Vienna, Austria is a city of exceptional music and talented composers living in different musical times with very different styles of music. In the classical music era, this style of music took place in Vienna beginning in the 1600’s accompanied by a composer named Ludwig Van Beethoven. A German-Austrian composer who at an early age began musical training with his father who wanted him to be a child prodigy like Mozart. Classical music in Europe from 1750-1820 became defined by the Viennese School consisting of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven.
The classical music era is for one hard to define and hard to set a start date for the period. As we assume classical music is what is played on piano or includes the use of woodwind instrumentation. Though classical music does include the usage of those instrumentation, that is not all the classical music era consisted of. Classical music era can be defined as “music drawn from over a thousand years of music history, including music written specifically for the concert hall, as well as music never intended for an audience” (Johnson, 2009, para. 2). The classical period lasted from about 1750 to 1820, establishing many of the customs of composition, presentation, and style, and was also when the piano became the predominant keyboard instrument.
The classical music era consisted of operas, and music that included keyboard music with a string quartet. As well as symphonies/ concerts with a full audience to take part in. “In the classical era, opera became a powerful vehicle for representing the changed social status of ordinary people” (Johnson, 2009, para. 7). Consisting of two different operas, opera seria and opera buffa. Opera seria consisted of a more serious setting with baroque de capo arias. Opera buffa being more comedic with repeating verses in songs with short phrases and plain rhythms. The classical music era allowed for keyboard music to explore the private and intimate kinds of music making. The string quartet had a preeminent place in classical music as a large quantity of music was written for its instrumentation. A symphony concert was important to the composers and musicians who were in it. As it was a time for composers to show off their pieces and masterpieces and to get the public’s opinion on it. The audience were to sit still and not drink, eat, or speak during the performance and to just be lost in the experience of listening.
Ludwig Van Beethoven influencers include Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart who his father wanted him to follow to become a child prodigy like him. Gilles van dee Eeden helped tutor him on the keyboard. Franz Rovantini tutored him on the violin following his debut at a concert in 1778. In 1779 Christian Gottlob Neefe arrived in Vienna and soon after became Beethoven’s mentor educating him and presenting opportunities for him to advance. Under Neefe, Beethoven was able to compose his first works that include: three piano sonatas, a piano concerto, and three piano quartets. He as well studied another prominent composer during this period, Joseph Haydn. But it was short-lived as Beethoven and Haydn butted heads a lot leading Beethoven to decide to study elsewhere.
Ludwig Van Beethoven is the grandson of Lodewijk Van Beethoven who was a Flemish-German singer and Kapellmeister and son to Johann Van Beethoven who was a court tenor. Receiving his first musical training from his father Beethoven began to take a serious interest in music at the age of four with assistance of his father and other adults. Under his father’s wing Beethoven begun learning and his father began to realize his genius and potential. This shined through from Beethoven’s natural ability and his father’s very rigorous teaching. By the age of seven Beethoven was playing for the the court, and was ready for his public debut, which took place at a concert in Cologne. While learning music from his father, he began attending the local school, where he remained until the age of ten or eleven. He did not mix very well with the other children or learn much, and his studies concentrated on Latin. Though his learning never progressed. His mother as well was in his life teaching him good morals.
Beethoven’s original purpose in going to Vienna was to be mentored by Joseph Haydn. Learning from him how to do counterpoints and looking at scores while composing, practicing, and improving on his own. Viennese culture shaped Beethoven’s musical style and compositions as he saw the world evolving. Beethoven experienced a wave of change in his social life as well as politically and economically. Beethoven was also under the influence of the enlightenment ideals of freedom and experiencing the French Revolution in 1789. His work bridged music from classical style to romantic. Beethoven continued the tradition of Viennese classicism with depicted features of the new romantic art. From classicism in the works of Beethoven genres appeal to the symphonies and sonatas with romanticism being the interest in vocal and piano miniatures.
Cooper, B. (2008). Beethoven. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Johnson, J. (2009). Classical music: A beginner’s guide. Oxford: Oneworld Publications.
Van, B. H. (2012). Historical dictionary of music of the classical period. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press.