The Baroque Era
The Classical Era
The Romantic Era
The 20th Century
Further References and
The Classical Period
As implied by the term 'classical', the music of this period looked to the art
and philosophy of Ancient Greece and Rome - to the ideals of balance, proportion and disciplined expression. The late Baroque style was polyphonically complex
and ornamental and rich in tis melodies. Composers of the Classical era deviated from the evolution of their predecessors - their music had a considerably simpler texture. It's a bit of an irony that two of J.S. Bach's children, Carl
Philipp Emanuel (C.P.E.) a Johann Christian (J.C.), belonged among the leaders
of the new Classical movement. Their father was the greatest figure in the Baroque style and thanks to the new era of his children, he became old-fashioned.
Homophony - music where the melody and accompaniment are clearly distinct - was
the main style during the classical era; new genres were discovered that completed the transformation from the Baroque era to the Classical. The sonata
was the most important of these, as well as the most developed. Although Baroque composers also wrote sonatas, the Classical style of sonata is completely distinct.
The foundation of the Classical sonatas is conflict - for instance between two
themes of contrasting character. The contrast during the performance of the sonata increases, until it is finally "resolved." The sonata allowed composers to
give solely instrumental pieces a dramatic character. All of the main instrumental forms of the Classical era, the quartet, symphony,and concerto, were based
on the dramatic structure of the sonata.
One of the most important "evolutionary steps" made in the Classical period was
the development of public concerts. Although the aristocracy would still play
a significant sponsoring role in musical life, it was now possible for composers to survive without being the permanent employee of some noble or his family.
It also meant that concerts weren't limited to the salons and celebrations of
aristocratic palaces. The increasing popularity of public concerts led to a
growth in the popularity of the orchestra as well, to the enlargement in the
number of musicians and the number of orchestras overall. Although chamber music was still performed, the expansion of orchestral concerts necessitated large
public spaces. As a result of all these processes, symphonic music (including
opera and oratoria) became more extroverted in character.
Czech Music of the Classical Period
In the 18th century, the basic European tedencies of social and musical evolution were imbued with characteristic features of Czech popular music tradition.
Because of this, Czech music was able to significantly emerge into general Europen context during this period.
An important moment in the progress of the 'musicality' of the Czech people was the simple fact that musical talent and education brought considerable
material advantages. The livery, or service, of a manorial footman or gamekeeper was relieved of his labors and dangerous military service. A good musician in
service could hope that after some period he might be set free from servitude.
The most important creative figure of Czech Classicism in the country was Frantisek Xaver Brixi (1732 - 1771). In 1744, he was sent to a famous piano
school in Kosmonose, after which he met with success in Prague churches as an
organist and composer. In 1759, he was entrusted with the most significant
musical position in the country, as he became the 27-year-old conductor of the
metropolitan Cathedral of St. Vitus at Hradcany. He succeeded to become the
most played Czech composer of the 18th century. Although homophonic structure
dominates his work, he remarkably mastered polyphonic composition as well and even though he didn't live to see 40 years of age, he left an extensive collection of work, now estimated at around 500 titles. In his work, there is a natural
predominance of church pieces; large oratorial compositions like Filius prodigus, Opus patheticum de septem doloribus and Judas Iscariothes. Unfortunate circumstances kept him from making a name for himself as an author of instrumental music; pieces for harpsichord and organ, including a Symphony in D Major, were among the last things he produced.
An honorable place in domestic output is held the pupils of Seger. The
most respected of them was Jan Antonin Kozeluh (1738 - 1814) from Velvary. He also studied in Vienna and was the conductor in St. Vitus cathedral for
30 years; his work includes both church and concert works. As the only
Czech author of his time, he also composed serious Italian opera: Allesandro nell' Indie was performed in 1769 and Demofoonte in 1772. He was
the organist at the Strahov monastery for almost 40 years.
Czech musicians have long left the ccountry for foreign lands. In the 18th century, especially in the second half, this emigration reached an unprecedented
intensity. This western flow of emigration most affected the development of
the Mannheim Company under the leadership of Jan Vaclav Antonin Stamic (1717 - 1757) the most. Stamic came to the Czech lands before the year
1730 from Maribor in present-day Slovenia, where he was born as the son of an organist, merchant and alderman, to study at a Jesuit school in Jihlava. From the age of 24 he was a violinist in the Mannheim group, and from 1750 he was its
In Italy, where only the most exceptional foreign musicians could gain a foothold, the most successful was Josef Myslivecek (1737 - 1781). The son of a
Prague miller, he was trained in his father's trade before being turned over
for the study of music with Fr. Habermann and Josef Seger. In 1763 he left the country to perfect his musical talents with Venetian master, G.B.
Pescetti, and in 1767, with the Neapolitan premiere of his opera Bellerofonte, he joined the ranks of the most successful authors of Italian opera
seria. Even in other genres, such as symphonies, concertos, sonatas, etc.,
he developed an uncommonly rich creative activity. He maintained contact with
his homeland and several of his operas and oratorios were performed in Prague.
He was known by the sobriquet Il Boemo (the Bohemian) in Italy and died
of a prolonged illness in Rome.
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