Unit 6 - Music and Death
Unit 6 - Music and Death
Performing Grief: Purcell and Early Opera
The text of an opera is called a libretto. the earliest opera libretti were based on mythology, epic poetry, and ancient history.
Henry Purcell wrote Dido and Aeneas, based on The Aeneid, a Roman epic by Virgil. The closing Lament by Dido is a powerful expression of grief that reflects contemporary ideals about womanhood.
The principal components of opera include the orchestral overture, solo arias (lyrical songs), and recitatives (speechlike declamations of the text), and ensemble numbers, including choruses.
"Opera is the delight of Princes." -Marco da Gagliano
The most important new genre of the Baroque era was opera, a large-scale music drama that combines poetry, acting, scenery, and costumes with singing and instrumental music.
An opera is a large-scale drama that is sung. It combines the resources of vocal and instrumental music - soloists, ensembles, chorus, orchestra, and sometimes ballet - with poetry and drama, acting and pantomime, scenery and costumes.
The plot and action are generally advanced through a kid of musical declamation, or speech, known as recitative.
Recitative gives way from time to time to the aria, which releases through melody the tension accumulated in the course of the action.
The orchestra sets the appropriate mood for the different scenes. It also performs the overture, heard at the beginning of most operas, which may introduce melodies from the arias.
Each act of the opera normally opens with an orchestral production, and between scenes we may find interludes, or sinfonias.
The libretto, the text of script of the opera, must be devised to give the composer an opportunity to write music for the diverse numbers - recitatives and arias, ensembles, choruses, interludes - that have become the traditional features of this art form.
In early seventeenth century England, the masque, a type of entertainment that combined vocal and instrumental music with poetry and dance, became popular among the aristocracy.
In the last act of Dido and Aeneas, Purcell begins the act with a sprightly tune in the style of a hornpipe, a dance form often associated with sailors, and characterized by a reversed dotted figure called a Scotch snap.
General: Early Opera
Opera not meant for realistic depiction, rather "hyper-reality"
Strong emotions portrayed through music
Involves vocal and instrumental music, poetry, acting, scenery, and costumes
Libretto or Librettist (person)
Text or script of opera
Opera is a large-scale drama that is sung
Main Components of Opera
Moves plot along
No action is taken - frozen in time
Sung outside of the opera (concert/recital settings)
Sinfonias - interludes between scenes
Backs up soloist voices
Commentary on plot
Choruses: Duos, Trios, Quartets
Early Opera in Italy and beyond
by 1642, public opera houses open in Venice
Not mythological stories about love triangles and historical figures
Example - Monteverdi's Coronation of Poppea (1643)
Rewarded for being cruel with queen
Concept of immorality
Singing about how they want to possess each other
Both parts sung in soprano
By 1700, Italian opera popular throughout Europe
Except in France, had its own tradition
Early Opera an outgrowth of Renaissance theatrical tradations
Example - Monteverdi's Orfeo (1607)
This was an opera in which the lead singer wore a red dress and had big hair.
Early Opera in England
Early 17th century masques (stage plays)
Popular among aristocracy
Combined vocal and instrumental music with poetry and dance
Commonwealth Period (1649-1695)
Stage plays forbidden - "of the devil"
Plays set to music could be passed off as a "concert"
This is the tradition behind England's first operas
Listening Guide 11
Purcell: Dido and Aeneas, Act III, Opening and Lament
Written in 1689
Genre: Opera, English
First great English opera
Recitative and Lament
Based on repeated chromatic ground bass
Aria in two sections, each repeated (A-A-B-B), over ground bass
Slow aria in triple meter
Baroque-period instruments with solo voice
Recitative with half-step movement
More lyrical aria
Based on part of Virgil's Aeneid
Aeneas and Queen of Carthage - Dido - fall in love
Witch tricks Aeneas and calls him back to battle
Aeneas shipwrecked on Island of Carthage
Aeneas leaves and Dido dies of a broken heart
Act III, Opening
Major key, with chromatic foreshadowing of Lament
Strophic form, with instruments, solo voice, then chorus
Sprightly tempo, in triple meter
Use of Scotch-snap dotted figues
String orchestra, with solo voice and orchestra
Jaunty, playful tune
Henry Purcell (1659-1695)
Wrote masques and operas
Assimilated Italian and French styles to English choral singing
Various English court posts
First performed at London girls' school
Last act features a lively hornpipe and concludes with a lament over a ground bass
Mourning a Hero: Mozart and the Requiem
Mozart's Requiem Mass, left unfinished at the composer's death, exemplifies the grand style of Catholic music in Vienna.
"Among all the arts, music alone can be purely religious."
-Madame de Stael
Sacred music genres of the later 1700s included the oratorio and the Mass.
A Mass is a music setting of the most solemn service of the Roman Catholic Church, and a Requiem is a musical setting of the Mass for the Dead.
Classical composers continued the tradition of writing worship music for their communities.
The oratorio, of which Handel's Messiah is a prime example, is generally focused on a biblical story.
Ultimately myths surrounding a remarkable composer's early death continue to shape our culture's notions of creative genius.
"I am writing a Requiem for myself." -Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Over the centuries since the composition of Mozart's Requiem, the expressive power of the Requiem has been widely recognized by audiences form many cultures. Mozart could never have imagined how much his work would ultimately mean to the world.
Music for comfort and spiritual sustenance
Originally for Catholic Church but found way to concert hall
A mass for the dead
Composers tend to customize the Catholic tradition
Usually in Latin
On deathbed working on funeral mass - Requiem
His last large-scale production
He died before finishing it
Completed by a student, Süsmayr
Myths of poison but not true
Died in 1791 at age 35, very young
Scored for SATB soloists plus chorus and orchestra
Orchestra included more instruments - bassoon and basset horn
Voices and instrument arrangement have dramatic effect
The moving work was chosen for the funeral of President John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated in 1963
Played in 2002 on the one-year anniversary of the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center in New York, a rolling performance of Mozart's Requiem was given in all corners of the globe, each beginning at 8:46 am, the time of the first attack.
Listening Guide 25
Mozart: Dies irae, from Requiem
Set in eight verses, each treated with different performing forces
Mood shifts from fear (loud, accented) to wonderment to a quiet plea for salvation
Chorus, solo voices, and orchestra
Choral opening and closing
Verses 3-7 focus on solo voices
Alternation between minor (opening and closing) and major
Some harsh combinations
Trumpets and timpani prominent
Bass voice/trombone duet (verse 3)
Forceful, accented duple meter
closing has strong dotted-rhythmic idea
Rhymed Latin poem with eight three-line verses
Clear text declamation with some word painting
Dramatic choral opening, then operatic solo verses
Final verse has choral outcry
Last song Mozart ever completed
Day of Wrath for the funeral mass (Requiem)
Emphasizes power of divine intervention
Choral opening then solo verse and choral finish
8 verses - word painting
Personal Soundtracks: Berlioz and the Program symphony
Hector Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique is a five-movement program symphony unified by a recurring theme (indée fixe) that represents the composer's beloved.
"The painter turns a poem into a painting; the musician sets a picture to music." -Robert Schumann
Many Romantic composers cultivated program music - instrumental music - instrumental music with a literary or pictorial association supplied by the composer - over absolute music.
The genre that evokes images and ideas became known as program music, or instrumental music with literary or pictorial associations.
Program music is distinguished from absolute, or pure, music, which consists of musical patterns that are designed without intended literary or pictorial meanings, like Beethoven's Fifth Symphony.
Program music was especially important during the nineteenth century, when musicians became sharply conscious of the connection between their art and the world around them. Adding a programmatic title brought music closer to poetry and painting, and helped composers relate their own work to the moral and political issues of their time.
Symphonie fantastique's recurrent theme, called an indée fixe, acts as a musical thread unifying the five diverse movements, though its appearances are varied in harmony, rhythm, meter, tempo, dynamics, register, and instrumental color.
This type of unification, called thematic transformation, serves the huge, expansive form of Berloiz's symphony.
Hector Belioz's works, showing the favorite literary influences of the Romantic period, draw on Goethe, Lord Byron, and especially Shakespeare, the source for his overture King Lear, his opera Beatrice et Benedict, and his dramatic symphony Romeo and Juliet.
Romantic program music
Different from absolute music = musical patterns designed without meanings
Program music is more artistic within society
Program music = instrumental music with literary or pictorial associations specified by the composer
Fan of Beethoven and Shakespeare
Fell in love with Harriet Smithson - Actress performed Shakespeare
Married her, but loved her as a Shakespeare actress more than he loved her for own personality
Works draw upon literary influences
Goethe, Lord Byron, and Shakespeare
Born in Southern France
Meant to be a physician but loved music
Wrote a book on this
The Program of Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique
III. Scene in the Fields
"On a summer evening in the country he hears two shepards piping. The pastoral duet, the quiet surroundings... all unite to fill his heart with a long-absent feeling of calm. But she appears again, his heart contracts. Painful forebodings fill his soul."
Pastoral of sorrowful loneliness
IV. March to the Scaffold
"He dreams that he is killed by his beloved, that he has been condemned to die and is being led to the scaffold.... At the very end, the fixed idea reappears for an instant, like a last thought of love interrupted by the fall of the blade."
At the end, hear the idée fixe as the guillotine drops
II. A Ball
"Amid the tumult and excitement of a brilliant ball, he glimpses the loved one again."
Dane movement in idée fixe in waltz theme
V. Dream of a Witch's Sabbath
"He sees himself at a witch's sabbath surrounding by a host of fearsome spirits that have gathered for his funeral. Unearthly sounds, groans, shrieks of laughter. The melody of his beloved is heard, but it has long lost its noble and reserved character. It has become a vulgar tune, trivial and grotesque. It is she who comes to the infernal orgy. A howl of joy greets her arrival. She joins the diabolical dance. Bells toll for the dead. A burlesque of the Dies irae. Dance of the witches. The Dance and the Dies Irae combined."
I. Reveries, Passions
"The musician remembers the weariness of soul, the indefinable yearning he knew before meeting his beloved. Then, the volcanic love with which she at once inspired him, his delirious suffering...His religious consolation."
Introduces idée fixe in allegro
Listening Guide 32
Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, IV
Program: A lovesick artist in an opium trance is haunted by a vision of his beloved, which becomes an idée fixe (fixed idea).
Music is intense and bold
First great component of musical romanticism in France
His music is intense, bold, and passionate
Genre: Program music with five movements
III. Scene in the Fields: Adagio
IV. March to the Scaffold: Allegretto non troppo
II. A Ball: Valse, Allegro non troppo
V. Dream of a Witch's Sabbath: Larghetto, Allegro assai
I. Reveries, Passions: Largo; Allegro agitato e appassionato assai (lively, agitated, and impassioned)
Program symphony based on personal life
"Young musician of morbid sensibility and ardent imagination in lovesick despair."
Composed in 1830
Thematic transformation form
Recurring musical thread unifying the five movements
Varied throughout by harmony, meter, timbre, dynamics, and registrar
IV. March to the Scaffold
Set in minor mode
Sonata-like, with two themes introduced, developed, then recapped
Sudden dynamic changes, idea of the beloved at the end as a clarinet solo, then a sudden chord (beheading)
Two main march themes (A and B), both strongly accepted
Theme A - an energetic, downward minor scale in low strings, then violins (with bassoon countermelody)
Theme B - diabolical march tune, played by brass and woodwinds
Instruments in unusual ranges
Accepting Death: Fauré and the Requiem
Composer Gabriel Fauré had a complex career as both church musician and conservatory leader; his music exemplifies a nineteenth-century French interest in small and intimate musical forms.
Fauré's Requiem is a unique contribution to the genre, reflecting the freedom with which late-Romantic composers addressed scared music.
In French Romantic music, the mélodie song tradition paralleled the German Lied tradition.
"To express that which is within you with sincerity, in the clearest and most perfect manner, would seem to me always the ultimate goal of art." -Gabriel Fauré
Art song was very important in French salons and homes, and composers developed the mélodie, a tradition self-consciously separate from the German Lied, to accommodate the unique features of the French language while drawing musical inspiration from the songs of Schubert.
Why Fauré decided to write his Requiem is a matter of speculation, but having spent his entire life as a church musician, his own explanation makes sense: to show death as "a happy deliverance, a yearning for the happiness of the beyond, rather than a painful experience."
Trained to be a church musician in Paris
He was a composition teacher at the École Niedermeyer in 1890
Later director of Paris Conservatory
French music advocate
Influential music critic
Style is restrained and intimate compared to German Romanticism
First performed in 1888 for the funeral of an architect
Nonstandard form - creates intimacy
Freely edited Latin liturgical texts
Smaller chamber orchestra
Took over 20 years to write
Sometimes celestial, sometimes funerial
Sacred music also continued to play an important role in France, and the early career of Gabriel Fauré (like that of so many other musicians before and since) was grounded in playing and creating music for the Catholic church.
Fauré is remembered for the intimate and personal sentiment his music exudes. He favored writing in small forms - songs, piano miniatures, and chamber music, but his most famous work today remains the Requiem.
Listening Guide 39
Fauré: Libera me, from Requiem, Op. 48
IV. Pie Jesu
V. Agnus and Lux aeterna
I. Introit and Kyrie
VI. Libera me
VII. In Paradisum
Deliver me, O Lord
Genre: Mass for the Dead
Baritone solo, SATB chorus, Chamber orchestra
Date: 1887-89 (revised 1893, 1900)
Movement 6 - Libera me
Homophonic solo and choral writing
Some expressive chromaticism
Roman Catholic Mass for the Dead, Office for the Dead, and Burial Service
Baritone solo is lyrical, wide-ranging
Chorus has melody in unison
Pulsating ostinato accompanies opening and closing
Shift to 6/4 meter in the middle (dies irae)
Baritone solo, SATB chorus, chamber orchestra (brass, strings, harp, timpani, organ)
Beginning - reassurance
Middle section = Dies irae (Day of Wrath)
Forceful French horns
Ending returns to Libera Me
Soloist and choir
Neo-Romantic Evocations: Higdon and Program Music into the Twenty-First Century
Neo-Romanticism favors the lush harmonic language of the late Romantic era; the music is mostly emotional, chromatic, and highly virtuosic, with innovative timbral combinations.
Neo-Romantic works often feature program elements connected with a personal story, as in Jennifer Higdon's tone poem blue cathedral.
Some recent compositional trends speak to audiences alienated by highly intellectual modernist music.
"Music written now reflects now.. People are into variety... even in their concert experiences... Many folks want a mix of musics. And many young composers are picking up on this." -Jennifer Higdon
Neo-Romanticism composers aimed to "modernize" the nineteenth-century orchestral tradition. It was an influence of non-Western cultures that lasted beyond John Cage, and reflected the never-ending search for new ways to expand and renew the tradition of concert music for the twenty-first century.
Jennifer Higdon is one of the most widely performed of living American composers. Her music is richly neo-Romantic, displaying an innovative sound palette that has been described as "very American."
"Modernizing" the nineteenth-century orchestral tradition
Reclaimed the nineteenth-century harmonic and melodic language - just new context
Embraced aspects of nineteenth-century orchestral sound, including program music
Romantic style of the 1800s never really went away; still performed in concert halls
Some composers maintained a commitment to Romanticism, updating it
Samuel Barber's Adagio for Springs
One of the most prominent exponents of this continued commitment to Romantic ideals was American composer Samuel Barber, whose elegiac and well-loved Adagio for Springs is suffused with the feeling and grand gestures of the nineteenth-century, and whose songs continue the multinational tradition of setting intense poetry to sweeping and beautiful melodies.
Born in Brooklyn
Studied with George Crumb
Born in 1962
Inspired by the Beatles
Output spans most genres, described as having an "American" sound
Rooting in tonality, Neo-Romanticism
Teaches composition at the Curtis institute
Pulitzer prize in 2010 for violin concerto
Listening Guide 61
Higdon: Blue Cathedral, excerpt
Includes several climaxes
Metallic percussion, solo woodwinds, dark instruments, brass chorales
Juxtaposes instrument families
Sectional, with a rondo-like structure
Homophonic, focuses on individual lines and duets
Genre: orchestral tone poem
Prominent use of major triads but with no strong sense of key center
Languorous, lyrical lines; ascending ideas
Large orchestra with many percussion instruments (crotales, celesta, marimba, vibraphone, bell tree, chimes, triangle, tuned glasses, Chinese reflex balls)
Written because of personal grief over death of her brother
No key center - Lots of major triads
Meters shift but mostly 5/4
Lyrical - Neo-Romantic
Metallic percussion - including Chinese reflex balls