Boccherini’s posthumous reputation has suffered because his works do not emphasize the structural coherence and teleology emblematic of 18th-century Classicism; but regarded through the lens of performance—the sensations and images involved in its bodily presentation—his works evoke those aspects of the era characterized by urgent, even volatile, inquiries into the nature of the self.
Contemporaneous theories of embodiment illuminate the heart of Boccherini’s oeuvre, the chamber music for strings, which presents sensibilité through repetitiveness, a hyperattention to details of dynamics and articulation, the grotesque and bizarre timbres and registral excesses, and Newtonian mechanistic philosophy through gestural enactments of rapidity and rigidity.
These works often distance and ironize the performer, particularly in regard to virtuosity. They thereby make a sophisticated contribution to the central Enlightenment tension between subjectivity and appearance so memorably articulated in Diderot’s Paradoxe sur le comédien.
This according to “‘One says that one weeps, but one does not weep’: Sensibile, grotesque, and mechanical embodiments in Boccherini’s chamber music” by Elisabeth Le Guin (Journal of the American Musicological Society LV/2 [summer 2002] pp. 207–54).
Today is Boccherini’s 270th birthday! Below, a work cited by Le Guin as an example.
Indiana University Press launched the series The symphonic repertoire in 2002, with volume 2. Subsequently production was stalled following the death of the founder of the series, A. Peter Brown; it was revived in 2012.
For Volume 1, The Eighteenth-Century Symphony, 22 of Brown’s former students and colleagues collaborated to complete the work that he began on this critical period of development in symphonic history. The book follows Brown’s outline, is organized by country, and focuses on major composers.
Contributors address issues of historiography, the status of research, and questions of attribution and stylistic traits, and provide background material on the musical context of composition and early performances. The volume features a CD of recordings from the Bloomington Early Music Festival Orchestra, highlighting the largely unavailable repertoire discussed in the book.
Below, the Amadeus Orchestra performs a symphony by the little-known Czech composer Johann Baptist Vanhal (1739–1813).
In October 2011 Christoph Dohr—the founder of Verlag Dohr, which specializes in publishing old and new German music via books, journals and magazines, sheet music, and sound recordings—started the yearbook/series Almanach für Musik (ISBN 978-3-936655-79-7).
Following the ninteenth-century tradition of musicological writings, this new almanac is intended as a publication platform that will stimulate authors to produce original scholarly articles apart from monographs or conference proceedings.
The first volume brings together 13 essays on a variety of scholarly topics covering the time span from the eighteenth to the twenty-first century, and comprising historical, analytical, biographical, and mathematical approaches. The authors are Kirsten Beißwenger, Wolfgang Birtel, Klaus Martin Kopitz, Rainer Mohrs, Peter Hawig, Michael Leinert, Volker Müller, Ernst-Jürgen Dreyer, Lars Wallerang, Stefan Weiss, Gerald Golka, Sabine Sonntag, and Hans-Joachim Wagner.
A brief review penned by Peter Schnaus appeared in das Orchester 3 (2012).
In what he dubbed “a musicological jeu d’esprit”, Edward Green drew 25 parallels between the lives of Joseph Haydn and Duke Ellington in “Haydn and Ellington: Parallel lives?” (International review of the aesthetics and sociology of music XL/2 [December 2009] pp. 349–51). These include:
- Both had an outstanding orchestra at their immediate disposal for decades. This meant that they wrote for individuals, not just for instruments, and enabled the striking timbral and contrapuntal risks that they felt safe taking.
- Both helped to create the predominant musical style of their century, and were celebrated in their lifetime for having done so.
- Despite the necessity of producing numerous occasional works, both took an experimental attitude to composing, striving for freshness of form, design, and content, and their styles changed and developed remarkably over their careers.
- Both had a notoriously keen business sense.
Today is Haydn’s 270th birthday! Below, Baryton Trio Valkkoog performs the Adagio and Finale Fuga from Haydn’s “Birthday” trio, Hob.XI:97, composed for the birthday of Prince Nikolaus Esterházy.
Mozart’s epistolary style was based on spoken traditions, not written ones; his spontaneous use of language—including rich proverbial speech—gives his lively and telling letters their linguistic and emotional authenticity.
- “Of what use is a great sensation and rapid fortune? It never lasts. Chi va piano, va sano. One must just cut one’s coat according to one’s cloth.”
- “Now I sit like a rabbit in the pepper! The first act was finished more than three weeks ago…but I cannot compose any more, because the whole story is being altered.”
- “Yes, my dear little cello, it’s the way of the world, I’m told. Tom has the purse and Dick has the gold; and whoever has neither has nothing, and nothing is equal to very little, and little is not much; therefore nothing is still less than little, and little is still more than not much, and much is still more than little and—so it is, was, and ever shall be.”
This from “‘Nun sitz ich wie der Haass im Pfeffer”: Sprichwörtliches in Mozarts Briefen” by Wolfgang Mieder (Augsburger Volkskundliche Nachrichten XII/16 [December 2002] pp. 7–50; an English translation is in Journal of folklore research XL/I [January–April 2003] pp. 33–70).
Mozart’s appreciation of folklore extended to music as well; below, Clara Haskil plays his variations on the folk song Ah, vous dirai-je maman.
Although there is no record of Washington studying with a dance teacher, and rumors suggest that he was self-taught, the first U.S. President was widely known as a superb dancer.
One anecdote has Washington performing a minuet before French officers who admitted that his dancing could not be improved by any Parisian instructor. Washington’s dancing of a minuet in 1779 with Henry Knox’s wife Lucy inspired the following tribute from The Pennsylvania packet:
“The ball was opened by his Excellency the General. When this man unbends from his station, and its weighty functions, he is even then like a philosopher, who mixes with the amusements of the world, that he may teach it what is right, or turn trifles into instruction.”
This according to George Washington: A biography in social dance by Kate Van Winkle Keller (Sandy Hook: Hendrickson Group, 1998). Today is Washington’s 280th birthday! Below, a minuet of the type that he would have danced.
Launched in 2011 by the Haydn Society of North America and based at the Rochester Institute of Technology, Haydn (ISSN 2163-2723) is dedicated to the dissemination of all areas and methodologies of research and performance considerations regarding the music, culture, life, and times of Joseph Haydn and his circle.
Each semiannual issue will include large and small articles, reviews, reactions to previous articles, and other new and pertinent information. The journal’s Web-based format is intended to take full advantage of current and emerging electronic media.
In 1760 the Swedish diplomat Count Ulrich zu Lynar reported on an ingenious system for Tafelmusik at the court of Ludwig VIII, Landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt (above, 1691–1768):
“Next [to the palace] is a small garden and in it a Lusthaus where the Landgravial family dines during the summer, and in the middle of which, where the table is set up, there is a small round hole that leads to a basement, out of which music is meant to sound very beautifully. To that end, in each of the four corners there is also an opening from which the sound can come.”
This pavillion, built in the early eighteenth century and apparently used during Ludwig’s reign as a special entertainment for visitors, was demolished in the nineteenth century. A surviving architectural plan, however, indicates an underground passageway to it from the palace’s main building, presumably intended for the serenading musicians.
This according to “The court of Hesse-Darmstadt” by Ursula Kramer, an essay included in Music at German courts, 1715–1760: Changing artistic priorities (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2001, pp. 333–363).
On 15 February 1819 the leading Dutch newspaper Nederlandse staatscourant reported that Beethoven had been seriously wounded when he was run over by a carriage. The notice, a translation of a French report issued the day before, used strong language that implied that the internationally revered composer must have been hospitalized with broken bones or a concussion, and could be in mortal danger.
The report was an example of an international game of telephone—successive notices in various countries had piled on exaggerations to sensationalize the story. The earliest report, from the Frankfurter journal on 29 January 1819, was a much blander account:
(The composer van Beethoven, because of his weak hearing, suffered the misfortune of being knocked down and injured.)
It is possible that even this was an exaggerated version of a neighbor’s anecdote from around that time, in which the composer slipped and fell in the mud, and furiously refused to let the laughing bystanders help him to his feet.
This according to “Beethoven run over: A curious traffic accident in early 1819” by Jos van der Zanden (The Beethoven journal XXVI/1 [summer 2011] pp. 26–27).
Above, Beethoven as he often appeared on the streets of Vienna around 1819, depicted by the sculptor Johann Daniel Böhm (1794–1865), a friend of his at the time; below, Evgeny Kissin performs the Rondo a capriccio, op. 129 (“Rage over a lost penny”) as an encore.
After becoming the Elector of the Palatinate in 1743, the young Karl Theodor found it difficult to settle into the Mannheim residence that his father had just built due to the city’s paucity of artistic activity. In September 1746 he ordered the court to move to Düsseldorf, where he could have easier access to theatrical performances, masquerades, court balls, and the very popular par force hunting.
However, in August 1747 the ceiling of the Elector’s private chamber there collapsed, precisely on the spot where he usually practiced the cello. At the strong insistence of the Electress Elisabeth Augusta, by the end of September Karl Theodor gave the order to move back to Mannheim.
Subsequently the Elector would organize one of the most famous and influential music ensembles in the history of Europe, sometimes referred to as the Mannheim School.
This according to “The Palatine court in Mannheim” by Bärbel Pelker, an essay included in Music at German courts, 1715–1760: Changing artistic priorities (Woodbridge: Boydell & Brewer, 2011) pp. 131–162.
Above, Karl Theodor as painted by Anna Dorothea Therbusch in 1763. Below, Otto Sauter and members of the Mozarteumorchester Salzburg perform the finale of the D-major trumpet concerto by Franz Xaver Richter, one of the founding composers of the Mannheim School.
Related post: Karl Wilhelm’s harem