Author Topic: Gurn's Classical Corner  (Read 219887 times)

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Offline Gurn Blanston

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Gurn's Classical Corner
« on: February 22, 2009, 08:05:20 AM »
After 15 years of listening to classical music, I've finally settled down to a favorite era. I have a lot of Baroque music that I truly enjoy, and even more Romantic Era music. I even have and listen to quite a lot of 20th century music (21st? Well, maybe a little bit). But the music that I enjoy most, and which constitutes by far the largest section of my collection, is Classical Era music.

My personal definition of the Classical Era is a rather broad one. It constitutes a period from roughly 1740 to roughly 1830. Of course, this period is dominated by the so-called "Viennese High Classical" school, whose main exponents were Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and and perhaps a few others who were ambitious enough to attempt to emulate them, sometimes successfully. But there are a true multitude of other composers who were working at this time, and producing a lot of worthwhile music too. I don't want to exclude them. And I don't want to get hung up on chronological complexities either, since there were many composers who were producing Baroque music well into the 1760's, and there were many who were producing what we now think of as Romantic music as early as the late 1790's. The Classical Era is merely a convenience for historians, it was not a cut and dried period of time in which it's constituent members were knowingly producing (or NOT producing) "Classical" music. :)

So, I invite you to join me in a regular discussion of the music of this time. I am not looking for recommended recordings, unless (as is often the case) there are only one or two recordings available and you want to point one out. We have plenty of threads to discuss the "Best Beethoven Symphony Cycle"... ::)  But if you are familiar with good books or articles on the subject, for example, they would be a welcome adjunct to the music itself.

Thanks for joining in. I hope we can all learn something here, and even make a few converts among the many who feel that Classical music is not for them.

Cheers,
Gurn 8)
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Offline Gurn Blanston

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Re: Gurn's Classical Corner
« Reply #1 on: February 22, 2009, 09:26:27 AM »
The Classical Era: Where did it come from?

One has only to listen to music composed in 1725 and in 1775 to hear that there was a great change in music in that 50 year period. 

Classical music is less complicated and has a less dense texture. It is mainly homophonic – melody above chordal accompaniment. The emphasis is on grace and beauty of melody and form, proportion and balance. Elegance of character and perfect balance are the main characteristics. The hallmark style of the Classical Era was the sonata. Sonata form developed rather rapidly, but even by the end of the period it was never formally defined. Carl Czerny, (a pupil of Beethoven) was the first to put the tags we use today, exposition, development and recapitulation into a definition, and that was circa 1839, long after all the classicists were dead and gone.

The Early (or Pre-) Classical is often called the rococo or galant style. It was far more radically different from its immediate predecessors than later classical music was. Polyphony was strictly avoided, for example, while Haydn and later Mozart incorporated fugue and other polyphonic devices into their music. There was also a greater avoidance of structure earlier on, with composers such as CPE Bach specializing in free fantasias and in Italy, capriccios. This too would change, with the discovery that music was more pleasing to people when it had structure for them to guide their listening by.

More soon. Feel free to add or emend. :)

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Dr. Dread

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Re: Gurn's Classical Corner
« Reply #2 on: February 22, 2009, 09:33:02 AM »
What are some good books on the subject, Gurn?

Offline Gurn Blanston

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Re: Gurn's Classical Corner
« Reply #3 on: February 22, 2009, 09:44:17 AM »
What are some good books on the subject, Gurn?

Well, there are 2 camps on the book subject. One is for musicians. The best one that I've found if you know music theory is "The Classical Style" by Charles Rosen. Even though I don't know much theory, I learned a lot from this book because Rosen is such a good writer and includes enough historical details that you can't help but learn a lot.

The second group is for mainly history buffs. A good choice to start with here is "The Age of Beethoven and Mozart" by Pestelli. This is a very good book, provides a lot of context and is quite readable. And there are no full pages of music scores ending in statements like "so it is obvious that Beethoven was influenced by Mozart's String Quartet in A major..." ::)  ;D

If you like biographies, I can heartily recommend "Mozart: A Cultural Biography" by Robert Gutman. Not only a good bio of Mozart, but a great overview of everything else that was going on in Europe at the time, both politically and in the arts.

Finally, "The Sonata in the Classic Era" by William S. Newman. You will be surprised that you don't have to be a musician to appreciate his arguments. And it covers every composer that you've heard of, and many that you haven't, along with comprehensive lists of their works. This book was a great find for me. :)

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Re: Gurn's Classical Corner
« Reply #4 on: February 22, 2009, 09:48:49 AM »
Hi Gurn, nice idea for a thread!  :)

I was given this book for my birthday last summer, and I think it's a pretty good book for relative newcomers to classical era music (but specifically on Mozart).

What to Listen For in Mozart - by Robert Harris

Offline Opus106

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Re: Gurn's Classical Corner
« Reply #5 on: February 22, 2009, 09:50:04 AM »
Nice timing, Gurn. :) Right now, I'm reading this, so this thread and the book should complement each other. The chapters of the book are rather short, but I, a neophyte listener, find the text neither dry nor complex. I'm sure it'll be valuable to beginners.

I think it was M Forever who recommended The Classical Style*; but if I remember the reviews correctly, it probably would not be useful to me right now.



*Obviously, you posted while I was still typing. But to make my point clear, it was due to M that I came across this book. :)
« Last Edit: February 22, 2009, 09:58:45 AM by opus67 »
Regards,
Navneeth

ChamberNut

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Re: Gurn's Classical Corner
« Reply #6 on: February 22, 2009, 09:50:58 AM »
One book that I found rather dry was Mozart, A Life by Maynard Solomon.  Took me a long time to get through that one.

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Re: Gurn's Classical Corner
« Reply #7 on: February 22, 2009, 09:52:54 AM »
What to Listen For in Mozart

Ha! That title reminds of the popular science books which go like A Brief History of <insert favourite "sexy physics topic">. ;D
Regards,
Navneeth

Offline Gurn Blanston

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Re: Gurn's Classical Corner
« Reply #8 on: February 22, 2009, 09:54:28 AM »
Hi Gurn, nice idea for a thread!  :)

I was given this book for my birthday last summer, and I think it's a pretty good book for relative newcomers to classical era music (but specifically on Mozart).

What to Listen For in Mozart - by Robert Harris

Thanks, Ray. Hope you will feel free to contribute. And I have been looking at that book for a while too. Please let us know what you learned from it. There is so much to listen for in Mozart! :)

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Offline Gurn Blanston

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Re: Gurn's Classical Corner
« Reply #9 on: February 22, 2009, 09:58:17 AM »
Nice timing, Gurn. :) Right now, I'm reading this, so this thread and the book should complement each other. The chapters of the book are rather short, but I, a neophyte listener, find the text neither dry nor complex. I'm sure it'll be valuable to beginners.

I think it was M Forever who recommended The Classical Style; but if I remember the reviews correctly, it probably would not be useful to me right now.

That looks like a most useful book. And I see that it is tied in with a website so you can listen to the music you are reading about. That can be a big help when you are exploring. :)

Yes, M was a musician, and I am very sure that all those musical examples made perfect sense to him. But for those of us who limp along with a score trying to get an overview, or don't even use one at all, the bulk of it would make no sense. Which doesn't detract from the book at all for those who CAN use it. :)

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Re: Gurn's Classical Corner
« Reply #10 on: February 22, 2009, 10:01:41 AM »
Gurn, I'm hoping there will be discussions on here too about other Classical Era composers in addition to "The Big Three".  More than any other era, I find that the focus in the Classical Era is so narrowly centred around Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven.

Offline Gurn Blanston

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Re: Gurn's Classical Corner
« Reply #11 on: February 22, 2009, 10:05:29 AM »
Gurn, I'm hoping there will be discussions on here too about other Classical Era composers in addition to "The Big Three".  More than any other era, I find that the focus in the Classical Era is so narrowly centred around Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven.

Absolutely! If someone else doesn't start it, you can bet that I will. I have lots of Boccherini, Vanhal, Stamitz, Salieri, etc. etc. etc. and I enjoy them greatly. I also would like to see discussions about non-German composers. Music wasn't standing still outside of Vienna. :)

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Offline Brian

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Re: Gurn's Classical Corner
« Reply #12 on: February 22, 2009, 10:09:52 AM »
I have gradually become a very big fan of Carl Stamitz; his "orchestral quartets" are marvelous works, much like energetic string-only serenades, and the cello concerti are meltingly beautiful. The whole Stamitz family was part of the "Mannheim" club that formed one of the other very big musical schools of the 18th century, one which I'm keen to learn more about.

My compliments to you, Gurn, for starting this excellent thread. I am not a big classical-era listener myself, but will be watching with avid interest. :)

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Re: Gurn's Classical Corner
« Reply #13 on: February 22, 2009, 10:12:23 AM »
Boccherini

Now there is someone I definitely need more of in my collection!  And the French/English composer, George Onslow.

Offline Gurn Blanston

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Re: Gurn's Classical Corner
« Reply #14 on: February 22, 2009, 10:14:23 AM »
I have gradually become a very big fan of Carl Stamitz; his "orchestral quartets" are marvelous works, much like energetic string-only serenades, and the cello concerti are meltingly beautiful. The whole Stamitz family was part of the "Mannheim" club that formed one of the other very big musical schools of the 18th century, one which I'm keen to learn more about.

My compliments to you, Gurn, for starting this excellent thread. I am not a big classical-era listener myself, but will be watching with avid interest. :)

Brian,
Yes, Carl Stamitz is definitely one of my favorites, and one of those now-unheralded names that was really a big fish in his own time. If you run across any of his concerti (for violin, viola, viola da gamba etc.) you really must give it a try. And his symphonies are nice too. And as you pointed out, his father, Johann, was a very large figure in orchestral history, organizing and running the Mannheim Orchestra that was a huge influence of all music to follow. :)

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Offline Gurn Blanston

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Re: Gurn's Classical Corner
« Reply #15 on: February 22, 2009, 10:21:10 AM »
Here is a list (stolen from Wiki and edited) of some "Middle Period" classical composers. I would hope to discuss many of these, as there are a few that I've never heard music from, and maybe someone here has done. I will shortly post a list of later composers (born after 1750) who are also a major part of the scene. :)

Middle Classical era composers (born 1730-1750)

    * Christian Cannabich (1731 - 1798)
    * Joseph Haydn (1732 - 1809)
    * François-Joseph Gossec (1734 - 1829)
    * Johann Gottfried Eckard (1735 - 1809)[3]
    * Johann Christian Bach (1735 - 1782)
    * Johann Georg Albrechtsberger (1736 - 1809)
    * Michael Haydn (1737 - 1806)
    * Josef Mysliveček (1737 - 1781)
    * William Herschel (1738 - 1822)
    * Leopold Hofmann (1738 - 1793)
    * Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf (1739 - 1799)
    * Johann Baptist Vanhal (1739 - 1813)
    * André Ernest Modeste Grétry (1741 - 1813)
    * Andrea Luchesi (1741 - 1801)
    * Giovanni Paisiello (1741 - 1816)
    * Václav Pichl (1741 - 1804)
    * Luigi Boccherini (1743 - 1805)
    * Franz Nikolaus Novotny (1743 - 1773)
    * Carl Stamitz (1745 - 1801)
    * Maddalena Laura Sirmen (1745–1818)
    * Joseph Bologne, the Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745 - 1799)
    * Leopold Kozeluch (1747 - 1818)
    * Johann Nikolaus Forkel (1749-1818)
    * Domenico Cimarosa (1749-1801)
    * Jean-Frédéric Edelmann (1749-1794)
    * Maria Barthélemon (c. 1749–1799)
    * Antonín Kraft (c. 1749-1820)
   

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Offline Gurn Blanston

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Re: Gurn's Classical Corner
« Reply #16 on: February 22, 2009, 10:23:30 AM »
Now there is someone I definitely need more of in my collection!  And the French/English composer, George Onslow.

Yes, and yes. Even though Onslow is transitional into the Romantic, he is heavily influenced by Classical style. A good example of how one can't strictly use chronology to define style. :)

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Offline Gurn Blanston

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Re: Gurn's Classical Corner
« Reply #17 on: February 22, 2009, 10:28:12 AM »
And here are some later composers. Probably more familiar names here. :)

Late Classical era composers (born 1750-1770)

    * Antonio Salieri (1750 - 1825)
    * Antonio Rosetti (c1750 - 1792)
    * Muzio Clementi (1752 - 1832)
    * Leopold Kozeluch (1752 - 1818)
    * Vicente Martín y Soler (1754 - 1806)
    * Vincenzo Righini (1756 - 1812)
    * Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)
    * Joseph Martin Kraus (1756 - 1792)
    * Paul Wranitzky (1756 - 1808)
    * Daniel Gottlob Türk (1756-1813)
    * Ignaz Pleyel (1757 - 1831)
    * François Devienne (1759 - 1803)[5]
    * Franz Vinzenz Krommer (1759 - 1831)
    * Luigi Cherubini (1760 - 1842)
    * Johann Ladislaus Dussek (1760 - 1812)
    * Franz Danzi (1763 - 1826)
    * Adalbert Gyrowetz (1763 - 1850)
    * Étienne Méhul (1763-1817)
    * Franz Xaver Süssmayr (1766 - 1803)
    * Samuel Wesley (1766 - 1837)
    * Wenzel Muller (1767 - 1835)
    * Carlos Baguer (1768 - 1808)
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Re: Gurn's Classical Corner
« Reply #18 on: February 22, 2009, 10:29:19 AM »
    * Giovanni Paisiello (1741 - 1816)
   

One of my first discoveries, was Paisiello, when I bought the soundtrack to Kubrick's Barry Lyndon.  It was an excerpt from his Barber of Seville opera (not Rossini's  ;) Kubrick Film soundtracks were my transition into classical music, and opened up that new world of intrigue to me!  0:)

Offline Opus106

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Re: Gurn's Classical Corner
« Reply #19 on: February 22, 2009, 10:35:24 AM »
Regarding the Mannheim style, I found an interesting quote from Mozart taken from a letter to his father. (I quote it from the first book I mentioned in my first post.)

You cannot imagine the glorious effect of a symphony with flutes, oboes and clarinets.

At a time when we take the things for granted, it's amazing to know that there was a period (when Mozart was still alive) when this was all new and revolutionary. I can't imagine listening to the late works of Mozart without some of these wonderful woodwinds.
Regards,
Navneeth

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