Saturday, November 10, 2007

1760 – 1780 Reform Opera

1756-73 Seven Years War, Prussia & England vs Austria & France
1760-1820 George III, England
1774-92 Louis XVI, France
1776 American Revolution

This is the generation of Gluck's reform opera, first in Vienna, then in Paris. It is also the generation of Mozart's youth and Haydn's formal development of what became of the classical symphony. Bach's children and the later Mannheimers are also prominent.

Vocal Music

Reform opera

No longer guaranteed success in opera seria, Gluck composing in Vienna, wrote the dramatic ballet Don Juan (1761) which was greatly influenced by Jean-Georges Noverre's (1727-1810) treatise Lettre sur la danse (1760) emphasizing mime and gesture. Then with Ranieri de' Calzabigi (1714-95), librettist, he composed Orfeo ed Euridice (1762), the first reform opera. His reforms included

(a) important use of chorus and ballet,
(b) flexible aria forms from opera buffa,
(c) orchestral recitative,
(d) decreased use of vocal ornamentation and cadenzas, and
(e) a return to Greek myth plots.

Other Italian operas with Calzabigi were Alceste (1767) and Paride ed Elena (1769). When the latter was not successful, Gluck moved to Paris where he achieved success in French with Iphegenie en Aulide (1774), Armide (1777) and Iphegenie en Tauride (1779). He adapted Orphée et Euridice (1774) by changing Orfeo from an alto castrato to a tenor, and Alceste (1776).

Opera seria

The stagnant condition of opera seria is well illustrated in the repeated settings of Metastasio's libretti: his Poro or Alessandro nell'Indie was composed by Porpora, Hasse and Handel in 1731, Gluck in 1764, Johann Christian Bach (1735-82) in 1762, Antonio Sacchini (1730-86) in 1763, Piccinni in 1774 and Cimarosa in 1781.


With librettos by Charles Simon Favart (1710-92), it used spoken dialogue, simple ariettes and no ensembles or choruses. Examples were Recontre imprévue (1764) by Gluck, Tom Jones (1765) by F. A. Danican Philidor (1726-95), Le Déserteur (1769) by Pierre-Alexandre Monsigny (1729-1817) and Zemire et Azor (1769) by André Ernest Gretry (1742-1813).


Modeled after the opéra-comique, it included some ensembles and choruses. Examples were Die Jagd (1770) by Johann Adam Hiller (1728-1804) and Bastien und Bastienne (1768) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-91).


First used in Rousseau's Pygmalion (1762), it consisted of spoken dialogue with orchestral background. Other examples were Ariadne auf Naxos (1775) and Medea (1778) by Georg Benda (1722-95) and Mozart's unfinished Zaide (1779).


The early masses of Mozart and Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) were the cantata-mass type with florid arias in separate sections. Examples were Haydn's St. Cecilia Mass (1772) and Mozart's C minor, K.139 (1772), C major, K.167 (1773) and C minor, K.427 (1782).


Sonata form

Though there was still a great deal of formal variety, the sonata form became established in this generation.

(1) The early first movement sonata-allegro was conceived primarily in harmonic terms: Part I began in the tonic key, modulated to the dominant or relative major and closed in the new key (exposition). Part II began with harmonic digressions leading back to the tonic key (development) and then repeated Part I, all in the tonic key (recapitulation).
(2) A middle slow movement was standard, and
(3) a final movement in fast tempo was usually in rondo form.

A minuet with trio was optional.


The new importance of crescendo and diminuendo as seen in the Mannheim symphonies hastened the change from harpsichord to piano.

(1) Sonatas, not yet in sonata-allegro form, became increasingly expressive in the style of the German Sturm und Drang in works by J.C. Bach, C.P.E. Bach, Haydn Nos. 1-39, Mozart Nos. 1-15 and Johann Eckard (1735-1809).

(2) Accompanied sonatas in which a violin or flute doubled the upper keyboard voice were composed by Johann Christoph Schobert (1730?-67) and Mozart.

(3) Fantasias with an improvisational, unmetered recitative-like character were composed by C.P.E. Bach.


In three movements, they included an important improvised cadenza for the soloist at the end of the first movement. Mozart's 3 Piano Concertos (1776) and Eb Piano Concerto (1777) were modeled on J.C. Bach; also 3 Violin Concertos (1775).

Chamber Music

Smaller string ensembles were first to dispense with basso continuo.

(1) String quartet, two violins, viola and cello, was the ensemble preferred by Haydn who used the sonata form increasingly with a minuet as a second or third movement: Op. 9 (1769), Op. 17 (1771), Op. 20 (1772), also Mozart's K.168-73 (1772).

(2) String quintet with an added cello and widely varied formal structure was the preferred ensemble of Luigi Boccherini (1743-1805) who also composed about 100 quartets.

(3) Haydn also composed a large number of trios for baryton (a large viol with sympathetic strings), viola and cello.


Also called "cassation," "serenade," or "nocturne," divertimentos usually included dances and marches in addition to sonata movements, as in Mozart's Haffner Serenade (1776).


Composed by Johann Christian Bach and the later Mannheimers, Christian Cannabich (1731-98) and Karl Stamitz (1745-1801), development toward the mature classic symphony took place mainly in the early symphonies of Haydn: No. 1 (1759), No. 26 (1765), No. 49 (1768) and No. 45 (1772). He experimented with form and style, becoming increasingly serious and intense.

In Paris the sinfonia concertante, a symphony with solo instruments, was popular: J.C. Bach and Mozart's K.299 (1778) and K.364 (1779).


Histories of music by Gerbert (1774), Hawkins (1776), Burney (1776-89) and Martini (1757-81) were written.

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