Musical Vienna in 1800
Vienna was at a crossroad in 1800. Napoleon and French revolutionary ideas were sweeping across Europe. The old order was under threat. Political and musical change was in the air. Haydn was an old man, and Mozart had already died. Beethoven was a brash young musician challenging the previous social and musical ideas. A new kind of music was emerging. The refinement of Haydn and Mozart was giving way to the force and drive of Beethoven and Schubert. This six-session course will examine those changes that were happening. Music will be the focus, but placed into its social, economic and political context. Almost all the musical examples will come from YouTube, allowing participants to enjoy the full performance at home.
This will be a lecture course, but questions and comments will be encouraged.
September plan for the focus of the six sessions of Musical Vienna in 1800 (staring in late October):
Session 1: We’ll mainly focus on music between 1780 and 1830. And mainly on music with a strong connection to Vienna. Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven were the “big 3” composers in Vienna during this time. It was a time of social and musical change. Napoleon and French revolutionary thought were sweeping across Europe. “Progress” was in the air, albeit strongly resisted by the established social order. Music was changing. The stately, predictable world of baroque music was giving way to a new dynamic, driving kind of music – almost demanding the presence of a conductor to keep all the musician together. We’ll sample Haydn’s The Creation and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9.
Session 2: Public musical concerts in 1800 bore scant resemblance to today’s concerts. The audience milled around on the main floor, talking, drinking, smoking and generally socializing. The aristocracy filled the boxes. And the programs were a very mixed bag. There might be one or more movements from a new symphony, a bit of chamber music and distinguished vocal and instrumental soloists. There were more or less regular opera performances, but public performances of orchestral music were infrequent. We’ll sample a musical selection similar to what had been offered in one of those infrequent public orchestral concerts.
Session 3: In 1800 Mozart had died just 9 years before, Haydn was feted as Europe’s leading composer and Beethoven had established himself as a brash composer and concert pianist. (Schubert was still an infant.) But the musical world was alive with composers and performers, ... all struggling to make their way without an established place in an aristocratic household. We’ll sample some of the other composers whose music was being performed in 1800 – Pleyel, Salieri, Michael Haydn (Joseph’s brother), Albrechtsberger, et al. This was still a time in which the public eagerly awaited new music from active composers and performers.
Session 4: The kind of music was changing and so too were the instruments that made that music. It was a time of dramatic progress in the wind instruments. A piano loud enough and dynamic enough to accommodate Beethoven was being developed. Music played on the older instruments had/has a difference “sound”. We’ll sample an authentic instrument performance of music from this era – it’s not “better”, but it can highlight different aspects of the music. We’ll examine how the piano evolved from the harpsichord to the modern forte piano. We’ll also examine how the French Horn changed with the introduction of valves by the end of our period.
Session 5: It was during this period that the string quartet emerged as the classical music ensemble. Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven all composed some of their best music for the string quartet. Four musical threads provide a rich sound tapestry. In smaller centres, Haydn’s symphonies were first heard in string quartet versions. There was a waiting market for published string quartet music. By the end of our period, string quartets were not just being performed by whatever musician happened to be around, the first established string quartet ensembles were performing.
Session 6: There is only so much music that can be covered in a six session course. Opera was undergoing major changes, with Beethoven’s Fidelio as a distinguished example of the “new” opera (that was to be dramatically extended by Wagner). Pianist/composers began to take centre stage, thanks to the power and range of the new forte pianos. And this was only a way-station in Vienna’s distinguished musical history. The waltz emerged as a new kind of popular music. Mahler and Bruckner saw Vienna as their home, as did Schoenberg and his students in the 20th century. There’s even an interesting connection between Ernst Krenek’s music education in Vienna and his eventual presence on the faculty of Toronto’s Royal Music Conservatory.
more ... Just before the course is to begin, my wife and I are going for a week in Vienna. I don't know what impact this visit will have, but I expect there will be some changes in my plan after we return, and before the courxe begins.