A symphony is an extended musical composition in Western classical music, scored almost always for orchestra. A symphony usually contains at least one movement or episode composed according to the sonata principle. Many symphonies are tonal works in four movements with the first in sonata form, which is often described by music theorists as the structure of a "classical" symphony, although many symphonies by the acknowledged classical masters of the form, Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Ludwig van Beethoven do not conform to this model.
The "Italian" style of symphony, often used as overture and entr'acte in opera houses, became a standard three-movement form: a fast movement, a slow movement, and another fast movement. Haydn and Mozart, whose early symphonies were in this form, eventually replaced it with a four-movement form through the addition of an additional middle movement (Prout 1895, 249). The four-movement symphony became dominant in the latter part of the 18th century and most of the 19th century. This symphonic form was influenced by Germanic practice, and would come to be associated with the classical style of Haydn and Mozart. "Normative macro-symphonic form may be defined as the four-movement form, in general, employed in the later symphonies of Haydn and Mozart, and in those of Beethoven" (Jackson 1999, 26).
The normal four-movement form became (Jackson 1999, 26; Stein 1979, 106):
Variations on this layout were common, for instance the order of the middle two movements, or the addition of a slow introduction to the first movement. Older composers such as Haydn and Mozart restricted their use of the four-movement form to orchestral or multi-instrument chamber music such as quartets, though since Beethoven solo sonatas are as often written in four as in three movements (Prout 1895, 249). Tchaikovsky's Third Symphony has a five-movement form through the addition of an "Alla tedesca" 'movement' between the first and the second (Jackson 1999, 26).
The term Baroque is also used to designate the style of music composed during a period that overlaps with that of Baroque art, but usually encompasses a slightly later period.
It is a still-debated question as to what extent Baroque music shares aesthetic principles with the visual and literary arts of the Baroque period. A fairly clear, shared element is a love of ornamentation, and it is perhaps significant that the role of ornament was greatly diminished in both music and architecture as the Baroque gave way to the Classical period.
It should be noted that the application of the term "Baroque" to music is a relatively recent development. The first use of the word "Baroque" in music was only in 1919, by Curt Sachs, and it was not until 1940 that it was first used in English (in an article published by Manfred Bukofzer).
Many musical forms were born in that era, like the concerto and sinfonia. Forms such as the sonata, cantata and oratorio flourished. Also, opera was born out of the experimentation of the Florentine Camerata, the creators of monody, who attempted to recreate the theatrical arts of the Ancient Greeks. An important technique used in baroque music was the use of ground bass, a repeated bass line. Dido's Lament by Henry Purcell is a famous example of this technique.
The name nocturne was first applied to pieces in the 18th century, when it indicated an ensemble piece in several movements, normally played for an evening party and then laid aside. Sometimes it carried the Italian equivalent, notturno, such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's quadraphonic Notturno in D, K.286, written for four lightly echoing separated ensembles of paired horns with strings, and his Serenata Notturna, K. 239. At this time, the piece was not necessarily evocative of the night, but might merely be intended for performance at night, much like a serenade.
In its more familiar form as a single-movement character piece usually written for solo piano, the nocturne was cultivated primarily in the 19th century. The first nocturnes to be written under the specific title were by the Irish composer John Field, generally viewed as the father of the Romantic nocturne that characteristically features a cantabile melody over an arpeggiated, even guitar-like accompaniment. However, the most famous exponent of the form was Frédéric Chopin, who wrote 21 of them. One of the most famous pieces of 19th-century salon music was the "Fifth Nocturne" of Ignace Leybach, who is now otherwise mostly forgotten. Later composers to write nocturnes for the piano include Gabriel Fauré, Alexander Scriabin, Erik Satie (1919), Francis Poulenc (1929), as well as Peter Sculthorpe. In the movement entitled 'The Night's Music' ('Musiques nocturnes' in French) of Out of Doors for solo piano (1926), Béla Bartók imitated the sounds of nature. It contains quiet, eerie, blurred cluster-chords and imitations of the twittering of birds and croaking of nocturnal creatures, with lonely melodies in contrasting sections. American composer Lowell Liebermann has written eleven Nocturnes for piano. Other notable nocturnes from the 20th century include those from Michael Glenn Williams, Samuel Barber and Robert Helps.
Other examples of nocturnes include the one for orchestra from Felix Mendelssohn's incidental music for A Midsummer Night's Dream (1848), the set of three for orchestra and female choir by Claude Debussy (who also wrote one for solo piano) and the first movement of the Violin Concerto No. 1 (1948) by Dmitri Shostakovich. French composer Erik Satie composed a series of five small nocturnes. These were, however, far different from those of Field and Chopin. In 1958, Benjamin Britten wrote a Nocturne for tenor, seven obbligato instruments and strings.
Nocturnes are generally thought of as being tranquil, often expressive and lyrical, and sometimes rather gloomy, but in practice pieces with the name nocturne have conveyed a variety of moods: the second of Debussy's orchestral Nocturnes, "Fêtes", for example, is very lively. The same can be said of parts of Polish composer Karol Szymanowski's Nocturne and Tarantella (1915) and Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji's Symphonic Nocturne for Piano Alone (1977–78).
Contemporary classical music can be understood as belonging to the period that started in the mid-1970s with the retreat of modernism. However, the term may also be employed in a broader sense to refer to all post-1945 modern musical forms.
At the beginning of the 20th century, composers of classical music were experimenting with an increasingly dissonant pitch language, which sometimes yielded atonal pieces. Following World War I, as a backlash against what they saw as the increasingly exaggerated gestures and formlessness of late Romanticism, certain composers adopted a neoclassic style, which sought to recapture the balanced forms and clearly perceptible thematic processes of earlier styles; see also New Objectivity and Social Realism). After World War II, modernist composers sought to achieve greater levels of control in their composition process (e.g., through the use of the twelve tone technique and later total serialism). At the same time, conversely, composers also experimented with means of abdicating control, exploring indeterminacy or aleatoric processes in smaller or larger degrees. Technological advances led to the birth of electronic music. Experimentation with tape loops and repetitive textures contributed to the advent of minimalism. Still other composers started exploring the theatrical potential of the musical performance (performance art, mixed media, fluxus).
Johann Sebastian Bach (31 March [O.S. 21 March] 1685 – 28 July 1750) was a German composer, organist, harpsichordist, violist, and violinist of the Baroque period. He enriched many established German styles through his skill in counterpoint, harmonic and motivic organisation, and the adaptation of rhythms, forms, and textures from abroad, particularly from Italy and France. Bach's compositions include the Brandenburg Concertos, the Mass in B minor, the The Well-Tempered Clavier, his cantatas, chorales, partitas, Passions, and organ works. His music is revered for its intellectual depth, technical command, and artistic beauty.
Bach was born in Eisenach, Saxe-Eisenach, into a very musical family; his father, Johann Ambrosius Bach was the director of the town musicians, and all of his uncles were professional musicians. His father taught him to play violin and harpsichord, and his brother, Johann Christoph Bach, taught him the clavichord and exposed him to much contemporary music. Bach also went to St Michael's School in Lüneburg because of his singing skills. After graduating, he held several musical posts across Germany: he served as Kapellmeister (director of music) to Leopold, Prince of Anhalt-Köthen, Cantor of Thomasschule in Leipzig, and Royal Court Composer to August III. Bach's health and vision declined in 1749, and he died on 28 July 1750. Modern historians believe that his death was caused by a combination of stroke and pneumonia.
Bach's abilities as an organist were highly respected throughout Europe during his lifetime, although he was not widely recognised as a great composer until a revival of interest and performances of his music in the first half of the 19th century. He is now generally regarded as one of the main composers of the Baroque period, and as one of the greatest composers of all time.
Bach was best known during his lifetime as an organist, organ consultant, and composer of organ works in both the traditional German free genres—such as preludes, fantasias, and toccatas—and stricter forms, such as chorale preludesand fugues. At a young age, he established a reputation for his great creativity and ability to integrate foreign styles into his organ works. A decidedly North German influence was exerted by Georg Böhm, with whom Bach came into contact in Lüneburg, and Dieterich Buxtehude, whom the young organist visited in Lübeck in 1704 on an extended leave of absence from his job in Arnstadt. Around this time, Bach copied the works of numerous French and Italian composers to gain insights into their compositional languages, and later arranged violin concertos by Vivaldi and others for organ and harpsichord. During his most productive period (1708–14) he composed several pairs of preludes and fugues and toccatas and fugues, and the Orgelbüchlein ("Little organ book"), an unfinished collection of 46 short chorale preludes that demonstrates compositional techniques in the setting of chorale tunes. After leaving Weimar, Bach wrote less for organ, although his best-known works (the six trio sonatas, the "German Organ Mass" in Clavier-Übung III from 1739, and theGreat Eighteen chorales, revised late in his life) were all composed after his leaving Weimar. Bach was extensively engaged later in his life in consulting on organ projects, testing newly built organs, and dedicating organs in afternoon recitals.
Bach wrote many works for harpsichord, some of which may have been played on the clavichord. Many of his keyboard works are anthologies that encompass whole theoretical systems in an encyclopaedic fashion.
Among Bach's lesser known keyboard works are seven toccatas (BWV 910–916), four duets (BWV 802–805), sonatas for keyboard (BWV 963–967), the Six Little Preludes (BWV 933–938), and the Aria variata alla maniera italiana (BWV 989).
Bach wrote for single instruments, duets, and small ensembles. Many of his solo works, such as his six sonatas and partitas for violin (BWV 1001–1006), six cello suites (BWV 1007–1012) and Partita for solo flute (BWV 1013), are among the most profound works in the repertoire. Bach composed a suite and several other works for solo lute. He wrote trio sonatas; solo sonatas (accompanied by continuo) for the flute and for the viola da gamba; and a large number of canons and ricercare, mostly with unspecified instrumentation. The most significant examples of the latter are contained in The Art of Fugue and The Musical Offering.
Bach's best-known orchestral works are the Brandenburg Concertos, so named because he submitted them in the hope of gaining employment from Margrave Christian Ludwig of Brandenburg-Schwedt in 1721; his application was unsuccessful. These works are examples of the concerto grosso genre. Other surviving works in the concerto form include two violin concertos (BWV 1041 and BWV 1042); a Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor (BWV 1043), often referred to as Bach's "double" concerto; and concertos for one to four harpsichords. It is widely accepted that many of the harpsichord concertos were not original works, but arrangements of his concertos for other instruments now lost. A number of violin, oboe and flute concertos have been reconstructed from these. In addition to concertos, Bach wrote four orchestral suites, and a series of stylised dances for orchestra, each preceded by a French overture.
As the Thomaskantor, beginning mid of 1723, Bach performed a cantata each Sunday and feast day that corresponded to the lectionary readings of the week. Although Bach performed cantatas by other composers, he composed at least three entire annual cycles of cantatas at Leipzig, in addition to those composed at Mühlhausen and Weimar. In total he wrote more than 300 sacred cantatas, of which approximately 200 survive.
His cantatas vary greatly in form and instrumentation, including those for solo singers, single choruses, small instrumental groups, or grand orchestras. Many consist of a large opening chorus followed by one or more recitative-aria pairs for soloists (or duets) and a concluding chorale. The recitative is part of the corresponding Bible reading for the week and the aria is a contemporary reflection on it. The melody of the concluding chorale often appears as a cantus firmus in the opening movement. Among his best known cantatas are:
In addition, Bach wrote a number of secular cantatas, usually for civic events such as council inaugurations. These include wedding cantatas, the Wedding Quodlibet, the Peasant Cantata and the Coffee Cantata.
Ludwig van Beethoven baptized 17 December 1770 – 26 March 1827) was a German composer and pianist. A crucial figure in the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras in Western art music, he remains one of the most famous and influential of all composers. His best known compositions include 9 symphonies, 5 concertos for piano, 32 piano sonatas, and 16 string quartets. He also composed other chamber music, choral works (including the celebrated Missa Solemnis), and songs.
Born in Bonn, then the capital of the Electorate of Cologne and part of the Holy Roman Empire, Beethoven displayed his musical talents at an early age and was taught by his father Johann van Beethoven and Christian Gottlob Neefe. During his first 22 years in Bonn, Beethoven intended to study with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and befriended Joseph Haydn. Beethoven moved to Vienna in 1792 and began studying with Haydn, quickly gaining a reputation as a virtuoso pianist. He lived in Vienna until his death. About 1800 his hearing began to deteriorate, and by the last decade of his life he was almost totally deaf. He gave up conducting and performing in public but continued to compose; many of his most admired works come from this period.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, baptised as Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart (27 January 1756 – 5 December 1791), was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era.
Mozart showed prodigious ability from his earliest childhood. Already competent on keyboard and violin, he composed from the age of five and performed before European royalty. At 17, he was engaged as a court musician in Salzburg, but grew restless and travelled in search of a better position, always composing abundantly. While visiting Vienna in 1781, he was dismissed from his Salzburg position. He chose to stay in the capital, where he achieved fame but little financial security. During his final years in Vienna, he composed many of his best-known symphonies, concertos, and operas, and portions of the Requiem, which was largely unfinished at the time of his death. The circumstances of his early death have been much mythologized. He was survived by his wife Constanze and two sons.
Mozart learned voraciously from others, and developed a brilliance and maturity of style that encompassed the light and graceful along with the dark and passionate. He composed over 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, operatic, and choral music. He is among the most enduringly popular of classical composers, and his influence on subsequent Western art music is profound; Beethoven composed his own early works in the shadow of Mozart, and Joseph Haydn wrote that "posterity will not see such a talent again in 100 years."
Mozart's music, like Haydn's, stands as an archetype of the Classical style. At the time he began composing, European music was dominated by the style galant, a reaction against the highly evolved intricacy of the Baroque. Progressively, and in large part at the hands of Mozart himself, the contrapuntal complexities of the late Baroque emerged once more, moderated and disciplined by new forms, and adapted to a new aesthetic and social milieu. Mozart was a versatile composer, and wrote in every major genre, including symphony, opera, the solo concerto, chamber music including string quartet and string quintet, and the piano sonata. These forms were not new, but Mozart advanced their technical sophistication and emotional reach. He almost single-handedly developed and popularized the Classical piano concerto. He wrote a great deal of religious music, including large-scale masses, but also dances, divertimenti, serenades, and other forms of light entertainment.
Franz Joseph Haydn 31 March 1732 – 31 May 1809), known as Joseph Haydn, was an Austrian composer, one of the most prolific and prominent of the Classical period. He is often called the "Father of the Symphony" and "Father of the String Quartet" because of his important contributions to these forms. He was also instrumental in the development of the piano trio and in the evolution of sonata form.
A lifelong resident of Austria, Haydn spent much of his career as a court musician for the wealthy Esterházy family on their remote estate. Isolated from other composers and trends in music until the later part of his long life, he was, as he put it, "forced to become original". At the time of his death, he was one of the most celebrated composers in Europe.
Joseph Haydn was the brother of Michael Haydn, himself a highly regarded composer, and Johann Evangelist Haydn, a tenor. He was also a close friend of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and a teacher of Ludwig van Beethoven.
John Philip Sousa (November 6, 1854 – March 6, 1932) was an American composer and conductor of the late Romantic era, known primarily for American military and patriotic marches. Because of his mastery of march composition, he is known as "The March King" or the "American March King" due to his British counterpart Kenneth J. Alford also being known as "The March King". Among his best-known marches are "The Washington Post", "Semper Fidelis" (Official March of the United States Marine Corps), and "The Stars and Stripes Forever" (National March of the United States of America).
Sousa's father was Portuguese, and his mother of Bavarian ancestry. Sousa began his career playing violin and studying music theory and composition under John Esputa and George Felix Benkert. His father eventually enlisted him in the United States Marine Band as an apprentice in 1868. After departing the band in 1875, Sousa eventually learned to conduct. From 1880 until his death, he focused exclusively on conducting and the writing of marches. He eventually rejoined the Marine Band and served there for 12 years as director. On leaving the Marine Band, Sousa organized his own band. He toured Europe and Australia and developed the sousaphone, a large brass instrument similar to the tuba. On the outbreak of World War I, Sousa was commissioned as a Lieutenant Commander and led the Naval Reserve Band in Illinois. Following his tenure, he returned to conduct the Sousa Band until his death in 1932.
Scott Joplin (c. 1867/1868? – April 1, 1917) was an African-American composer and pianist. Joplin achieved fame for his ragtime compositions, and was later dubbed "The King of Ragtime". During his brief career, he wrote 44 original ragtime pieces, one ragtime ballet, and two operas. One of his first pieces, the "Maple Leaf Rag", became ragtime's first and most influential hit, and has been recognized as the archetypal rag.
Joplin was born into a musical family of laborers in Northeast Texas, and developed his musical knowledge with the help of local teachers, most notably Julius Weiss. Joplin grew up in Texarkana, where he formed a vocal quartet, and taught mandolin and guitar. During the late 1880s he left his job as a laborer with the railroad, and travelled around the American South as an itinerant musician. He went to Chicago for the World's Fair of 1893, which played a major part in making ragtime a national craze by 1897.
Joplin moved to Sedalia, Missouri, in 1894, and earned a living as a piano teacher, continuing to tour the South. In Sedalia, he taught future ragtime composers Arthur Marshall, Scott Hayden and Brun Campbell. Joplin began publishing music in 1895, and publication of his "Maple Leaf Rag" in 1899 brought him fame. This piece had a profound influence on subsequent writers of ragtime. It also brought the composer a steady income for life. Joplin did not reach this level of success again and frequently had financial problems.
Joplin moved to St. Louis in 1901, where he continued to compose and publish music, and regularly performed in brothels and bars in the city's red-light district. By the time he had moved to St. Louis, he may have been experiencing discoordination of the fingers, tremors, and an inability to speak clearly, as a result of having contracted syphilis. The score to his first opera, A Guest of Honor, was confiscated in 1903 with his belongings, owing to his non-payment of bills, and is considered lost.[by whom?]
He continued to compose and publish music, and in 1907 moved to New York City, seeking to find a producer for a new opera. He attempted to go beyond the limitations of the musical form which made him famous, without much monetary success. His second opera, Treemonisha, was not received well at its partially staged performance in 1915.
In 1916, suffering from tertiary syphilis and by consequence rapidly deteriorating health, Joplin descended into dementia. He was admitted to a mental institution in January 1917, and died there three months later at the age of 49.
Joplin's music was rediscovered and returned to popularity in the early 1970s with the release of a million-selling album of Joplin's rags recorded by Joshua Rifkin, followed by the Academy Award–winning movie The Sting, which featured several of his compositions, such as "The Entertainer". The opera Treemonisha was finally produced in full to wide acclaim in 1972. In 1976, Joplin was posthumously awarded a Pulitzer Prize.
Leonard Bernstein (August 25, 1918 – October 14, 1990) was an American composer, conductor, author, music lecturer, and pianist. He was among the first conductors born and educated in the United States of America to receive worldwide acclaim. According to The New York Times, he was "one of the most prodigiously talented and successful musicians in American history." He is quite possibly the conductor whose name is best known to the public in general, especially the American public.
His fame derived from his long tenure as the music director of the New York Philharmonic, from his conducting of concerts with most of the world's leading orchestras, and from his music for West Side Story, as well as Candide, Wonderful Town, On the Town and his own Mass.
Bernstein was also the first conductor to give numerous television lectures on classical music, starting in 1954 and continuing until his death. In addition, he was a skilled pianist, often conducting piano concertos from the keyboard.
As a composer he wrote in many styles encompassing symphonic and orchestral music, ballet, film and theatre music, choral works, opera, chamber music and pieces for the piano. Many of his works are regularly performed around the world, although none has matched the tremendous popular and commercial success of West Side Story.
Aaron Copland (November 14, 1900 – December 2, 1990) was an American composer, composition teacher, writer, and later in his career a conductor of his own and other American music. Instrumental in forging a distinctly American style of composition, in his later years he was often referred to as "the Dean of American Composers" and is best known to the public for the works he wrote in the 1930s and 1940s in a deliberately accessible style often referred to as Populist and which the composer labeled his "vernacular" style. Works in this vein include the ballets Appalachian Spring, Billy the Kid and Rodeo, his Fanfare for the Common Man and Third Symphony. The open, slowly changing harmonies of many of his works are archetypical of what many people consider to be the sound of American music, evoking the vast American landscape and pioneer spirit. In addition to his ballets and orchestral works, he produced music in many other genres including chamber music, vocal works, opera and film scores.
After some initial studies with composer Rubin Goldmark, Copland traveled to Paris, where he studied at first with Isidor Philipp and Paul Vidal, then with noted pedagogue Nadia Boulanger. He studied three years with Boulanger, whose eclectic approach to music inspired his own broad taste in that area. Determined upon his return to the US to make his way as a full-time composer, Copland gave lecture-recitals, wrote works on commission and did some teaching and writing. He found composing orchestral music in the "modernist" style he had adapted abroad a financially contradictory approach, particularly in light of the Great Depression. He shifted in the mid-1930s to a more accessible musical style which mirrored the German idea of Gebrauchsmusik ("music for use"), music that could serve utilitarian and artistic purposes. During the Depression years, he traveled extensively to Europe, Africa, and Mexico, formed an important friendship with Mexican composer Carlos Chávez and began composing his signature works.
During the late 1940s Copland felt a need to compose works of greater emotional substance than his utilitarian scores of the late 1930s and early 1940s. He was aware that Stravinsky, as well as many fellow composers, had begun to study Arnold Schoenberg's use of twelve-tone (serial) techniques. In his personal style, Copland began to make use of tone-rows in several compositions. He incorporated serial techniques in some of his later works. Among them, his "Piano Quartet"(1951), "Piano Fantasy"(1957), "Inscape" for orchestra (1961) and "Connotations (1967)." From the 1960s onward, Copland's activities turned more from composing to conducting. He became a frequent guest conductor of orchestras in the US and the UK and made a series of recordings of his music, primarily for Columbia Records.