CLASSICAL MUSICAL PERIOD OVERVIEW (1750-1825)
- The Age of Enlightenment.
This period, also called the Age of Reason, was a time when the philosophies and classical traditions of ancient Greece and Rome were idealized, and reason, logic and restraint were emulated. In music, this led to forms which stressed clarity, balance, restraint and the logical expression of clear musical ideas.
- The Industrial Revolution.
During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, the Industrial Revolution caused abrupt change in the social and economic order as men and women, formerly accustomed to agricultural pursuits, moved to cities to work in factories and other forms of large-scale industrial production. In cities such as London, class distinctions divided the wealthy upper-class from members of the lower-class, and this later led to philanthropic efforts by the upper-class to educate and improve the lives of lower-class factory workers through free public concerts and inexpensive or free classes (including sight-singing classes and violin classes for adults).
- Public concerts.
The Enlightenment promoted the concept that all human life should be enriched by the arts, and that culture should not be the exclusive provenance of the aristocracy. Public concerts, which had first begun in the mid-1600s in places such as taverns and meeting halls, provided entertainment by local music societies (also known as academies or collegium musicums), with members who were primarily amateur musicians. This form of entertainment flourished during the Classical period, and some of these groups evolved into professional orchestras such as the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra.
Public concerts were also offered in forms such as subscription concerts, where the paying general public had the opportunity to hear some of the same professional musicians and orchestral concerts formerly offered only to the aristocracy. The concept behind subscription concerts, was to sell prepaid tickets to a series of concerts, thus guaranteeing a financial return to the composer, musicians and promoters. Although the patronage system still was an important source of financial support for musicians during this era, composers began to have a new source of income through subscription concert ticket sales. Mozart wrote many of his orchestral compositions for subscription concerts in Vienna, and Haydn wrote some of his most famous symphonies, the London Symphonies, for a series of subscription concerts (Haydn participated in these subscription concerts after his service to his patrons, the royal Esterházy family ended). By the end of the late eighteenth century, public concerts were held throughout most major cities in Europe, and at these subscription concerts, the middle class could hear the latest concerto, symphony or traveling virtuoso, for the price of a ticket.
- Political change and democracy.
The French Revolution (1789-99) and the American Revolution (1775-83) both espoused the ideals of a republic governed by the people, not the aristocracy. The eventual transfer of power from the monarchy to the middle class led to new rights and freedoms for many, including opportunities to participate in cultural activities previously denied to the general public.
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