Sunday, January 21, 2018

Project 366 - Postcards from the (Classical) Edge

Project 366 continues in 2017-18 with "Time capsules through the Musical Eras - A Continued journey through the Western Classical Music Repertoire". Read more here.

The next few instalments of our Time Capsules through the Musical Eras will dwell into the Classical period. In my initial description, I proposed a time box around the classical period of 1750 to 1820. Today’s post in particular invites you to consider composers that, for the most part, were active either in the early days or the late days of that time box.

A seventy year time span – roughly three generations – allows us to identify some of the main “culprits” of the Classical era if we start with the basic premise that J. S. Bach’s sons form the “first generation”, the musicians they mainly influenced such as Haydn, Mozart and Salieri form the core contributors, and their subsequent pupils – Beethoven, Schubert and Hummel, close out the era.

It may be more appropriate sometimes to talk in “shades” – there are late baroque, early classical, late classical and early romantic composers, all of whom are relevant to the classical period – either because they are transitional (that is, they were trained in one period but blazed the trail of the following tradition) or because they “bucked the trend” and composed in the classical tradition long past the arbitrary time box we are using.

Listener Guide # 144 – Classical Showcase

To further illustrate, this first Time Capsule shares compositions from “late baroque” composers Charles Avison, William Boyce and Georg Christoph Wagenseil and “late classical” (or “early romantic”) composers Giuseppe Mercadante and Johann Baptist Cramer. (ITYWLTMT Montage #251 - 23 June 2017)

Listener Guide # 145 – Luigi Boccherini (1743 - 1805)

Luigi Boccherini, the Italian classical era composer and cellist known for his courtly and galante style, was born in Italy into a musical family. His father, a cellist and double-bass player, sent him to study in Rome at a young age. In 1757 they both went to Vienna, where the court employed them as musicians in the Burgtheater. In 1761 Boccherini went to Madrid, entering in 1770 the employ of Infante Luis Antonio, younger brother of King Charles III of Spain. Later patrons included the French ambassador to Spain, Lucien Bonaparte, as well as King Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia, himself an amateur cellist, flautist, and avid supporter of the arts. Boccherini died in Madrid in 1805, survived by two sons. His bloodline continues to this day in Spain. This Boccherini time capsule showcases quintets for piano, guitar and cello with strings quartet. (ITYWLTMT Montage #268 – 6 Jan 2018)

Listener Guide # 146 –Antonio Salieri (1750-1825)

Antonio Salieri is still better known today for the renowned composers with whom he was associated than for his own many and varied compositions. While he cannot be ranked among the great masters himself, he has nevertheless come into view as an underrated and important composer deserving of closer attention. Salieri was the dominant figure in Parisian opera from the mid to late 1780s. Tarare (1787), generally considered his finest achievement in the genre, is a masterpiece. He also wrote significant instrumental, sacred, and vocal compositions, and shaped the Viennese musical world that would produce so many important composers for a century and a half. Salieri's illustrious students included Beethoven, Schubert, Liszt, Hummel, and Czerny. There is no evidence to support the durable legend that he poisoned Mozart and created intrigues against him. One of his students was Wolfgang A. Mozart, Jr., whom he would probably not have selected for instruction had he harbored such malice toward his father. (ITYWLTMT Podcast #261 - 13 Oct 2017)

Listener Guide # 147 – Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778-1837)

Johann Nepomuk Hummel was an important composer from the late Classical period primarily known for his solo piano compositions and piano concertos. In recent years, however, attention has been given to his chamber music, operas, and sacred works. Young Johann's first musical studies came on the violin at the behest of his father, a player of string instruments himself, and director of the local Imperial School of Military Music. When the family moved to Vienna in 1786, Johann studied with Mozart, with whom he lived for two years. His first major appointment came in April, 1804, when he accepted the post of Concertmaster to Prince Nikolaus Esterházy at his Eisenstadt court, eventually replacing Joseph Haydn there when he retired. This Time Capsule showcases piano trios by Hummel. (ITYWLTMT Montage #258 - 08 Sep, 2017)

Franz SCHUBERT (1797 - 1828)

Franz Peter Schubert was among the first of the early Romantics, and the composer who, more than any other, brought the art song (lied) to artistic maturity. During his short but prolific career, he produced masterpieces in nearly every genre, all characterized by rich harmonies, an expansive treatment of classical forms, and a seemingly endless gift for melody. Schubert began his earliest musical training studying with his father and brothers. He began to explore composition and wrote a song that came to the attention of the institution's director, Antonio Salieri, who along with the school's professor of harmony, hailed young Schubert as a genius. In 1813, after Schubert's voice broke, he returned to live with his father, who directed him to follow in his footsteps and become a schoolteacher. Schubert begrudgingly complied and worked miserably in that capacity by day, while composing prolifically by night. He had written more than 100 songs as well as numerous symphonic, operatic, and chamber music scores, before he reached the age of 20. Despite his short life, Schubert produced a wealth of symphonies, operas, masses, chamber music pieces, and piano sonatas, most of which are considered standard repertoire. He is known primarily for composing hundreds of songs including Gretchen am Spinnrade, and Erlkonig. He pioneered the song cycle with such works as Die Schöne Müllerin, and Die Winterreise, and greatly affected the vocal writing of both Robert Schumann and Gustav Mahler.

Listener Guide # 148 – Schubert for two pianists, four hands

The piano duet formed by Paul Badura-Skoda and Jörg Demus performs works by Schubert for piano four-hands in a public recital in Milan in 1978. (Once Upon the Internet#1 - 5 June 2012)

(More Schubert Chamber Music in Listener Guide # 20)

Listener Guide # 149 – Schubert: 15 Lieder

Schubert's body of work includes over 600 songs for voice and piano. That number alone is vastly impressive - many composers fail to reach that number of compositions in their entire output, let alone in a single genre. But it isn't just the quantity that's remarkable: Schubert consistently, and frequently, wrote songs of such beauty and quality that composers such as Schumann, Wolf and Brahms all credited him with reinventing, invigorating and bringing greater seriousness to a previously dilletante musical form. (Cover 2 Cover #5 – 28 Nov 2017)

(More Schubert Lieder in Listener Guide # 42)

Listener Guide # 150 – Two Schubert Symphonies

When we think of Schubert, we think lieder and other intimate settings and not necessarily of symphonies. That having been said, Schubert did leave us 12 works (many of them fragmentary) that are in the symphonic form, and eight of them (including the "Unfinished") are part of the repertoire. (Once Upon the Internet #49 – 9 Aug 2016)

(More Schubert Symphonies in Listener Guide # 108)

Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826)

Composer, conductor, virtuoso, novelist, and essayist, Carl Maria von Weber is one of the great figures of early German Romanticism. Known for his opera Der Freischütz, a work which expresses the spirit and aspirations of German Romanticism, Weber was the quintessential Romantic artist, turning to poetry, history, folklore, and myths for inspiration and striving to create a convincing synthesis of fantastic literature and music. Weber's additional claim to fame are his works for woodwind instruments, which include two concertos and a concertino for clarinet, a concerto for bassoon, and a superb quintet for clarinet and string quartet.

Listener Guide # 151 – Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826)

A brief overview of the music of Carl Maria von Weber, including one of his clarinet concertos  (ITYWLTMT Montage #269 – 19 Jan 2018)

(More Weber Clarinet music in Listener Guides #21 and #36)

Listener Guide # 152 & 153 – Der Freischütz

A Freischütz ("freeshooter"), in German folklore, is a marksman who, by a contract with the devil, has obtained a certain number of bullets destined to hit without fail whatever object he wishes. As the legend is usually told, six of the magic bullets (German: Freikugeln, literally "free bullets"), are thus subservient to the marksman's will, but the seventh is at the absolute disposal of the devil himself. Resembling the Faust legend, Der Freischütz is a story of two lovers whose ultimate fate is decided by supernatural forces, a story which Weber brings to life by masterfully translating into music the otherworldly, particularly sinister, aspects of the narrative. (Once or Twice aFortnight - 15 Feb 2014
[Synopsis and Libretto]

L/G 152 [Overture, Act 1, Act 2 (beginning)]

L/G #153 [Act 2 (conclusion), Entr'acte, Act 3]