Centers of Progress (20): Vienna (music)

Posted on November 20, 2022


An article from Human Progress.

Our Twentieth Center of Progress is Vienna, nicknamed “The City of Music”. From the late 18th century to most of the 19th century, the city revolutionized music and produced some of the greatest works of the Classical and Romantic periods. The sponsorship of the then powerful Habsburg dynasty and the aristocrats of the Vienna imperial court created a profitable environment for musicians and attracted them to the city. Some of history’s greatest composers lived and composed music in Vienna, including Ludwig van Beethoven, Johannes Brahms, Joseph Haydn, Franz Schubert and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Many of the most important symphonies, concertos and operas in history were thus created in Vienna. Even today, pieces composed during Vienna’s Golden Age dominate orchestral music performances around the world.

Today, Vienna is the capital and most populous city of Austria with a population of about two million. The city is famous for its many historic palaces and museums, as well as its cultural icons, including cafes, high-end shops and a high quality of life. The historic center of the city is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. The city is still referred to as the “music capital of the world” and hosts many concerts. In addition to its revolutionary role in music, Vienna continues to inspire musicians in recent times. Vienna’s official tourism website says the city has become the home of more than three thousand songs, including two old Beatles songs and Billy Joel’s hit of the same name.

The area near the Danube River where Vienna is located today has been inhabited since at least 500 BC, when evidence of ancient Celts has been found. There was a Roman fort in this area around 15 BC. Vienna’s location along the Danube made it a natural center for trade. The arrival of coins from the Byzantine Empire in Vienna in the 6th century AD indicates that the city was engaged in extensive trade. In 1155, Vienna became the capital of the margraviate of Austria, and the following year it was elevated to a duchy. Over the centuries, the wealth and political importance of the region has steadily increased. In the mid-15th century, Vienna became the seat of the Habsburg dynasty and the de facto capital of the Holy Roman Empire. The Habsburgs were once among the most influential royal families in Europe. Although its power has greatly diminished, the family remains active in politics to this day (for the record, the current head of the Habsburg family was the first person in the royal family to contract covid).

As an increasingly important center of trade and culture, the city became the target of military attacks and vulnerable to foreign diseases. Vienna suffered from Hungarian occupation in the 15th century, attempted Ottoman invasions in the 16th and 17th centuries, and a devastating epidemic (probably the bubonic plague) in 1679 that killed a third of its population. Even today, a pillar decorated with statues can be seen in the center of the city, marking the end of the epidemic. In 1804, as the Napoleonic Wars raged, Vienna became the capital of the new Austrian Empire. Despite wars and disease, Vienna’s status as a cultural hotspot grew.

The Habsburg family and the imperial court sought to increase their prestige by funding the arts, especially music. Thanks to their close ties to Italy and the Catholic Church, the Habsburgs brought more than a hundred Italian musicians to Vienna as early as the early 17th century, introducing the most modern Italian musical innovations, such as opera and ballet, as well as increasingly extravagant productions. sacred music. As part of the Counter-Reformation, the Catholic Church encouraged major musical and artistic projects.

In 1622, the head of the Habsburg family, Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II (1578-1637) married the music-loving Princess Eleanor of Mantua (1598-1655). Empress Eleanor’s artistic patronage is credited with turning the Viennese court into a center for Baroque music and emerging theatrical forms such as opera. As the Habsburgs sponsored more and more lavish musical performances to celebrate family events such as birthdays and grand religious music performances, the financial incentive attracted more and more musicians from all over Europe to the city. By the 1760s, music had become so ingrained in Viennese culture that members of the nobility, as well as the prosperous middle class, began to perform as patrons.

Often called “the father of the symphony” and “the father of the string quartet,” Austrian composer Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) started from humble origins, the son of a wheelwright and a cook, to become Europe’s most famous composer. for a while. He cut his teeth as a court musician for a wealthy family on a remote estate, but was eventually drawn to Vienna, where he received numerous grants and was treated like a celebrity. L’great work by Haydn creationThe oratorio celebrating the biblical Book of Genesis was premiered at a private performance for a noble society of music lovers in Vienna. creation It was presented to the public at the Burgtheater in Vienna in 1799 and sold out long before the performance. While in Vienna, Haydn became the teacher of Mozart (1756-1791) and Beethoven (1770-1827).

The son of a music teacher from Salzburg, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart performed for the first time at the Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna when he was only six years old with his ten-year-old sister. The Habsburg empress Maria Theresa (1717-1780) paid the brother and sister 100 gold ducats and gave them expensive clothes as a thank you. Mozart is considered one of the greatest composers of all time. He experienced the greatest financial success of his career in Vienna. There he and his wife rented a luxurious apartment, bought expensive furniture, had several servants, sent their son Karl to a prestigious school (in Prague) and lived a luxurious lifestyle. Maria Theresa’s son and heir, Joseph II (1741–1790), appointed Mozart as court chamber music composer and paid him a salary in addition to the income from his concerts and other patrons.

However, Mozart suffered financially in his later years. As the Austro-Turkish War (1788–1791) raged and reduced the prosperity of Vienna and its aristocrats, it became more difficult for musicians to secure funds. Although their incomes are decreasing, their expenses remain high and they are in debt. He had begun to recover financially, finding new patrons outside of Vienna, when he died suddenly at age 35 of what may have been influenza or a streptococcal infection (some say poison). One of his greatest masterpieces Requiem, was left unfinished. To add to the mystical nature of the work, his widow claimed that it was commissioned by a mysterious stranger and that Mozart was apparently composing the mass for his own death.

Beethoven is also one of the most beloved composers in history. At the age of 21, he left Bonn for Vienna. He quickly gained a good reputation as a pianist and became a favorite of the imperial court. Archduke Rudolph (1788-1831), a cardinal of the Catholic Church and a member of the Habsburg family, is one of its most prominent patrons. Beethoven’s most lucrative concerts are his revival of Napoleon’s defeat by the Duke of Wellington (opus 91) and his Seventh symphony (opus 92), also inspired by the Napoleonic Wars. Beethoven’s achievements are all the more impressive because he was nearly deaf at the end of his life, but continued to compose innovative music. He is the greatest Ninth symphony (opus 125), premiered in Vienna in 1824. It remains one of the most performed pieces of music in the world.

A native of Vienna, Schubert (1797-1828) created much-acclaimed works in his short life thanks to the patronage of the city’s aristocracy. His greatest work, Winterreise Lyrics taken from a series of poems by Wilhelm Müller (Winter Journey) explore themes of loneliness and suffering. He died at the age of 31, probably from typhus or possibly syphilis.

Born in Hamburg, Brahms (1833-1897) also worked in Vienna for most of his working life. His Fourth symphony often mentioned among his best works. Brahms believed in “absolute music”, that is, music that does not “talk” about anything in particular and does not refer explicitly to a specific scene or story. However, some experts believe that this Fourth symphony It may have been inspired by Shakespeare’s play, Antony and Cleopatra.

After the periods of classical music and romantic music, Vienna continued to play a major role in cultural innovation. It was at the center of the Art Nouveau movement in the 20th century and produced famous artists such as Vienna-born Gustav Klimt (1862-1918). But Vienna is still known for its musical achievements of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Music has enlivened human existence since prehistoric times

Carbon dating indicates that flutes excavated in Germany and carved from mammoth ivory are between 42,000 and 43,000 years old. The oldest written melody preserved on a clay cuneiform tablet is an ode to an ancient garden goddess, first composed around the 14th century BC. The earliest complete and translated musical composition, containing both words and melody, may date to 200 BC and was written in ancient Greek. It is engraved on a marble column marking the tomb of a woman named Euterpe (literally “rejoice well”). He should have been named after his musical muse. The lyrics of the song, believed to have been written by Euterpe’s widow, read:

“Shine while you live
there is no sadness
Life only exists for a short time
And time takes its toll.

The melody is joyful, celebrating the life of Euterpe. You can hear the Greek version of this tune here.

Centuries later, in Vienna, Beethoven tried to convey joy in the most beloved and most performed symphonic movement in history.Ode to Joy of Ninth symphony. As a powerful tool for expressing and evoking emotions, music has always played an important role in people’s lives, lifting spirits for generations. Humanity has never stopped creating new techniques and new styles of music. But Vienna’s cultural achievements are enough. Vienna earned the nickname “city of music” by creating many musical works that created a revolution in this field and continue to resonate with audiences centuries later.

Vienna’s musical heritage has enriched humanity. The city also demonstrated the role of prosperity in financing great works of art. Vienna has revolutionized the way music is performed, given the world more new composers than any other city, and is home to compositions that, for many, represent the pinnacle of musical achievement. Thus Vienna earned its place as the twentieth Center of Progress.

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