Vienna as an important cultural centre during the classical period
Vienna has always been an incredible city, which might seem to resemble a chapter from proffers culture and fairy tales, excitement and history all of which are rolled in what can be termed as a splendid package (Cobb: 2002 para. 4-9). Set in the backdrop of imperial palace, royalty and amazing mountains, Vienna is an important visitor’s destination which can be toured through out the year. Vienna is the Austria’s capital and it is by far the largest city in the country as well as one of the most important cultural centres in Austria all the way from classical period till today. This has enabled this historic city to be inscribed in the World Heritage List of UNESCO. Thus, Vienna is the cultural hub of the Austria (Parsons: 2009 pp.112-141).
There is also a greater number of important institutions which are located at Vienna, which includes; United Nations offices, International Agency of Atomic Energy, Vienna International Centre, and so on. Apart from this, Vienna city also houses some of the civil war sites. As a cultural centre, Vienna city has a rich ancient tradition of theatre, classical music and opera all of which dates back to the classical period. Thus, Vienna city serves as the Austria’s cultural centre, whereby it showcases most of the Europe’s finest classical music and art (Pastelli: 1984 pp.276-291).
The western music classical period between 1730and 1820, thus despite an overlap that was considerable at both ends of this period, that is, with the preceding as well as the following period, this musical era was of great importance to the Vienna. Although sometimes the term classical music acts as a blanket word encompassing all music types in this tradition, it is also specifically used to mean this particular classical period within that tradition. The classical period usually falls between the Romantic and the Baroque period (Cobb: 2002 para.4-9). Most of the notable composers during this period were; Wolfgang Mozart, Ludwig Beethoven, and Joseph Haydn though others included; Johann Dussek, Muzio Clementi, Carl Philip Bach as well as Christopher Gluck. Schubert and Beethoven are sometimes regarded as romantic composers or who were part of the transition between the classical and romantic period. The classical period is also referred to as the Viennese classic sometimes; this is because all the notable composers during the classical period such as the Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn and Schubert at some times worked in Vienna.
The historical background of Vienna as a cultural centre
The cultural history of Vienna exists more than its memory may be, mostly with its beautiful architecture which preserves the cities heritage which is very intriguing amongst its ancient walls (Pastelli: 1984 pp.276-291). The Hofburg imperial palace which traces it roots in the classical period also stands as a tribute to Habsburg dynasty which was once very powerful and also serves as part of the Austria’s presidency grandiose resident. Thus, Vienna literature is also regarded as an important part of culture which began in the classical period when the Holy Roman Empire was disbanded by Francis II leading to establishment of the Austrian empire (Cobb: 2002 para.4-9).
Vienna has also been a significant innovation centre in music. Thus, Vienna’s status as a cultural centre started back in early 1500’s when it actually focused on the music instruments and especially the lute composers in Vienna during the classical period which lasted in parts of 18th as well as 19th centuries were mainly attracted to the Vienna city by the Habsburgs patronage, when it actually became the capital of classical music in European continent (Parsons: 2009 pp.112-141). The famous composer, Mozart with his melody and form balance; Beethoven with his usual symphonic patterns; as well as Haydn, with the string sonata and quartet development all greatly attributed to the classical period of music.
The Classical Era in Vienna
From 1750 up to 1820, architects, artists and musicians moved from the styles which were heavily ornamented of the Baroque which led to the embracing of the uncluttered and clean style which they thought reminiscent of the style of the classical Greece. The aristocracies which were newly established were then replacing the churches and monarchs as the arts patrons whereby they were demanding for an impersonal as well as elegant and tuneful music (Pastelli: 1984 pp. 276-291). During this classical period dances which included the gavotte and minuet were provided mainly in the forms of entertaining divertimenti serenades (Spielman: 1993 p. 121).
However, during this period Vienna city which is the Austrian capital became the European’s musical centre whereas the works which were composed during this period were often regarded as in the Viennese style. Thus, this greatly contributed to the rise of the Vienna city as the cultural centre in the entire of Europe for its critical role which it was playing to the development of music (Cobb: 2002 para 4-9). Composers from all over Europe came to train around and in Vienna. This gradually led to the development as well as formalization of the standard musical forms which dominated the European musical culture during the classical period. The classical period ended up reaching its majestic culmination with the development of the masterful sonatas, symphonies and string quartets which was done by the three great composers from the Viennese school: Wolfgang Mozart, Franz Haydn, and Ludwig Beethoven respectively (Parsons: 2009 pp. 112-141). However, at the same period, the first burgeoning romantic musical voices can be found in the French Schubert music who was also a Viennese composer.
Great composers based in Vienna during the classical period
The classical period was characterized by the convergence of the world’s best composers of that time at Vienna making it one of the most important cultural centres of the classical period (Pastelli: 1984 pp. 276-291). This is mainly because music is always regarded as the soul and heart of many cultures and societies, hence without it most of their existence would cease. Thus, by Vienna becoming an epitome of music competition and performance it actually acted as an important cultural centre world wide (Spielman: 1993 p. 121). A great number of composers all over the world moved to Vienna or around Vienna where they used to train and perform their music. However, the four composers who were very notable as well as successful in Vienna during the classical period included; Ludwig Van Beethoven, Franz Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Christoph Willibald Gluck (Parsons: 2009 pp.112-141).
Ludwig van Beethoven
This composer was born in German in the year1770. His music is usually considered to be the bridge between the classical period and the subsequent romantic era. Beethoven was actually self-educated and ended up rising up to become one among the greatest composers in the classical period (Pastelli: 1984 pp. 276-291). His works were mainly composed for concertos, quartets, piano sonata and symphonies. Almost the entire of Beethoven’s musical career was based in Vienna and it can be viewed best in three distinct phases. In his first period of musical career Beethoven composed the first and second symphonies, six string quartets, opus 18 as well as the first fifteen piano sonatas of his thirty two. In his middle stage of musical career, he started building on classical works thereby bringing them to new expressiveness level. In this stage he also composed the third symphony which was known as Eroica (Parsons: 2009 112). In his third stage Beethoven was at peak of creativity, whereby he explored music more than he had done there before (Cobb: 2002 para. 4-9).
Franz Joseph Haydn
This composer was born and raised in Austria and began his musical career at tender age as a choirboy in Vienna. Most of his musical career also rotates around the Vienna city and while he was in school his most favorite pastime was to scribble music on piece of paper (Pastelli: 1984 pp. 276-291). Count Fornberg was Haydn’s first patron, and under him Haydn was capable of playing string quartet as well as composing his first composition of eighteen quartets. Haydn later became the Count Morzin music director, where he composed his first symphony which was then followed by more than a hundred others (Cobb: 2002 para. 4-9). Later Haydn went to spent thirty years together with the Prince Paul Esterhazy family, whereby he composed forty string quartets, five masses, thirty clavier pieces, a hundred and five cello trios, sixty symphonies as well as many other works for birthdays, funerals, weddings and other occasions (Parsons: 2009 pp. 112-141). Haydn added in to the orchestra extra instrumentation and sang his music with a lot of passion thus he is regarded as today’s one of the greatest music composers in the entire of music history.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Mozart was regarded as the greatest child prodigy whom the world has ever known. This is because at the age of four he was capable of learning a peace of music in approximately half an hour (Pastelli: 1984 pp. 276-291). Then at the age of five he was incredibly playing the clavier well, whereas at the age of eight he started writing and composing his first symphonies. Though Mozart’s life was full of challenges he managed to travel extensively throughout Europe where he composed many operas most of which were most loved, with his last opera being the magic flute (Sherrane: 2000 para. 3-8). However, although Mozart lived for only 35 years, he is actually regarded as a musical genius who was prominent. Hence his creativity contributed so much to the Vienna as the Europe’s most important cultural centre because together with his friend Haydn they also lived in Vienna (Spielman: 1993 p. 121).
Christoph Willibald Gluck
Gluck was a very powerful operatic form writer whereby his operas were full of emotions, drama, powerful choruses alias, dignified melodies as well as genuine orchestral accompaniment, thus by the age of forty, Gluck had already written twenty operas (Pastelli: 1984 276). Gluck’s writing style was hailed as innovative modern and almost revolutionary (Cobb: 2002 para. 4-9).
The cultural development of classic music in Vienna during the classical period
Vienna was the most important centre of music during the classical period whereby greater developments were achieved. On another level palaces and courts focused mainly on the music performance (Parsons: 2009 p. 112). Thus, most of the successful musicians were funded by the aristocrats whereas most of the music writing was done for the social events of the upper-class. Slowly, music started moving to concert hall for public performance of new works and current composers. Coinciding with the middle class rise the classical era also saw the music publication and public concert beginning. At the core of focus by Europeans the Vienna city was the Habsburg dynasty capital as well as the Europe’s music capital during the classical period (Sherrane: 2000 para. 3-8).
However, the Viennese school was the term which was generally used to describe the musical scene during the classical period, which was entirely centered on the Viennese school masters achievements (Spielman: 1993 p. 121). Describing the musical style transformation as evolving gradually from old to innovative and new ways, musicians recognized the coexistence of new and old before the classical elements had become most prominent (Cobb: 2002 para. 4-9). Thus, in preclassic times, the music style mainly focused on simplicity compared to Baroque textures which were more complex. Characteristically the classical style mainly expressed different moods and themes, thus, achieving contrast.
Many types of musical genres as well as types of compositions were also prevalent during the classical period. Also the instrumental works had become very important, thus this period is recognized as the chamber music golden age. The chamber music was therefore intended for a small set up of a chamber or salon and consisted mainly of smaller groups of players who performed together as a team (Cobb: 2002 para. 4-9). Haydn was the key to the development of the string quartet and Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and Schubert were involved in the establishment of the style of the true chamber music (Spielman: 1993 p. 121). The classical period also marked the evolution of musical genres which consisted of soloist (which included piano and violin) and orchestra; thereby the evolution on concert was a result of interaction and balance between the ensemble and instrument. This type of piece had three movements which were contrasting with the addition of an elaborated solo passage or cadenza (Johnston: 1979 156). Sonata was also another significant genre during this period and it was mostly written piano or violin and piano. Thus, is generally referred to as work of solo instrumental of four or three varied movements (Schorske: 1961 pp. 123-130).
The opera and choral music also considerably advanced during the classical era. The Mozart’s “mass for the dead” and Haydn’s “Lord Nelson mass” were most famous. However, the growth of the secular music during this period was more compared to the sacred genres. The voice parts were dominant to the accompaniments during the classical period the orchestra was mainly based on four different instrument families; brass, woodwind, string and percussion (specifically timpani). However, the strings dominated the instruments up to the point when woodwind gained their independence as a result of late works of Mozart and Haydn (Parsons: 2009 pp.112-141). Thus, the string instruments were the bottom foundation brass were in the middle while woodwind played the greatest part.
Main characteristics of music in the classical period
The music contributed to the greatest cultural heritage of the Vienna city in the classical period compared to any other era of musical development. However, the music which was played during this period had distinct characteristics compared to that of the preceding as well as following eras (Pauly: 1988 p. 198). For example, it was higher and had clear texture when compared to the preceding Baroque music, it was also mainly homophonic and less complicated indicating that it was melody which was above the choral accompaniment (Schorske: 1961 pp. 123-130). It also emphasized on the beauty and grace of melody and form, that is, moderation and control, proportion and balance, polished and elegant all of which were in character with formal structure and expressiveness held in perfect balance.
There was also more contrast and variety within a peace of melodies, key, dynamic and rhythms; there were also frequent changes of timbre and mood. The melodies during this period also tended to be shorter than those which were composed during the Baroque era, with clearly marked cadences as well as clear-cut phrases. The orchestra increased in size and range whereas the harpsichord continued to fall out of use while the woodwind became a self contained section (Zaslaw: 1989 p.350). The piano replaced the harpsichord towards late classical period whereby the early piano music was thinnish in texture and it was often accompanied with Albert bass, but it was later advanced by the Beethoven to become richer as well as more powerful and sonorous. Also during this period the main kinds of genres were trio, sonata, symphony, concerto, string quartet divertimento and serenade (Pastelli: 1984 pp.276-291). However the sonata form developed and became most important design which was used to build the large scale works movement at first, but also other forms of movements as well as single piece which included the overtures.
Vienna city emerged as the Europe’s music capital during the classical period thus making it the most important cultural centre during this period in Europe. This situation led to the movement of many composers from all over the Europe continent to converge at Vienna where they used to train and compose their music. This synergy from different parts of the Europe continent contributed more growth to music attaching more importance to Vienna city as a cultural centre, because the music in those days was epitome of culture (Spielman: 1993 p.141).
However the classical period saw the emergency of the most successful composers in the music history. They includes; Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven. Gluck and Schubert who greatly contributed to the music sector before ushering the Romantic era even though some of them participated in the transition between the Classical and Romantic era (Heartz: 1995 p.134). Thus, musical era seldom disappears just at once, but the features are gradually replaced over time, this is then a continuous process which continues until the old is actually felt as outdated. The classical style of music then didn’t die; it just underwent transformation under the pressure of changes. Also the Vienna city didn’t change its cultural status dated back to the classical period because it is also very rich in music culture and thus it was inscribed in the Cultural Heritage List of UNESCO due to its cultural richness (Heartz: 1995 p.134).
Charles Schorske, Fin-de-siecle Vienna: Politics and culture. (New York: Vintage Books, 1961), pp. 123-130.
Daniel Heartz, Haydn, Mozart, and the Viennese school, 1740-1780, Volume 20, (New York: W.W. Norton, 1995), p.134.
Donna Cobb, Classical Era <http://mymusichistory.netfirms.com/Classical.htm> [accessed 8th January 2011], para. 4-9.
Giorgio Pastelli, The age of Mozart and Beethoven, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), pp. 276-291.
Neal Zaslaw, The classical era: from the 1740s to the end of the 18th century, (New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1989), p. 350.
Nicholas Parsons, Vienna: a cultural history, (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2009), pp. 112-141.
Philip Spielman, The city& the crown: Vienna and the Imperial court, 1600-1740, (Indiana: Purdue University Press, 1993), p. 121
Reinhard Pauly, Music in the classic period, (New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1988), pp. 198-202.
Robert Sherrane, Music History 102: The Classical or Viennese Period <http://www.ipl.org/div/mushist/clas/> [accessed 8th January 2011], para. 3-8.
Williams Johnston, The Austrian mind: An intellectual and social history 1848-1938. (California: University of California Press, 1979), pp. 156-59.