphonies.
- Throughout the 1770s Mozart resided in Salzburg where he served as organist, violinist and
composer to the archbishop.
- In 1781 he left to Vienna to make a living as a freelance musician.
- Vienna was, during Mozart’s last decade, the largest and wealthiest city in the German lands. The
last ten years of Mozart’s life in Vienna was one of the most dramatic in history. It included the
end of the American Revolution and the adoption of the American Constitution, the
beginnings of the industrial revolution in England (including Watt’s improved steam engine), and
the first years of the French Revolution. The intellectual life of the time, was shaped by people
such as Rousseau, Voltaire, Hume, Goethe and Schiller.
- Mozart’s Emperor, Joseph II, was the most enlightened of the “enlightened despots” of the era.
He was a dedicated amateur performer of chamber music, attempted to introduce universal and
compulsory education, steps toward the ending of serfdom, (near) abolition of the death penalty,
and elimination of the most oppressive restrictions upon Protestants and Jews. Unfortunately, the
Turkish War, affected his reputation and was partly responsible for Mozart’s financial difficulties
at the end of his life (he repeatedly had to borrow money since his salary diminished.)
- In Mozart’s Vienna, during the last decade of his life, composition started to change from the
universal system of private patronage to the beginnings of a market mechanism under which the
product of the composer became a commodity that could be bought and sold. Mozart was
among the first in Vienna to turn his talents as composer or virtuoso pianist into a commodity.
Mozart’s operas
Mozart (1756-1791) was the master of classical period opera and wrote different types of operas:
– Italian opera seria of the old Baroque type (such as Monteverdi’s opera Orfeo.)
– German comic opera, called Singspiel: The Magic Flute (Masonic influence)
– Italian comic opera such as the three famous operas against the European oligarchy: Le
Nozze di Figaro, *Don Giovanni, and Cosi fan tutte.
*Don Giovanni is a young, arrogant, sexually promiscuous nobleman, that abuses and
outrages everyone else in the cast, until he encounters something he cannot kill, beat up,
dodge, or outwit. He is brought down to Hell by the ghost of a man whom he has killed.
Because the seducer and mocker of public law and morality is a nobleman, Don
Giovanni is critical of the aristocracy.
Mozart and Freemasonry
Mozart was a Mason, a suspect liberal organization established in England in 1717. Its basis was
rationalist and anti-Catholic. Among the many intellectuals who became Masons were Voltaire,
Goethe, Lessing and Herder, and, among musicians, Gluck and Haydn as well as Mozart.
At the time Freemasonry was officially described as:
“.. the activity of closely – united men who, employing symbolical forms borrowed principally
from the mason' s trade and from architecture, work for the welfare of mankind, striving
morally to ennoble themselves and others, and thereby to bring about a universal league of
mankind, which they aspire to exhibit even now on a small scale.'”
The ideology of Freemasonry, characteristic of the Enlightenment, reflected the outlook of the most
advanced thinkers of the age. Its aims were as follows:
“By the exercise of ‘Brotherly Love’ we are taught to regard the whole human species as one family the high and
the low, the rich and the poor, created by one Almighty Being and sent into the world for the aid, support and
protection of each other.”
The leader of all the Illuminati (a branch from the Masons) in Vienna was Joseph von Sonnenfels,
one of Mozart's patrons and many other members were among Mozart’s friends. Mozart himself was
an active member of the Brotherhood of Masons. Through Mozart’s influence Leopold, his own
father, became a member of the Freemasons. After Mozart’s death many letters and other documents
related to Mozart and the Freemasons, were destroyed by his wife and his father for security reasons.
Mozart wrote much music for the Masons since music played an important part in Masonic
ceremonies and many of the characteristics of Masonic music appear in his music. Some of the
Masonic liberal themes also appear in the librettos that Mozart selected for his operas – themes
related to the promotion of the liberal ideas that found fruition in the French Revolution. Mozart’s
librettists Da Ponte and Beaumarchais (another freemason) were often in trouble with the authorities.
An example is the recurrence of the revolutionary theme of the exploitation of servants by masters
and the superior intelligence, leadership and/or morality of the servants. Another illustration is the
repeated appearance of the theme of forgiveness.
Mozart’s Concertos
Large scale, three movement works for instrumental soloist and orchestra intended for a public
Soloist usually is a pianist but sometimes a violin, cello, French horn, trumpet or woodwind (flute,
clarinet, oboe, bassoon, etc).
First movement is in Sonata-Allegro form (as usually is in a concerto). However, in a concerto
the form is modified to be a DOUBLE EXPOSITION FORM (the orchestra plays one
exposition and then the soloist plays another.)
Mozart wrote a total of 27 keyboard concertos, which were influenced by the opera style. He
wrote them for himself to be performed in public concerts.
Mozart and the piano
Before the emergence of the pianoforte in the second half of the 18th century, the organ, the
clavichord and the harpsichord were the only keyboard instruments available.
Mozart gave up the harpsichord upon trying the Stein pianos in 1777. The piano helped to expand
the market for the composer’s efforts in at least two ways:
• It facilitated concert performance and made it possible to perform before larger audiences.
• As private homes acquired more and more pianos, the demand for (new) music also rose.
Lecture 10
Beethoven, the ‘heroic period’ and the French Revolution (edited May 11, 2016)
The French Revolution
The French Revolution was a battle to achieve equality and remove oppression—these concerns were
much more deep-seated than the immediate economic turbulence that France was experiencing at the
time. There were four basic reasons:
INTELLECTUAL: THE ENLIGHTENMENT and the REVOLUTIONARY SPIRIT The Seven Years’ War in Europe and the American Revolution with the underlying ideas of
equality and freedom of the Enlightenment, had a profound effect on the French people.
SOCIAL INEQUALITY: The strict French class system had long placed the clergy and nobility
far above the rest of the French citizens.
POLITICAL: The society resented that King Louis XVI had absolute power due to divine right.
ECONOMICS AND WARS - During the last 40 years before the French Revolution, France
participated in a number of major wars, which quickly depleted the French bank that was already
weakened from royal extravagance. During the 1780’s there were bad harvests and great scarcity
of food, which lead to famine.
Music in the society during Beethoven’s time
• The end of 18th century brought the emancipation of composers from the spheres of court and
church and their release into the commercial world of late eighteenth- century civil society.
• A music composition started to be seen as an autonomous musical work in the control of the
• Musical form was no longer to be thought of as following the text or the shape of some ‘extramusical’ occasion, but as independently designed and independently coherent by a set of internal
Beethoven, the hero
Around the time of the Symphony titled Eroica, public images of Beethoven began to reinforce the
composer’s emerging status as a musical hero—a figure as lasting as his heroic music. He was
associated with Napoleon. The myth of Beethoven the hero was created already during Beethoven’s life.
According to his contemporaries, Beethoven did not write music about Napoleon; rather, the two heroes
were of the same mythic substance.
• Heroic style - Beethoven’s voice is practically synonymous with the “heroic style”—a term
coined by Romain Rolland to describe the dramatic and often densely thematic pieces found in a
cluster of works that, with the notable exception of the Ninth Symphony, date almost exclusively
from 1803– 1812.
• Good examples of Beethoven’s heroic works include Symphonies 3 (Eroica), 5, 7, Piano
Concerto No. 5, Egmont overture, Coriolan overture, etc.
• The “Eroica” Symphony was originally dedicated to Napoleon, whom he believed embodied the
democratic and anti-monarchical ideals (Liberty, Equality, Fraternity) of the French Revolution
(1789–1799). However, he withdrew the dedication upon Napoleon declaring himself emperor.
• The values that a Westerner has come to hear in much of Beethoven’s music are the essentially
liberal values of revolutionary Europe and America, central to Western intellectual and political
• “The values of Beethoven’s heroic style have become in our times the values of music” against
which others are compared. These ‘heroic style’ works have conditioned all musical thought.
• Ninth symphony - The famous choral finale is Beethoven's musical representation of Universal
Brotherhood. Beethoven used Schiller’s Ode to Joy. Many later composers of the Romantic
period and beyond, were influenced specifically by Beethoven's Ninth Symphony (for example
Mahler’s Symphonies that include the human voice).
Beethoven’s ‘non-heroic’ symphonies and lyrical works
• According to most music historians, the even-numbered symphonies No. 4, 6, 8 are not in the
‘heroic’ style and “are not in the main line of Beethoven’s spiritual development.”
• Other more tuneful and lyrical works include the cantatas, most of the songs, the piano
Sonatas Opp. 78 and 90, the op. 74 String Quartet, the op. 97 Piano Trio among others.
• Pastoral Symphony (No. 6) is descriptive music, of course, organized by a succession of
conventional bucolic nature themes. The first movement is titled “Awakening of cheerful
feelings on arrival in the country”; 2nd movement “Scene by the brook”, etc.
Beethoven’s political works
Beethoven’s works of state propaganda date from the years leading up to and during the
Congress of Vienna in 1814–1815—although he composed this kind of music throughout his
career. Over the last hundred and fifty years, critics have marginalized these political
compositions to the extent that the politics pervading Beethoven’s oeuvre are barely audible.
Ø The Congress of Vienna was a conference, which brought together all the heads of state to
decide the future of Europe after Napoleon. It was held in Vienna from September 1814 to June
1815. The objective of the Congress was to provide a long-term peace for Europe by settling
critical issues arising from the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. This was
one of Beethoven’s moments of glory. He was invited to play many times, bringing him
recognition and admiration, which made him very proud.
• The best known political work is Wellington Sieg Op. 91, a 15-minute long orchestral work
composed by Beethoven to commemorate the Duke of Wellington’s victory over Joseph
Bonaparte at the Battle of Vitoria in Spain on June 21, 1813. This work includes machine gun
sounds as well as variations on ‘God Save the King.’ Basically it is classified as a ‘battle
symphony.’ The work was first performed in Vienna at a concert to benefit Austrian and
Bavarian soldiers wounded at the Battle of Hanau, with Beethoven conducting.
• Beethoven’s political compositions suggest a more complex vision of the composer’s voice as
fundamentally collaborative and plural. Analysts consider Beethoven’s overtly political music to
be organized by external political programs rather than internal musical processes. For many
critics, Beethoven’s political works are mere collections of contingent and disjunctive moments—
works that are almost formless without an explanatory political program.
• While Wellingtons Sieg brought Beethoven to the peak of his living fame, later generations of
historians have habitually described the years of the Congress of Vienna as a period of decline,
bringing the heroic decade to an undistinguished close. Again and again, they have diagnosed a
loss of creative energy during the years of the Congress—a weakening or exhaustion of the
composer’s voice itself as much as a quantitative decline in productivity. Rolland proposes that
Beethoven temporarily lost his voice during these years, which he characterizes with the
Napoleonic metaphor of exile. The implication is usually that these pieces can be removed from
Beethoven’s oeuvre, as they are not truly Beethovenian. They are considered not as “authentically”
Beethovenian as the heroic style works (But of course they are.)
• It has long been a cause of consternation that Beethoven granted Wellington's Sieg an opus number
of its own (Op. 91). New research shows that in Beethoven’s correspondence—as well as other
documents, such as his public notice of thanks to the performers after the premiere of Wellingtons
Sieg—certainly do not reveal a composer disdaining his own creations.
• This composition, has been referred by historians as a “shameless concession to the political
wave of the moment,” stands in direct opposition to the autonomous masterworks of
Beethoven’s heroic decade—and in particular the Eroica.
• This work has been criticized because it spells out the hero’s triumphant narrative in the most
blatant generic terms of contemporary battle music, with marches and trumpet signals depicting
the English and French armies, a clattering depiction of the cannon and rifle fire of the battle,
and a final joyous Siegessinfonie complete with variations and fugato on “God Save the King.”
Lecture 11
The Romantic composer, the salon and the piano in Europe
(Early Romanticism) (1820-1850)
The romantic era grew out of the social and political upheavals that followed the French revolution and
came into full bloom during the second quarter of the 19th century.
• An age of social and political revolts. Clash between the old political and social order and the new.
• Urban commerce and industry that emerged from the Industrial revolution and brought people to
the cities (rise of the working class (proletariat).)
• The appearance of a new type of society based on free enterprise that celebrated the individual
(cult to the genius.)
• Sympathy for the oppressed, interest in peasants, workers and children.
Decline of aristocratic patronage
• The upheavals of 1789-1815 changed the European political scene. The French revolution made
peasants and workers into citizens instead of subjects.
• Napoleon’s wars spread the Revolutionary ideas of liberty, equality, brotherhood, and national
identity across Europe.
• War and inflation impoverished the aristocracy, and the elimination of over 100 small states
reduced the number of courts supporting the arts.
• The typical musician no longer served a prince or church but made a living as a free agent
through public performance, teaching, composing on commission, or creating music for
• Musicians now specialized in one field of music in order to compete in the new free market. In
the past, patrons had expected their employees to play several instruments and compose in many
Romantic writers and artists
The romantic spirit was rooted in a reaction against the rational ideals of the 18th century. Romantic
poets and artists rebelled against the conventional concerns of their Classical predecessors and were
drawn instead to the picturesque, fanciful, and the passionate. Great emphasis was placed on intense
emotional expression and individualism (a keen awareness of the individual.)
• Individualism - The 19th century Novel found a great theme in the conflict between the
individual and the society. Artists felt more and more cut off from society.
• A new type of artist appears: the “bohemian”
• Artists feel indefinable discontent, eternal longing, and pessimism. The high hopes from the
Revolution did not materialize overnight and gave way to doubt and disenchantment, a state of
mind reflected in the arts and literature.
Romantic music and the composer
Beethoven, the son of the revolution, became the model for the romantic composers because:
• He was the first composer to follow the “art for art’s sake” principle.
• Sought ‘originality’ in his compositions and did not cater to the aristocracy and upper classes.
• Music became a matter of “withdrawal” (Beethoven prepared the way for the romantics)
• Beethoven’s works wished to speak to all ‘humankind’ (not just selected classes)
The Romantic composer and the audience
o Romantic composers were coming from educated middle class. They were talented in other
disciplines such as literature (Berlioz, Liszt, Wagner, Schumann.)
o Composers demanded more from the listeners and the distance between the artist and the public
grew overtime.
§ Romantic composers felt a gap between their desires to write ‘serious’ art music and
the abilities of their audience to understand them. Composers sometimes
compromised by writing two types of music, for:
• ‘serious music lovers’ (long lasting quality works for the future or for eternity)
• ‘success’ - less demanding music for amateurs and less accomplished
o Composers used folk song as a cure for isolation - they attempted to bridge the gap with the
audience and the nation by cultivating native folk song.
o The distinction between the intimate and the brilliant (virtuosic style) became sharper.
Music and the other arts
Merging the arts - Writers and painters talked about music, and composers used literature and
poetry in their music.
• Most influential literary German figures were Friedrich Schiller, Goethe and E.T.A.
Hoffmann. Many romantic composers wrote music influenced by or based on the texts of
these writers.
• For example, Goethe's poems were set to music throughout the eighteenth and
nineteenth centuries by a number of composers, including Wolfgang Amadeus
Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert, Robert Schumann, Johannes
Brahms, Charles Gounod, Richard Wagner, Hugo Wolf, and Gustav Mahler.
Music and the word:
• German literary writers were drawn to music, which they thought it was the primal cause.
• English and French writers strove to create a new verbal music.
• Literary figures felt that language was inadequate.
Ø The “more music” a poem has the better.
Ø “Music is the most romantic of the arts – in fact it might almost be added to be the
sole purely Romantic one.” E.T.A. Hoffman.
Ø Music could create “mystery, magic and excitement without words.”
Program music
• Romantics considered instrumental composition as the center of all music. But felt
compelled to provide a new comprehensibility with a new amalgamation of music with
poetry creating Program Music.
• Berlioz used works many literary work, for example: Victor Hugo, Lord Byron, and
Shakespeare dramas.
Music-making was an important outlet for the middle and upper classes, who had the money and leisure
to purchase instruments and learn to play them. Home music making became the engine that drove
composers to produce a constant stream of songs and pianos pieces. The most popular medium was
songs and a close second was the piano.
Art Songs (lieder)
Piano music used in three settings:
- teaching (Clementi, Czerny, etc)
- amateur enjoyment – dances and lyrical pieces modeled on song, character pieces (miniatures)
and sonatas. For example, Mendelssohn “Songs without words,” Schubert “Musical
moments” and Impromptus.
- public performance – bravura pieces for virtuosos for example Schubert’s ‘Wanderer
1. Art songs (lieder)
Song—particularly the German art song, or lied (plural: lieder)—became a favorite outlet for
intense personal feelings.
Lieder composers often grouped their songs into collections with a unifying characteristic, such as
texts by a single poet or a focus on a common theme. Such a collection is called a song cycle.
Two great songwriters were Schubert and Robert Schumann.
2. Piano music
- Miniatures (character pieces)
- Brilliant ‘bravura’ pieces
Miniatures (or character pieces) – romantic composers had a fascination with
miniature pieces (1-2 minutes long) called character pieces. Character pieces are a staple
of Romantic music and evoke particular moods or moments. Usually written for piano,
with simple binary form (AB) or ternary (ABA). Character pieces include titles such as:
bagatelle, humoresque, arabesque, musical moment, caprice, romance, intermezzo, nocturnes, intermezzi or
• Brilliant ‘bravura’ solo pieces for the instrumental virtuoso
The 19th century was the age of the solo Virtuoso. Pianists and violinists particularly began to
expend enormous energy striving to raise their performing skills to unprecedented heights.
The two most notable virtuosos of the time were: pianist Franz Liszt and violinist Nicolo
The Parisian salon and Chopin
The Parisian salon was conceived as a gathering of musicians, artists and intellectuals who
shared similar interests and tastes, and was hosted by a patron (often a woman) or an artist
and allowed to mingle freely professional performers with amateurs.
New compositions were usually premiered at a salon and the piano became a focal point in the
gatherings of friends and families in the 19th century, both in Europe and in America.
Chopin composed mostly for the more intimate atmosphere of the salon.
Polish Nationalism (1830 uprising and resistance)
Paris opera scene (Meyerbeer) and Italian opera (Bellini) and Donizetti. Chopin adored Bellini’s
operas (bel canto) and French opera in general.
Bach and Mozart were Chopin’s favorite composers.
Chopin was influenced by certain pieces (‘brilliant style’ of salon music) of his contemporary
Music Style Characteristics:
Rubato style and ‘improvisational’ feel.
Character pieces (type of program music)
Miniatures (very short compositions)
The music is about ‘expressive states’ rather than actions (like Beethoven.)
Lyrical, embellished melodies (variation) influenced by operatic ‘fioratura.’
Expressive chromatic harmony.
Nocturnes are inspired by or evocative of the night – “Night Music”
They are mood pieces with programmatic meaning; autobiographic statements.
A left hand accompaniment usually with broken-up figurations accompanies a right-hand simple
melody that becomes increasingly decorated.
Nocturnes were influenced by operatic fioratura.
Other early romantic composers famous for their piano works
Robert Schumann
Carnaval is a programmatic composition for piano solo that consists of a collection of short pieces
representing masked revelers at Carnival. Schumann gives musical expression to himself, his
friends and colleagues, and characters from improvised Italian comedy (commedia dell’ arte).
Commedia dell' arte is a form of theatre characterized by masked “types” that was performed
and sang on instruments in addition to acting and which began in Italy in the 16th Century. It was
improvisational and stereotyped characters that represented fixed social stereotypes such as
masked and unmasked characters such as the foolish old man, devious servant, or military officer
full of false bravado
Franz Liszt
He was a Hungarian composer and pianist. His heritage is evident in his 19 Hungarian
Rhapsodies where he introduced Hungarian melodies and rhythms.
He was the first pianist to give solo concerts in large halls, which he termed recitals.
After seeing Paganini perform on the violin Liszt vowed to do the same for the piano.
He pushed piano technique, in his own playing and in his compositions, particularly his six Études
d'exécution transcendante d'après Paganini (Transcendental Technical Studies Based on Paganini, 1851).
The orchestra throughout the
Central to the public concert life was the orchestra. Some were composed of amateur musicians
while others were organized and staffed by professional musicians, including the London
Philharmonic (founded 1813), New York Philharmonic (founded 1842), and Vienna Philharmonic
(founded 1842.)
– Playing in an orchestra became a profession in the 19th century.
– Orchestras grew from 40 players at the beginning of the 19th century to as many as 90 at
its close.
– Greater variety of instruments provided a much wider range of colors and color
– Composers could now treat the winds and brass as equals to the strings.
Conductor – Louis Spohr (1784-1859) was the first conductor in 1820 using a baton.
Audience – primarily middle-class audience.
Repertoire – emergence of a repertoire from composers of the past. Beethoven’s legacy made
composers labored in his shadow, knowing that their works would be compared to his.
Expansion of the orchestra
- The orchestra became the medium par excellence of Romantic music because of its variety
of colors and textures.
- The change in the size of the orchestra coincided with the Industrial Revolution, which
produced new technology-enhanced musical instrument. The wood of the flute was
replaced by silver and the instrument was supplied with a new fingering mechanism that
made it more agile and easier to play in tune.
- The trumpet and French horn were provided with valves that improved technical facility
and accuracy of pitch in all keys.
- The French horn, in particular, became an object of special affection during the Romantic
period. Its dark and rich tone and its traditional association with the hunt – and nature –
made it the Romantic instrument par excellence.
Early 19th century Symphonic music
Most important early 19th century symphonic composers include Franz Schubert,
Mendelssohn, Robert Schumann and Berlioz.
• Hector Berlioz
- Symphonie Fantastique (1830) – the first programmatic symphony. Berlioz wrote the story attached
to his symphony – the story deals with the passions aroused by Berlioz’s thoughts and fantasies
about a woman whose love he hopes to win.
Lecture 12
Late 19th century Romantic music in the context of German ideology and Nationalism
Nationalism and Imperialism in Europe
Nationalism contributed to the WWI in more than one way:
• Nationalism intensified feelings of hostility between nations;
• Nationalism provided a reservoir of patriotic feeling. But nationalism alone did not cause
the war.
Imperialism fostered the arms race, the alliance system, and war.
Europe was prospering at this time (colonies were contributing with the natural resources for the
industrial revolution.)
Europe' s wealth rested on two things:
– industrial strength and
– domination of the rest of the world.
– This was the age of European Imperialism. By 1900 European powers owned or
controlled most of Africa and Asia and all or part of every other continent as well. While
Imperialism was evidence of European strength it also revealed a basic dependency.
There was competition and rivalry among the various imperialist powers for control of foreign
territory. This rivalry is considered a primary cause of WWI.
Influential revolutionary thinkers challenging the prevalent Romantic worldview
Five people challenged the views that conflict and disharmony were due to failing to act rationally or
acting contrary to the laws of nature, and left Europeans fearing that there was no knowable "grand
plan" for the universe, that conflict rather than harmony was nature's normal condition, and that people
themselves were not truly rational creatures.
These five people were:
• Darwin (Evolution of the species)
o Social Darwinism and Herbert Spencer (survival of the fittest)
• Karl Max (class struggle)
• Einstein (Theory of relativity)
• Freud (psychoanalysis)
• Nietzsche (Theory of ‘superman’)
Secularization of society: The state became more influential than the Church and thus society became
more secular. This was due to the theories of the five thinkers above related to science advancements,
rise of nationalism, state’s role in education, materialism, new philosophies, decline of church’s influence
and church attendance, pessimism and uncertainty about humankind nature.
Germany, a new nation state:
The formal unification of Germany into a politically and administratively integrated nation state
officially occurred in January of 1871, when Wilhelm I of Prussia was proclaimed German Emperor after
the French capitulation in the Franco-Prussian war.
RISE OF GERMAN NATIONALISM: Before its unification, Germany consisted of a
number of independent states varying in size and power. After the unification Germany had a
huge increase in productivity and literacy.
§ Between 1840 and 1900 productivity rose 190% in Germany.
§ Highest degree of literacy in Europe. German culture and traditions were taught in
public school (education was compulsory).
§ By 1900: 99% literacy in Germany compared to 25% in Russia.
German thought:
A distinctive trait of German and European culture in the second half of the 19th century was the
blending of science and mysticism. This trait aroused the interest of philosophy and literature.
• The blending of science and mysticism aroused the interest of philosophy and literature.
Initially materialism seemed to offer a way of understanding the world that was solidly
scientific, opposing metaphysics and religion. And yet increasingly the followers of
materialism came to idealize Nature, endowing it with ‘metaphysical and emotional and
even ethical responsibilities’. By the end of the century influential Darwinists such as Ernst
Haeckel were describing nature as a mystical unity.
• At the end of a century in which Christians’ faith in a miraculous world-view was challenged
by science, many secular intellectuals began to identify nature with the immanent godhead.
• Scientific understanding kept growing, yet at the expense of the sense of "comfort" that it
had provided in the Enlightenment era. [The characteristics of the Enlightenment heritage were centered
on the idea of a universe and nature that were "knowable" to rational beings who used the scientific method to
uncover the underlying laws governing creation and ensuring a harmonious world.]
Revolutionaries versus conservatives:
• Revolutionaries: Wagner and Liszt saw the legacy of Beethoven pointing toward new genres
and musical approaches. Followed Beethoven’s path after the 9th Symphony (Ode to joy) and
advocated for ‘program’ music.
• The “New German School” of Liszt and Wagner were synonymous with a progressive theory of
composition that replaced classical forms with organic structure, harmonic freedom and subjects
derived from literature.
• Conservatives: Brahms (versus Wagner.) Brahms sought to create works within the Classical
traditions (absolute music). To Brahms, this programme agenda of Wagner was mere indulgence, a
recipe for chaos.
• Composers debated the relative merits of:
Absolute and program music
Tradition and innovation
Classical genres and forms and new ones
• These divergent views polarized around Brahms and Wagner.
Four influential late 19thcentury Romantic composers
Richard Wagner (1813 - 1883)
Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
Gustav Mahler (1860 –1911)
Richard Strauss (1864-1949)
Richard Wagner (1813-1883)
Created a National German Operatic tradition
Wagner was a composer, philosopher, politician, propagandist and an ardent advocate for his
vision of dramatic music [Music Dramas or Gesamtkunstwerk (total art work)] involving all
the arts (poetry, music, mime, dance, and scene design.
Wagner wrote his own librettos for the operas.
Wagner opera style consists of a seamless flow of undifferentiated solo singing and declamation,
“endless melody.”
• Use of Leitmotifs: a brief, distinctive unit of music designed to represent a character,
object or idea, which returns repeatedly in order to show how the drama is unfolding. The
leitmotifs are played by the orchestra, not sung. For example the Death-Love motif, the
Ecstasy motif, the Desire motif, Transcendent bliss motif, etc.
• Wagner used his leitmotifs much as a composer of a symphony treats a motive;
gestures are not simply repeated, but continually manipulated and transformed to suit
the purpose at hand.
Famous operas: Das Rheingold; Die Walküre; Sigfried; Twlight of the Gods and Tristan und Isolde.
Tristan und Isolde:
• Expansion of the orchestra (especially the brasses) to over one hundred players. Needed
more powerful singers specially trained: The Wagnerian tenor and Wagnerian soprano.
• The opera starts with a Prelude instead of an overture.
• Musically uses intense chromatic harmony, endless melody, avoidance of cadences.
Dissonances are placed at points of climax to heighten the feeling of pain and anguish.
Wagner’s legacy - Wagner inspired generations of musicians and music critics who took his
theories on masculinity, race, and music to heart. These theories manifested themselves in the
form of a "new mythology," one that embraced Nordic heroes and discarded the Greek and
Roman. Into these new gods Wagner injected his own beliefs about gender and race.
Anti-Semitism - Through his writings and music dramas, Wagner created both a cult of
personality and of ideas. His virulent anti-Semitism expressed itself in several ways: personal
opposition to Jewish composers.
Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
“Without craftsmanship, inspiration is a mere reed shaken in the wind.” Brahms
Brahms blended romantic and classic impulses, combined Classicism with Romantic
sensibility. He was at once a traditionalist and an innovator. His music is firmly rooted in the
structures and compositional techniques of the Baroque and classical masters. He was a master of
Brahms is grouped with Bach and Beethoven as one of the three Bs.
Works: he was obsessed with unity, clarity, balance and proportion (classical ideals.) His
Four Symphonies are a culmination of these ideals. Brahms wrote in most mediums: concertos,
chamber music, songs, choral works, piano music, etc.
Gustav Mahler (1860 –1911) – “the Symphony as universe”
“The symphony must be like the world. It must embrace everything.” G. Mahler
• Austrian conductor and symphonist with Bohemian Jewish roots.
• Conductor of the Vienna Opera from 1897-1907 and the New York Philharmonic Society from
• Culmination of the Romantic style:
– In the expansiveness of his emotional expression
– In the grandiose design of his musical structures.
General style traits:
• Although Mahler was an Austrian, his music style is a summary of the German tradition
(Bach’s counterpoint, Beethoven’s heroism, Wagner’s lyricism, and an introduction to the
techniques and sounds of a new era. He was the last symphonist in a long German tradition of
symphonists that included Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Liszt, Wagner and Bruckner.
• Beethoven and Brahms expressed mood changes going from pensive to heroic but Mahler
expressed other emotions such as vulnerability, displacement and indecision.
• Mahler insecurities were part of his music. He famously referred to himself as:
“Three times homeless: a Bohemian in Austria, an Austrian among Germans and a Jew throughout the world, everywhere
an intruder, never welcomed.”
• Many of his Symphonies are programmatic (they include a narrative outside of music.) For
example, his two first symphonies are connected to Jean Paul’s book titled Titan. In his Third
Symphony, Mahler metaphorically describes the creation of the world. The 4th movement titled
"What Man Tells Me” is a setting of Nietzsche ‘Midnight Song’ from Also sprach Zarathustra. (with
voice). In the third symphony Mahler preached redemption for all beings, from the angels to the
flowers of the field. His 5,6, and 7 Symphonies are influenced by the works of Dostoievski with
endings that pose questions. The narrative of the 9th Symphony is connected to the works of
Marcel Proust.
• Mahler loved nature – wrote his symphonies in the summer near the Alps and used naturesound motives.
• Mahler synthesized the song and the symphony: four of his symphonies include the voice.
Early in his career wrote many song cycles and used them later in his Symphonies.
• Polyphonic textures, use of drones and ostinato
• Extreme of volume and large orchestral forces
• Use of folksongs: Hungarian-Slavonic and German folk songs.
• Use of popular music, waltzes, and klezmer (Jewish wedding music)
• Mahler wrote 9 Symphonies and left the 10th unfinished.
Richard Strauss (1864-1949)
Strauss wrote Tone poems (Symphonic poems) on a wide range of subjects including literature, legend,
philosophy and autobiography for example Also sprach Zarathustra, Don Quixote, Till Eulenspiegel, Don
Juan, Death and Transfiguration. He did a virtuoso use of orchestration and used a large orchestra, creating
vivid descriptions on the subjects he wrote.
R. Strauss also wrote operas on themes that were influenced by typical Freud psychoanalytic and sexrelated topics. Operas such as:
• Salome (1903-05) - Based on the Salomé legend, featuring what has been for the West one of the
primal scenes of woman-as-spectacle and male spectator, is organized in all its forms around the
seductive play of voyeurism and exhibitionism, exhibition and concealment, and the transgression
of visual taboos on the body.
• Elektra (1906-1908), based on ancient Greek mythology, the opera is highly modernist and
• The Rosenkavalier (1909-1910).
Life in the fin de siècle (turn of the century) in Germany (c. 1895-1914)
– Fin de siècle experienced profound feelings of closure, uncertainty and pessimism.
– Nietszche’s influence.
Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951)
Schoenberg was a revolutionary Austrian composer associated with the German Expressionist
movement in the arts. (Schoenberg was also a painter.) He revolutionized music by creating new
systems of organizing music outside functional tonality such as twelve-tone (dodecaphonic system).
German Expressionism in painting is characterized by heightened, symbolic colors and
exaggerated imagery, and tended to dwell on the darker, sinister aspects of the human
The term “Expressionism'' can be used to describe various art forms but, in its broadest
sense, it is used to describe any art that raises subjective feelings above objective observations.
Atonal expressionism - Pierrot Lunaire (1912) is an example of atonal expressionist music with
texts that exemplify the expressionist poetry of this time, with themes such as love, sex, religion, violence,
crime, and blasphemy. Pierrot is characterized by the use of Sprechstimme (a form of dramatic declamation
between singing and speaking, in which the speaker uses lilt and rhythm but not precise pitches.
[Schoenberg wrote originally in a late romantic style such as in Verklärte Nacht (1899) - a symphonic
Dodecaphonism or Twelve tone music – Expressionism.
Schoenberg developed in the 1920s the twelve-tone technique, a widely influential compositional
method manipulating and ordered series of all twelve notes in the chromatic scale. He became the leader
of the second Viennese school of music.
Lecture 13
The turn of the 20th Century in France: Orientalism, Impressionism, and Debussy
Political context: France and Germany antagonism (enmity):
French–German enmity was the idea of the hostile relations between Germans and French
people that started in the 16th century and culminated in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871
and the notion of modern German nationalism.
– Franco-Prussian war (War of 1870) culminated in the eventual unification of Germany in
1870. Afterwards, the German empire was seen as having replaced France as the leading
nation in Europe.
Paris Exhibition Universelle (World’s Fair) in 1889
The 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris has become famous as a turning point in the
history of French music, and modern music generally.
For the first time, Debussy and his fellow composers could be inspired by Javanese gamelan
music, while the Russian concerts conducted by Rimsky-Korsakov brought recent music by the
Mighty Five to Parisian ears.
The Exposition Universelle of 1889 was held during the year of the 100th anniversary of the
storming of the Bastille.
The main symbol of the Fair was the Eiffel Tower, which was completed in 1889, and served as
the entrance arch to the Fair.
But the 1889 World's Fair had much wider musical and cultural ramifications; one contemporary
described it as a "gigantic encyclopedia, in which nothing was forgotten." Music was so pervasive at the
1889 Exposition Universelle that newspaper journalists compared the sonic side of the affair to a "musical
orgy." Musical encounters at the fair ranged from bandstand marches to folk and non-Western
ensembles to symphonic and operatic premieres by Massenet to the mass-marketed Edison
“Living in the moment” and the invention of entertainment
Thomas Edison (1847-1931) invented the phonograph in 1877, the kinetograph (a motion
picture camera), and the kinetoscope (1888) (a motion picture viewer.)
The phonograph was developed as a result of Thomas Edison's work on two other inventions
- the telegraph and the telephone.
Toward the end of the nineteenth century life became more decidedly of the moment. This pervasive
modernity witnessed the rise of science and technology (for example the automobile, the airplane,
the telephone, the typewriter), population growth and formation of nations, capitalism and
individualism, as well as an intensified sense of experimentation.
A variety of “modernisms” show the cultural responses to such modernity: the establishment of
new genres and media (such as photography and film), and an array of well-known movements
whose cross-disciplinary aestheticism reacts to the era’s new sensibilities (e.g. symbolism, futurism,
cubism, and expressionism.)
Paris becomes the new cultural capital of the world
• During the late 19th and early 20th century gas and electric lighting began to illuminate Paris. The
transformative effect of these technological advances is reflected in art from the era and helped to
redefine Paris as the "City of Light." The early moving pictures taken by Thomas A. Edison and
Edwin Porter give us glimpses into how electricity was harnessed for entertainment and energy as
it became more widely available for public use.
• The construction of the Eiffel Tower, the emergence of the café society, Bohemian life and
cabaret culture of Montmartre, and the opening of Moulin Rouge attracted loving-culture
audiences. There was a tremendous interchange between the arts: painters were inspired by poets,
poets inspired by painters, etc.
• In the mid to late 1800s, artists began calling Montmartre home. Pissarro, Edgar Degas,
Henri Matisse, Toulouse-Lautrec (Art Nouveau), Renoir, Pablo Picasso, and later Miro,
Hemingway, E.E. Cummings just to name a few.
• The following writers made Paris their home: James Joyce, Ezra Pound, George Orwell,
Henry Miller, Anais Nin, Rainer Maria Rilke, Guillaume Apollinaire, F. Scott Fitzgerald,
Marcel Proust (“In search of lost time”)
• Ernest Hemingway (from 1922 through 1929) was writing his great early stories and the
defining novel of the Montparnasse scene ‘The Sun Also Rises.’
• The establishment of the Ballets Russes (Russian ballet) by Sergei Diaghilev, who
commissioned ballets from the most famous contemporary composers.
Sergei Diaghilev, was a Russian art critic, patron, ballet impresario and founder of the
Ballets Russes, from which many famous dancers and choreographers would arise.
Diaghilev most notable composer-collaborator was with Igor Stravinsky with Firebird (1910),
Petrushka (1911), the Rite of Spring (1913), Pulcinella (1920) and Les Noces (1923).
Diaghilev also commissioned ballet music from composers such as Debussy (Jeux, 1913),
Ravel (Daphnis et Chloe), Manuel de Falla (The Three-Cornered Hat, 1917), among others.
The influence of the invention of the camera in painting (Impressionism)
The camera actually had a significant impact on Impressionism as well as Realism.
The camera freed artists from the tedium of creating realist portraiture and allowed them
the ability to express themselves.
Challenged by the camera's ability to freeze a moment in time artists like Monet began to show
their "impression" of a moment in time. Artists like Renoir portrayed subjects in very casual
candid poses much the same way a camera might catch a subject off guard.
Impressionism (painting)
The first Impressionist exhibition took place from April 15 to May 15, 1874. Led by the French
artists Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro and Berthe Morisot,
they called themselves the Anonymous Society of Painters, Sculptors, Engravers, etc.
The sudden change in the look of Impressionist paintings was brought about by a change in
methodology: applying paint in small touches of pure color rather than broader strokes, and
painting out of doors to catch a particular fleeting impression of color and light. The result
was to emphasize the artist’s perception of the subject matter as much as the subject itself.
Symbolism (poetry)
Symbolist poets such as Baudelaire (its pioneer), Mallarme, Verlaine and others rejected the belief in the
supremacy of nature and the fundamental goodness of mankind as typically espoused by the romantics.
Instead they favored a new urban sensibility (used urban subject matter, such as the city, the crowd,
individual passers-by) and showed an interest in refined sensual and aesthetical pleasures.
Musical impressionism and Debussy
Musical impressionism focuses on a suggestion and an atmosphere, “conveying the moods and
emotions aroused by the subject, rather than on a strong emotion or the depiction of a story as in
program music. Musical impressionism occurred as a reaction to the excesses of the Romantic era.
“Impressionism” is a philosophical and aesthetic term borrowed from late 19th century
French painting after Monet’s Impressions, Sunrise.
Musicians were labeled impressionists by analogy to the impressionist painters who use contrasting
colors, effect of light on an object blurry foreground and background, flattening perspective to make us
focus our attention on the overall impression.
The most prominent in musical impressionism is the use of “color”, or in musical term, timbre, which
can be achieved through orchestration harmonic usage and texture. Other elements of music
impressionism involve also new chord combinations, extended harmonies, use of modes and exotic
scales, parallel motions, extra-musicality, and evocative titles such as Reflets dans l’eau ("Reflections on the
water", 1905) Brouillards ("Mists", 1913).
Whereas Monet, in his cathedrals and haystacks had a series of paintings which he worked on, moving
from one to another, in La Mer, for example Debussy compressed the changing moods of the sea
“from dawn to midday’ into less than 20 minutes. Another connection is that of ‘pointillism’: dots of
color, or of sound, which in the eye or ear fuse to form a shimmering surface. It's an effect that can be
heard not only in La Mer but also in the other orchestral pieces, the Nocturnes and the Images.
Claude Debussy
"There is no theory. You merely have to listen. Pleasure is law." Debussy
Debussy is the first impressionist composer and the father of modern music.
In Debussy’s impressionism, his musical motifs tend to portray ideas rather than characters.
Debussy was influenced by the music he heard at the 1889 Exhibition Universelle in Paris such as:
– Gamelan ensemble music which is characterized for
• Simultaneous variation/heterophony (two or more concurrent melodic lines)
• Polyphonic stratification
• Timbre (color of the bronze percussion instruments)
– Russian music (especially Mussorgsky)
Characteristics of Debussy’s music style:
Debussy uses a type of ‘polyphony’ (influenced by gamelan ensemble) made of:
1) layers of melodies, 2) motifs or ostinatos (expanded with planning= parallel harmonies) and 3) pedaltones.
Melody is long and fluid like chant, eliminating repetition and development. Melodies are often irregular
in phrase design, and frequently are highly motivic in nature.
Form is strictly classical.
Rhythm – Debussy wanted a flowing rhythm uninterrupted by bar lines. He felt that the music should
flow freely. He liked a subtle ‘rubato’ where the phrases should have a natural flexibility.
1) Diatonicism (early pieces); 2) Bitonality and Polytonality, 3) Ancient (Church) modes, 4)
Chromaticism (transitional passages), 5) Pentatonicism, 6) Whole tone scale,
Debussy lived in Montmartre and befriended many of the impressionist painters and symbolist’s poets
(Baudelaire and Mallarme) and set their poetry to music. Such is the case with Prelude to the afternoon of a
Faun (1884), the first so-called impressionist composition. This composition was:
1) Intended to precede a public reading of Mallarmé’s poem (symbolist poet), but does not follow
it closely.
2. Intended as a sequence of moods, not a programmatic sequence of events
3. Melodies highlighted by the distinctive timbre of the instruments, especially woodwinds
4. Languid beauty enhanced by lack of regular rhythm or perceptible meter.
Debussy and the piano
Debussy followed the pianistic tradition of Chopin. His playing was very unusually colorful with the use
of exquisite delicate touch, refined use of pedals, free rhythmic flow, and with an air of improvisation.
Debussy wrote much piano music including 24 Preludes for piano following Bach and Chopin’s
tradition. (Book I was written between 1909 and 1910, and Book II between 1912 -1913.) Titles of
Debussy’s Preludes are at the end of the pieces as if to hint at the associations rather than to impose a
particular interpretation upon the listener.
Prelude to the afternoon of a Faun (1894) for orchestra based on a poem by symbolist poet Mallarmé was the
breakthrough composition that changed the future of music of Western music. This moment is
considered the beginning of modern music. As a result, Debussy is sometimes called the “Father of
Modern Music”.
Mallarmé in his poem applies suggestive language to an ancient Greek theme. The faun in Mallarme’s
poem is a satyr (mythological beast that is half man, half goat), who spends his days in lustful pursuit of
the nymphs of the forest. The text is full of sensual and erotic descriptions.
Debussy did not compose linear, narrative, programmatic music in the traditions of Berlioz or
Tchaikovsky, made no effort to follow Mallarme’s poem closely. This is what Debussy said of his
“My prelude is really a sequence of mood paintings, throughout which the desire and dreams of the Faun move in the
heat of the midday sun.”
– 1. Debussy composed this work to precede a public reading of Mallarmé’s poem, but
does not follow it closely.
– 2. Intended as a sequence of moods, not a programmatic sequence of events
– 3. Melodies highlighted by the distinctive timbre of the instruments, especially
– 4. Languid beauty enhanced by lack of regular rhythm or perceptible meter
When Mallarmé heard the music, he, in turn, said the following:
“I never expected anything like it. The music prolongs the emotion of my poem and paints its scenery more passionately
than colors could.”
La mer, three symphonic sketches for orchestra (1903-1905) by Debussy is a masterpiece of suggestion and
subtlety in its rich depiction of the ocean, which combines unusual orchestration with daring
impressionistic harmonies. Although is not program music (does not tell a story) it does use descriptive
devices to suggest wind, waves and the ambience of the sea.
Lecture 14
The relationship between culture and politics in an ideological system:
Shostakovich and the Soviet regime
Russian pre-revolution
After the Russian Revolution (1917), Russian arts changed a lot. The first few years of Soviet rule were
marked by an extraordinary outburst of social and cultural change and the Russian Avant-Garde reached
its height, developing the radical new styles of Constructivism, Futurism, and Suprematism.
However, conflict arose among artists regarding the function of the arts in the communist party.
Those artists who emphasized the importance of political and pedagogic problems (the
and those artists who looked to art for the expression of aesthetic and spiritual concerns
(the formalists).
v Utilitarian dogma: A Communist regime demands a Communist consciousness. All forms of life,
morality, philosophy, and art must be recreated according to Communist principles. Without this, the
subsequent development of the Communist Revolution is impossible.
» (Program Declaration of the Communist-Futurists, 1919)
After Lenin's death in 1924, there was an extremely divisive struggle for power in the Communist Party
and at the end Joseph Stalin (1878-1953) emerged as the victor, and he immediately changed the
direction of the country. Art and literature were placed under much tighter control, and the radical
energy of the Russian Avant-Garde was replaced by the solemn grandeur of Soviet social realism.
Socialist Realism was the art form, which would reflect the new life of the proletariat. In a discussion
in 1932 regarding the function of Soviet, the writer Maxim Gorky said:
– “If the artist is going to depict our life correctly, he cannot fail to observe and point out what is leading it towards
socialism. So this will be socialist art. It will be Socialist Realism.”
Soviet Social realism then was:
• “a truthful reflection of the progressive, revolutionary aspirations of the toiling masses building communism.”
• an art that would be understandable to the millions - Mass art for the masses; art that
celebrated the new state was to be replaced by state art.
• "understandable," optimistic, based on traditional Russian artistic forms and was to depict
themes that glorified the workers as they were involved in some form of heroic struggle.
Socialist Realism was defined mostly in retrospect and even after Stalin's death, the debate about what it
meant was continuing. The consensus was that art should exhibit three elements:
o It should have an 'ideological content' (ideinost) meaning that it should express a core
idea of communism.
o It should also exhibit a 'Party' (partiinost) element, meaning an active or militant aspect
illustrating the human dynamic effort aimed at achieving the better future.
o Finally it should display a spirit of national popularism (narodnost) by its referencing the
whole population rather than just a limited section as in bourgeois art. (Music must be
comprehensible to all.)
Consequences for the Avant-garde artists
• Western movements such as like Cubism, Dadaism, Serialism, Expressionism, Futurism
and Surrealism were to be rejected since they were manifestations of Formalism.
• Art-for-art's sake was a sign of the decay and degeneration of bourgeois society since it placed
form above content. Such self-indulgence by an artist would produce works alien to the new
proletarian society now actively engaged in their heroic, collective project.
• By producing such works contrary to the popular movement these art-for-art’s sake artists
showed themselves to be opposed to revolution and were thus 'enemies of the people'.
Thus Socialist Realism was more than anti-Formalism. It wanted a new Soviet music; music built
upon the traditions of the past but a music that transcended these traditions and was free of
bourgeois elements.
Now ‘realistic’ (that is, tonal) music was praised, atonal music was denounced; traditional
aesthetic forms were held up for imitation, and the avant-garde was ridiculed; optimistic themes of
socialist heroism were approved, while those that were overly explicit or critical were discouraged.
Russian composers Shostakovich and Prokofiev
Prokofiev and Shostakovich both reflected the turbulent times in which they lived while being
denounced by Soviet authorities as “imitators of decadent, Western bourgeois art.” Starting in 1936, having
been accused with other artists and writers of “anti-people formalism”, both composers adapted to these
new circumstances. Prokofiev turned to composing music for children, films and ballet, while
Shostakovich sought refuge in chamber works. Being denounced again in 1948 for “bourgeois Formalism,
anti-melodious content and lack of understanding of Soviet heroism”, each composer’s health and financial situation
Soviet Russian composer, product of the Bolshevik revolution.
By the early 1930s, however, Shostakovich's avant-grade forms, brash harmonies, and sarcastic idioms
brought him into disfavor with the regime then headed by Stalin. Although popular amongst Russian
audiences, he was forced to suppress new works and remove others from the active repertoire. For the
remainder of his life, Shostakovich bore the weight of a hypocritical order that threatened to destroy his
life while at the same time decorating him with awards and promoting him abroad as the Revolution's
musical prodigy.
Key compositions by Shostakovich in relation to the Soviet regime
I. The opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District (based on Nikolai Leskov’s tale of a woman
who murders her abusive husband.) Lady Macbeth premiered in early 1934; it met with
overwhelmingly favorable response and was staged over 180 times. Then, in early 1936, disaster
struck. On January 26, Stalin himself, with other Party officials in tow, attended Lady Macbeth at the
Bolshoi Theater. In the middle of the performance, the Leader and his henchmen walked out. Two
days afterward, a Pravda editorial blasted Lady Macbeth, calling it "chaos in place of music" and
accusing Shostakovich of that most anti-Soviet of cultural crimes, "formalism."
• Pravda ran what became a celebrated editorial, "Muddle Instead of Music," castigating Lady
Macbeth for "formalism,” the absence of melody, and a pessimistic and immoral story. With
the Stalinist terror of the 1930s about to go into high gear, such criticism was literally life
threatening. After reading this article, Shostakovich experienced the chilling fear of death that
stayed with him for the rest of his life. For the next forty years Shostakovich tried to present a
mask, a public persona, to conform to Soviet expectations.
• The Pravda editorial established three rules for operatic composition.
Ø First, the work must have a "socialist" theme, that is, one approved by the Party.
Ø Second, the plot must be "positive," that is, one with a happy ending or at least a positive
Ø Third, the music must be "realistic," that is, without dissonance or other degenerate
modernist elements.
II. The Fifth Symphony (1937) was seen as Shostakovich's public response to the attack on his music
and character that began with the Pravda article. The 1937 premiere received a 30-minute ovation. It
remains his most popular work; it was the first symphony purely "Soviet" in style.
• Soviet officialdom was wildly enthusiastic about the Fifth, viewing it as Shostakovich’s musical
recantation and formally dubbing it "A Soviet Artist’s Response to Justified Criticism."
• In reality, the Fifth Symphony was not a response to just criticism but a protest against the
Stalinist purges, "a requiem for all those who had died, who had suffered," a protest "against the
horrible extermination machine."
III. Symphony No. 7 (Leningrad) (1942) was dedicated to Leningrad because Shostakovich could
not join the Russian army when Nazi Germany invaded the USSR. At that time, Shostakovich was
teaching in Leningrad, which was quickly surrounded by Hitler’s forces. From September 1941 to
January 1944, Leningrad endured the longest, deadliest siege in modern history.
• When it premiered in March 1942, the Seventh brought international renown to Shostakovich, and
orchestras worldwide rushed to include it in their repertoires. The Leningrad Radio Orchestra
decided to perform the Seventh as a gesture of anti-German defiance
• On August 9, 1942, a large audience—hungry, dressed in rags, some wearing gas masks or
carrying weapons—gathered in the Philharmonic. As a silent memorial, instruments were placed
in the empty seats of the many orchestra members who had earlier died. The performance
remains one of the most inspirational moments in the story of Leningrad’s heroic struggle;
• "[Shostakovich’s] music inspired us and brought us back to life; this day was our feast.” (Ksenia Matus, oboist)
• According to Shostakovich himself, the Leningrad Symphony was not just about the city under
siege by the Germans in 1941: "It's about the Leningrad that Stalin destroyed and Hitler merely finished
• The piece soon became very popular in both the Soviet Union and the West as a symbol of
resistance to Nazi totalitarianism and militarism. It is regarded as the major musical testament of
the estimated 25 million Soviet citizens who lost their lives in War World.
IV. Symphony No. 8 (Stalingrad) (1943) is a forceful indictment of the 20th century and in it
Shostakovich gives free rein to his rage and sorrow. The bleak tone, and in particular the lack of an
optimistic conclusion, made it unsuitable as propaganda at home or abroad.
• The government responded by giving it the subtitle the Stalingrad Symphony and portraying it as
a memorial to those killed in that battle.
Culture and Shostakovich in Post Stalin era
The Eleventh Symphony (the Year 1905) won the Lenin Prize in 1958, and it signaled the political
rehabilitation of Shostakovich by the post-Stalin leadership. Shostakovich symphonies were written on
approved themes, and Shostakovich gave speeches in support of Party policies, served on international
delegations, and accepted government honors. He had also written a timely ode to Stalin's reforestation
program (the 1949 "Song of the Forests") while continuing to produce scores for the Soviet movie
industry in which the dictator took such great personal interest.
During the post-war era, Shostakovich became a figure of artistic wisdom after years as an Enemy of the
By the end of his life Shostakovich was a broken man. Here is a quote:
“To me he seemed like a trapped man, whose only wish was to be left alone, to the peace of his own art and to the tragic
destiny to which he, like most of his countrymen, has been forced to resign himself.”
• Nicholas Nabokov on meeting Shostakovich in 1949 in New York