Saturday, December 1, 2007

What is this?

This is a conceptual framework to understanding the changes in style throughout European musical history. To be of any particular use to you you will need to fill in the framework with the details from your own musical experience.  I have tried to assist you by including films from YouTube.

The concept is that music falls into styles, and these styles have a beginning, a middle and an end. The end may trail off for centuries, but a style is at its end when it no longer continues to evolve and is replaced by newer styles.

The styles fall into only somewhat arbitrary chronological periods. I don't take credit for inventing the style periods--that goes to Dr. Hans Tischler. I only take credit for the actual words--most of them anyway. The chapters through Beethoven are based in part on notes from Dr. Tischler's classes.

Because it was written thirty years ago, a chapter is missing, and I find that I am too old and lazy to write it. Some of the musical examples are not coming over. I will try to fix later. Contents are covered by copyright. Click on the November arrow to see an index.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

1950 – 1975 Boulez and Stockhausen


1950-53     Korean War
1953         Death of Stalin
1963         Kennedy assassinated
1965-73     U.S. War in Vietnam
1974         Nixon resigns


As the musical avant garde advanced, many composers refused to follow, and the gap separating traditionalists and experimenters widened.





Twentieth-century tonality flourished in the opera. Most conservative were the neo-romantic operas of Menotti, The Consul (1950), Amahl and the Night Visitors (1951) and The Saint of Bleeker Street (1954) and Samuel Barber (1910-1981), Vanessa (1958) and Anthony and Cleopatra (1966). Neo-classic operas included Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress (1951), Hindemith's Harmonie der Welt (1951) and Poulenc's important Les dialogues des Carmlites (1955). Other tonal operas were Douglas Moore's (1893-1969) The Ballad of Baby Doe (1956), Tippett's The Midsummer Marriage (1955) and Britten's Billy Budd (1951), Turn of the Screw (1954), A Midsummer Night's Dream (1961) and Death in Venice (1973), the next to the last with an important role for countertenor.


Choral music


Choral music included Britten's War Requiem (1962), Hindemith's Madrigals (1958) and Mass (1963), Poulenc's Gloria (1959) and Stravinsky's Mass (1951).




Shostakovich's masterpiece was Symphony No. 10 (1953). His symphonies continued in a more propagandistic vein until No. 15 (1971). Others were Tippett's No. 2 (1957) and No. 3 (1970).




Serialism split into two camps: (1) traditional serialists (including the converts from neo-classicism, Stravinsky, Copland and Sessions) who used Schoenberg's system and (2) pan-serialists who, following Webern's example, broadened the concept of nonperiodicity to include all aspects of composition.


Choral Music


Twelve-tone choral works were Stravinsky's Canticum Sacrum (1956), Threni (1958) and Requiem Canticles (1966) and Dallapiccola's Canti di liberazione (1955).




Other vocal works included Dallapiccola's Goethe Lieder (1953), Stravinsky's dance-drama The Flood (1961-2), his cantata Abraham and Isaac (1962) and Roger Sessions' (1896-1985) opera Montezuma (1947-62).




Instrumental works included Sessions' Violin Sonata (1953) and symphonies 3-8, and Copland's Piano Quartet (1950) and Connotations for Orchestra (1962).




Messiaen's experiments with rhythm gradually led to Mode de valeurs et d'intensit (1949) for piano which established scales of pitch, duration, loudness and attack, but was not twelve-tone. A burst of interest in total control followed, including Pierre Boulez' (1925- ) Structures I (1951) for two pianos and Karlheinz Stockhausen's (1928- ) Kreuzspiel (1951) for oboe, bass clarinet, piano and percussion and Punkte (1952) for orchestra. The effect of pan-serial works is one of discontinuous points of sound. The masterwork is Le Marteau sans maitre (1954, revised 1957) containing songs for contralto and instrumental movements in a more relaxed style by Boulez.



Electronic Music


In Paris in 1948 Pierre Schaeffer (1910-1995) began musique concrète which consisted of recorded natural sounds altered electronically (echo, etc.) and arranged on a multi-track tape. The chief work was Symphony for One Man (1949) by Schaeffer and Pierre Henry (1927- ). Varèse's Déserts (1953) for winds, percussion and electronic sounds and Poème électronique (1958) for the Brussels World Fair were classics of the form. Stockhausen contributed Telemusik (1966) made up of national anthems.


The electronic studio in Cologne (from 1951) concerned itself with electronically generated sounds, as in Stockhausen's Studie I (1953). His Gesang der Jünglinge (1956) used both types of material, as did Visage (1961) by Luciano Berio (1925-2003) in Milan and Philomel (1964) by Milton Babbitt (1916- ) at Columbia University.


Working independently of the Europeans, Babbitt developed his own system of pan-serialism in Three Compositions for Piano (1948). When the first RCA synthesizer was installed at Columbia in 1959, he used it to achieve complete control of his system, as in Ensemble for Synthesizer (1962-4). Moog came in 1964.


Aleatory Music (from Alea, Latin for dice)


Chance or indeterminacy in musical composition was introduced in Cage's Music of Changes (1951) for piano, where decisions were made by coin tossing operations from the I Ching. Imaginary Landscape 4 (1951) was a precisely composed piece for twelve ordinary radios; Music for Piano 21 (1952) made notes of paper imperfections;  and Yannis Xenakis' (1922-2001) Metastasis (1953-4) created patterns from mathematical probability theory. The extreme was reached in Cage's 4'33" (1954) where the composer provided only a time frame for whatever occurred in the environment.




From the mid 50's composers moved away from the absolute control of pan-serialism to grant performers certain controlled choices and away from concern for non-periodicity to interest in color and density. Stockhausen's Klavierstücke XI (1956) allowed the pianist to choose the order of the composed bits. Earle Brown's (1926-2002) Twenty-Five Pages Pli selon pli (1953) may be played by from one to 25 pianos in any order. Boulez' (1960) for soprano and orchestra included small scale choices. The use of graphic notation, Brown's December 1952, Cage's Fontana Mix (1958) and Stockhausen's Zyklus (1959), left their ultimate interpretation to the performer.


Stockhausen serialized indeterminacy with a scale of control ranging from complete control to extreme variability in Momente (1958) where he also serialized the comprehensibility of the text. New colors included choral whispering, babbling and talking as well as clapping, banging and foot-shuffling. Sound for dramatic effect, including quarter tones, tone clusters, chant and choral sound effects, was characteristic of the Polish school led by Krzysztof Penderecki (1933- ), especially Psalms of David (1958), St. Luke Passion (1967) and his opera Die Teufel von Loudun (1969)

1930 – 1950 Webern and Neo-Classicism

1933 Roosevelt and Hitler took office
1936 Spanish Civil War; La Jeune France (Messiaen, Jolivet, Daniel-Lesur, Baudrier)
1939-45 World War II


While the neo-classic movement began with imitations of 18th century works, in its mature phase it stood for cool objectivity and formal balance. The new dissonance, rhythmic freedom and vivid orchestral techniques were utilized in a more integrated, conservative style. Emphasis rather than chord function created a new tonality.


Vaughan-Williams continued his series of symphonies with No. 4 (1935), No. 5 (1943), No. 6 (1948), Sinfonia Antarctica (1953), No. 8 (1956) and No. 9 (1957). The ideals of socialist realism were shown in symphonies by Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-75). The best of his first nine was No. 5 (1937) which achieved lasting fame; also No. 6 (1939). No. 7 "Leningrad" (1941) was exploited for war-time propaganda. Stravinsky composed symphonies without development in Symphony in C (1940) and Symphony in Three Movements (1945). Americans who wrote symphonies were Roy Harris (1898-1990), Walter Piston (1894-1976) and Aaron Copland (1900-1990).

Orchestral music

Orchestral music also included Bartok's Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta (1937), Hindemith's Symphonic Metamorphosis (1944) and Prokofiev's Leutenant Kije (1934).

Chamber Music

Bartok's quartets ended with No. 5 (1934) and No. 6 (1939) which used parallel quarter tones.


Concertos provided an entry to the concert hall for Bartok in his Second Piano (1938), Violin (1938), Third Piano (1945) and Two Piano (1938) Concertos, Stravinsky's Violin (1931), Dumbarton Oaks (1938), Ebony (1945) and Basle (1946) Concertos.

A modern concept is the concerto for orchestra, an attempt to revive the concerto grosso, including Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra (1944) and Concerto for Double String Orchestra (1939) by Michael Tippett (1905-1998).


Ballet shifted to America in Copland's Billy the Kid (1938), Rodeo (1943) and Appalachian Spring (1945) and Russia in Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet (1940) and Cinderella (1945).


A monument of neo-classicism was Hindemith's Ludus tonalis 1943), a set of twelve fugues. Bartok's Mikrokosmos (1926-37) was six graded volumes for pedagogical use.


(1) An American school was established in the 30's with Emperor Jones (1933) by Louis Gruenberg (1884-1964), Howard Hanson's (1896-1981) Merry Mount (1934), Virgil Thomson's (1896-1989) Four Saints in Three Acts (1934) and Mother of us all (1947) and Gershwin's Porgy and Bess (1935). Amelia Goes to the Ball (1937) and The Medium (1946) by Gian Carlo Menotti (1911- ) were in a neo-romantic style.

(2) English opera continued with Vaughan-Williams' Riders to the Sea (1937) and Benjamin Britten's (1913-76) Peter Grimes (1945).

(3) Russian opera featured Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk (1934).

(4) German neo-classic operas were Hindemith's Mathis der Maler (1938), also arranged as a symphony, and Carl Orff's (1895-1982) Der Mond (1939), Die Kluge (1943) and Antigone (1949).

Choral Music

Often in a simpler idiom, choral music included Stravinsky's important Symphony of Psalms (1930), Bartok's Cantata Profana (1930), Orff's Carmina Burana (1936), Britten's Ceremony of Carols (1942) and Ernest Bloch's (1880-1959) Hebrew Sacred Service (1934). Poulenc turned to liturgical music in his Mass (1937), Motets (1939) and Salve Regina (1941).


  • English songs included Britten's Serenade (1943) and Holy Sonnets of John Donne (1945).
  • French song included Poulenc's Banalités (1940) and C (1943), the orchestral song cycle Don Quichotte à Dulcinée (1932) by Ravel and Oliver Messiaen's (1908-1992) Poèmes pour Mi (1936).



Though he adoped twelve-tone technique in 1924, in his Symphony for small Orchestra, Op. 21 (1928) Anton Webern entered a new era of control. His style

(a) held rigidly to the twelve-tone system without exception,
(b) favored symmetrical rows,
(c) used the discontinuous instrumentation of Klangfarbenmelodie, emphasized with equally discontinuous dynamics and articulation, as a basic style element to clarify motives and set them off from their context (see his orchestration of a fugue from Bach's Musical Offering, 1935),
(d) used irregular rhythms, and
(e) canon and strict symmetrical forms.
Other works were his Variations for Orchestra, Op. 30 (1940) and Schoenberg's Variations for Orchestra (1927-8).


Concertos included Schoenberg's Violin (1936), Piano (1942), Berg Violin (1935) and Webern Concerto, Op. 24 (1934).

Chamber Music

Both Webern, Op. 28 (1938), and Schoenberg, 4th Quartet (1936), composed serial string quartets.


Important operas were Schoenberg's one-act Von Heute auf Morgen (1930) and Moses und Aron (2 acts composed 1930-2, produced 1954) which was based entirely on one row and used Sprechstimme for Moses; Berg's Lulu (Acts I & II 1937, Act III 1979) which was unfinished at his death (Act III was suppressed by his widow); Ernst Krenek's (1900-1991) Karl V (1933). The Italian Luigi Dallapiccola (1904-75) in Il Prigioniero (1950) adapted Italian lyricism to expressionist style.

Choral works

Choral music included Webern's Das Augelicht (1935), Cantata 1 (1940) and Cantata 2 (1943).


Quarter tones reached a climax of development in The Mothers (1931), an opera by Alois Hába (1893-1972).

Electronic instruments

The electronic instruments thérémin from c. 1920, ondes Martenot from 1928 and trautonium from 1930, all named for their inventors, originally produced one fluctuating pitch controlled by hand movements or strings. Ondes had an alternate keyboard with fixed pitches. Hindemith, Milhaud, Varèse, (Equatorial B, 1934), Jolivet, R. Strauss, Messiaen and his pupil Pierre Boulez (1925- ) all composed for one or more of these instruments.


Percussion was combined with ondes in the quasi-gamelan orchestra of Messiaen's Turangalila-symphonie (1948) which also showed his rhythmic experiments, begun in Quartet for the End of Time (1941) for violin, clarinet, cello and piano. From c. 1943 John Cage's (1912-1992) pieces for prepared piano created a one man percussion ensemble.

1910 – 1930 Stravinsky and Schoenberg


1915-18     World War I
1917         Russian Revolution
1918         Jazz heard in Paris
1920         Les Six (Tailleferro, Durey, Auric, Milhaud, Honneger, Poulenc, sponsor Cocteau)
1924         Stalin to power in Russia


This generation must be divided into two parts:


(1) the first decade of experimentation, including the atonal phase of expressionism and Stravinsky's early successes, and


(2) the second decade in which order was re-emphasized in the twelve-tone system of Schoenberg and the neo-classicism of Stravinsky.





The Ballet Russe (1909-29) of Sergei Diaghilev opened in Paris with Dances from Prince Igor by Borodin and quickly became an important showcase for all types of modern music, especially works by Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971). In his Le Sacred du printemps (1913) rhythm, emphasized with dissonant polychords, replaced modulation as the primary means of musical expression. Other early ballets by Stravinsky were Firebird (1910), Petrushka (1911) and L'Histoire du Soldat (1918). Satie's shockingly commonplace Parade (1917) provided a memorable scandal.




Charles Ives (1874-1954) composing in America experimented with polytonality, atonality and polyrhythm in his A Symphony: Holidays (1913) and Three Places in New England (1914). He published his 114 Songs in 1922, lumping together experimental and conservative pieces. He stopped composing in the early 1920's.




A new percussive use of the piano was heard in Bela Bartok's (1881-1945) complex, driving rhythms and dissonant polychords of Allegro barbaro (1911). Tone clusters, played by the forearm, were introduced in 1912 by Henry Cowell (1897-1965). Ives used a board in his Concord Sonata (1915); he tuned two pianos a quarter-tone apart in 1923.


Expressionist atonal phase


The atonal phase of expressionism lasted from c. 1907 to 1922. In an attempt to reach the extremes of emotional expression, c. 1907 Schoenberg in Vienna began to write music characterized by

(a) no tonal center,
(b) extreme dissonance indication extreme emotional expression,
(c) pointalism,
(d) an absence of development resulting in very short movements,
(e) Sprechstimme, melodic speech used only by Schoenberg, and
(f) a new orchestration, Klangfarbenmelodie, in which tone color varied as often as pitch and rhythm.


Atonality was anticipated in Schoenberg's string sextet Verklärte Nacht (1899). His important atonal works included the piano pieces Op. 11 (1908), the Second String Quartet (1907) with soprano, the song cycle Das Buch der hängenden Gärten (1908) and the most important work of his middle period, Pierrot Lunaire (1912), a song cycle for instruments and Sprechstimme. Atonal works of Anton Webern (1883-1945) were Six Bagatelles for String Quartet (1913) and Five Pieces for Orchestra (1913).


Expressionist Opera


Extreme emotion characterized Schoenberg's monodrama Erwartung (1909) and Alban Berg's (1885-1935) more popular Wozzeck (1925).





Ferruccio Busoni (1866-1924) is considered the spiritual father of neo-classicism, especially in his essay Sketch of a New Esthetic of Music (1907) and his open letter New Classicism (1920) and the Bachian Fantasia (1910) for piano.


Neo-classicism is considered to begin with the ballet Pulcinella (1920) by Stravinsky, a parodistic re-orchestration of pieces attributed to Pergolesi, but Sergei Prokofiev's (1891-1953) Classical Symphony (1918), a Mozart parody, and Ravel's Le tombeau de Couperin (1914-17) for piano anticipated the movement. After the loss of tonality and modulation as the goal of composition, composers turned to music of the eighteenth century for models.


Chamber music


Important in establishing neo-classicism were Stravinsky's Octet for Winds (1923) and Paul Hindemith's (1895-1963) Kammermusik, OP. 36 (1924-5) and String Quartet No. 4 (1922). Rhythmic dynamism characterized the early quartets of Bartok, No. 1 (1908), No. 2 (1917). He experimented with odd sonorities, harmonics, col legno and glissandi in combination in No. 3 (1927) and No. 4 (1928).


Neoclassical Opera


Neoclassical opera was established with Stravinsky's Mavra (1922), styled an opera buffa. Others were Darius Milhaud's (1892-1974) Les Euménides (1924) and other operas, Hindemith's Cardillac (1926) and Neues vom Tage (1929), Prokofiev's Love of Three Oranges (1921), Kurt Weill's (1900-50) Three Penny Opera (1928) and the opera-oratorios King David (1923) by Arthur Honegger (1892-1955) and Oedipus Rex (1927) by Stravinsky.


Percussion Ensemble


Both romantic and impressionist orchestration were attacked by Luigi Russolo (1885-1947) and the Futurists in their 1914 concert using 19 noisemakers. George Antheil's (1900-59) Ballet Mécanique (1926) used eight pianos, eight xylophones and assorted noisemakers. Edgard Varèse (1883-1965) experimented with sonority in all his works, especially Amérique (1921) with two sirens and 21 percussion, Hyperprism (1923), Intégales (1925) and the all percussion Ionisation (1931).


Expressionist Twelve-Tone Phase


Expressionist Twelve-Tone Phase (1923-45) added to the earlier style the use of (g) serialism, or twelve-tone row (dodecaphony), a fixed series of all twelve chromatic tones used as a basis for compositions. As long as the intervals of the original row (O) remained the same, the composer could transpose a pitch to any octave, invert the series (I), reverse (R) or both (RI) and transpose all four of these to any other starting pitch. The purposes of the system were to ensure that all the semi-tones were used equally throughout a composition to avoid establishing any one of them as a tonic while setting up a characteristic harmonic idiom for a piece through fixed tonal relationships. The intervals chosen for the row significantly determined the degree of dissonance in a resulting composition. The row could but didn't necessarily provide thematic material.


The twelve-tone system was introduced in the last movement of Schoenberg's Five Piano Pieces, OP. 23 (1923) and used throughout his Serenade, Op. 24 (1923) for instruments and bass voice, and Piano suite, Op. 25 (1925). Berg's Lyric Suite (1926) for string quartet was a romantic adaptation of the system.



Neo-romantic Opera


Puccini continued with La Fanciulla del West (1910), Trittico (1918) and Turandot (1926).


The later operas of Richard Strauss, on librettos by Hugo von Hofmansthal, retreated to an older style reminiscent of Johann Strauss, including Der Rosenkavalier (1911) and Ariadne auf Naxos (1912). His last opera in this style was Capriccio (1942).


Czech Nationalist Opera


A 1916 performance in Prague of Jenufa (1903) by Leoš Janáček  (1854-1928) revived the Czech nationalist school. Folk elements and Moravian speech inflections in recitative were features of his style; also The Makropulos Case (1925).


English Opera


English opera used folk-like material in Hugh the Drover (1928) and Sir John in Love (1929) by Ralph Vaughan-Williams (1872-1958).




Vocal chamber music was a hallmark of modernism. For solo voice and instrumental ensemble (no standard arrangement), important works were Vaughan-Williams' On Wenlock Edge (1909), Francis Poulenc's (1899-1063) Le Bestiaire (1919), Ravel's Chansons madécasses (1926) and Hindemith's Die junge Magd (1922). Das Marienleben (1923) by Hindemith, a conventional cycle with piano, was completely revised and reissued in 1948.


Choral Music


Choral music by the nationalists included Zoltan Kodaly's (1882-1867) Psalmus hungaricus (1923), Gustav Holst's (1874-1934) Choral Hymns from the Rig Veda (1908-12) and Vaughan-Williams' Mass in G minor (1922).




All branches of the musical world provided scores for Diaghilev's Ballet Russe, including the impressionist ballets Jeux (1914) by Debussy, Ravel's Daphnis et Chloé (1912) and Manuel de Falla's (1876-1946) El Amor Brujo (1915) and Three-Cornered Hat (1919). Richard Strauss composed Josephslegende (1914), and Milhaud introduced jazz rhythms and harmonies in his La Création du Monde (1923). Ravel's Bolero (1928) and Bartok's Miraculous Mandarin (1926) were introduced by other companies.


Symphonic Poem


Impressionist symphonic poem repertoire continued in Promethius (1911) by Scriabin, Nights in the Garden of Spain (1916) by de Falla and Fountains of Rome (1917) and Pines of Rome (1924) by Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936).




Vaughan-Williams was influenced by his study of native English melodies in works which were diatonic, though not strictly tonal, including A London Symphony (1914) and Pastoral Symphony (1921); also Holst's suite The Planets (1916).




Important piano concertos were Bartok's No. 1 (1926) and Prokofiev's No. 2 (1914) and No. 3 (1917).


American Jazz



Blues consisted of a slow lament in major with flatted thirds and sevenths for expression and progressions of dominant seventh chords. Important were W.C. Handy's (1873-1958) Memphis Blues (1909) and St. Louis Blues (1914) and the pianist Ferdinand "Jelly Roll" Morton (1885-1941).




From New Orleans jazz style combined the rhythm of ragtime with the flatted thirds and harmony of blues and played it on an instrumental ensemble or jazz band. George Gershwin (1898-1937) brought jazz to the concert hall; Rhapsody in Blue (1924).





1890 – 1910 Strauss and Debussy


1898         Spanish-American War
1899         Boer War
1901-1910     Edward VII, King of England


Style polarized around Wagner (neo-romantics, including Strauss, Mahler, Wolf, Scriabin, and the nationalists: Sibelius in Finland, Elgar in England, Rachmaninov and Rimsky-Korsakov in Russia, and Debussy (impressionists, including Ravel, Roussel, Delius, Loeffler and Dukas).




The first big break with German Romanticism came in the works of Claude Debussy (1862-1918) whose harmonic idiom included

(a) unprepared and unresolved dissonances,
(b) frequent use of pedal point and ostinato,
(c) parallel chords including parallel fifths, fourths and octaves,
(d) pentatonic and whole-tone scales, and
(e) avoidance of the leading tone.
These devices served to blur tonality and to emphasize chordal color over harmonic function in deliberate contrast to neo-romantic style.


Orchestral Music


Impressionistic style included

(a) emphasis on woodwinds, muted brass and harp,
(b) wordless choruses (Debussy's Nocturnes, 1899, Ravel's Daphnis et Chloe, 1912, Roussel's Evocations, 1912),
(c) kaleidoscopic, blurred forms,
(d) vague, irregular rhythm and
(e) descriptive titles.
The major works were

(1) symphonic poems, Debussy's Prelude à l'apres-midi d'un faune (1894) and the more realistic Sorcerer's Apprentice (1897) of Paul Dukas (1865-1835),

(2) groups of symphonic poems, Debussy's La Mer (1905) and Images pour orchestre (1906), and

(3) suites, Maurice Ravel's (1875-1837) Rapsodie espagnol (1907).

French Opera

Pelléas et Mélisande (1902) by Debussy set a symbolist play by Maeterlinck to uniquely suitable impressionist music with extended orchestral interludes and recitative which imitated French speech patterns. Other operas were the realistic Louise (1900) by Gustave Charpentier (1860-1956), Thais (1894) by Massenet, and Revel's L'Heure espagnole (1910).


French Song


Impressionism was represented by Debussy's Fete galantes (1892, 1904), Chanson de Bilitis (1897), Ravel's Histoire Naturelles (1906) and his orchestral song cycle Shéhérazade (1903). Faure's important cycles in an older style were La Bonne Chanson (1892-3) and La Chanson d'Eve (1907).


Chamber Music


Both Debussy, (1893) and Ravel (1903) wrote string quartets.


Piano Music


Descriptive titles which set a mood were important in Debussy's Estampes (1903), Images I (1905), II (1907) and Preludes I (1910) and II (1913), and Ravel's Jeux d'eau (1901) and Miroirs (1905). Eric Satie's (1866-1925) Three Pieces in the Shape of a Pear (1903) and Dried-up Embryos (1913) ridiculed these impressionist titles.




Expression through tonality and modulation, begun by Haydn, reached its final phase in works characterized by extremes of chromaticism and free modulation, enormous orchestras, emotional realism and the long surging line.


Symphonic Poem


Richard Strauss (1864-1949) used both philosophical programs, Tod und Verklärung (1889) and Also sprach Zarathustra (1896), and descriptive programs, Don Juan (1899), Till Eulenspiegel (1895), Don Quixote (1897), Ein Heldenleben (1898), Sinfonia Domestica (1903) and Alpensymphonie (1915). His strongest feature was the virtuosic use of the orchestra.


Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) also composed a number of symphonic poems based on the Finnish national epic, Finlandia (1899).




Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) also excelled at virtuosic orchestration in his ten symphonies, including No. 2 "Resurrection" (1895), No. 4 (1901) and No. 8 "of a Thousand" (1910). He typically included orchestral songs (Nos. 2, 3, and 4), augmented his often huge orchestra with chorus (Nos. 2, 3, and 8), used folk-like melodies and varied the number of movements. Early programs were later suppressed. Sibelius' most important symphonies were No. 2 (1902) and No. 4 (1911).


Orchestral Variations


Unlike Brahms, orchestral variations in this generation did not retain the structure in each variation. These were Vincent D'Indy's (1851-1931) Istar Variations (1896) and Edward Elgar's (1857-1934) Enigma Variations (1899).


Piano music


The limits of romantic piano idiom were reached in the ten sonatas of Alexander Scriabin (1872-1915) and the preludes, Op. 3, No. 2 (1892), Op. 23 (1904) and Op. 32 (1910), and Piano Concertos No. 2 (1901) and No. 3 (1909) of Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943).


Orchestral Song Cycle


Closely related to his symphonies in style and structure were Mahler's Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (1883-84), Kindertotenlieder (1902) and Das Lied von der Erde (1908) for tenor and contralto.




The new generation began composing songs in the 1880's and included Mahler, Strauss (composing 1882-1901), and Hugo Wolf (1860-1903) who published his songs in volumes by a single poet: Mörike (1888), Eichendorff (1888), Goethe (1889), Spanisches Liederbuch (1890), Italienische Liederbuch (1891, '96) and Michaelangelo (1897).


German Opera


Wagnerian principles of continuous music and use of leitmotives were found in the dissonant and dramatically violent Salome (1905) and Elektra (1909) by Strauss.


Italian Opera


Verismo was the operatic version of literary realism, shown in the use of naturalistic recitative, the disappearance of coloratura and commonplace, often violent subject matter. The operas were Cavalleria rusticana (1890) by Pietro Mascagni (1863-1945), I Pagliacci (1892) by Ruggiero Leoncavallo (1858-1919), and Manon Lescaut (1893), La Bohème (1896), Tosca (1900) and Madame Butterfly (1904) by Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924).


Russian Opera


Russian opera continued in Sadko (1897) and Le Coq d'or (1909) by Rimsky-Korsakov.


Choral Music


Important choral works were Elgar's oratorio Dream of Gerontius (1900) and Guerrelieder (1901), a cantata by Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951).


American Jazz


Ragtime for piano by Scott Joplin (1868-1917) flourished c. 1897-1910 with an upbeat tempo and syncopated right hand, including "Maple Leaf Rag" (1899) and his opera Treemonisha (one performance in 1915).


1870 – 1890 Brahms and Tchaikovsky


1870         Franco-Prussian War
1871-1940     French Third Republic
1888-1918     Kaiser Wilhelm II, Germany


Vocal Music


Italian Opera


Operas of Verdi's old age, Otello (1887) and Falstaff (1892), had his best librettos, by Arrigo Boito (1842-1918) who also wrote the librettos for Amilcare Ponchielli's (1834-86) La Gioconda (1876) and his own Mefistofele (1868).


French Opera


The division into grand opera (recitative) and opèra-comique (spoken dialogue) eventually served only to identify the two main Paris opera houses. The first use of literary realism in opera was in Carmen (1875) by Georges Bizet (1828-75). Other sentimental operas were Samson and Delilah (1877) by Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921), The Tales of Hoffman (1881) by Offenbach, and Herodiade (1881), Manon (1884) and Werther (1892) by Jules Massenet (1842-1912).


German Opera and Operetta


Wagner's music dramas concluded with Parsifal (1882). The most successful Wagnerian imitation was the fairy tale opera Hänsel und Gretel (1893) by Engelbert Humperdinck (1854-1921).


The waltz and polka were featured in the operettas of Johann Strauss the Younger (1825-99), including Die Fledermaus (1874) and Der Zigeunerbaron (1885).


English Operetta


The operettas of Sir Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900) with librettos by Sir William Gilbert emphasized political satire, including Trial by Jury (1875), H.M.S. Pinafore (1878), The Pirates of Penzance (1880), The Mikado (1885) and The Gondoliers (1889).


Choral Music


Liturgical works with solos, chorus and orchestra were Bruckner's Te Deum (1884), Gounod's St. Cecilia Mass (1885) and the contrasting Requiem Masses of Verdi and Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924).

Verdi's Requiem (1874) was a choral opera with typically operatic arias and orchestration and a bombastic "Dies Irae". Fauré's Requiem (1887) omitted the "Dies Irae" entirely, added the graveside prayer at the end and generally emphasized quiet comfort.


Oratorios were César Franck's (1822-90) Beatitudes (1879) and Gounod's Redemption (1882). Brahms continued the romantic cantata in his Rhapsody (1870) for alto and male chorus, Schicksalslied (1871) and Nänie (1881).




Brahms composed Lieder throughout his career, beginning with "Liebestreu" (1853) and ending with Vier ernste Gesänge (1896) on texts from the Bible.


French Song


Henri Duparc (1848-1933) composed his sixteen songs, called mélodies, in 1868-77. Others were Gounod, Saint-Saëns, Fauré, Massenet and Ernest Chausson (1855-99).






Nationalism arose as a response to German dominance and consisted of emphasis on national elements such as

(a) folk melodies,
(b) ethnic dance rhythms, and
(c) scenes from national life or history.
The important early schools were Russia which began with Glinka [1830 generation] and followed with "The Five," Borodin, Cui, Rimsky-Korsakov, Balakirev and Mussorgsky; Czechoslovakia which began with Smetana [1850] and continued half-heartedly with Dvořák; and Norway with Grieg.


Russian Opera


The important nationalist operas were Boris Godunov (1874) by Modeste Mussorgsky (1839-81) and Prince Igor (1890) by Alexander Borodin (1833-87). Both operas were arranged by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908) and were composed on subjects from Russian history. More in the European mainstream were Eugen Onegin (1879) and Pique Dame (1890) by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-93).

Modal cadence from Mussorgsky's Boris

Nationalist Songs


  1. In Russia "The Five," including César Cui (1835-1918), Mily Balakirev (1837-1910) and especially Mussorgsky, composed songs in Russian style, including Mussorgsky's Nursery (1872) and Songs and Dances of Death (1875). The songs of Anton Rubinstein (1829-94) and Tchaikovsky were closer in style to German Lieder.
  2. Norway Edvard Grieg (1843-1907) composed songs in German, Danish and Norwegian, including Haugtussa (1896-8), and
  3. in Czechoslovakia were Antonin Dvořák's (1841-1904) Gypsy Songs (1880) and Biblical Songs (1894).



Instrumental Music




Formal development from 1600-1900



All of Brahms' late piano works were single movements called "Capriccio," "Intermezzo," Rhapsody," etc. Character pieces with titles in Norwegian were by Grieg. Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition (1874) was a set of character pieces with a connecting "Promenade."


Chamber Music


Brahms' mature works for strings alone or with piano in classic form were the finest examples in the romantic repertoire, including 3 string quartets, 2 viola quintets, 3 violin sonatas, 2 piano trios and a piano quartet. Late works with clarinet were 2 sonatas, a trio and a clarinet quintet.


From 1878 Dvořák was under Brahms' influence, including his 8 string quartets and the Dumky Trio (1891). He included folk forms in the inner movements. Franck composed a string quartet, a violin sonata and a piano quintet. Smetana composed an unusual program quartet, From My Life (1876).




Three standards of the modern repertoire were the piano concertos of Grieg, Op. 16 in A minor (1868), Tchaikovsky, No 1 in Bb minor (1875), and Brahms, No. 2 in Bb major (1878-81). There was a new peak of interest in concertos for strings, and the best examples, all in three movements, were the violin concertos of Tchaikovsky (1878) and Brahms (1878), Dvořák's Cello Concerto and the Double Concerto (1887) for violin and cello by Brahms.


Symphonic Poem


The nationalists preferred the descriptive symphonic poem, as in Mussorgsky's Night on Bare Mountain (1867), Borodin's In Central Asia (1880), Balakirev's Russia (18876) and Smetana's Ma Vlast (1874-79). Saint-Saëns also composed Phaeton (1873) and Danse Macabre (1874).




The nationalists also revived the orchestral suite in Grieg's Peer Gynt Suite (1875) and Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade (1888).


Brahms returned repeatedly to older forms, reviving the concert overture in Academic Festival Overture (1880) and Tragic Overture (1881) and orchestral variations in Variations on a Theme by Haydn (1873). The form of Brahms' variations maintained the structure of the theme while varying the other aspects and concluded with a long passacaglia adapted from the theme. Tchaikovsky's orchestral piece, The Year 1812 (1880) is called an overture.




Far from following "the music of the future," the successors of Liszt and Wagner composed real symphonies, generally without programs, descriptive titles or cyclic treatment. The symphonies of Brahms No. 1 in C minor (1876), No. 2 in D major (1877), No. 3 in F major (1884) and No. 4 in E minor (1885), were classical in form and motivic development and romantic in harmonic idiom and orchestration. He altered the classic form only in the third movement which was generally slower than a true scherzo and in the Finale to No. 4 where he used a chaconne bass. Brahms was noted for his use of counterpoint and rhythmic subtlety.


Bruckner composed nine symphonies from 1866 to his death in 1896, all with log first and last movements in loose sonata-allegro form with three themes and important scherzos, often with Ländler trios. He was noted for heavy, Wagnerian orchestration and a preference for minor keys.


Tchaikovsky's important late symphonies were also in minor keys: No. 4 in F minor (1877), No. 5 in E minor (1888) and No. 6 "Pathétique" in B minor (1893). His strongest features were melody and rhythm. Franck's symphony in D minor (1888) was cyclical but without a program. Dvořák's most important symphony was No. 9, "From the New World" (1893).




Tchaikovsky's strengths in rhythm and melody made him perfectly suited to the ballet, which became once again an important medium in Swan Lake (1876), Sleeping Beauty (1890) and Nutcracker (1892).

1850 – 1870 Liszt and Wagner

1848-52 French Second Republic
1852-70 Napoleon III
1861-65 American Civil War

This is the generation of Verdi and Brahms, not just Liszt and Wagner. Liszt introduces the symphonic poem and Wagner the music drama.

Vocal Music

Music Drama

The logical extreme of the program symphony, traits of Wagner's late operas were

(a) his own librettos on medieval German myths (first used in Dutchman),
(b) continuous music through continual modulation and avoidance of perfect cadences,
(c) no clear-cut arias and expanded recitative (first in Rheingold),
(d) thick romantic orchestration,
(e) a system of themes, called leitmotifs, connected to persons, objects or ideas in the drama (also first in Dutchman), and
(f) equal importance of visual and dramatic arts in the Gesamtkunstwerk.
Tannhäuser (1845) and Lohengrin (1850) were still number operas. Though he began composing the Ring in 1853, Tristan und Isolde (1865) was the first music drama to be produced, followed by Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (1868). The four operas of Der Ring des Nibelungen, 1. Das Rheingold (1869), 2. Die Walküre (1870), 3. Siegfried, and 4. Die Götterdämmerung were produced together in Bayreuth in 1876.

Italian Opera

Italian opera was dominated by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) who capitalized on the strengths of Grand Opera in melodramatic plots, popular melodies and effective vocal display pieces. His mature operas began with Rigoletto (1851) and included Il Trovatore (1853), La Traviata (1853), Un Ballo in Maschera (1859), Don Carlos (1867) and Aida (1871).

French Opera

Grand Opera continued in Meyerbeer's L'Africaine (1865). Popular sentimental operas were Mignon (1866) by Ambroise Thomas (1811-96) and Faust (1859) and Roméo et Juliette (1867) by Charles Gounod (1818-93). Berlioz' Béatrice et Bénédict (1862) and Les Troyens (Part II 1863, Part I 1890) failed to establish him as an opera composer.

Opéra Bouffe

Jacques Offenbach (1819-80) created the prototype for the operetta in his Orpheus in the Underworld (1858) and La Belle Hélène (1864).

Czech Opera

The Bartered Bride (1866) by Bedrich Smetana (1824-84) began the second nationalist school in Czechoslovakia.


The most important oratorios were Berlioz' L'Enfance du Christ (1854) and Franz Liszt's (1811-86) Christus (1856) and Legend of St. Elizabeth (1857-62). Ein deutsches Requiem (1868) by Johannes Brahms (1833-97) can also be considered an oratorio.

Liturgical Music

Orchestral masses were Mass in D minor (1864), Mass in E minor (1866) and Mass in F minor (1867) by Anton Bruckner (1824-96), and Liszt's Festival Mass (1855). Berlioz' Te Deum (1855) was in his massive style.


Lieder were by Liszt, Peter Cornelius (1824-74), Adolf Jensen (1837-79), Robert Franz (1815-92) and Brahms, especially his Magelone (1861) cycle. Wagner's cycle, Wesendonck Lieder (1857-8), was composed in both piano and orchestral versions.

Instrumental Music


Brahms added to the tradition of Schumann an intensive study of Beethoven and Bach. His earliest piano compositions included three sonatas: Op. 1 (1853), Op. 2 (1853) and Op. 5 (1854). Of the classical forms, he preferred the variation, including Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel (1862) and Variations on a Theme by Paganini (1863). He retained only the structural outline in his character variations. His early piano pieces also included four Ballades (1854).

Liszt began as a virtuoso and developed piano technique in his compositions, including the character pieces in Années de pèlerinage (1850, '67-77), imitations of gypsy music in Hungarian Rhapsodies (1856), and dance rhythms in Mephisto Waltz (1859). His most important etudes were Etudes d'execution transcendante (1852). Throughout his career, 1831-85, Liszt wrote transcriptions for piano of such works as Beethoven's symphonies, Bach's organ works, Berlioz' Symphonie fantastique, and Schubert's songs, and composed fantasias on operas by Bellini, Meyerbeer, Verdi and Wagner. They are rarely played today.

Chamber Music

Brahms carried on the German tradition in his early chamber works, including a piano trio, two piano quartets, a piano quintet, and two string sextets.


Brahms and Liszt represented opposite extremes of romantic style with Brahms' No. 1 in D minor (1861) in the traditional form and Liszt's No. 1 (1849) in a cyclic, singles-movement form.

Symphonic Poem

The twelve symphonic poems of Liszt were descendants of the concert overture; in fact, five of them, including Tasso (1849), Les Preludes (1848) and Hamlet (1858), were composed as overtures to plays or musical works. In the case of Les Preludes the obligatory program, a poem by Lamartine, was fitted to the already existing music. Influenced by Berlioz' program symphonies, the titles and poems referred to and suggested literary content for the music, but did not determine its structure, which derived from the sonata form. Other examples were Mazeppa (1851) an Die Ideale (1857).


Liszt's Faust Symphony (1854) consisted of three character pieces on Faust, Gretchen and Mephistopheles with a finale for tenor and male chorus on Goethe's Chorus mysticus. The same themes appeared in all movements.


Wagner's orchestra benefited from the newly improved woodwinds with the Böhm key system and the recently perfected valve horns and valve trumpets first used in Halévy's La Juive (1835). Wagner's standard orchestra was three of each woodwind (with the third player doubling on piccolo, English horn, bass clarinet or double bassoon), four horns, three trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani, harp and strings. For the Ring he added another flute, oboe, clarinet, trumpet and trombone along with four more horns which doubled on Wagner tubas, another pair of timpani and other percussion, six harps and augmented strings.