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25-6-2022, 19:51 UTC
The Classical Era
History of Music

Ludwig van Beethoven As implied by the term 'classical', the music of this period looked to the art and philosophy of Ancient Greece and Rome - to the ideals of balance, proportion and disciplined expression. The late Baroque style was polyphonically complex ornamental and rich in its melodies. Composers of the Classical era deviated from the evolution of their predecessors - their music had a considerably simpler texture. It is something of an irony that two of J.S. Bach's children, Carl Philipp Emanuel (C.P.E.) a Johann Christian (J.C.), were among the leaders of the new Classical movement. Their father was the greatest figure in the Baroque style and thanks to the new era of his children, he became old-fashioned.

Homophony - music where the melody and accompaniment are clearly distinct - was the main style during the classical era; new genres were discovered that completed the transformation from the Baroque era to the Classical. The sonata was the most important of these, as well as the most developed. Although Baroque composers also wrote sonatas, the Classical style of sonata is completely distinct.

The foundation of the Classical sonatas is conflict - for instance between two themes of contrasting character. The contrast during the performance of the sonata increases, until it is finally "resolved." The sonata allowed composers to give solely instrumental pieces a dramatic character. All of the main instrumental forms of the Classical era, the quartet, symphony,and concerto, were based on the dramatic structure of the sonata.

Important Composers

Carl Philipp Emanuel (C.P.E.) Bach(1714 - 1788)
Christoph Willibald Gluck(1714 - 1787)
Johann Christian (J.C.) Bach(1735 - 1782)
Franz Joseph Haydn(1732 - 1809)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart(1756 - 1791)
Ludwig van Beethoven(1770 - 1827)

Czech Music of the Classical Period

Jan Antonin Kozeluh The 18th century saw a happy blending of the basic European tedencies of social and musical evolution with characteristic features of the Czech popular musical tradition. Because of this, Czech music was able to play a significant role in the general Europen context during this period.

An important moment in the progress of the 'musicality' of the Czech people was the simple fact that musical talent and education brought considerable material advantages. A manorial footman or gamekeeper could be relieved of his labors and dangerous military service. A good musician in service could hope that after some period he might be set free from servitude.

The most important creative figure of Czech Classicism within the Czech Lands was Frantisek Xaver Brixi (1732 - 1771). In 1744, he was sent to a famous piano school in Kosmonose, after which he met with success in Prague churches as an organist and composer. In 1759, at the age of 27, he was entrusted with the most significant musical position in the country, as he became concert master of St. Vitus Cathedral in Prag. He succeeded in becoming the most widely played Czech composer of the 18th century. Although homophonic structure dominates his work, he remarkably mastered polyphonic composition as well and even though he died at under forty, he left an extensive collection of work, now estimated at around 500 titles. In his work, there is a natural predominance of church pieces; large oratorial compositions like Filius prodigus, Opus patheticum de septem doloribus and Judas Iscariothes. Because of his circumstances he failed to make a name for himself as an author of instrumental music; although he did produce pieces for harpsichord and organ, including a Symphony in D Major, towards the end of his life.

An honorable place in domestic output is held by the pupils of Seger. The most respected of them was Jan Antonin Kozeluh (1738 - 1814) from Velvary. He also studied in Vienna and was concert master in St. Vitus cathedral for 30 years; his work includes both church and concert works. As the only Czech author of his time, he also composed serious Italian opera: Allesandro nell' Indie was performed in 1769 and Demofoonte in 1772. He was the organist at the Strahov monastery for almost 40 years.

Josef Myslivecek Czech musicians have long left the country for foreign lands. In the 18th century, especially in the second half, this emigration reached an unprecedented intensity. This emigration most strongly influenced the development of the Mannheim Company under the leadership of Jan Vaclav Antonin Stamic (1717 - 1757. Stamic came to the Czech lands before the year 1730 from Maribor in present-day Slovenia, where he was born as the son of an organist, merchant and alderman, to study at a Jesuit school in Jihlava. From the age of 24 he was a violinist in the Mannheim group, and from 1750 he was its concert master.

In Italy, where only the most exceptional foreign musicians could gain a foothold, the most successful was Josef Myslivecek (1737 - 1781). The son of a Prague miller, he was trained in his father's trade before being turned over to study music with Fr. Habermann and Josef Seger. In 1763 he left the country to perfect his musical talents with the Venetian master, G.B. Pescetti, and in 1767, with the Neapolitan premiere of his opera Bellerofonte, he joined the ranks of the most successful authors of Italian "opera seria". Even in other genres, such as symphonies, concertos, sonatas, etc., he developed an uncommonly rich creative activity. He maintained contact with his homeland and several of his operas and oratorios were performed in Prague. He was known by the sobriquet "Il Boemo" (the Bohemian) in Italy and died of a prolonged illness in Rome.

Important Composers

Frantisek Xaver Brixi(1732 - 1771)
Jan Antonin Kozeluh(1738 - 1814)
Jan Vaclav Antonín Stamic(1717 - 1757)
Josef Myslivecek(1737 - 1781)
Jan Krtitel Krumpholz(1742 - 1790)
Pavel Vranicky(1756 - 1808)
Gottfried Rieger(1764 - 1855)
Jakub Jan Ryba(1765 - 1815)