Chapter 29. Diverging Traditions in the Later Nineteenth Century

Chapter Outline



We have seen how German and Austrian composers in the second half of the nineteenth century responded in different ways to their common heritage, and in the process each created a distinctive personal style. Composers in other lands drew both on the German tradition and on the music of their own nations. Often-but not always- they sought to assert a specifically national style, as well as an individual one. French composers debated whether to assimilate Bach, Beethoven, and Wagner or to pursue a more national idiom. In Russia, Bohemia, and Scandinavia, nationalist schools emerged in instrumental music as well as in opera. Yet in Britain and the Americas, many composers avoided overt nationalism, choosing instead to speak in what they regarded as the universal common language of music. 

All these competing currents contributed to the growing diversity of classical music in the later nineteenth century. But classical music was only one of several streams in musical life, alongside entertainment music, popular song, utilitarian music, and folk music. Through a look at trends in the United States, we can gain a sense of the variety of musical traditions at the time. 

Chapter Outline: 

  1. German Traditions and Nationalism
    1. German and Austrian composers in the late nineteenth century drew upon their national heritage, as observed in HWM Chapter 28.
    2. In other regions, composers debated how to deal with the Germanic traditions.
      1. French composers argued about whether to assimilate Bach, Beethoven, and Wagner or to create a new idiom.
      2. Nationalist schools in instrumental music appeared in Russia, Bohemia, and Scandinavia (see nationalism discussion in HWM Chapter 27).
      3. Composers in Britain and the Americas avoided overt nationalism.
  2. France
    1. General trends
      1. Paris was the principal center of both concert music and opera.
      2. Concerts featured symphonic works of the German tradition and works by French composers.
      3. Conductor Edouard Colonne introduced explanatory program notes in a concert series surveying the history of music (see HWM Figure 29.1).
      4. Concerts and musical styles were often tied to politics.
      5. A variety of music schools were established, but the Conservatoire was still the most prestigious.
      6. Two principal strands of music composition dominated prior to the emergence of impressionism.
        1. A cosmopolitan tradition transmitted through C�sar Franck
        2. A French tradition, embodied in the music of Gabriel Faur�
    2. C�sar Franck (1822-1890)
      1. Born in Belgium, Franck studied at the Conservatoire and became professor of organ there in 1871.
      2. Musical characteristics
        1. Classical genres, forms, and counterpoint
        2. Thematic transformation and cyclic unity
        3. Wagnerian harmony
      3. Franck’s Prelude, Chorale, and Fugue (1884) for piano mixes Baroque forms and procedures with the thematic and harmonic methods of Liszt and Wagner.
      4. Organ music
        1. He often combined original melodies in chorale style with richly developed fantasias and full chordal finales, as in Three Chorales (1890).
        2. His improvisatory style inaugurated a new type of organ music in France.
        3. The design of the organ in France changed to accommodate this approach.
      5. Franck is considered the founder of modern French chamber music.
      6. All three of his major chamber works are cyclic and incorporate thematic transformation.
        1. Piano Quintet in F Minor (1879)
        2. String Quartet in D Major (1889)
        3. Violin Sonata in A Major (1886)
    3. Gabriel Faur� (1845-1924) (see HWM Figure 29.2)
      1. The French tradition drew upon the works of composers from Couperin to Gounod.
        1. Music was viewed more as sonorous form than as expression.
        2. Order and restraint are fundamental.
        3. Music is more lyric or dancelike than epic or dramatic.
      2. Biography
        1. Faur� studied under Saint-Sa�ns and had several posts as organist.
        2. He was a founder of the Soci�t� Nationale, which sought to preserve French traditions.
        3. He became a professor of composition at the Paris Conservatoire in 1896 and served as director from 1905 to 1920.
        4. His large works include the Requiem (1887) and two operas.
        5. He primarily composed smaller works, including songs, short piano works, and chamber music.
      3. Faur� developed a new style in which melodic lines are fragmented and harmony is less directional.
      4. Avant que tu ne t’en ailles (Before you depart) from the song cycle La bonne chanson (The Good Song, 1892) (see HWM Example 29.1)
        1. Fragmentary melodic phrases
        2. Harmonic treatment dilutes the need for resolution and creates a sense of repose.
  3. Russia
    1. Tchaikovsky
      1. Tchaikovsky successfully combined classical forms and nationalism.
      2. Many of his works have joined the classical repertory, including:
        1. Ballets (see HWM Chapter 27)
        2. Piano concertos and a violin concerto (1878)
        3. Symphonies, most notably his last three (Nos. 4-6)
      3. Symphony No. 4 in F Minor (1877-78)
        1. Tchaikovsky suggested that the opening horn call represents fate.
        2. The horn call reappears and unifies this cyclic symphony.
        3. The keys in the first movement move within a circle of minor thirds.
        4. The outer movements are dramatic; the second is wistful, and the third is an airy scherzo.
      4. Symphony No. 6 in B Minor, the Path�tique (1893)
        1. The scherzo is replaced by a 5/4 waltz.
        2. The dance movement is second, followed by a vivacious rondo.
        3. The symphony ends with a despairing slow movement.
    2. Borodin
      1. Borodin was a devotee of chamber music and an admirer of Mendelssohn.
      2. His melodies reflect the spirit of folk tunes.
      3. Style
        1. Songlike themes
        2. Transparent orchestral texture
        3. Modally tinged harmonies
        4. Spinning out an entire movement from a single idea
      4. Major works
        1. Two string quartets (1874-79 and 1881)
        2. Symphony No. 2 in B Minor (1869-76)
        3. In Central Asia (1880), a symphonic sketch
    3. Musorgsky
      1. Major nonoperatic works
        1. Night on Bald Mountain (1867), a symphonic fantasy
        2. Pictures at an Exhibition for piano (1874, later orchestrated by Ravel)
        3. Song cycles: The Nursery (1872), Sunless (1874), and Songs and Dances of Death (1875)
      2. Pictures at an Exhibition
        1. This set of ten pieces was inspired by an exhibition of sketches, paintings, and designs by Viktor Hartmann.
        2. Several of the images are rendered in character pieces that are joined by a theme that represents the viewer walking.
        3. The image of a commemorative gate to be built at Kiev was set as a grand processional hymn with Western and Russian elements (see HWM Figure 29.3 and Example 29.2).
    4. Rimsky-Korsakov
      1. Although he composed a variety of works, he is best known for his programmatic orchestral pieces.
        1. Capriccio espagnole (1887)
        2. Sheherazade (1888), a symphonic suite
        3. Russian Easter Overture (1888)
      2. These works display his genius for orchestration and musical characterization.
      3. The four movements of Sheherazade represent four stories as told to the sultan by his wife, who is portrayed with a solo violin.
  4. Bohemia
    1. Smetana
      1. The String Quartet No. 1, From My Life (1876) uses a nationalist style.
      2. M� vlast (My Country, ca. 1872-79) is a cycle of six symphonic poems.
        1. The Moldau, the best-known work of the set, depicts the river that moves through the Czech countryside to Prague.
        2. T�bor, the most stirring of the set, employs a traditional chorale as a symbol of Czech resistance to oppression.
    2. Dvo㎭k
      1. Dvo㎭k’s nonoperatic works include:
        1. Nine symphonies
        2. Four concertos, including the Cello Concerto in B Minor
        3. Numerous dances for orchestra
        4. Other chamber works, piano pieces, songs, and choral works
      2. Dvo㎭k could write in both international and national styles.
        1. Symphony No. 6 in D Major (1880) is international in style.
        2. Nationalist works include the Slavonic Dances and the Dumky Piano Trio.
      3. He served as artistic director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York.
        1. Dvo㎭k was hired to help create a national style in the United States.
        2. He looked to the music of American Indians and African Americans for a source of an American style (see HWM Source Reading, page 745).
        3. He applied some of these elements to the Symphony No. 9 in E Minor (From the New World), his best-known work, and to the String Quartet No. 12 in F Major (American).
  5. Northern Europe
    1. Edvard Grieg (1843-1907)
      1. Grieg created a distinctive nationalist style in Norway with a series of songs, short piano pieces, and orchestral suites.
      2. Norwegian elements
        1. Modal melodies and harmonies
        2. Dance rhythms
      3. The nationalist style can best be seen in:
        1. Songs on Norwegian texts
        2. Peer Gynt Suite (1875)
        3. Slatter, a collection of Norwegian peasant dances arranged for piano
      4. His piano style has some similarities to Chopin’s, but folk elements predominate.
      5. Some of Grieg’s works were international in character, including the popular Piano Concerto in A Minor (1868, revised 1907).
    2. Edward Elgar (1857-1934)
      1. Elgar was the first English composer to gain international recognition in over two hundred years.
      2. He did not adopt a distinctive national style, and he drew upon the styles of both Brahms and Wagner.
      3. The Dream of Gerontius (1900), an oratorio, is influenced by Wagner’s Parsifal.
      4. His orchestral works include the Enigma Variations (1899) and two symphonies.
  6. The United States
    1. Diverse musical styles
      1. Ethnic diversity complicated the creation of a national identity.
      2. Immigrants from various regions brought their own musical traditions.
      3. Three principal types of music emerged, although with some overlapping.
        1. Classical, which centered on the composer and required complex notation
        2. Popular, which was notated and sold but centered on the performer
        3. Folk, which was passed on through oral tradition
    2. The classical tradition
      1. A large number of Germans immigrated to the United States in the middle of the nineteenth century.
        1. German musicians had a strong commitment to their national traditions.
        2. German immigrants filled American orchestras and taught music at all levels.
        3. German tastes and style dominated American music in the classical tradition until World War I.
      2. Theodore Thomas (1835-1905)
        1. He came to the U. S. in 1845 and later played violin in several orchestras.
        2. He conducted the Brooklyn Philharmonic and then founded his own orchestra, the Theodore Thomas Orchestra.
        3. His ensemble was one of the best and most successful classical music organizations in this country.
        4. Despite this success, he still needed to perform lighter dance music periodically.
        5. He became the first conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
    3. American composers in the classic tradition
      1. John Knowles Paine (1839-1906) became Harvard’s first professor of music.
      2. George Whitefield Chadwick (1854-1931) studied at the New England Conservatory in Boston and became its director.
      3. Horatio Parker (1863-1919), a student of Chadwick, taught at Yale and was the first dean of its School of Music.
      4. Edward MacDowell (1860-1908) was the first professor music at Columbia University.
      5. All of the above composers studied in Germany, and their styles were deeply rooted in German tradition.
      6. They had varying attitudes about nationalism.
        1. Parker wrote in an international style that is reflected in his best-known work, the oratorio Hora novissima (1893).
        2. Chadwick employed pentatonic melodies and distinctive rhythms in his Symphony No. 2 in B-flat (1883-85) and Symphonic Sketches (1895-1904).
        3. MacDowell opposed overt nationalism, but he nevertheless wrote several nationalist works, including his Second Indian Suite (1891-95) based on American Indian melodies.
    4. Amy Marcy Beach (1867-1944) (see HWM Figure 29.4)
      1. Biography
        1. Beach was a child prodigy.
        2. Excluded from the top universities because she was a woman, she studied privately in Boston and taught herself.
        3. She married a wealthy physician and had time to compose.
        4. Beach was internationally recognized and inspired many women in later generations.
      2. Beach composed several large-scale works.
        1. Mass in E-flat (1890)
        2. Gaelic Symphony (1894-96)
        3. Piano Concerto (1899)
        4. Piano Quintet (1907)
      3. She also wrote about 120 songs and other piano and choral works.
      4. Style
        1. Some of her music has an ethnic flavor, like the Irish tunes in the Gaelic Symphony and the American Indian melodies in the String Quartet (1929).
        2. Most of her works follow German traditions.
    5. Beach Piano Quintet
      1. Relation to Brahms’s Piano Quintet in F Minor
        1. Beach performed the Brahms quintet with the Kneisel Quartet, which inspired her to compose her own quintet.
        2. Beach adapted a theme from Brahms’s quintet in each of her three movements.
        3. These three versions of the theme are related through thematic transformation.
        4. The relationship of Beach’s theme to Brahms’s is most distant in the finale (see example in the commentary to NAWM 134).
      2. Last movement (NAWM 134)
        1. With its rich harmony and brilliant piano writing, the musical style is clearly rooted in the Romanticism of the late nineteenth century.
        2. The movement is in a modified sonata form.
        3. The development features a fugato, stirring climax, and a reprise of a theme from the first movement.
        4. The recapitulation begins with the second theme, and the first theme reappears briefly near the end of the movement.
    6. Bands in America
      1. The earliest American bands were in the military, but local bands emerged in the nineteenth century.
      2. The invention of valves for brass instruments allowed them to play melodies in any register, and brass instruments became the backbone of the band.
      3. Bands played a large role during the Civil War, and they continued to proliferate afterwards.
      4. Professional bands enjoyed a heyday between the Civil War and World War I.
      5. Patrick S. Gilmore (1829-1892)
        1. He founded his own band in 1858.
        2. He led two mammoth festival concerts with performers numbering in the thousands.
        3. He toured the United States and Europe with his band.
      6. John Philip Sousa (1854-92)
        1. Sousa was inspired by the success of Gilmore.
        2. He conducted the United States Marine Band.
        3. He also organized his own internationally recognized band in 1892 (see HWM Figure 29.5).
    7. Band music
      1. Concerts mixed arrangements of classic works with lighter works, such as dances and popular melodies.
      2. The march was the staple of the band repertory (see HWM Figure 29.6).
        1. The march generally opens with a brief introduction, usually four measures.
        2. Two strains or periods follow, each repeated.
        3. A trio appears in a contrasting key, usually the subdominant, with an optional introduction and two repeated strains.
        4. A da capo repetition of the march closes the work.
        5. Strains are typically sixteen measures.
        6. The opening of the trio tends to be soft and lyrical.
      3. Sousa’s marches
        1. Sousa dropped the da capo repetition in his marches and instead alternated the lyrical trio with a more aggressive break strain.
        2. He often added countermelodies and increased instrumentation with each repeat of the trio.
      4. The Stars and Stripes Forever (1897, NAWM 135)
        1. The work begins with a four-measure unison introduction in E-flat.
        2. The march has two repeated sixteen-bar strains of a contrasting nature.
        3. The lyrical trio, also thirty-two bars, is set in A-flat, a fourth higher.
        4. Intended for concert performances rather than parades, the work builds to a climactic finish.
        5. The chromatic break strain creates a dramatic contrast.
        6. Countermelodies are added to the repetition of the trio.
        7. Sousa often performed the work with varied settings.
    8. Popular song
      1. In the late nineteenth century, the gulf between art songs and popular songs widened.
      2. Composers of popular songs sought to entertain audiences, accommodate amateur performers, and sell as many copies as possible.
      3. Subjects for songs ranged from love to satire.
      4. Songs were also used to convey ideas about politics, religion, and society.
      5. The standard form of the popular song was the verse and refrain.
        1. The piano plays a four- or eight-measure introduction.
        2. The verse is eight, sixteen, or thirty-two measures in length.
        3. The refrain is similar in size to the verse.
      6. The refrain was often sung in harmony, so that the term chorus was applied to the refrain.
      7. Both verse and refrain can have internal repetitions.
      8. The key to success was a catchy phrase, sometimes called a hook.
      9. After the Ball (1892) by Charles K. Harris
        1. The song has a catchy chorus above a waltz dance rhythm (see HWM Example 29.3).
        2. After the Ball sold over a million copies, making the composer rich.
      10. Tin Pan Alley, a district in New York that specialized in music publishing, developed strategies for selling sheet music.
    9. Music of African Americans
      1. Brought to America as slaves, Africans found it difficult to maintain their own ethnic culture.
      2. Slaves were able to preserve a distinct musical style because it was shared among a number of African societies and because music was encouraged by slaveowners.
      3. Characteristics of African music
        1. Call and response, the alternation of short phrases between a leader (call) and a group (response)
        2. Improvisation, usually on a simple formula
        3. Syncopation
        4. Repetition of short rhythmic or melodic patterns
        5. Multiple layers of rhythm, including strong offbeats
        6. Bending pitches or sliding from one pitch to another
        7. Shouts, moans, and other vocalizations
        8. Instruments like the banjo, based on a West African stringed instrument
      4. These traits are developed later in ragtime, blues, jazz and other musical styles in the African-American tradition.
      5. Spirituals had the greatest impact on nineteenth-century American music.
        1. A spiritual was a religious song of southern slaves.
        2. The texts were based on images or stories from the Bible, sometimes with hidden messages about freedom.
        3. Go Down Moses was the first spiritual to be published (1861).
      6. Published spirituals were arranged as songs with piano accompaniments.
      7. The Fisk Jubilee Singers popularized spirituals in the 1870s through concert tours in the United States and Europe (see HWM Figure 29.7).
      8. By the end of the century, spirituals were folk music, popular music, and sources for melodic material in classic music.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s