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This chapter on keyboard instruments in the Classical period includes a discussion of the continued use of the harpsichord and clavichord by composers such as Mozart and Haydn, as well as throughout Europe, as documented in the writings of Charles Burney. The origins of the English and German/Austrian schools of piano making are discussed, in particular the work of Johann Christoph Zumpe and others referred to as the “Twelve Apostles,” and the Broadwood firm in London, as well as that of Johann Andreas Stein in Augsburg, and Geschwister Stein and Anton Walter in Vienna. Included are technical descriptions of the keyboard instruments used by the principal composers of the period, as well as revelations about the condition and authenticity of the piano said to have been made by Anton Walter and owned by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The inventive work of Johann Andreas Stein, in particular his so-called Vis-à-vis combination piano/harpsichord, is discussed.
In 1875 the pioneering early authority on Beethoven’s sketches, Gustav Nottebohm, claimed that had the composer completed as many symphonies as were begun in the sketchbooks, then his total output of such works would have exceeded fifty. This essay is the first to scrutinize that claim. A comprehensive study of Beethoven’s sketches from his youth to the last years of his life reveals Nottebohm’s claim to be remarkably accurate. As well as detailed study of the musical evidence the essay presents a thematic catalogue of unfinished – or barely begun – symphonies.
Critics have often described Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony as a ‘watershed’ work, not only within his career and oeuvre, but also within the histories of music, art and ideas. However, the concept of the ‘watershed’ work needs to be understood both as an aesthetic construct and as a literary device that helps to shape a narrative of triumph over adversity. Investigating this concept means disentangling the Eroica from the many stories that have been told about it since Beethoven’s death. While modern critics have made compelling claims about the Eroica’s departures from generic and stylistic norms, for instance, these claims are complicated by close engagement with the music of Beethoven’s predecessors. Carl Friedrich Michaelis’s 1805 interpretation of the symphonies of Haydn, Mozart and early Beethoven as ‘heroic epics’ ‘Heldengedichte’ offers further evidence that the Eroica reaffirmed and reimagined ‘rather than overturned’ an existing aesthetic paradigm. The Beethoven myth has strongly shaped the way the Eroica has been understood, so that beginning in the 1830s, the symphony’s extraordinary reputation has been closely bound up with the periodisation of Beethoven’s life and works. Recent scholarship on Beethoven’s ‘middle’ or ‘heroic’ period opens up alternate ways of thinking about the Eroica’s ‘watershed’ status.
Haydn’s Seasons suffered in the critical reception of its time owing to the sublime’s proximity to the humorous or quotidian, two of the sublime’s ‘off-switches’, especially after the unproblematic sublimity of The Creation. Van Swieten’s cataloguing talents as imperial librarian are on view as librettist of both oratorios, but only The Seasons reflected his thematic choices. His poetry allowed Haydn to showcase the effects of nature’s excesses in the ‘extreme’ seasons, making the sublime ‘start’ and ‘stop’ not only in the choruses invoking God, the eruption of the storm and the sounding of the Last Judgment, but also in the quieter solos in Summer and Winter, both cavatinas, when the sun’s overwhelming presence or absence makes animate nature gasp for air. The ‘quotidian sublime’ of the sunset tapestry that closes Summer brings healing after terror. Haydn’s two Mozart quotations in The Seasons make powerful references to the life cycle as the work’s dominant metaphor, but hitherto unremarked is Haydn’s spotlight on the rising-sixth interval in Spring and Winter as Mozart uses it in The Magic Flute for moments of recognition. In thus suggesting sublime Mozart’s spirit framing the whole, Haydn’s work offers a key to Beethoven’s Cavatina in Op. 130.
This introduction to the volume provides overviews of theories of the sublime and musicology’s engagement with the sublime, before outlining the fresh perspective brought by this collection. The focus is on historically specific experiences of the sublime: although the centre of gravity is the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, in the well-known centres of intellectual debate on the sublime in Europe, a widened purview considers performers and audiences, as well as composers and works, as agents of power. The authors distinguish between the different aesthetics of production, representation and effect, while understanding these as often mutually reinforcing approaches. A significant cross-temporal finding to emerge from the collection is music’s strength in playing out the sublime as transfer, transport and transmission of power; this is allied to the persistent theme of destruction, deaths and endings. The density of this thematic complex in music is a keynote of the dialogue between the chapters. The volume opens up two avenues for further research, suggested by the adjective ‘sonorous’: a wider spectrum of sounds heard as sublime, and (especially for those outside musicology) a more multifaceted idea of music as a cultural practice that has porous boundaries with other sounding phenomena.
Deals with the perceived conventional and formulaic aspects of the style, starting with a discussion (and defence) of convention itself. I show how through various forms of distortion and contextual manipulation, conventions and formulas may be renewed. One such convention is the grammatical essential of the cadence, which is often refreshed when a simple, understated cadential formulation appears to undercut a preceding passage of a brilliant or emotionally heated nature. I consider how this and other such patterns demonstrate a taste for reduction, ‘to say more with less’, showing a creative distrust of a certain kind of rhetorical eloquence. Another way of understanding such manoeuvres is that they compel the attention of the listener, and this term is found frequently in writings on music of the time. Its opposite state, boredom, is, I argue, ‘written into’ some music in the form of distractions and non sequiturs. A further type of renewal of attention can be achieved by mixing up or conflating the three formal functions of beginning, middle and ending, and the final portion of the chapter considers the handling of such functional signs.
Expands on aspects of ‘affective sociability’, discussing its relationship to notions of expression, individuality and feeling. I discuss those gentler elements of the aesthetic of the time - simplicity, naturalness, moderation, grace - that have proved stumbling-blocks for later generations of critics, and the way in which they crystallized in the widespread vaunting of the powers of pure melody, discreetly accompanied. Pleasure and politeness are also discussed as parts of this same discursive field. On the other hand, just as fundamental to the music of the time is its ambivalence of tone: the uncertainty about whether a particular musical passage or gesture is to be taken on face value or not. This entails a consideration of various forms of double meaning - whether accounted for as humour, wit, comedy or irony - that are so common in this instrumental repertoire. A corollary of these is a decidedly anti-scholastic, anti-authoritarian orientation in a style that is keen to avoid any perceived pedantry. I then focus on works and movements set in the minor mode, the common critical praise of which is often directed against the sorts of attributes I have considered earlier in the chapter.
Expands on aspects of ‘technical sociability’, which is underpinned by principles of reciprocity and periodicity, both involving forms of binary organization. These include what I dub the gracious riposte, a recurring behavioural pattern in which assertive and conciliatory gestures are juxtaposed. The commonly applied language model, involving the interpretation of music as ‘conversational’, is reviewed, and I also discuss the rise of the sharply memorable musical motive in the music of this time. This leads to a section on thematic interaction, whereby musical materials themselves, rather than players or instruments, may be heard to ‘converse’ with each other. Sometimes, though, the contrast between them suggests less a fruitful exchange than simple incompatibility. I then consider topic theory as a means of controlling our impressions of such diversity of musical materials, noting both its positive and its limiting aspects. To conclude, I consider the encompassing term ‘variety’, a desideratum of the time, which could, once more, be accounted a virtue or a vice.
Introduces the main argument, that much about the instrumental music of the later eighteenth century can be grasped with reference to the concept of sociability. The concept is defined and placed alongside other rubrics such as expression, language and behaviour. Sociability is separated into affective and technical spheres. Haydn, a market leader both critically and commercially, is the central figure for the study. The modern reception of later eighteenth-century style is discussed with particular reference to Haydn and Mozart, noting the critical tendency to occupy a moral high ground above the image of a ‘shallow sociability’, and concluding with the challenge ‘When else … in Western music history has a whole style been so often understood negatively, as a problem in need of a solution?’. Then I investigate the listener-friendliness of the style: the pronounced orientation of this music towards a listening subject was historically novel. This music both challenges listeners and puts them at their ease.
Two case studies, one broad and one more specific, feature in this chapter. The pastoral is more than a musical topic; it is an encompassing orientation that intersects with the taste for reduction that I considered in Chapter 3 and those elements of affective sociability mentioned in Chapter 4. Indeed, the galant style altogether could be said to have aspired to the condition of the pastoral. As well as continuing the traditional idyllic pastoral representations, our style also introduces a more vigorous brand of folk imagery. The tempo di menuetto finale, a neglected movement type, can be understood as a countergeneric construct, increasingly written in pointed contrast to the fast final movement of instrumental works. It helps us to unlock some of the neglected aspects of the style altogether by modelling an intimate sensibility, full of feeling but disciplined by a minuet gait that promotes continuity of motion. With its undemonstrative depth, it provides some clue as to what has been missing or misunderstood in the reception of musical sociability.
Sociability may be a key term of reference for eighteenth-century studies as a whole, but it has not yet developed an especially strong profile in music scholarship. Many of the associations that it brings do not fit comfortably with a later imperative of individual expression. W. Dean Sutcliffe invites us to face up to the challenge of re-evaluating the communicative rationales that lie behind later eighteenth-century instrumental style. Taking a behavioural perspective, he divides sociability into 'technical' and 'affective' realms, involving close attention both to particular recurring musical patterns as well as to some of the style's most salient expressive attributes. The book addresses a broad span of the instrumental production of the era, with Haydn as the pivotal figure. Close readings of a variety of works are embedded in an encompassing consideration of the reception of this music.
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