Music History 101.4 After Beethoven
Here we are again, folks, marching on! The generation of composers after Beethoven took on new and distinct styles.
The first two listed here, Paganini and Rossini, held the status quo and did not push the boundaries of experimentation. Late in Beethoven’s life, Rossini was the rage everywhere. Beethoven acknowledged this but also said that the Italian should limit his music to Opera Buffa and stay away from Opera Seria. Schubert and Lowe were the first to show signs of the new Romantic age with expressive, storytelling or programmatic music. The Mendelssohn siblings paid homage to Beethoven, Haydn & Mozart by being faithful to Classical standards, yet adding their own Romantic beauty and rhythmic flair to the music. This was the opposite style of Berlioz who threw caution to the winds, relied on no particular or consistent form and thus became the first revolutionary after Beethoven.
Other composers put forth their own signature styles. Chopin’s was pianistic with intimacy, flourishing ornaments, and intense
drama. Schumann matched the Classical form with rich and lush timbres; some consider him to be the first true and natural romantic composer. And with Liszt we have the wild man and the wild card. He loved the great music around him and arranged it to his playing style which had a virtuosic flair unmatched at that time. Let us continue…
Nicolai Pagannini (1782-1868) took violin technique to new level…his hand stretched 3 octaves!. Also a violist and guitarist. These 2 instruments plus cello make up the Terzetto Concertante and its sublime Adagio.
Now for some pyrotechnics, courtesy of my teacher Steven Staryk who turned 88 yesterday(April 27th)!
Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868): It is not really known why Rossini stopped writing opera at age 30 after a successful run of William Tell, which was his 39th such offering up until then. Perhaps it was intermittent ill health, both mental and physical. His last 13 years in Paris did see a resurrection of composing for his popular ‘samedi soirs’ (Sat night salons) for which he wrote 150 Peches de viellesesse (Sins of old age). Here is one of them…
and the overture to Il Turco in Italia, first performed in La Scala, Milan in 1814.
Carl Lowe (1796-1869): singer and rhapsodic composer who wrote over 400 ballads. In this one, a water sprite (der nock) is playing his harp and singing so beautifully that all the trees bend over and the nightingale listens. But then he is mocked by a bunch of wild lads and forced to retreat into the water. Begged to return, the sprite’s harp resounds and he sings mightily about the sea, earth and heaven, triggering moods of sadness and joy. The trees bend low again, and the nightingale listens as the water sprite sings into the starry night.
Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848): composer of nearly 70 operas. Bel Canto (beautiful song) fans, this one’s for you.One can hear the influence on Verdi later in the century. Start @ 2:45:00.
Right after Ms. Battle, enjoy the ‘servants chorus’ @ 2:48:20…and since we are right there, keep going if you want to hear Pavarotti.
Franz Schubert (1797-1828) – Supposedly the song Erlkonig was shown to Beethoven on his deathbed and he remarked “Truly, in this Schubert
there dwells a divine spark!” The two composers probably did meet several times and Beethoven had to be aware of Schubert’s rising star. After all, they spent 31 years in the same city!
Subtitles are key in this performance by Fisher-Dieskau.
The song became so popular it was transcribed often, here by Franz Liszt, about whom we shall hear more later.
Hector Berlioz (1803-1869). It is hard to believe Symphonie Fantastique was premiered in 1830, only 3 years after Beethoven’s death. That is how influential the master was on the young Frenchman who became known for pushing the musical envelope himself. This video features conductor Charles Munch, universally accepted as the ultimate interpreter of Berlioz. Start @36:40
Louise Farrenc (1804-1875) – virtuoso pianist and the only woman professor at the Paris Conservatoire in the 19th century! She fought for equal pay there and finally got it after the premiere of this nonet.
Fanny Mendelssohn (1805-1847) – When you line up Fanny’s works with her famous little brother’s it is hard not to imagine what could have been. Tragically the father reined her in, and the sympathetic Felix would allow her to use his name as the author on some of her songs. Six months before he died Felix ensured that his sister’s name would live on by releasing hitherto unknown works of hers to the publisher Breitkoph & Hartel.She composed over 450 pieces. From her piano sonata in g minor, 1st movement only (at the end of which is a transitional interim to the 2nd mvt)
And from her only string quartet. She wrote Felix that as a keyboard player she did not have the proper string knowledge to write more quartets.
Juan Crisostomo Arriaga (1806-1826) known as the ‘Spanish Mozart’ because a) he was born on Wolfgang’s 50th birthday and b) was a child prodigy who died way before his time 10 days before his 20th birthday. At 16 he wrote 3 unusually mature string quartets that became the only works published in his lifetime.This is the final movement from the first quartet.
Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847), child prodigy whose early output compares with Mozart’s. This was confirmed by Goethe (1749-1832) who heard them both in their youth. And similarly to Mozart, Mendelssohn was much in demand as a pianist, organist, and improviser. He revered JS Bach whose music he single handedly resurrected by conducting the St Matthew Passion in 1829 after the piece’s 102 year hiatus. Here is an early string symphony written around the age of 12-13.
And from his 2nd trio, a late work at age 36, two years before his death. Note the chorale hymn at full volume toward the end.
Frederic Chopin (1810-1849) – Another child prodigy (and who also died young), everything he ever wrote included the piano. He shied away from public performance, preferring the intimacy of the salon which was popular in Paris where he lived out his last 18 years. In 1828 he heard Paganini play his 24 Caprices for solo violin. Chopin’s Opus 10 Etudes surely were inspired by this event, especially the 4th one performed here by the 87 year old Rubinstein!
And here from his late cello sonata which was part of his last public performance in 1848. Slow movement, start @ 16:28
Robert Schumann (1810-56) – Another virtuoso pianist (weren’t they all?) whose public career was cut short by a hand injury. He composed only for the piano until age 30, then ventured out into multiple genres. Schumann struggled with mental illness his whole life, yet somehow the music always shone through as in this slow movement from Fairy Tales written in 1853, a year before his unsuccessful suicide attempt.
And from his 2nd Symphony (1846), the movement that is on every violinist’s orchestra audition list!
Franz Liszt (1811-1886): our final piano prodigy who played for Beethoven at the age of 12 and received his blessing. Liszt became the vanguard for the romantic movement symbolized by flair and experimentation. It became known as the New German School and included Berlioz and Wagner. His style of playing was flamboyant. Berlioz noted how he added trills, tremulos, and cadenzas to Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata (in the slow 1st movement no less). Half of his compositions were arrangements of other composers’ works (such as all the Beethoven symphonies). Here, in a stunning performance, we hear his transcription of the waltz from Gounod’s opera Faust.
Wow, and here is that man who played for Beethoven! (my hair is just about there, too)
Next week we take on the new generation of Romantic composers; the likes of Brahms, Tchaikovsky and more.
Thanks to Antje for German translation!
Stay safe and well, everyone!
This is one in a series of online guided listening programs that replaced our in-person “Musical Salons” hosted by Moby Pearson. This one was created on 4/28/2020.
Explore the list of online Salons.