Project 1: Classical forms of composition

Exercise: Enjoying Classical music

I was asked to describe a classical piece of music without using any terminology. I chose to listen to Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 23 “Appassionata”.

The description and name of this piece, sonata, referrers to a form of musical composition which is normally divided in three parts. In most cases, the first and third part are fast and cheery, or exiting. The second part is normally slow and calm. Furthermore, this piece has to be played on a piano, ten notes could be played at the same time, due to the five fingers we have on each hand. The more one moves to the right on the piano, the higher the notes are, therefore, the left hand plays lower notes than the right hand.

The composer, Ludwig van Beethoven started the piece with a calm and simple melody, which can just be heard on its own. Suddenly, only after a few seconds, the music becomes louder and, because all fingers are placed on different notes on the piano, it is difficult to tell where the melody has gone. This process, of a simple melody, followed by a very loud, exited sounding part can be heard several times. Afterwards a lovely melody, which sounds similar to the one from the beginning appears, this part leads to a new melodic line, which starts at a high point of the piano and plays slightly lower with each new note. Overall it is very exciting to follow the melody line, as it is sometimes even played by the left hand, and therefore suddenly sounds really low.

As already mentioned at the beginning, the second part of a sonata is often slow and calm. When listening to this piece, one might easily think of a choir, singing a calming, comforting piece, similar to a lullaby. Almost the whole time, all the notes appearing, are played at the same time, but if one listens closely, one can notice, that the lowest and the highest notes are sometimes also playing their own soothing melodies. Furthermore, one can notice, that during this whole part the music seems to become louder and louder towards the end.

The third and last part of this piece, might remind of the first one again. From the beginning to the end of this part, the left hand has the important job to play a very fast sequence of different notes. Listening to the start of this part, one might think of a horse running somewhere incredibly fast. Whilst the left hand, is, as already mentioned, occupied with these fast movements, the right hand plays a loud and strict sounding melody. Referring to the running horse again, one could see the melody as an equestrian sitting on the horseback. After a very long journey, where the horse moved up and down several hills, sometimes running away from other creatures, which can be heard through the hectic mood of this part, the horse comes to a very sudden stop, and the piece ends.

I personally didn’t find this exercise easy at all, especially as I am know used to using specialized terminology. (My own interpretation of this piece can be found in my listening log.) I took the opportunity to read this short description to my brother. He is 12 years old, and has, as a German native a rather good, but not completely perfect understanding of the English language. This made it easier to see, whether the words and sentence structures I used were chosen simple enough.

During the process of reading it, he asked me about some of the more unusual vocabulary and also mentioned, that he had to read a few sentences several times, because they were to long and complicated. Otherwise he said, that he overall understood the concept of the piece and was interested of finding the figures, I mentioned (such as the horse in the third movement) again. We listened to the piece together and he was surprised how my descriptions fitted to the music, furthermore he extended the whole story and thought of figures and a very detailed plot for every movement.

Project 2: Composers of the Classical era

Research point: Other important composers. 

Aside of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, there were other composers who are rarely mentioned when one talks about Classical music. One of the most influential ones, apart from those three, was Franz Schubert (1797 – 1828), although, as I already learned a lot about him within my previous education, I decided on focus on other ones who are rarely mentioned. 

During my research I came across two of Bach’s sons, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714 – 1788) and Johann Christian Bach (1735 – 1782). Furthermore I found some other less – known composers as well: Thomas Augustine Arne (1710 – 1778), Luigi Boccherini (1743 – 1805), Domenico Cimarosa (1749 – 1801) and Giovanni Paisiello (1740 – 1816). Whilst I’ve listened to at least one piece from each of those composers, I decided to find out more about Thomas Augustine Arne and Luigi Boccherini, as I haven’t heard their names before at all. 

  • Thomas Augustine Arne:

British music during the Classical period was mainly dominated by European composers, one big exception was Thomas Arne. His works were mainly theatrical, but he also wrote several symphonies, concertos and sonatas. 1

Arne’s father sent his son to Eton to study law, where he also started to study the violin, before he devoted completely to arts. His first piece was the opera Rosamond. After getting to know his wife Cecilia Arne, born Young, in Ireland during a concert, he was hired as composer for the Vauxhall Gardens. There he gained a lot of popularity through his simplistic and pure sounding songs. In 1755, he divorced Cecilia, and started having an affair with Charlotte Brent, one of his students. 1

Arne is best known for his song Rule, Britannia. Even though it is not known, whether Beethoven knew about Arnes works, Rule, Britannia, was a base Beethoven used for the first movement of his Opus 91 and a collection of five variations for piano. A further composer, who dedicated an overture to Rule Britannia was Wagner. 2

  • Luigi Boccherini

Boccherini’s father was a bassist and cellist and some of his five siblings also had an artistic career. He received his first music lessons in the Seminario di San Giovanni in Lucca. Apparently, he learned rapidly and was sent to Rome with only ten years by his father in 1753, where he continued his studies with the well known cellist Giovanni Battista Costanzi. In the following years he traveled through several countries and held concerts, often with members of his family. 3

Around 1760 his first chamber – music pieces were produced. Shortly before his arrival in Paris, his first instrumental works were published. During this time, Paris was seen as the capital of the European music printing. He moved from Paris to Spain in 1768, where he stayed until his death in 1805. In Spain he worked as the main composer for the Spanish court. 4

For most people, Boccherini is seen as a milestone in the history of music for the cello. Nevertheless, his style is very similar to Haydn’s. He left a huge number of chamber music, including 91 string quartets, 154 quintets and 60 trios, furthermore he composed symphonies, cocertos and church music. His most famous work is probably the Minuet from his String Quartet in E, op. 13. No. 5. 3,4

1 Thompson, W. (2001). The Great Composers- An illustrated guide to the lives, key works and influences of over 100 renowned composers. London: Joanna Lorenz, p. 94

2 Gilman, T. (2009). Arne, Handel, the Beautiful, and the Sublime. [online] Eighteenth – Century Studies. Vol. 42, Iss. 4. Baltimore. Available at: [Accessed: 28.07.2020]

3 Thompson, W. (2001). The Great Composers- An illustrated guide to the lives, key works and influences of over 100 renowned composers. London: Joanna Lorenz, p. 95

4 Speck, C. and Chapman, L. (2005). Boccherini as Cellist and His Music for Cello. [online]. Early Music. Vol. 33. No.2. Available at: [Accessed: 28.07.2020]

Research point: Mozart as court musician

I’ve already had the opportunity to watch Peter Shaffer’s film Amadeus a few years ago and only vaguely remembered it, thus I was really looking forward to watching it again. Interestingly, it had quite a wild impression on me and I experienced it completely different than I used to. Some of the music I instantly recognized and I overall really enjoyed the colourful atmosphere of the film.

Project 3: Musical Performance in the Classical era

Research point: Period and modern ensembles

For this research point I listened to two different versions of the first movement of Haydn’s 45th symphony in f-sharp minor. The two versions were from the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (period orchestra) and Orchestra of St. Luke’s. (modern orchestra)

I was surprised to hear that there were quite a few differences. One of the most interesting aspects were, that the pitch could always be heard quite clearly, nevertheless, some instruments seemed to stand more in the foreground than others.

One example would be that from the period orchestra the strings were much quieter and especially the cellos and basses were difficult to distinguish from the rest of the orchestra, as they seemed to disappear in the background. On the other hand, seeing that the overall balance of sound was different, the wind instruments could be heard much easier and they generally seemed to stand more in the foreground.

I was surprised, that the modern version was played in a much faster pace. Unlike the other version, all the strings, including the low ones can be heard much clearer. Furthermore I noticed, that changes of dynamics were more extreme, which gave the piece in addition to the strong strings a further impact. On the other hand, the wind instruments slightly disappeared and weren’t as nice to enjoy.

I personally find it difficult to say which version I enjoyed more. Overall the version from the period orchestra sounded much emptier, and I am almost certain, that Haydn would have used more instruments if he would have had the opportunity.

Exercise: The Mannheim school

For this exercise I was asked to listen to Mozart’s Flute concerto in G and follow a score whilst listening to it.

As I have already hand a lot of practice following orchestral scores, I didn’t find it difficult to read it. For me the easiest approach is always to pick the most distinguishable instrumental line for example one with a melody, distinctive arpeggio or a scale. During the Classical period is was also often the case, that the pace was held the same throughout, thus one can count whilst reading the score in order to follow it.

Interestingly, until this exercise I haven’t thought about whether I enjoy music more or less when I’m reading it at the same time. For this piece I noticed, that I looked at it with a much more analytical approach than I would have done without the score. Thus, I didn’t really focus on the mood and atmosphere the instruments created but on repeating sequences and harmonic differences. On the other hand, when it comes to music I play myself (also with a provided score) I definitely enjoy it more, as the music is more individually produced and I can create my personal interpretation of a piece.

Some aspects of the Mannheim school, which are mentioned in my study folder can be found within the score:

– Most of the phrases are constructed of phrases with even bars, in this case either 4 or 8.

– As soon as the solo flute has its entrance, the melody is in the foreground

– Dynamics and themes are contrasting and highly emphasized

– Most of the accompaniment is constructed through broken chords (arpeggios)

– Apart from the flute is the orchestral wind section generally much more dominant than in other works

– The presented themes are overall very variable and short

Research point: Music publishing

Several sources state, that musical publishing started at the end of the 15th century, when Ulrich Han, a Roman, copied several sheet music of Missale Romanum. Nevertheless, the most important influence concerning music publishing was probably Ottavioano Petrucci (1466 – 1539). 1

Petrucci is known to have invented music printing by using versatile metal types and thus had an important influence on the process of musical history. He got a patent for printing music from the Venice Republic in 1498, but had to sell it due to expensive experiments. The three – parted printing process involved the printing of a notation systems, followed by the text and finally some notes. Petrucci’s collection of masses, the “Harmonice Musices Odhecaton A”, was the first polyphonic music to be printed. 2

The works of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven were created during a time, in which the basis of our modern musical lives were created. The composers earned most of their money through public concerts, which’s entry fees were often highly expensive and thus, only available for the rich minority. A further important step was also obviously the publishing of printed music. Furthermore, musical pieces and concerts started to be discussed by journals and newspapers. All these tendencies condensed between 1770 and 1830 to a ” musical publicity”, which hasn’t existed in this way ever before. 3, 4

The next most important company was probably the German brand Breitkopf und Härtel, which is also known as the oldest music publishing company worldwide. Officially, it was founded at the 27th of January 1719, through the marriage of Bernhard Christoph Breitkopf into the printer’s  – family Müller, which had already been printing books for 200 years. Whilst Breitkopf himself started to publish works from influential poets (e.g. Johann Christoph Gottsched), he also started publishing his first musical works. 1736 Schmellis Gesangbuch appeared, on which’s release Bach was involved as well. Starting small, the company became more and more influential and from around 1756, it published works from well – known German speaking composers. After Breitkopf’s death, Härtel took over the company. Soon after the publishing work with Beethoven started, with him, all three main composers of the Classical era, had been worked at least once with the publisher. 5

1 Peter Hainsworth and David Robey (2002). The Oxford Companion to Italian Literature. [online]. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Available at: [Accessed: 10.08.2020]

2 Stanley Boorman: Ottaviano Petrucci. A Catalogue Raisonné. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2006. 

3 Fuhrmann, W. (2010). Die Klassik als musikalische Epoche. [onine]. Goethe Institut. Available at: [Accessed: 10.08.2020]

4 Lorinczi, S. (2020). A brief history of music publishing. [onine] Songtrust. Availabe at: [Accessed: 10.08.2020]

5 Strykowsky, D. (2018). The Business of composition: Measuring economic relationships at Breitkopf & Hartel 1798 – 1838. [onine]. Music Library Association, Inc. Vol. 74, Iss. 4. Available at:|A544660434&v=2.1&it=r&sid=summon [Accessed: 10.08.2020]

Exercise: The Classical opera

Programme notes on Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice (1762).

Christoph Willibald Gluck’s opera “Orpheo ed Euridice”, which was premiered 1762 in Vienna, is seen as one of the most well – known operas worldwide. The libretto was written by Ranieri de’ Calzabigi. After Monteverdi, Gluck started working with this Greek myth in 1774 and processed it to a masterpiece with powerful replies, an expressive orchestra and an amazingly well used choir. 


Act 1: 

The singer Orpheus has lost his wife Eurydice to the lethal bite of a snake. In a small wood shepherds and nymphs are grieving with Orpheus about Eurydice’s early death. Onto his wish, his friend leave him alone to his grief. In his despair, Orpheus asks the gods to give him back his wife, otherwise he will move to the underworld himself. 

Armor appears and informs Orpheus, that the god Jupiter, moved by Orpheus’ pain, has decided to grand him access to the underworld. If Orpheus manages to tame Hades’ monsters with his voice, Eurydice will be given back to him. Two condition nonetheless are, that Orpheus isn’t allowed to look at his wife before they have crossed the Styx and he also mustn’t tell her about Jupiter’s offer. 

Act 2

Having arrived in Hades’ realm, Orpheus is beset by the monsters and guards who want to refuse his access to Hades. With his moving and pleading chant, Orpheus manages to placate the creatures.

He gains access to the way into the Elysium, where the spirits of blessed decedents live. There, Orpheus finds the initially shy spirit of Eurydice. He manages to attract Eurydice’s spirit with the sound of this lyre. He takes her hand and rapidly moves to the entrance of the Elysium without looking at her. Together, they move through the mazy corridors to get back to the land of the living.

Act 3

Eurydice is worried about Orpheus’ averted gaze and she gets worried whether he is really her husband. She hassles him with questions and accusations and starts to doubt his love for her. Full of fear, Eurydice would prefer to die again, instead of starting a new, unloved and sad life. In his despair, Orpheus breaks his deal and turns around to Eurydice, who sinks dead into his arms. Full of pain, Orpheus wants to take his own life as well, which is however stopped by armor, who is moved by their dedicated love and brings Eurydice back to life once again.

Happily united, the pair thanks the god.  Armor, Orpheus, Eurydice and the shepherds celebrate the return with cheery dancing and they bless armor. 

Short critical review

There are three versions of Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, the Vienna premiere from 1762 in Italian, the from Gluck himself produces Parisian version from 1774 (with a tenor – Oprheus) and a version for a soprano gelding (1769). 

For this interpretation, the director has chosen the version from 1762. Only little ornaments within the straight – forward dramaturgy. The block – like use of the choir, lets it appear as a fourth person alongside Orpheus, Eurydice and Armor. Furthermore, a personified death appears, which tries to give the in the Opera slightly underexposed character Eurydice more importance. Nevertheless, most of the attention still lies on Orpheus, which’s character lets everyone else appear as a side – role. A dignified, clear ending finishes the opera. At the closing act of liento fine a short sequence, played by the harp can be heard, then the stage becomes dark. After all, it’s still Orpheus music and his instrument, which lead the story to a good end. 

The direction and the scenery try to imitate the aesthetics of the story and music, which is partially, really well done, for example during the choir part of the underworld creatures. Nevertheless,  it doesn’t completely melt in with the plot.