The History of Music

The History of Music - Classical period



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The Classical Period

Ludwig van Beethoven 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.

A Manuscript of Beethoven's 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.


Important Composers

Carl Philipp Emanuel (C.P.E.) Bach 1714 - 1788
Christoph Willibald Gluck 1714 - 1787
Johann Christian (J.C.) Bach 1735 - 1782
Franz Joseph Haydn 1732 - 1809
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart 1756 - 1791
Ludwig van Beethoven 1770 - 1827




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 concert master.

Josef Myslivecek 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.




Important Authors
Frantisek Xaver Brixi 1732 - 1771
Jan Antonin Kozeluh 1738 - 1814
Jan Vaclav Antonin Stamic 1717 - 1757
Josef Myslivecek 1737 - 1781
Jan Krtitel Krumpholz 1742 - 1790
Pavel Vranicky 1756 - 1808
Gottfried Rieger 1764 - 1855
Jakub Jan Ryba 1765 - 1815






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