Romanticism in Music (1820-1900)
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Characteristics of Romanticism
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Visual Art – emotional subjectivity, sensitivity to nature
Literature – focus on the unconscious, irrational,
supernatural
Architecture – “gothic revival”
Industrial Revolution
Enthusiasm for the Middle Ages
Music in the Romantic Era
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continued forms of the Classical era
emotional intensity influenced by Mozart, Beethoven
expressive songlike melodies similar to classical style
Characteristics of Romantic Music
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Individuality of Style
Expressive Aims and Subjects
Nationalism and Exoticism
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created using music with a specific national identity, using
folk songs, dances, legends, national histories, rhythms
and instruments associated with specific countries
Program Music
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instrumental music associated with a story, poem, idea, or
scene
program – nonmusical element specified by the title or
explanatory notes
Characteristics of Romantic Music
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Expressive Tone Color (Timbre)
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larger orchestras
brass / woodwinds / percussion take more active role
valved brass instruments
brass – trombone, tuba, more horns and trumpets
woodwinds – piccolo, English horn, bass clarinet,
contrabassoon
new sounds – col legno, use of new registers
orchestration as an art
piano – improved in the 1820s and 1830s
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cast-iron frame
hammers covered with felt
Characteristics of Romantic Music
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Colorful Harmony
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Expanded Range of Dynamics, Pitch, and Tempo
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chromatic harmony
use of dissonant chords
rapid modulations / less tonal gravity to tonic key
ffff to pppp / frequent dynamic changes (sudden and
gradual)
pitch range of orchestra / piano
more tempo fluctuations / rubato
Form: Miniature and Monumental
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forms that meet the needs of :
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intimate home settings
large concert halls and opera houses
Classical forms used – but individual movements lengthened
thematic transformation and other unifying techniques
Romantic Composers and Their Public
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Composer as a “free artist”
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fill an inner need rather than commission
want to please contemporaries and posterity
influence of French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars
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aristocrats cannot afford to have own music staff
wrote primarily for middle class
Formation of orchestras and opera groups
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regular subscription concerts become common
London Philharmonic Society, Paris Société des Concerts
du Conservatoire, Vienna Philharmonische Konzerte,
New York Philharmonic
Romantic Composers and Their Public
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Founding of Conservatories
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in Europe
Chicago, Cleveland, Boston, Oberlin (Ohio), Philadelphia
Captivation with virtuosity
Increase of private music making
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piano becomes a fixture in the middle-class home
great demand for:
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songs and solo pieces
transcriptions and arrangements of larger works
Composition not viewed as a family craft
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few composers support themselves only with composing
The Art Song
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composition for solo voice and piano
strong importance given to accompaniment
written for the home / now performed anywhere
use of poetry / musical representation of mood,
imagery, etc.
keyboard commentary
introduction sets the mood / postlude sums it up
Forms
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strophic – same music for each stanza
through-composed – new music for each stanza
modified strophic – A(stanza 1) B(2) A(3)
Song Cycle
Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
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born in Vienna, Austria – son of a schoolmaster
musical prodigy as a child
age 11 – choirboy at court chapel; won scholarship
to the Imperial Seminary
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played 1st violin / sometimes conducted the orchestra
late teens – composed while teaching at father’s
school
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age 17 – inspired by Goethe / composed first great art
song “Gretchen am Spinnrade”
age 18 – composed 143 songs (incl. “Erlkönig”)
age 19 – 179 works (incl. 2 symphonies / opera / mass)
Franz Schubert
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age 21 – gives up teaching school;
devotes all time to music
turns out pieces with incredible speed
 daily routine
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age 25 – contracts venereal disease
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applies for several music positions; but
always denied
age 31 (1828) – dies of syphillis
Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
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born in Zwickau, Germany
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youth - wrote poetry, composed short pieces, played
piano well
Studied law at Leipzig University
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son of a bookseller
devoted most time to music / literature
skipped most lectures
age 20 - becomes piano virtuoso
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2 fingers on right hand become crippled
Robert Schumann
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20s - founds the New Journal of Music
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music criticism
age 18 - meets Clara Wieck (age 9)
daughter and prize pupil of piano teacher
 engaged when Clara is 17
 court battles / married / eight children
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ill-suited for musical positions
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1854 - attempts suicide / committed to
asylum / dies two years later
Schumann’s Music
sets of piano pieces - Carnaval,
Kinderscenen, Dichterliebe, Nachtstüke,
Fantasiestüke
 art songs (1840)
 post 1840 - symphonies and chamber
music
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Clara Wieck Schumann (1819-1896)
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born in Leipzig, Germany
trained by her father to be a child prodigy
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earn money
demonstrate superiority of father’s teaching
methods
ages 12-20: played piano throughout Europe
married Robert Schumann the day before her
21st birthday
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continues to compose and concertize
cares for seven children
Clara Wieck Schumann
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1853 - meets Johannes Brahms and Joseph
Joachim
after Robert’s death
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expands her performance activities
teaches
edits collected works of Robert
stops composing
considered herself primarily as a performer
recently being recognized as an important
woman composer
Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849)
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born and raised in Warsaw, Poland
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graduates from Warsaw Conservatory
tours Austria and Germany
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son of Polish mother and French father
piano performance and composition
Russians conquer Warsaw
1831 - arrives in Paris
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center of Romanticism
artistic capital of Europe
becomes friends with Liszt, Berlioz, Delacroix
Frédéric Chopin
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plays piano in Parisian aristocratic salons
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frail physique =
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lack of big sound
beautiful tone / rhythmic flexibility / etc.
earned living teaching aristocratic daughters
Aurore Dudevant (George Sand) 
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shy and reserved
preferred salons to concert halls
feminist (wore men’s clothes, smoked cigars, etc.)
Chopin (28) and Sand (34) become lovers of 9 years
dies of tuberculosis at age 39
Chopin’s Music
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composed almost exclusively for piano
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exquisite miniatures
highly ornamented melodies (operatic style)
mazurkas and polonaises (Polish dances)
nocturnes (night pieces)
études - study pieces designed to help in
mastering a specific technical difficulty
preludes
waltzes
Franz Liszt (1811-1886)
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born in Hungary
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age 11 - studies in Vienna
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father was an administrator to Esterházy family
meets Schubert and Beethoven
teens and 20s 
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lives in Paris
age 19 - brilliant pianist / inspired by Paganini
withdraws from concert stage for a few years
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practices 8-12 hours a day
1839-1847 - tours Europe
Franz Liszt
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composes own music and transcribes others’
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Transcendental Études
Paganini pieces
movement from Symphonie Fantastique
age 36 - becomes court composer for the grand
duke of Weimar
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invents the symphonic poem (tone poem)
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one movement orchestral piece based on literary or
pictorial ideas
provides musical and financial support to Wagner
teaches piano to hundreds for free
Franz Liszt
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writes music criticism
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aided at times by two lovers
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Countess Marie d’Agoult
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Princess Carolyne Sayn--Wittgenstien
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leaves husband
has three children with Liszt
daughter Cosima has affair with Wagner
ends their relationship over ‘infidelity’
leaves with daughter to live in Weimar with Liszt
attempts Catholic marriage annulment
1861 - Liszt in Rome
1865 - takes minor orders = Abbé Liszt
Franz Liszt
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composes oratorios and masses in Rome
last 17 years - travels between:
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Rome
Weimar
Budapest
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president of new Academy of Music
Liszt’s music
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controversial in character
virtuosic in nature
breaks some classical conventions
Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
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born in Hamburg, Germany
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son of a banker
grandfather was Jewish philosopher
raised in Protestant faith
age 9 - brilliant pianist
age 13 - had written symphonies, concertos,
sonatas, and vocal works
age 17 - composed Overture to A Midsummer night’s
Dream
tried out compositions on private orchestra
Felix Mendelssohn
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age 20 - conducts first performance of Bach’s St.
Matthew Passion since his death
performs throughout Germany and England
age 26 - conductor of Leipzig Gewandhaus
Orchestra
age 33 - founds the Leipzig Conservatory
other talents
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painting
writing
fluent in four languages
Felix Mendelssohn
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happily married / father of four children
1846 - Elijah (an oratorio)
exhausted from constant travel and work
sister (Fanny) dies in 1847
Felix dies 5 months later
Program Music
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instrumental music associated with a story,
poem, idea, or scene
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imitation of sounds
musical rhythm of objects in motion
music creating moods, emotions, and atmosphere
Absolute Music
Types of Program Music
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program symphony
concert overture
symphonic poem (tone poem)
incidental music
Hector Berlioz (1803-1869)
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born in Grenoble, France
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son of a physician
age 20 – studies medicine in Paris
“filled with horror” from dissection
 abandons medicine for music
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studies at the Paris Conservatory
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fanatical about proper orchestration
age 23 –
overwhelmed by Shakespeare
 falls for Shakespearean actress Harriet Smithson
 writes wild love letters / freaks her out
 writes Symphonie Fantastique (1830)
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Hector Berlioz
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1830 – wins the Prix de Rome at the Paris
Conservatory
studies in Rome for 2 years
 presents a concert upon his return
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included Symphonie Fantastique
Harriet Smithson in audience / reaction
they meet next day / marry one year later
they separate after only a few years
forced to arrange concerts at own expense
(unconventional musical style)
drains Berlioz financially, physically, emotionally
 turns to musical journalism
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Hector Berlioz
 stronger
popularity outside of France
support of Liszt – “Berlioz weeks”
 post-1840 – in demand throughout
Europe as conductor
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 later
years –
passed over for many times for
conducting / academic honors
 composes little during final 6 years
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Symphonie Fantastique (1830)
five-movement program symphony
 ‘program’ for the symphony / each
movement
 idée fixe – “fixed idea” – represents the
beloved
 larger orchestra with more tone colors
 4th and 5th movements
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March to the Scaffold
 Dream of a Witches’ Sabbath
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Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)
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born in Votkinsk, Russia
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son of a mining inspector
age 10 – moves to St. Petersburg / studies at
the School of Jurisprudence
 age 19 – graduates / becomes gov’t clerk
 age 21 – studies music theory at St.
Petersburg Conservatory
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resigns from clerk job the following year
 graduates and becomes professor of harmony
at Moscow Conservatory (for 12 years)
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Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
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age 29/30 – composes Romeo and Juliet, OvertureFantasy
1877 –
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marries 28-year-old student
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attempts to conceal homosexuality
“ghastly spiritual torture” after the wedding
attempts suicide / flees to St. Petersburg
nervous collapse causes coma for two days
remains separated from his wife / never sees her again
acquires benefactress – Nadezhda von Meck
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pays him so he can quit his job and compose
14-year writing relationship / never to meet
relationship suddenly cut off / heartbreaking for him
Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
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1877-1891 –
great success in Europe conducting his own
works
 invited to the U.S.
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4 inaugural concerts at Carnegie Hall
concerts in Baltimore and Philadelphia
1893 –
conducts premiere of his 6th Symphony
 dies 9 days later
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Tchaikovsky’s Music
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strong Russian elements present
works include:
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6 Symphonies
Piano Concerto
Violin Concerto
Ballets:
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Swan Lake
Sleeping Beauty
The Nutcracker
Marche Slave
Overture 1812
Romeo and Juliet Overture-Fantasy
Romeo and Juliet Overture-Fantasy
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dismal failure at its premiere
worldwide popularity 20 years later after many
revisions
concert overture
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3 main themes
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sonata form
Friar Laurence
Feuding families (complete with sword fighting)
Love theme
use and development of themes
Bedřich Smetana (1824-1884)
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founder of Czech national music
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1848 - Czech radicals fight and lose
recognized as pianist
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born in Bohemia while under Austrian control
musical nationalism makes little headway
1856 - emigrates to Sweden
1862 - returns to Prague
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Austrian military defeats allow concessions
writes The Bartered Bride
Bedřich Smetana
age 50 - becomes totally deaf
 composes Má Vlast
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set of 6 symphonic poems (including The
Moldau)
contracts syphilis
 age 60 - dies in an insane asylum
 The Moldau - depicts the main river in
Bohemia
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Antonin Dvořák (1841-1904)
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follows Smetana as leader in Czech
national music
born near Prague
 son of a poor innkeeper and butcher
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age 16 - studies music in Prague
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plays violin in opera orchestra under
Smetana
little known until noticed at age 36 by
Brahms
Antonin Dvořák
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fame spreads rapidly
invited to England several times
 1892 - goes to NY
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director of the National Conservatory of
Music for almost 3 years
earns $15,000 - 20 times the salary of a
professor at Prague Conservatory
learns about American culture
Antonin Dvořák
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encourages American musical
nationalism
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interest in Native American and African
American music
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learned from student Henry T. Burleigh
quoted saying spirituals are a strong basis for a
new American musical school
1895 - returns to Prague Conservatory
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becomes director in 1901
Symphony No.9 (“New World”)
written during first year in U.S.
 use of American and Czech national
musical elements
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syncopations
 pentatonic scales
 modal scales
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folk-like melodies, but no direct
quotations
Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
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born in Hamburg, Germany
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son of a string bass player
age 13 – music student by day / waterfront
bar musician by night
 age 20 – first concert tour
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meets Liszt and Schumann
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dislikes Liszt’s music
Schumanns praise Brahms as a musical messiah
Johannes Brahms
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rushes to aid Clara when Robert is
committed to the asylum
helps care for the children while Clara earns
money on tour
 lives in Schumann home for 2 years
 inner conflict:
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passion for Clara (14 years his senior)
loyalty to Robert
does not marry Clara when Robert dies
Johannes Brahms
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extremely self-critical
passed over for conducting job with the
Hamburg Philharmonic
 compared own work with past masterpieces
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1879 – honorary doctorate from Breslau
University
 1896 – Clara dies / Brahms diagnosed with
cancer
 1897 – dies at age 64
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Brahms’ Music
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Symphony No. 4, mvt. 4
passacaglia (ground bass)
 theme and variations
 ternary form embedded
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Ein Deutches Requiem (A German Requiem)
text related to death and resurrection from the
Lutheran Bible
 mvt. 4 – “How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling place”
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chorus and orchestra
Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)
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born in tiny village in Italy
as a boy –
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intense love of music – parents buy piano
age 10 – goes to school and studies music in Busetto
for 9 years – walks barefoot 3 miles to serve as a
church organist in village (carries shoes)
wealthy patron supports Verdi’s music studies in
Milan
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becomes municipal music director in Busetto
marries patron’s daughter
Giuseppe Verdi
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3 years later – first opera: Oberto
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produced at La Scala in Milan
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most important Italian opera house
wins contract for 3 more operas
loses 2 children and wife
 next opera completed
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lacks inspiration
greeted by boos and hisses
vows to never compose again
Giuseppe Verdi
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ardent nationalist
wants Italy free from Austrian domination
 composes Nabucco after reading libretto
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enormous success
Verdi and his operas symbolize a free, united Italy
melody from Nabucco becomes Italian national
liberation hymn
“Viva Verdi!”
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Victor Emmanuel, Rex D’Italia
Giuseppe Verdi
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in his 30’s –
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3 operas – Rigoletto, Il Trovatore, La Traviata
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trivial subject matter
lives with 2nd wife 10 years before they marry
becomes wealthy / buys estate in Busetto
1861 – elected deputy to 1st Italian Parliament
1871 – composed Aïda for Suez Canal opening
1874 – Requiem
1887 – age 73 – Otello
1893 – age 79 – Falstaff (only successful comedy)
Verdi’s Music
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Opera
almost all serious / end unhappily
 expressive vocal melody
 duets, trios, quartets, choruses
 lessens difference between aria and recitative
 fewer pauses between sections
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Grand Opera
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spectacle, pageantry, ballets, choruses (ex. Aïda)
Listening Example –
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“La donna e mobilé” from Rigoletto
Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924)
most important Italian opera composer after
Verdi
 studied at Milan Conservatory
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lived hand-to-mouth (eating on credit)
came from long line of composers / church
organists
 Operas
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1893 – Manon Lescaut
 1896 – La Bohème
 collaboration w/ librettists Illica and Giacosa
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Tosca (1900), Madame Butterfly ( 1904)
last opera – Turandot
Puccini’s music
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also composes one-act operas
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ex. Gianni Schicchi
melodies are short, easily remembered
phrases / intensely emotional
 orchestra reinforces melody / provides
atmosphere
 minimized difference between aria /
recitative
 verismo – realism
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Richard Wagner (1813-1883)
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born in Leipzig, Germany
grew up in theatrical atmosphere
 wanted to be poet / playwright
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age 15 – influenced by Beethoven’s music
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decides to become composer
never masters an instrument
 age 17 – enrolls at Leipzig University
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more interested in partying than studying
 lives off others / enormous debts never repaid
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Richard Wagner
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20’s – conducts in small German theaters
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marries Minna Planer
1839 – goes to France illegally
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spends two years in France
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miserable
musical hackwork
debtor’s prison
1842 – returns to Germany
Rienzi successfully produced in Dresden
 appointed conductor of Dresden opera
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spent 6 years in position
Richard Wagner
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1848 – many European revolutions
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no composition for several years
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Wagner owes 10 times his salary
attempts to incite insurrection
flees to Switzerland to avoid arrest
writes theoretical essays
finishes libretto for The Ring cycle
The Ring of the Nibelung
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occupies Wagner for ¼ of a century
4 operas of massive length
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The Rhinegold
The Valyrie
Siegfried
Twilight of the Gods
Richard Wagner
Tannhauser – failure
 Tristan and Isolde – abandoned during
rehearsal
 creditors bang down Wagner’s door
 1864 – saved by King Ludwig
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finishes The Ring
affair with Liszt’s daughter, Cosima
have 2 children together while still married to
von Bülow
 Wagner marries Cosima when Minna dies

Richard Wagner
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believed himself to be the German
nationalist spirit
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constructed a theater in Bayreuth for the
sole purpose of producing his music dramas
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dies at age 69 in Venice
Wagner’s Music
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wrote own librettos / characters larger than life
music dramas –
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“universal art work” – Gesamtkunstwerk
“unending melody” – entire acts that have no
breaks for applause
focus away from voice to orchestra
designed new brass - Wagner tubas
leitmotif – “leading motive” – melody
associated with a person, object, or thought in
the drama
chromatic / dissonant harmonies
Gustav Mahler (1860-1911)
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born in Bohemia, son of a tavern keeper
boyhood –
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studied piano
constantly composed
age 15 – enters Vienna Conservatory
age 20 – directs / conducts musical comedies at a
summer resort
steadily gains conducting experience
age 28 – director of Budapest Opera
age 37 (1897) –
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converts to Catholicism
director of Vienna Opera for 10 years
Gustav Mahler
earned more credit as a conductor than a
composer
 age 42 – married Alma Schindler (19 years
younger)
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oldest daughter dies of scarlet fever at age 4
1908 – principal conductor of Metropolitan
Opera in NY
 1909 – director of NY Philharmonic
Orchestra
 1911 – becomes ill / returns to Vienna /
dies

Mahler’s Music
9 symphonies (unfinished 10th)
 song cycles for voice and orchestra
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
Songs of the Wayfarer
Das Lied von der Erde (“The Song of the
Earth”)
 Instrumental music based on song

his own
 folk music

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Music in the Renaissance (1450