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Music in the Classical Era
Robert D. Pearson is a musicologist who examines by Robert D. Pearson how listeners from the past experienced the music University of Texas at Arlington they loved. He has presented his work at numerous conferences, including the AMS, NCSA, and NABMSA. His study of Beethoven's Leonore was published in Nineteenth-Century Music in 2014. Pearson currently works in the Office of Graduate Studies at the University of Texas at Arlington, where he designs programs that help doctoral students complete their degrees and find meaningful work after graduate school, both inside and outside the academy. 2016 A-R Editions, Inc. All rights reserved. This article is authorized by use only. Unauthorized copying or posting is an infringement of copyright. If you have questions about using this article, please contact us Music in the Classical Era Music in the Classical Era Robert D. Pearson, University of Texas at Arlington Introduction: What Is Classical about Classical Music? Listeners praise the music of the Classical Era for its ease of listening, elegance, and versatility. Whether listening attentively or in the background, whether an experienced musician or a novice, whether listening for the first time or the hundredth, audiences have loved Classical-Era music since the eighteenth century because of the fresh impression it leaves upon the ear. Music historians typically view this period as lasting from the death of Johann Sebastian Bach (1750) through the beginning of Beethoven's middle period (roughly 1803). To insist upon these precise delineations is unproductive, however, because they are largely symbolic dates, not practical ones.1 It is probably more productive to consider the Classical Era as a product of Enlightenment philosophy's gradual but increasing influence upon western European musical cultures during the eighteenth century. The Enlightenment had a profound effect upon musical style, concert culture, compositional practices, and political values in the Classical-Era musical world. Calls for broader access to knowledge and political agency during the Enlightenment that eventually led to the political revolutions of the second half of the eighteenth century also brought along broader access to goods, including music, that had previously been inaccessible to all but the cultural elite. Enlightenment values required a musical language that was meaningful to a broader audience than the elite classes of society. Court, church, and theater, once the primary venues in which a listener of the Baroque era would encounter music, thus gave way to institutions such as the public concert.2 Although elite patronage of music remained an important force well into the nineteenth century, the middle class gradually became not only a viable audience, but the dominant consumer of music by the end of the eighteenth century. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's father, Leopold, elaborates upon this notion of catering to public taste in a famous letter to his son: Let it be something short, easy and popular. Do you imagine that you would be doing work unworthy of you? If so, you are very much mistaken. Did [J. C.] Bach, when he was in London, ever publish anything but similar trifles? What is slight can still be great, if it is written in a natural, flowing and easy style—and at the same time bears the marks of sound composition. Such works are more difficult to compose than all those harmonic progressions, which the majority of 1 James Webster provides a thoughtful discussion on the subject of the Classical Era as a period in "The Eighteenth Century as a Music-Historical Period?" Eighteenth Century Music 1, no. 1 (2004): 47–60. 2 For a concise entry-level overview of late eighteenth century concert institutions, see Thomas B. Milligan, in "Musical Life in London in the Late Eighteenth Century," The Concerto and London's Musical Culture in the Late 18th Century, Studies in Musicology no. 69 (Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research Press, 1983). Music in the Classical Era people cannot fathom, or pieces which have pleasing melodies, but which are difficult to perform. Did Bach lower himself by such work? Not at all. Good composition, sound construction, il filo—these distinguish the master from the bungler—even in trifles.3 Amadeus must have taken his father's point to heart, because his musical works were some of the most popular of the time, and yet the most serious musicians and scholars admire what Leopold calls their "sound construction." In the context of this discussion, however, what is most revealing in this letter is that catering to popular taste is a virtue, and not a fault. Such a letter could not have been written in the Baroque Era for the simple fact that popularity in the sense of a large public's demand for music did not yet exist on the scale of Mozart's time. The large and diverse audience that attended public concerts demanded musical works that could meet varied tastes and experience levels. On the whole this reversed the situation of the Baroque Era, in which composers and performers catered to the idiosyncratic tastes of specific patrons, particularly in the realm of secular music. Instead, a new musical style met this need. Stylistic features of this new style draw upon techniques of rhetoric such as symmetry, repetition, periodic phrasing, frequent and regular cadences, and predictable large-scale formal structures. This collection of stylistic features, once known as the galant style, have come to be known as the Classical Style and are most commonly exemplified by the work of only three composers: Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. Writers and musicians have talked about Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven as a unit since the nineteenth century and frequently continue to do so today. As the stylistic diversity of the second half of the mid-eighteenth century quickly faded from memory, the famous fabulist E. T. A. Hoffmann, writing in 1813, praised Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven as the first truly romantic composers: "The instrumental compositions of these three masters breathe a similar romantic spirit—this is due to their similar intimate understanding of the specific nature of the art; in the character of their compositions there is nonetheless a marked difference."4 This notion that Haydn, Mozart, and especially Beethoven had paved the way for a new "Romantic" era means that the Romantics wrote their own histories of music with these composers as the main protagonists. Trends in nineteenth-century concert programming reinforce this narrative; beginning in the 1810s and through the late twentieth century, Haydn's, Mozart's, and Beethoven's compositions lie at the very center of the London concert repertoire.5 3 Leopold Mozart to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, 13 August 1778, in The Letters of Mozart and his Family, 3rd ed., eds. Stanley Sadie and Fiona Smart (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1985), 597–600. The first edition was edited by Emily Anderson and published in 1938. "Il filo," that is, seamless organization. 4 E.T.A. Hoffmann, "Beethoven's Instrumental Music," in Strunk's Source Readings in Music History, revised ed., edited by Leo Treitler (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1998) 1194. 5 William Weber discusses the emergence and evolution of the notion of classical music in The Rise of Musical Classics in Eighteenth-Century England (Oxford and New York: Clarendon Press, 1992). See also his "The History of the Musical Canon," in Rethinking Music, eds. Nicholas Cook and Mark Everist (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2001). Music in the Classical Era The prevailing understanding of Classical-Era music is the result of inherited history, more than the meticulous study of facts on the ground. This perspective comes with both benefits and costs. On one hand, a narrow view of late-eighteenth-century music history enables us to conceive of a notion of the Classical Era as a style period, which has proven to be an enormously useful tool for analyzing the musical language and influence of these three composers.6 Indeed, Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven share enough personal, musical, and philosophical connections to justify generalizing their vast musical ouevres into a single period. On the other hand, fixating on musical works of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven at the expense of other composers and musical styles obscures the full spectrum of possibilities available to eighteenth-century music lovers. Furthermore, the Romantic views that nurtured a cult of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven were not necessarily benign in nature, and therefore it is important to take every opportunity to acknowledge the problematic values that brought about this particular way of telling the history of music. Although times have changed a great deal since the eighteenth century, much discourse on music of all eras is still rooted in nineteenth-century ways of thinking about music. As Janet Levy wrote in 1987, "many, if not most, of the covert value judgments in musicological writings are legacies of nineteenth-century thought, passed along in a kind of underground whose pathways have been utilized freely in what seems to be a quasi-automatic and unquestioned way."7 The conventional narrative of music history in the Classical Era is rooted in these nineteenth- century values. To provide just a few brief examples, it is a narrative that has focused upon musical works as abstractions instead of musical sounds as lived experiences; upon composing instead of performing or listening; upon German composers at the expense of composers from other lands; and upon male historical protagonists instead of female ones. Joseph E. Jones discusses some of these values (for example, nationalism, exoticism, and canon formation) in his article, "A Topical Survey of Nineteenth-Century Music" in the A-R Online Music Anthology. Long-unchallenged biases brought about by ideological systems are indeed difficult to shake, even once the biases themselves are exposed and challenged.8 The whole Classical Era still needs the most basic work of editions and performances of works by composers whose pieces have fallen into the shadow of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. Only recently have scholars begun to expand knowledge of the Classical Era by bringing to light composers and musical styles that 6 See especially Charles Rosen, The Classical Style: Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, expanded ed. (New York and London: W. W. Norton & Co., 1998) and Rosen, Sonata Forms, revised ed. (New York and London: W. W. Norton & Co., 1988). 7 Janet E. Levy, "Covert and Casual Values in Recent Writings about Music," Journal of Musicology 5, no. 1 (Winter 1987): 327. 8 There is an extensive musicological literature that deals with covert values in music historiography. To become acquainted, I recommend browsing the following: Nicholas Cook and Mark Everist, eds., Rethinking Music (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1999); Katherine Bergeron and Philip V. Bohlman, eds., Disciplining Music: Musicology and its Canons (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992); Andrew Dell'Antonio, ed., Beyond Structural Listening: Postmodern Modes of Hearing (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2004). Music in the Classical Era went by the wayside as historians and musicians increasingly obsessed over Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. Main Features of the Classical Era At the beginning of the eighteenth century, a diversity of musical styles based on nation, setting, class, and purpose proliferated throughout western Europe. This diversity largely reflected the idiosyncratic taste of the small number of wealthy patrons who had the financial resources to cultivate their own private musical institutions. By the end of the century, however, stylistic homogeneity supplanted this rich diversity as the galant style was best able to meet the needs of the late eighteenth century's much larger and more diverse audiences who exerted influence over musical style through their ability to purchase and perform it. As the change in musical style was highly intertwined with political and economic societal changes, the gradual emergence and dominance of the galant style by the 1760s was highly politicized, and therefore any discussion of the emergence of the galant style requires both a discussion of the music as well as its political context. The remainder of this essay will address the full spectrum of these issues through a discussion of the following main features of the Classical Era: (1) Musical Style as Political Stance (2) New Attitudes toward Opera (3) The Galant Style (4) Bold Changes in Character (5) Expression as the Chief Purpose of Music (6) Form in the Classical Period Musical Style as Political Stance At the broadest level, national origin distinguished musical style at the outset of the Classical Era, and French and Italian styles were the most widely recognized and emulated. The differences between the French and Italian styles were increasingly politicized throughout the first half of the eighteenth century, and this politicization eventually culminated in a press war that the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau set in motion with his "Letter on French Music" following a performance of Giovanni Battista Pergolesi's wildly popular Italian intermezzo La serva padrona. Rousseau championed the Italian style of opera and disparaged his native French one. His controversial view was as much a critique of musical style as it was a critique of France's absolutist political system, of which the official state opera was the mouthpiece. Rousseau ends his scathing letter with the claim that "there is neither meter nor melody in French Music, because the language is not susceptible to them; that French song is but a continual barking, unbearable to any ear not prepared for it; that its harmony is crude, expressionless, and uniquely feels its Schoolboy padding; that French arias are not at all arias; that the French recitative is not at all recitative. From which I conclude that the French do not at all have a Music and cannot have any; or that if ever they have any, it will be so much the worse Music in the Classical Era for them."9 The letter provoked a deluge of responses in the public press known as the Querelle des bouffons (War of the Buffoons). The public nature of Rousseau's complaint and its resulting conversation in the press paved the way for future public discussions in which music served as a pretext for other topics. As the new galant style came into existence beginning in the 1730s and developed through the 1740s, it too served as a pretext for cultural debates that were both musical and political in nature. Already the politicization of the galant style is evident in 1737 when Johann Adolph Scheibe (1708—1776), after being turned down for a position as organist at Bach's St. Thomas church, attacked Johann Sebastian Bach in his own music journal Der Critische Musicus on the basis of his musical style: "This great man would be the admiration of whole nations if he had a more pleasing quality, and if he did not remove naturalness from his pieces by an unclear and incomprehensible manner, and obscure their beauty by all-too-great art."10 However one decides to view Scheibe's motives, his language suggests that those who advocated the new galant style viewed its virtues in opposition to what was already becoming known as the stile antico (old style). Scheibe's complaint that Bach's music is unnatural and uses an "unclear and incomprehensible" style speaks to his view that music ought to be able to communicate with its audience clearly and simply, a view associated with the galant style that I will discuss in more detail later in this article. In England, debates between the galant style and the stile antico often embodied tensions regarding larger economic changes, such as the increasing upward mobility of the middle class, and the corresponding decline of influence and power of the aristocratic class. Although the stile antico gradually fell out of favor in the rest of Europe by the 1760s, the popularity of the oratorios of George Frideric Handel kept the style very much in public view well into the nineteenth century. Aristocratic patrons publicly lamented what they considered the decline of music; meanwhile they sponsored and funded festivals of "ancient" music. For example, the Second Earl of Mount Edgcumbe wrote: I have been…passionately fond of music while music was really good, and having lived in what I consider as one of its most flourishing periods. So great a change has taken place within a few years, that I can no longer receive from it any pleasure approaching that which I used to experience. The remembrance of the past is therefore infinitely more agreeable than the enjoyment of the present, and I derive the highest gratification music can yet afford me from hearing again, or barely recalling to mind what formerly gave me such unqualified delight.11 9 Jean-Jacques Rousseau, "Letter on French Music," in Jean-Jacques Rousseau: On the Origin of Languages and Writings Related to Music, The Collected Writings of Rousseau, vol. 7, trans. and ed. by John T. Scott (Hanover and London: University Press of New England, 1998), 174. 10 Scheibe's letter is quoted in Beverly Jerold, "The Bach-Scheibe Controversy: New Documentation," Bach 42, no. 1 (2011): 9. 11 Richard Edgcumbe, Musical Reminiscences of an Old Amateur, Chiefly Respecting the Italian Opera in England for Fifty Years from 1773–1823 (London: W. Clarke, 1827), viii.
Music in the Classical Era Figure 1. Title page of J. C. Bach, Op. 5, published by Welcker in 1766. Others barely concealed their disdain for middle-class audiences who flocked to public concerts that featured music in the galant style and its new sound world, symbolized above all by the sudden popularity of the fortepiano in most well-to-do English homes by the end of the 1770s. The first musical publication in London that specifically mentioned the possibility of performing on the fortepiano was J. C. Bach's Op. 5, published in 1766, discussed in more detail below. The title page of this publication can be seen in Figure 1. One anonymous letter to the Universal Magazine in March 1793 rails against the fortepiano's mechanism and sounds: (the writer's complaints begin with the claim that "no musical expression can be produced by hammers"). The magazine's editor decided to publish the letter on the basis that "the general sentiment which pervades it is important to the musical world, and is, I think, in some respect, new." After protesting the fortepiano's mechanism and sounds, it becomes clear that a deeper social complaint underlies his musical ones. The writer continues, . . The more affected the modern singer is, the more applause he meets with from the unfeeling multitude; and for these reasons you never meet with a man of fine taste and genius, at what is called in London the Professional Concert. But all the fortepiano-mongers are there, together with the great tribe of hearers, who receive instrumental music, rather as an amusing noise, than as what makes any true musical impression on the heart. Besides, there are a great many caps and feathers at such meetings, that are far superior to music of any kind, I fancy, with the greater part of the company. . 12 12 Anonymous, "A Letter to a Friend, Containing Some Strictures on the General Use of the Forte Piano, and the Modern Musical Compositions," The Universal Magazine 92 (March 1793): 198–99. Music in the Classical Era It is interesting to note that the fortepiano and the Professional Concerts came to symbolize the cultural and economic changes in London during the 1770s. The public concert itself was one of the few spaces where members of the established aristocratic classes first encountered London's middle classes. In the consumer culture of late-eighteenth-century London, where the latest fashion functioned as one of the primary indicators of middle-class status, music in the galant style was a luxury commodity. As a new kind of musical technology that could bring the latest music into the domestic space, the fortepiano was one of its most powerful symbols. It will surely be of great comfort to today's music lover to remember that the familiar debates about the preferred music of the young and old are hardly new. In fact, the discussions surrounding the emergence of the galant style in the eighteenth century are merely a symptom of those that take place during any large-scale change in taste. Though arguments about musical taste may seem on the surface to be as innocent as the claim that one prefers the taste of a peach to, say, that of an apple, such a dismissive attitude would be a mistake. For if it is possible to learn anything about the highly fraught change in musical taste between the Baroque and Classical periods, it is that taste might be just a placeholder or a pretext for more difficult conversations about politics, class, and identity. New Attitudes toward Opera As an art form that tells concrete stories about people and events, opera is possibly the easiest genre in which to observe the influence of Enlightenment values upon the music. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, opera was a type of entertainment by the elite for the elite, but by the end of the century the audience (and hence the subject matter and musical language) had changed considerably. As an expensive type of musical entertainment that the aristocracy sponsored, opera at the beginning of the century was subject to rigorous censorship by court officials who ensured that operas portrayed their sponsors in a positive light. Such was particularly the case with the tragédies lyriques produced at the court of Louis XIV, where the composer Jean-Baptiste Lully exercised a monopoly over the composition of opera in France until his death in 1687. Lengthy prologues in praise of the Sun King gave way to plotlines that glorified benevolent rulers. In England, Italy, and German-speaking lands, opera had a similar political function. Composers of opera seria frequently tailored their works to the political circumstances of their patrons. Such allegories were hardly ambiguous in enforcing the existing structures that kept the ruling class in power. The disputes about French and Italian opera that resulted in the Querelle des bouffons are worth examining in closer detail. Rousseau's provocative "Lettre" ought to be read in light of new Enlightenment attitudes toward existing power structures. In the early 1750s, direct challenges to the French monarchy would not be tolerated; however, opera provided a suitable target for a coded political critique because it could be dismissed as politically irrelevant if necessary. The opera that kicked off the querelle, Giovanni Battista Pergolesi's La serva padrona, is particularly significant in this regard, for its plot centers on the servant Serpina who successfully devises a cunning plan to marry her Music in the Classical Era master and become the head of her household. In light of the politically correct operas of the time, La serva padrona can very easily be read as politically subversive, and its wild popularity throughout western Europe in the eighteenth century suggests that upwardly mobile middle-class audiences saw something of themselves in a story about a maid who climbs the social ladder. La serva padrona's success is therefore a marker of Enlightenment rebelliousness, and Rousseau's critique of French opera that followed it is no less than an allegorical challenge to the French monarchy itself. The success of La serva padrona paved the way for new types of opera to gain influence and popularity, including genres now known as opera buffa and reform opera. Italian opera seria (plural, opere serie), which had dominated the operatic scene throughout the eighteenth century in England, Italy, and German-speaking lands, was to a great extent understood as representative of the aristocratic classes who sponsored them. Opera seria therefore became a target for composers who thought its highbrow allegories and rigorous musical conventions were in need of reform. By the end of the eighteenth century, the musical and narrative conventions of opere seria had hardly changed in two generations, thanks to the popularity and influence of its chief librettist, Pietro Metastasio. Metastasio's twenty-seven libretti followed repeatable patterns that listeners could easily anticipate and composers could easily adapt to new music. Many different composers set these same libretti to music hundreds of times over the course of the century, and Metastasio's pattern became synonymous with opera seria. Metastasio always took the plots of his opera serie from mythological sources but frequently altered them if they ran the risk of being interpreted as subversive. Like earlier Baroque models, they frequently began with allegorical prologues that addressed the audience directly. The conventions of opere serie pertain not only to their plots, but to their musical structure and performance as well. Arias followed a strict da capo (ABA') format, in which the B section was in a contrasting character or key, and the second A section was not written out, but repeated with added embellishments by the singer. Instrumental sections of music called ritornellos separated each portion of text and these were repeated during the second A section as well. Entire acts of opere serie consisted of a rigid alternation between recitative sections, in which action and dialogue took place on stage, and arias, in which characters reflected upon the most recent action. The da capo aria was perhaps opera seria's most lasting legacy. It not only continued to feature in operas, oratorios, and cantatas throughout the eighteenth century, but it also influenced quintessential Baroque and Classical instrumental genres such as the concerto and sonata. The continued popularity of opera seria among the aristocracy throughout the century ensured its long-term survival; fans and critics alike viewed its arcane conventions as symbols of the power structures that they sought to uphold or challenge. The new types of opera that emerged in the second half of the eighteenth century play out against the backdrop of the existing operatic genres, especially opera seria. Some changes on the scene, such as the increased popularity of opera buffa, occurred Music in the Classical Era organically. Others, such as the reform projects of Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714–1787), took place self-consciously and deliberately. In the preface to his first so-called "reform opera," Alceste, Gluck described what he considered the problems with opera seria. When I undertook to write the music for Alceste, I resolved to divest it entirely of all those abuses, introduced into it either by the mistaken vanity of singers or by the too great complaisance of composers, which have so long disfigured Italian opera and made of the most splendid and most beautiful of spectacles the most ridiculous and wearisome. I have striven to restrict music to its true office of serving poetry by means of expression and by following the situations of the story, without interrupting the action or stifling it with a useless superfluity of ornaments…I did not wish to arrest an actor in the greatest heat of dialogue in order to wait for a tiresome ritornello, nor to hold him up in the middle of a word on a vowel favorable to his voice, nor to make display of the agility of his fine voice in some long-drawn passage, nor to wait while the orchestra gives him time to recover his breath for a cadenza….in short I have sought to abolish all the abuses against which good sense and reason have long cried out in vain.13 There are several related complaints to unpack here, but they are all connected by Gluck's belief that the opera's plot should unfold naturally, without interruptions for musical conventions, whether composed (as in the ritornello) or performed (as in the singer's embellishments). Gluck's view that poetry ought to take precedence over music tilts the ever-shaky balance of power between music and poetry toward poetry; the Romantics, beginning with Beethoven, will return it toward music. Though Gluck rejected many of opera seria's conventions, in practice he synthesized textures and styles from both tragédie en musique and opera seria to create his reform operas. Gluck's operas are thus less predictable in the sense that recitative, aria, and ritornello (from opera seria) follow in close succession with French elements of ballet and chorus according to the requirements of the plot. The first scene of Act 2 of his operaoffers an excellent opportunity to examine this synthesis in action. In this scene, Orpheus has encountered the Furies, the guardians of the underworld, on his way to retrieve his love Euridice. In a beautiful lyrical passage orchestrated for harp and two orchestras, Orpheus uses the power of his music to persuade the Furies to let him pass. As Patricia Howard notes, "Continuity was self-evidently a priority with Gluck."14 In this scene, different time signatures, tempi, textures, and styles follow and return in very quick succession, mostly in a continuous flow of music. Orpheus's persuasion aria demonstrates the integration of chorus (an element of 13 Leo Treitler, ed., Strunk's Source Readings in Music History, revised ed. (New York: W. W. Norton & Co. 1998), 933. 14 Patricia Howard, "The Most Moving Act in All Opera," in C. W. von Gluck: Orfeo, edited by Patricia Howard (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), 42.
Music in the Classical Era Example 1. Christoph Willibald Gluck, Orfeo ed Euridice, Act 2, scene 1. No. 18, "Furie, Larve," mm. 24–37 (beginning).
Music in the Classical Era Example 1. Christoph Willibald Gluck, Orfeo ed Euridice, Act 2, scene 1. No. 18, "Furie, Larve," mm. 24–35 (continued). Music in the Classical Era Example 1. Christph Williblad Gluck, Orfeo ed Euridice, Act 2, scene 1. No. 18, "Furie, Larve," mm. 24–35 (ending). Music in the Classical Era French tragédie en musique) and aria to spectacular effect. This passage can be seen in Example 1. As Orpheus uses an arioso style to plead for safe passage, the Furies respond in forte unison outbursts ("No!") that convey both the scene's dramatic intensity as well as the Furies' single-minded purpose. Their first outburst on a unison E-flat recalls the Act's opening chords, which also consist of unison E-flats in one of the divided orchestras supplemented with horns. As Orpheus proceeds with his song, the Furies continue to respond with unison outbursts that on the surface appear resolute. Despite their continual interjections of "No," however, the passage's harmony belies the Furies' gradual acquiescence as they are drawn into the circle-of-fifths progression. In m. 32, after Orpheus calls out to them again, this time instead of responding with E-flat, they anticipate the F major of the following measure by suddenly moving to F. Again, Orpheus calls out in m. 33 "Larvae" (Specters), and they again respond by anticipating the following measure's G minor, and then again in m. 34. The beauty of Orpheus's music draws the Furies' chorus of "No!" into music's most fundamental harmonic progression, and Orpheus passes them unscathed. The Galant Style Gluck's belief that opera ought to communicate its plot without the artifice of opera seria echoes the language that other writers used to explain the new galant style. Writing at the end of the century, the clavichord teacher and music theorist Daniel Gottlob Türk (1750–1813) summarized the difference between the stile antico and the galant style in language that resembles Scheibe's several decades earlier. He used the terms "strict" and "free" to describe the stile antico and the style galant respectively, and this belies the prevailing view by 1800 that existing conventions of counterpoint and affect limited music's ability to communicate effectively with listeners. Türk's description of the galant style raises some general points that are useful for understanding it: (1) "bold changes in character"; (2) expression as the chief purpose of music; and (3) form as communication.15 Each of them will be discussed in detail below. Bold Changes in Character The galant style permits unexpected changes sometimes within very short spans. It is therefore a departure from the baroque "doctrine of the affections," which relied upon a single affect holding sway for the duration of each movement in order to convey emotional coherence. By the 1770s, bold changes in character become such a hallmark of the Classical style that composers exploit the tension between two dramatically contrasting ideas to build entire movements in the sonata style (see below). Composers of the late 1750s and 1760s who were first to take an interest in new possibilities of bold contrasts, however, appear so taken by the possibilities of contrast that one frequently discovers in their works dramatic changes in character every few measures. Styles such as the empfindsamer Stil, for example, utilized unexpected changes in character to reflect what they felt was the capricious nature of human emotion through music. Haydn's experiments with the Sturm und Drang style, moreover, can also be interpreted as an 15 Daniel Gottlob Türk, School of Clavier Playing, trans. Raymond H. Haggh (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1982), 399.
Music in the Classical Era indication of his interest in exploring humankind's darker and more complex emotional states. A good example of dramatic contrast in an early galant piece is Johann Christian Bach's (1766). The opening two measures consist of three repeated fully spaced D-major chords in m. 1 followed by three more chords on the dominant in m. 2. These two measures together consist of an octave descent from D6 that hesitates briefly on A before landing on D5 in m. 3. Already in the third measure, the music changes radically in terms of its character and direction. Whereas the first two measures are equally percussive in all the voices with a repetitive rhythm that the upper voice highlights with flamboyant embellishments, beginning in measure three, the upper voice suddenly departs from the others and begins a two-measure ascent back to D6. The dynamics of this section buttress the sudden contrast in character. The piece's opening forte dynamic reinforces its strong, percussive character, and the independence of the top voice in m. 3 appears lyrically tender because of the sudden drop in volume to piano. This piece is notable because it is the first to exploit the popularity of the fortepiano explicitly by indicating this instrument on its title page (see Figure 1, above). The fortepiano's ability to play either loud or soft depending upon the force with which the player presses the keys was perfectly suited to composers' interest in the galant style's bold changes in character. Example 2. Johann Christian Bach, Sonata Op. 5, no. 2, movement 1, mm. 1–7. See especially mm. 1–4. Music in the Classical Era Mozart likely first encountered the profound aesthetic possibilities of contrast as a young boy in works such as those by Johann Christian Bach and the Sturm und Drang compositions of Haydn. In fact, Mozart scored Bach's Op. 5, no. 2 as a keyboard concerto in 1770. As the Classical Style coalesced in the 1770s, composers began to use changes in character more systematically to convey large-scale narratives in their works. The ability to juxtapose, say, a loud symphony-like character with a soft arioso passage enabled movements to sustain listeners' attention over longer spans of time, and therefore movements gradually became longer and formally more complex. The various contrasting characters that could now appear in a single musical work often called to mind well-known existing styles that carried associations with concepts such as dances, settings, or actions. Composers utilized these referential characters, that is, topoi, or topics, to construct elaborate networks of meaning in their pieces.16 Listeners of today hear such music and do not always perceive these meanings in the same way as a Classical-Era listener would have, and hence the study of late eighteenth-century topoi can be an immensely rewarding activity. The opening of J. C. Bach's Op. 5, no. 2, for example, would have likely called to mind the opening chords of a symphony, whose purpose would be to capture the audience's attention at the beginning of a concert.17 Its appearance at the beginning of a solo work for keyboard, however, might have surprised listeners; the full orchestra and large concert hall called to mind by the opening chords creates a jarring (or even ironic!) impression upon a listener who hears the piece in a small intimate room meant for sonatas. These techniques were not lost on composers of Classical-Era opera. In her Rhythmic Gesture in Mozart, Wye J. Allanbrook performs a close historical and analytical study of the music that reveals an immense network of meanings that a Classical-Era listener easily would have understood. A striking example is the opening number of Don Giovanni" that Don Giovanni's servant Leporello sings. Measures 10–22 of this number can be seen in Example 3, below. 16 For a relevant summary of the most important topoi one finds in the Classical Era, see Leonard Ratner, Classic Music: Expression, Form, and Style (New York: Schirmer, 1980). 17 Michael Broyles, "The Two Instrumental Styles of Classicism," Journal of the American Musicological Society 36, no. 2 (Summer 1983): 210–42.
Music in the Classical Era Example 3. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Don Giovanni, Act 1, no. 1. Leporello, "Notte e giorno faticar," mm. 4–24 (beginning). See especially mm. 10–22.
Music in the Classical Era Example 3. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Don Giovanni, Act 1, no. 1. Leporello, "Notte e giorno faticar," mm. 4–24 (ending). See especially mm. 10–22. Music in the Classical Era In the introductory passage, Leporello complains about his lot in life in front of the entrance to a palace where he is waiting impatiently for Don Giovanni to emerge. He sings, "Night and day I toil hard for one whom nothing can please." The simple tick-tock of his melody (F–C–F–C–F–C–F) is representative of what is called the buffo bass, a voice type associated with comic bass characters in eighteenth-century opera buffa. The melody's repetitive quality reflects the tedious nature of his work as a servant for Don Giovanni and, at the same time, Leporello's lower social status. After a fermata in m. 19, Leporello fantasizes about reversing roles with his master: "I would like to be the gentleman, and be the servant no more." He sings these words to a broad and lyrical melody that greatly contrasts with the tick-tock of his opening line. In fact, this brief contrasting passage utilizes the topos of the opera seria aria. Its long and exaggerated vocal line and the thin texture of its accompaniment signify a highbrow Italian singing style.18 Considered alongside Leporello's words, a listener might hear this short passage as a servant's musical daydream, a simpleton's musical expression of artificial fanciness. Audiences in Vienna already viewed opera seria as artificial by the 1770s, and in this example it a source of parody for Mozart. In fact opera buffa during the late eighteenth century played out against the expectations of existing theatrical genres, of which opera seria was only one.19 Expression as the Chief Purpose of Music Composers exploited such techniques for creating meaning in their music partly because of a renewed interest in music's potential for expression. Eighteenth-century musicians theorized a great deal about how music could communicate with listeners. Discussions of musical expression appear in almost every treatise on music of the Classical Era, whether the treatise's primary purpose is to teach composition, aesthetics, or performance. To modern-day readers, the primacy accorded discussions of musical expression may seem out-of-place in these varied contexts, yet to an eighteenth-century reader musical communication and expression were very much to the point. The keyboardist (and oldest son of Johann Sebastian Bach) Carl Philip Emanuel Bach took up the topic of expressive communication in music in his famous treatise on keyboard playing. According to Bach, a musician "must of necessity feel all of the affects that he hopes to arouse in his listeners. He communicates his own feelings to them and thus most effectively moves them to sympathy."20 Bach identifies the performer as the central agent in the communication of musical expression, a move that on one hand will be intuitive to modern-day fans of popular music who attribute their love of music to their favorite performer's musical style. Then again, this centrality of the performer undermines the composer-centric approach to many narratives of western music history 18 Leonard Ratner, Classic Music: Expression, Form, and Style. 19 In Vienna, opera seria was virtually absent from the theater outside of a few performances of Gluck's reform operas. Opera buffa in Vienna therefore played out primarily against the expectations of other theatrical genres, in particular French and German theater. Mary Hunter, The Culture of Opera Buffa in Mozart's Vienna: A Poetics of Entertainment (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999), 6–15. 20 Carl Philip Emanuel Bach, Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments, trans. and edited by William J. Mitchell (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1947), 152. Music in the Classical Era since the nineteenth century. For eighteenth-century audiences, the performer contributed an essential ingredient in both opera and in instrumental music through improvisation. Indeed, there is evidence that all the great performers and composers of the eighteenth century improvised constantly over existing compositions by adding gestures that weren't written down and by composing new material during short pauses in the music, or cadenzas. In addition to performers' role in communicating musical expression with listeners, composers of the late eighteenth century also wrote their music with communication in mind by adopting techniques borrowed from rhetoric. Through a close examination of the period's music theory treatises, musicologist Mark Evan Bonds demonstrates that the application of rhetorical principles to music is "an important line of thought that includes virtually every major writer of the eighteenth century who addresses the broader conceptual issues of large-scale form. The instrumental work was seen as a wordless oration, and its form was viewed not so much as a harmonic or thematic plan but as an ordered succession of thoughts."21 Rhetorical principles underpin fundamental features of late-eighteenth-century musical language, such as symmetry, balance, repetition, and periodicity, all of which have counterparts in rhetoric. In his treatise on composition, published in three volumes between 1782 and 1793, Heinrich Christoph Koch (1749–1816) acknowledged that although existing discussions of rhetoric and music were very common in late eighteenth century treatises, their treatment was unsystematic. Therefore musicians were (and still are) required to piece together comments from various sources in order to gain a complete picture of how rhetorical ideas influenced music.22 One way to begin an introductory discussion of rhetoric in instrumental music is to understand how a melody might be broken up into what Koch calls "noticeable resting points" that can be organized hierarchically into sections of different sizes.23 Koch himself uses language borrowed from grammar to interpret simple melodies as if they were sentences. It is possible to do the same with an example from the A-R Online Music Anthology. Consideen in part in Example 4 below. The violin line from the Allegro of the first movement offers a useful example. 21 Mark Evan Bonds, Wordless Rhetoric: Musical Form and the Metaphor of the Oration (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991), 53. 22 Heinrich Christoph Koch, Musikalisches Lexikon, "Rhetorik," cited in Bonds, Wordless Rhetoric, 53. 23 Heinrich Christoph Koch, Introductory Essay on Composition: The Mechanical Rules of Melody, Sections 3 and 4, trans. by Nancy Kovaleff Baker (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1983), 1.
Music in the Classical Era Example 4. Joseph Haydn, Symphony no. 104 "London," movement 1, mm. 10–37 (beginning). See especially mm. 18–33 (violin).
Music in the Classical Era Example 4. Joseph Haydn, Symphony no. 104 "London," movement 1, mm. 10–37 (ending). See especially mm. 18–33 (violin). Music in the Classical Era This melody's structure is a handy point of reference because although it is sixteen measures long, it easily divides at several resting points. The most obvious of these comes at the halfway point (the end of m. 25), and is emphasized by a half-cadence followed by a quarter-note rest on beat four. When the music resumes at the beginning of m. 26, it repeats the music of the opening for four measures before departing in m. 30. The new music of mm. 30–33 bears a striking resemblance to the music of mm. 22–25. Its first three measures consist of nearly the same rhythm: four half notes followed by a set of four eighth notes and two quarter notes. Although the first half of the melody ended on a dominant half-cadence in m. 25, its second half ends on a perfect cadence on the tonic. It is as though the two halves of the melody are two parts of a sentence. Koch would use the terms "subject" and "predicate" to describe two halves of a melody that are connected closely in this manner (i.e. they are proportional in length and contain internal repetition at the halfway point). Examining the melody even more closely, one can see that the subject and predicate divide into smaller sections each four measures in length. The subject can be divided between measures 21 and 22, and the predicate can be divided between measures 29 and 30. No obvious resting point separates these subtle divisions; however, the melody's shape and articulation support them. For example, a break in the slurs taken together with the leap of a fourth between scale-degree five and scale-degree one suggests a division between measures 21 and 22 and between measures 29 and 30. Koch uses the term "incises" to describe such internal divisions in a melody's structure, and to extend his metaphor of a sentence into current parlance, they function as commas. Figure 2 below summarizes the melody's structure according to this analysis. Figure 2. Sentence Structure of Joseph Haydn's, Symphony no. 104 "London," mvt. 1, mm. 18–33 (violin). Form in Classical-Era Music The desire for music to communicate clearly with listeners affected musical form on a larger scale, as well. Although operatic music became more tailor-made in the Classical Era as it moved away from the conventions that had defined opera seria in the Baroque Music in the Classical Era Era, instrumental music coalesced around a relatively small number of musical forms that appeared again and again in all the major instrumental genres. On the surface this seems like very different priorities at work; however, the primacy of effective communication underscores both instances. In opera, the presence of words requires music that supports the meaning of the text, and hence Gluck's reform operas "restrict music to its true office of serving poetry." The absence of words in instrumental music requires a musical means of communication. To take these ideas further, the importance of rhetoric partly fulfilled this function. In addition to strategies from rhetoric, composers also utilized similar formal patterns that were well known to audiences and composers. Such coherence among Classical-Era composers enabled them to impart great significance to subtle deviations from formal and stylistic norms in order to create nuanced instrumental musical works that reward both detailed study and casual listening. The most common form in instrumental music of the Classical Era is known as sonata form, and there are numerous theories for understanding how it works.24 Its basic features include a tension between two contrasting key areas that are successively heard in the first half of the piece (the exposition), followed by a development section consisting of, for example, rapid modulations and fragmentation of earlier themes and motives, and concluding with a return to the material of the exposition, this time all in the tonic key (recapitulation). This basic shape appeared in countless movements in all the major genres of the period, including string quartets, symphonies, sonatas, overtures, and concertos. Why would one form appear again and again in so many musical works? The benefit of such a widely recognizable form is that audiences easily could follow longer pieces, even though they contained no words. Even more importantly from composers' perspective, audiences could recognize subtle deviations or manipulations in the form that could delight, surprise, or even annoy. Some of the subtlety of Classical-Era works may be lost on listeners who have not yet learned to follow the details of sonata form. This is not unlike many twentieth-century popular songs, whose predictable verse-chorus structure might be said to work similarly. Conclusion Music in the eighteenth century was in many ways transitional, thanks to the gradual influence of Enlightenment values and the economic, social, and political changes that resulted from their application. Musical style, musical institutions, and the nature of musical expression underwent a radical transformation that distinguished the Classical Era from the Baroque. At the same time, it is important to keep in mind that the changes that brought about the Classical Era could not have come into being without the systems already in place in the early eighteenth century. The application of rhetorical ideas to music, for example, has roots in the seventeenth century, although it wasn't until the 24 These are summarized in James Hepokoski and Warren Darcy, Elements of Sonata Theory: Norms, Types, and Deformations in the Late-Eighteenth Century Sonata (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), 3–13. Music in the Classical Era eighteenth century that theorists systematically examined how the musical language can communicate in a rhetorical sense. This essay has explored how the historical context of the eighteenth century shaped a set of musical values musicians now describe as the classical style. Today, Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven dominate most discussions of music during this period. On the one hand, these three composers cumulatively shared a musical language and an audience to such an extent that they exemplify what Charles Rosen called "coherence of the musical language."25 On the other hand, by the time the broad cultural changes associated with the Enlightenment encountered these three composers, they had lost some of the novelty that brought about some of the fascinating conflicts and frantic experiments of the beginning of the Classical Era. One of the delights of exploring the Classical Era is that both its historical interest and its aesthetic appeal are so deeply intertwined. 25 Charles Rosen, The Classical Style: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, expanded ed. (New York: W. W. Norton & Co.,1997). Music in the Classical Era Bibliography/Further Reading Print Sources Allanbrook, Wye J. Rhythmic Gesture in Mozart: Le nozze di Figaro & Don Giovanni. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1983. Beghin, Tom, and Sander M. Goldberg. Haydn and the Performance of Rhetoric. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 2007. Bonds, Mark Evan. Wordless Rhetoric: Musical Form and the Metaphor of the Oration. Studies in the History of Music 4. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991. Brown, Clive. Classical and Romantic Performing Practice, 1750–1900. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1999. Burney, Charles. The Present State of Music in Germany, the Netherlands, and United Provinces: Or, the Journal of a Tour through Those Countries, Undertaken to Collect Materials for a New History of Music. 2 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 204. Originally published in 1775. Free access via archive.org: Christensen, Thomas. Rameau and Musical Thought in the Enlightenment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1993. Heartz, Daniel. Music in European Capitals: The Galant Style, 1720–1780. New York: W. W. Music in the Classical Era Hepokoski, James, and Warren Darcy. Elements of Sonata Theory: Norms, Types, and Deformations in the Late-Eighteenth Century Sonata. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006. Hunter, Mary. The Culture of Opera Buffa in Mozart's Vienna: A Poetics of Entertainment. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 1999. Keefe, Simon P., ed. The Cambridge History of Eighteenth-Century Music. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2009. Keefe, Simon P. "Die Ochsen am Berge": Franz Xaver Süssmayr and the Orchestration of Mozart's Requiem, K626." Journal of the American Musicological Society 61, no. 1 (2008): 1–65. Ratner, Leonard. Classic Music: Expression, Form, and Style. New York: Schirmer. 1980. Rosen, Charles. Classical Style: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven. Expanded ed. New York: W. W. Norton. 1997. First edition published in 1971. Rosen, Charles. Sonata Forms. Revised ed. New York: W. W. Norton. 1988. First edition published in 1980. Webster, James. "The Eighteenth Century as a Music-Historical Period?" Eighteenth-Century Music 1, no. 1 (2004): 47–60. Music in the Classical Era Webster, James. Haydn's ‘Farewell' Symphony and the Idea of Classical Style: Through- Composition and Cyclic Integration in Instrumental Music. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1991. Zaslaw, Neal, ed. Mozart's Piano Concertos: Text, Context, Interpretation. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press. 1996. Music in the Classical Era Online Sources Di Bacco, et. al. Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. Center for the History of Music Theory and Literature. The Classical String Quartet. Duke University. David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Beethoven, Ludwig van. Digital Archives. Beethoven-Haus Bonn. Eighteenth-Century Collections Online, Part I and Part II. Gale-Cengage Learning. Requires a subscription, available for purchase or through many academic libraries. Gjerdingen, Robert O., ed. Monuments of Partimenti. Northwestern University Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus, Neue Mozart-Ausgabe: Digital Mozart Edition. Salzburg: Internationale Stiftung Mozarteum. Music in the Classical Era Music List Johann Christian Bach, Sonate in D major, Op. 5, no. 2 Ludwig van Beethoven, String Quartet, Op. 18, no. 4 Ludwig van Beethoven, Piano Sonata, no. 17 in D minor, Op. 31, no. 2 ("The Tempest") Luigi Cherubini, Les Deux Journées Christoph Willibald Gluck, Orfeo ed Euridice Joseph Haydn, Symphony no 104 ("London") Joseph Haydn, String Quartet in E-flat major, Op. 33, no. 2 ("The Joke") Joseph Haydn, String Quartet in C major, Op. 33, no. 3 Joseph Haydn, String Quartet in D major, Op. 76, no. 2 Joseph Haydn, Piano Sonata no. 49 in E-flat major, Hob. XVI:49 Joseph Haydn, Symphony no. 92 in G major ("Oxford") Francesca Lebrun, Sonatas, Op. 1, no. 3 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Piano Concerto no. 23 in A major, K. 488 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Don Giovanni, K. 527 Music in the Classical Era Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Requiem, K. 626 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Symphony, no. 41 ("Jupiter") Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, La serva padrona
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