Once you've read all of this and clicked on the videos it is time to do exercise #13 and answer eight questions. I strongly recommend opening that exercise in a separate tab and referring back here for the answers.
In the Baroque period our exciting musical action was spread all around Europe. Vivaldi is in Venice, Bach is leading a quiet life in various German cities, and Handel eventually winds up in London.
In the Classic era, however, the city of Vienna, Austria is the center of musical development. It was the largest German-speaking city, with a strong tradition of both amateur and professional music-making. Our three major composers, Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven all spent a major portion of their lives in this city and sometimes seem to have inspired each other to attain new musical heights.
Joseph Haydn [1732-1809]
Haydn is the earliest of our three major Classic-period composers. He was born in 1732 in a small Austrian town called Rohrau. (One Haydn biographer estimated that Rohrau consisted of about 65 houses.)
Map of important Haydn places
His mother had worked as a cook, and his father was a wheelwright (i.e. he made wagon and carriage wheels.) By all accounts both parents loved to sing and accompany themselves on the harp. Haydn's father even organized some informal concerts amongst the neighbors.
At the age of 5 Haydn's singing voice was heard by a distant cousin who ran a choir school in nearby Hainburg, and Haydn went to live with family there. Then, at age 7 the director of the St. Stephen's choir school in Vienna recruited him to come to the big city. Haydn sang for church services and received instruction on violin, keyboard instruments, and the basics of composition. He stayed there until age 17, when his voice had changed and he was no longer useful.
From ages 17-25 Haydn bounced around Vienna, looking for any musical work he could find, and he finally got his first steady job as a Kapellmeister or musical director for a nobleman at 25.
Working for the Esterházys
In 1761, however, he landed the position that would define his career. The Esterházy family were Austro-Hungarian royalty who divided their time between Eisenstadt, Austria and their lavish summer estate in Esterháza, Hungary. Haydn would be their in-house musical director for 30 years.
The gate to the palace at Esterháza
Symphonies and String Quartets
Haydn has been called the "father of the symphony" and the "father of the string quartet."
The first claim is a bit exaggerated, since they did have important symphony orchestras in Italy and Germany that were playing music while Haydn was still couch-surfing in Vienna. However, with the in-house orchestra at Esterháza Haydn did develop very sophisticated works that definitely pushed the artform forward. In the course of his career he wrote 104 symphonies.
In our next unit we'll focus on this movement from Haydn's Symphony No. 6 in D major, nicknamed "Le Matin."
"Le Matin" was Haydn's first piece for the ensemble at Esterháza, and he was excited to see what these musicians could do. He filled this piece with an unusual number of solos for individual players. (In this movement, for example, we hear a lot from the flute, bassoon, and double bass.)
Haydn and the String Quartet
Haydn was even more important as an innovator for the string quartet. At this time string quartets were never heard in big public concerts - they were designed for the pleasure of the people playing them, and they might be performed at a party or some other relatively informal occasion.
Haydn's first paid quartet commissions came during his freelance years - it has been claimed that he basically invented the format for a client that happened to need music for 2 violins, 1 viola, and 1 cello.
He produced 67 of them over the course of his lifetime, constantly pushing the genre forward with sophisticated writing that features all four musicians in constant interaction. Haydn and Mozart famously played together at a quartet party in 1784.
Let's listen to the second movement of the "Emperor" Quartet, No. 62 in C major. Here the quartet playa a set of Theme and Variations on a simple and pretty tune.
This is now the German national anthem! (At the time, it was Haydn's tribute to Emperor Francis II.) Here is a performance at a soccer match.
Later Years in London and Vienna
After the death of Prince Nikolaus Esterházy in 1790 Haydn was free to travel and seek fortune elsewhere. A concert promoter named Salomon was quick to swoop in and take him to London, the largest city in Europe where he was already quite famous. Haydn wrote new, grandiose works for these concerts and heard them played by a large orchestra of about 60 players.
My favorite of the London symphonies is No. 101 in D Major, nicknamed "The Clock." Here's the second movement, where the rhythmic regularity of the accompaniment reminds people of an elegant timepiece.
After a few seasons of concerts in London, Haydn settled in Vienna for the remainder of his life. At this point he had outlived Mozart and was competing with Beethoven, composing very large, complex works.
Haydn is underrated!
I would argue that Haydn is underappreciated. His works bristle with intelligence, complexity, and wit, and he was involved with the entire span of the Classic period from its beginnings into the 19th century.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart [1756-1791]
Mozart is probably the most well-known and beloved figure in all of Western Classical music. His dramatic life story is a major factor in his enduring fame.
Mozart was born in Salzburg, Austria in 1756. His father was a prominent violinist and an excellent teacher, and he worked hard to pass his knowledge on to Mozart and his older sister, Nannerl.
Recognizing that his children had talent, he took them on tour to London, Paris and many other places. This activity began when Wolfgang was 6 (and Nannerl 11) and continued until Mozart was 17. These tours consisted of public concerts with a hastily assembled pick-up orchestra of local musicians as well as private visits to various important people.
(Amusingly, it was understood that these private exhibitions would earn a fee, but the amount was never discussed in advance. Leopold would sometimes be given more than expected but would also be frequently disappointed.)
Here is a clip from the movie Amadeus that shows a young Mozart performing for the Pope.
[The narrator here is supposed to be Antonio Salieri, a real contemporary of Mozart. The conceit behind the film is that Salieri was jealous of Mozart and eventually drove Wolfgang to his early death. It is mostly made up, though it is based on some real-life rumors that floated around Vienna back in the day.]
Working for Colloredo [1773-1781]
Mozart's only steady job was working for the Archbishop of Salzburg, Heironymus von Colloredo. Mozart was frequently frustrated with this position - he had tasted international fame and had much higher ambitions that this. Opportunities to have his work performed were limited, and Colloredo often insisted on treating Mozart like a menial employee.
Mozart was eventually let go at his own request in 1781, with Colloredo instructing his steward Count Arco to kick him in the butt on his way out the door.
Symphony No. 29 in A Major, K. 201
Let's listen to one of the better-known works from Mozart's Colloredo years. Mozart composed this in 1774. The first movement is organized in a sonata form, which we'll talk about very soon. The titles indicate the various elements in the form.
Freelancing in Vienna
Mozart spent the last decade of his life in Vienna, pursuing a wide variety of musical opportunities. He composed operas, cultivated support from various aristocratic patrons, and produced public concerts wherever he could.
We've already looked at this clip from Amadeus, depicting a public concert with Mozart as the star performer.
At first, this strategy appears to have been very successful, but we know that he ran into money problems around 1788. People debate whether this means that Vienna was not ready to support a freelance composer (even one as brilliant as Mozart) or whether it just meant that Mozart's personal expenses were way too high.
In his final year, though, things were looking up, as his opera Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) was a smash hit and enthusiasm for his music seemed to be intensifying. His career probably would have rebounded!
Mozart as the Ultimate Effortless Genius
One fairly common conception of Mozart is that he was a sort of perfect genius who was inspired to create great things without working very hard at it. He would sometimes tell people that he had a piece all planned out in his mind, and that he just needed to go home and write it down.
Here is a scene from Amadeus that dramaticizes an aspect of Mozart's manuscripts that musicologists have noticed, that they are very clean and show no trace of second thoughts. (Beethoven, in contrast, worked extremely hard in his sketches, scribbling ideas all over the page.)
Again, this is supposed to be Antonio Salieri, talking to Mozart's wife Constanze.
In 1791 Mozart was deeply depressed and not feeling well. He sometimes told people that he felt that he had been poisoned. Eventually he was overtaken by an illness that left him bedridden and unable to move, and he died on December 5th of that year.
He did not have a proper autopsy, so it is impossible to say with certainty what killed him. Medical professionals like to speculate on the cause (based on the description of his symptoms), and perhaps the most common theory is that he died from rheumatic fever. He was 35.
As we sometimes see today, his reputation increased dramatically in the decades after his death. We will listen to quite a bit of Mozart in this unit.
OK! Now it is time to tackle exercise #13. Once again, I think you should open that page in a separate tab and do this "open book."