Saturday, November 10, 2007

1740 – 1760 Rococo

1715-74 Louis XV, France
1740-80 Maria Theresa, Austria
1740-86 Frederick the Great, Prussia
1743-78 Carl Theodore, elector of the Palatinate, Mannheim

This is Bach's old age, and the period of his son C.P.E. Bach. It is the period of the greatest influence for the Mannheim symphony. This is Handel's oratorio period, when all types of comic operas replaced the public's interest in serious opera. In this period Gluck was a standard Italian opera composer.

The transition from baroque to classic style, begun in the style galant of Couperin, consisted of

(a) the sudden collapse and disappearance of the German polyphonic style,
(b) a more gradual shift of popular interest away from opera to the new symphony and within opera from the international opera seria to the national comic opera genres and
(c) the establishment of tonality and modulation as the chief means of musical expression.

Vocal Music

Opera seria

Opera seria was still predominant in Italy by Nicola Porpora (1686-1768), Johann Adolf Hasse, "Il Sassone" (1699-1783), and Niccolo Jommelli (1713-74). Important in Berlin was Carl Heinrich Graun's (1703/4-59) Montezuma (1755), and in Vienna Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714-87) wrote 19 operas on librettos by Metastasio.

Opera buffa

Sophisticated librettos by Carlo Goldoni (1707-93) represented contemporary figures in realistic situations with natural voices, therefore, there were

(a) very few castrati,
(b) bass soloists in
(c) secco recitative,
(d) flexible arias and
(e) important ensemble finales.

Works were Il Filisofo di campagna (1754) by Baldassare Galuppi (1706-85), La Buona figliuola (1760) by Niccolo Piccinni (1728-1800), and Gluck's Il Tigrane (1743).


The enormous popular success of Pergolesi's La serva padrona in Paris in 1752 set off the War of the Buffons between supporters of comic opera and defenders of the grand opera. Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-78) composed Le Devin du village (1752) as a model opéra-comique.


Coffey's English ballad opera The Devil to Pay was sung in Germany in 1743 and then reset by J.C. Standfuss in 1752 as Der Teufel ist los, the first Singspiel.

First Berlin Song School

Songs in style galant, originally piano pieces, were first introduced in Singende Muse an der Pleisse (1736-45) by Sperontes, a pseudonym for Johann Scholze (1705-50). Johann Joachim Quantz (1697-1773), Graun and Carl Phillipp Emanuel Bach (1714-88), all at the court of Frederick the Great in Berlin, composed fifty collections of simple strophic Lieder between 1753 and 1763.


When his opera ventures failed, Handel turned to oratorio in English, beginning with Israel in Egypt (1737), and including Messiah (1742), Samson (1743), Judas Maccabeus (1746), Solomon (1749), Jephtha (1752), and Triumph of Time and Truth (1757). He used fewer da capo arias, varied the degree of difficulty in order to use English singers, and adapted English choral polyphony to his own Italianate style. Graun's Der Tod Jesu (1755) was a pale rival.

Instrumental Music

J.S. Bach, the past master, composed the Goldberg Variations (1742) for harpsichord, Musikalische Opfer (1747) for instruments, and Die Kunst der Fuge (1749) as virtuosic demonstrations of his contrapuntal skill.

Keyboard sonata

In the same year as his father's Goldberg Variations C.P.E. Bach composed his Op. 1, Prussian Sonatas (1742), and in 1744 his Op. 2, Württemberg Sonatas. Some features were

(a) three movement form (fast-slow-fast),
(b) non-contrapuntal texture with less important bass, and
(c) expression through contrasts in dynamics, unusual harmonic changes and recitative-like sections within a single movement (Empfindsamer Stil).
His essay, Versuch über die wahre Art das Klavier zu spielen (1753-62) discussed keyboard technique and ornamentation.

Other composers were Wilhelm Friedemann Bach (1710-84), Giovanni Platti (1690-1763), Giambattista Martini (1706-84) and Domenico Alberti (c.1710–c.1740) who is credited with establishing the Alberti bass consisting of broken chord patterns.

Keyboard Concertos

Keyboard concertos were also composed by C.P.E. Bach in conservative form with three connected movements.

Violin sonata and concerto

Giuseppe Tartini (1692-1770) composed sonatas and about 200 concertos, including Op. 1, violin concertos (1734). He used rococo figuration but maintained the unity of Affect characteristic of the baroque. An important treatise on violin playing was Leopold Mozart's (1719-87) Versuch einer gründlichen Violinschule (1756).


The Italian overture moved to the concert hall in the works of G.B. Sammartini (1700/1-75) whose first symphony dated from 1734. His most important contribution to symphonic form was the addition of a clearly defined second key. Other important early symphonists were the Viennese masters Georg Matthias Monn (1717-50) and Georg Christoph Wagenseil (1715-77).

From 1745 Johann Stamitz (1717-57) led the orchestra in Mannheim and composed symphonies for it. Under his direction it became the leading orchestra in Europe. Features of the Mannheim style were

(a) emphasis on the violins in a homophonic texture,
(b) dynamic effects such as extended crescendos and unexpected fortes,
(c) an ascending arpeggio theme called a Mannheim rocket (Raketen),
(d) general rests (Generalpausen),
(e) virtuosic orchestral ensemble and
(f) four movement form with minuet.
Other composers of the older generation were Ignaz Holzbauer (1711-83) and Franz Xaver Richter (1709-89).


The third of the trio of essays on instrumental technique was Versuch einer Anweisung die Flöte traversiere zu spielen (1752) on flute playing by Quantz.

Encyclopédie (1751-65) edited by Diderot was designed as a source of universal knowledge and included music.

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