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The Cambridge History of Eighteenth-Century Music
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Book description

The eighteenth century arguably boasts a more remarkable group of significant musical figures, and a more engaging combination of genres, styles and aesthetic orientations, than any century before or since, yet huge swathes of its musical activity remain under-appreciated. The Cambridge History of Eighteenth-Century Music provides a comprehensive survey, examining little-known repertories, works and musical trends alongside more familiar ones. Rather than relying on temporal, periodic and composer-related phenomena to structure the volume, it is organised by genre; chapters are grouped according to the traditional distinctions of music for the church, music for the theatre and music for the concert room that conditioned so much thinking, activity and output in the eighteenth century. A valuable summation of current research in this area, the volume also encourages readers to think of eighteenth-century music less in terms of overtly teleological developments than of interacting and mutually stimulating musical cultures and practices.


'This must have been a very difficult book to edit, and Simon Keefe (together with David Wyn Jones, who planned the volume) deserves unqualified congratulations for having engaged the work of so many gifted contributors and for having lurked in the detail (as it were) to such good effect … one cannot doubt the immense significance of this volume in its authoritative engagement with a repertory that speaks at every turn to the central importance of music as a vital expression of eighteenth-century thought.'

Source: Music and Letters

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  • 1 - The musical map of Europe c. 1700
    pp 1-26
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    At the start of the eighteenth century, Europe displayed a panorama of musical styles and an array of performing opportunities. European musicians worked in a variety of environments, including churches, courts, theatres and charitable institutions such as orphanages. The varied musical geography of Europe in the early eighteenth century was symbolized by the styles of composition and performance associated with different countries. In the sixteenth century there seem to have been fewer differences between national traditions, with a lingua franca of polyphonic vocal composition. This chapter discusses the dissemination of Western musical culture beyond Europe. An array of missionaries, merchants, diplomats and colonists with musical talents took Western music to the New World and the Far East, often along routes established in previous centuries. The national styles were disseminated by foreign musicians on their travels and were studied by apprentice musicians who went abroad.
  • 2 - Catholic church music in Italy, and the Spanish and Portuguese Empires
    pp 27-58
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    Eighteenth-century Catholic sacred music in Italy, Spain, Portugal and Latin America is assisted by the large amount of research that has been carried out on Italian opera. Roman Catholic church music in Italy, Spain, Portugal and Latin America represents the intersection of four different styles: stile antico, polychoral writing, homorhythmic textures and operatic solo music. Musicians and composers active at the Basilica of San Petronio in the seventeenth century played a major role in establishing the sacred musical style that came to dominate eighteenth-century Italian church music. Spain and Portugal, and their colonies, carved out proud musical histories during the seventeenth century. There was a strain of independence in Iberian sacred music that had started in the sixteenth century, based upon a tradition of vernacular texts in worship music. The Spanish and Portuguese acceptance of Italianate music around 1700 was long portrayed as a blot on Iberian musical history.
  • 3 - Catholic sacred music in Austria
    pp 59-112
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    The mass represented the core of the Roman Catholic liturgy; in this genre Fux and Caldara easily overshadowed the other composers of the Habsburg chapel in their production of approximately one hundred Ordinary cycles each. A balanced consideration of the complex intertwining of forces of continuity and change thus represents a historiographical challenge for researchers of sacred music between the reigns of Charles VI and Maria Theresa. A similar process of transition marks the history of sacred music in eighteenth-century Salzburg which, though nominally an autonomous political entity, in fact fell within the orbit of Viennese influence. Numerous historians have noted the virtual silence of Joseph Haydn and Mozart in the field of sacred music after 1783. Mozart's late sacred music superficially corresponds to the simplified liturgical style promoted by Joseph II, Archbishop Colloredo and other major figures of the Austrian Enlightenment.
  • 4 - Catholic church music in France
    pp 113-126
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    From the time of Francis I and the Concordat of Bologna onwards, the Church of France continuously defended its independence from the Holy See, notably by reducing papal interferences in temporal matters. Mondonville's grands motets were, with those of Michel Richard de Lalande, the most frequently performed and successful of the eighteenth century, probably on account of their oratorio-like design. The first Latin oratorios composed in France were by Marc-Antoine Charpentier, a former student of Carissimi at Rome. The first book of petits motets published in France was Henry Dumont's Cantica sacra. In 1754, Philippe-Joseph Caffiaux could still hold plainchant to be 'the mother of music', because there was a time when it was the only type of music available. Concertante masses for soloists, chorus and orchestra were uncommon in France before Charpentier. The renewal of the Requiem mass in France is probably attributable to Charpentier and Jean Gilles, who composed the first French Requiems with instrumental accompaniment.
  • 5 - Lutheran church music
    pp 127-167
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    The history of Lutheran church music in the eighteenth century is often described as a culmination and then a decline. This chapter discusses the works of Bach and other composers within the debates about the communicative power and secularization of church music. The multi-levelled nature of the church repertory in the eighteenth century was a continuation of the inclusive spirit that Martin Luther brought to music in the Reformation. Erdmann Neumeister's reform had several musical implications. The aristocratic patrons encouraged the application of theatrical styles to sacred music. In Hamburg, although the city had the first public opera-house in Germany, theatrical Passion music was contentious that eventually a local tradition developed of performing Passion oratorios outside church services. New institutions were developing for the performance of sacred vocal music outside church. At the start of the eighteenth century the motet represented an older or more provincial repertory. The strand of church music that remains to be considered is organ music.
  • 6 - Protestant church music in England and America
    pp 168-180
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    Throughout the eighteenth century, the musical traditions of the Protestant churches in the United Kingdom and its New World Colonies were part of an extremely complex and at times fraying fabric. Throughout the century, large anthologies containing examples of older repertory from the seventeenth century alongside newer works helped to establish the tradition of 'cathedral music'. The tradition of singing prose translations of the Psalms in the Book of Common Prayer to short harmonized formulas, was prevalent throughout the eighteenth century. Even George Frideric Handel's few anthems for the Duke of Chandos and the Chapel Royal were never part of the common repertory of eighteenth-century Anglican church music. The typical collection of 'country psalmody' contained an introductory section explaining basic musical notation and theory, plain tunes, 'fuging' tunes and anthems. In addition to an original tradition of hymnody, both immigrants and Moravians born in the New World contributed to an extensive repertory of anthems, including Jeremias Dencke and Johannes Herbst.
  • 7 - Listening, thinking and writing
    pp 181-200
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    Numerous types of writing on music emerged, starting early in the eighteenth century, reflecting the new concert venues as well as the more diversified nature of the audience. This chapter covers the categories of writing, and includes treatises both practical and aesthetic, audience formation, histories and literary writing. The purest form of thinking about music in the eighteenth century lay in the branch of philosophy that Alexander Baumgarten first called 'aesthetics' in 1750. Despite the pervasiveness of the French philosophes, the approaches to audience education in Germany moved in decidedly different directions. In England, two distinguished writers of music histories emerged at about the same time in the second half of the century, Charles Burney and John Hawkins. Music or musical instruments became powerful images for poets and novelists during the eighteenth century, a trend that in fact offered one of the most interesting new ways of thinking about music.
  • 8 - Italian opera in the eighteenth century
    pp 201-271
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    The history of Italian opera in the eighteenth century is as much the history of theatres, cities and performers as it is the history of composers, genres and works. A theatre's organization and administration were decisive for the shape of its works and many aspects of style. The regularity of perfomers schedule, with their annual repetitions, facilitated the mechanisms of the international circuit and provided the temporal context in which it functioned. 'Secondary theatres' were hardly secondary in importance in the development of eighteenth-century Italian opera. The character types of comic singers reflected a ranking similar to that of opera seria, including prima and seconda buffa and primo and secondo uomo. Italian opera was the international musical language of the eighteenth century. St Petersburg in Russia became a major centre for Italian opera and theatrical ballet outside Italy. Italian opera took hold in Lisbon in the early eighteenth century, and also flourished in Madrid.
  • 9 - Opera in Paris from Campra to Rameau
    pp 272-294
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    Dufresny's evocative remark underscores the popularity of the Academie Royale de Musique, familiarly known as 'the Opera', at the turn of the eighteenth century. Events towards the end of the century at another venerable theatre in Paris had important repercussions for the future direction of French opera. Andre Campra published three editions of the score of L'Europe galante, all of them 'partitions reduites'. Between 1698 and 1703 four operas by Andre Cardinal Destouches, with librettos by Houdar de La Motte, had their premieres at the royal court before appearing soon thereafter at the Opera. The company employed a small orchestra, and a number of composers of serious opera also wrote airs for the Opera-Comique. Jean-Philippe Rameau's first effort, Hippolyte et Aricie, was at the time an astonishing work, not for its formal components, which were quite traditional, but for the sheer inventiveness and complexity of the music.
  • 10 - An instinct for parody and a spirit for revolution: Parisian opera, 1752–1800
    pp 295-330
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    This chapter explains why 'revolution' is a central term for understanding French operatic culture in the period under investigation. It also describes the vicissitudes at two theatres, namely the Comedie-Italienne and the Opera-Comique, to establish French opera for a bourgeois and lower-middle-class audience. Reforms, renovations and, indeed, revolutions, were now equally perceived as the means to achieve that goal. A demand for reform also occurred in the development of knowledge and culture in eighteenth-century France. A number of Parisians had been annoyed by Baron Grimm's letter with its sarcastic tone and hostility towards French opera and the French in general, whom he accused of being arrogant and vain. Subsequently however, Duni abandoned Italian opera altogether and requested from Monnet a French libretto to be set by him with a view to performance in Paris. On 14 July 1789 about 2,000 Parisians stormed the Bastille, an event that encapsulated understanding of the French Revolution.
  • 11 - German opera from Reinhard Keiser to Peter Winter
    pp 331-384
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    German operas were performed at the municipal theatre at the Bruhl in Leipzig, until it closed in 1720. From 1715-17, Reinhard Keiser's operas continued to dominate, but each year brought a new production of an Italian opera. With Telemann's activity in Hamburg, German Baroque opera changed textually as well as musically. Telemann made a contribution to the nascent German singspiel of the 1750s. The caesura in German operatic history is filled by the beginning of aesthetic debate about the genre led mainly by literary figures rather than by composers. This chapter shows that the transition to the singspiel is as fluid as the retention of key terminology and the early repertories of travel companies imply. Seckendorf Goethe's choice of Erwin und Elmire shows that he was interested in characters with an upper-middle-class background. A 'box office hit' of a special kind was Ferdinand Kauer's singspiel Das Donauweibchen, which premiered in Vienna in 1798.
  • 12 - The lure of aria, procession and spectacle: opera in eighteenth-century London
    pp 385-401
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    In 1789, Charles Burney described the operas of Henry Purcell, Dioclesian, King Arthur and The Fairy-Queen, as 'differing from real operas, where there is no speaking'. The essential truth of opera in eighteenth-century London is that, whether Italian or English, it was first and foremost a performative genre. Although English opera and Italian opera were unlike each other in conception, musical context and most aspects of performance, the aria was the musical unit on which operatic edifices were constructed. For much of the period, imported opera seria repertory consisted of a three-act structure that had at its centre the da capo aria, a tripartite form in which the third section was an ornamented version of the first. The aria in Italian opera came under pressure from many directions as the English public began to demand a less formal, more integrated approach to musical drama. As a theatrical device, the procession had a long history both inside and outside the theatre.
  • 13 - Music theatre in Spain
    pp 402-419
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    From the beginning of the eighteenth-century Spanish music theatre was distinguished by two features, including the literary and musical tradition. The fundamental changes in the Spanish political situation inevitably impinged upon music theatre and affected the introduction of Italian opera. During the two decades from 1738 to 1758, the dramma per musica was to become the leading genre at the Spanish court. Ever since the seventeenth century the zarzuela had been recognized as the authentically Spanish music theatre genre. The gradual decline of opera seria was not just a Spanish, but a European wide phenomenon. Carlo Goldoni's and Niccolo Piccini's La buona figliuola, premiered in Rome in 1760, was probably one of the most important events in eighteenth-century music history. At the same time, in Spain the earthquake of Lisbon in 1755, the illness and death of the Queen in 1758 and of the King in 1759 put an end to the musical splendour of the previous years.
  • 14 - Opera in Sweden
    pp 420-432
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    This chapter identifies two principal periods of musical activity in eighteenth-century Sweden. The first was the so-called 'Age of Freedom'; Johan Helmich Roman served as Kapellmeister for the majority of this period. The second, referred to as the 'Gustavian period' on account of Gustavus III's reign, is represented mainly by Gustavian Opera, a kind of national opera project. The king's main concern was to create a Swedish National Theatre, the librettists were mostly native Swedes, including Wellander and Johan Henrik Kellgren. Creating a Swedish opera company with operas that set Swedish libretti at its core, was of paramount importance to King Gustav and put a premium on works based on national topics. Joseph Martin Kraus must be regarded as the most distinguished composer in Gustavian Stockholm. Although he completed only three major operas his musical output for the stage is quite extensive, namely Azire, Sturm und Drang, and Prosperin.
  • 15 - Performance in the eighteenth century
    pp 433-454
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    The performer had a duty to make that music speak by reading the signs it contained and applying performance conventions to them that differed widely across Europe. Writing in 1776, Sir John Hawkins seems a little surprised at the durability of Arcangelo Corelli's music. Playing the Adagio is not separate from the compositional stage in this formulation, but part of an ongoing process, connected to and extending the act of composition in performance. The composition, was a separate thing from the performance, which now became a means, post factum, by which that 'Work' as concept was represented to a public. In contrast to the 'work concept', the performative status of eighteenth-century musical repertories was characterized by a diversity so marked as to dilute their regulative qualities across the whole spectrum, from materials, through pieces to genres. Frequently, the performance of eighteenth-century music means going beyond the notated text.
  • 16 - Keyboard music from Couperin to early Beethoven
    pp 455-491
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    This chapter explores the broad dichotomy between stylistic continuity and change in eighteenth-century solo keyboard music. It considers how this was shaped by the tensions between the value systems associated with the amateur sphere and with the more exalted realm of learnedness and transcendence whose geographical origins lay in North Germany and whose ultimate embodiment was J. S. Bach. The chapter equalizes the emphasis on music by Viennese- and London-based composers in order to illustrate the geographical breadth of certain stylistic developments. As basic structural principles, variation and rondo remained relatively consistent during the eighteenth century. Like the rondo, the solo, independent keyboard variation was cultivated at all stages of the eighteenth century, and by the full range of composers. The range and scope of the keyboard sonata developed greatly during the second half of the eighteenth century.
  • 17 - The serenata in the eighteenth century
    pp 492-512
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    This chapter discusses a broader historical understanding of the serenata, viewing its constituent elements such as private, public, instrumental, vocal and operatic, as they relate to the serenata's diverse qualities and functions. It also examines several short examples that collectively disclose the variegated and transmigratory nature of the eighteenth-century serenata. There are several features that made a serenata like Venere, Amore e Ragione ideal for a private arena. The manipulation of the festa's multiple components and the serenata's position at the interface between public and private performance was especially apparent on occasions of political propaganda. By the eighteenth century, the serenata had requisitioned instrumental music as an essential element for accommodating its acoustic needs. Reading opera through the eighteenth-century serenata provides an opportune vantage point from which to re-view the serenata. It is important to recognize how the larger cultural debates and historical development in musical drama were uniquely illuminated in the serenata, as its own separate and distinct genre.
  • 18 - Private music in public spheres: chamber cantata and song
    pp 513-540
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    The eighteenth-century secular cantata confronts with a nest of paradoxes. This chapter follows the chamber cantata from its birthplace in Italy through its absorption in France, England and Germany. From around 1630, the secular cantata superseded chamber song and the madrigal in Italy. Created in 1690, the Accademia degli Arcadi was a literary society that aimed to cultivate simplicity and naturalness in the Italian language. In France, the eighteenth-century cantata was characterized by self-consciousness, rather than the idealized desire of its Italian model. Through domestic music-making, the cantata became gradually intertwined with a concurrent flourishing of French song. In Britain, the chamber cantata and song assumed radically different forms than elsewhere in Europe. The early commercialization of entertainment in Britain replaced private patronage with patterns of consumption horizontally dispersed among those with disposable incomes. The German cantata exemplifies the gulf between the optimism of Enlightenment theory and the reality of the work that was produced.
  • 19 - Handel and English oratorio
    pp 541-555
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    In the 1730s and 1740s, Handel gradually developed an entirely unique English variant, skilfully combining elements taken from Italian opera and oratorio, the English anthem and other sources. In mid-eighteenth-century England the term 'oratorio', which was more or less synonymous with Handelian oratorio, denoted a substantial musical entertainment in three acts with an English libretto based on a sacred subject. Oratorios were usually performed at theatres or in concert halls. The manner of performance more or less accidentally chosen for Esther is significant as it became the standard for all ensuing oratorio performances by Handel and his English contemporaries. Whereas Deborah was first given as part of the theatre season, as Esther had been, Handel completed Athalia surprisingly quickly towards the end of his opera season. In 1742 there followed what was to become Handel's most famous oratorio, Messiah, the fourth collaboration between Jennens and Handel after Saul, Israel in Egypt and the ode L'Allegro.
  • 20 - The overture-suite, concerto grosso, ripieno concerto and Harmoniemusik in the eighteenth century
    pp 556-582
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    Historical narratives of eighteenth-century orchestral music have, with good reason, tended to focus on the ascendancy of the solo concerto and the emergence, and eventual dominance, of the concert symphony. The 1690s saw a steady stream of published overture-suites scored for a fouror five-part string ensemble. Gottlieb Muffat recalled hearing concertos or sonatas by Arcangelo Corelli in Rome during the early 1680s, which inspired him to compose his own works. These were published in 1682 as the Armonico Tributo, six 'sonatas' in concerto grosso scoring that mix the Corellian idiom with elements of the French and German styles. The earliest examples appear alongside sonatas in Torelli's Sinfonie a tre e concerti a quattro; in his Concerti musicali, Torelli paired ripieno concertos with the first-known solo concertos. The aristocratic, military and street wind bands referred to by the term Harmonie flourished from the 1760s to the 1830s, with the years 1780-1810 representing the period of greatest popularity.
  • 21 - Concerto of the individual
    pp 583-612
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    The instrumental concerto, a vehicle for solo individualism within a rational framework, was essentially a child of the eighteenth century. In an opera of interacting characters the aria provides a psychological release, the consummation of a dramatic conflict that has already been played out on stage in the preceding recitative. J. S. Bach's concertos clearly illustrate the inter-relationship of genres characterizing the early history of the concerto. The traditional Roman 'concerto grosso' was neatly adapted for use by virtuoso violinists such as Giovanni Mossi and Antonio Montanari by the simple expedient of downgrading the second part. The concept of the Vivaldian concerto may well have permeated Europe, and broadly the concerto was, like those internationally mobile soloists who propagated it, pan-European both in its style and its appeal. At the same time there were explicit attempts to counteract what was perceived as the trivialization of the concerto.
  • 22 - Eighteenth-century symphonies: an unfinished dialogue
    pp 613-647
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    Studies of eighteenth-century symphonies are equally diverse and, after two centuries, almost as numerous as the works themselves. The breadth of the genre begins with its ancestry. The most celebrated sinfonias, moreover, those of the Neapolitan opera, provided models of style and orchestration at several key moments in the development of the chamber symphony. Performance has influenced listener perception in the modern era. The sixty-plus symphonies written by Haydn between the late 1750s and the mid0-1770s demonstrate like no others the capacity of the genre for structural and expressive variety. Those who heard characters in Mozart's symphonies met an unusually diverse cast in each work. In arranging familiar subjects into dramatic sequences, characteristic symphonies have much in common with what might be called 'characteristic interpretations'. The symphony that derived fugues from dances, or sublimity from catchy tunes, reassured listeners that the most intricate structures rested upon simple and attractive ideals.
  • 23 - The string quartet
    pp 648-660
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    By the end of the eighteenth century, the string quartet had achieved a status beyond that of most other instrumental genres, a status that made it appealing as a hook on which to hang historical reputations. Ignaz Holzbauer's quartet in B-flat, are in four movements, a cycle that became common, though not universal, only with Haydn's Op. 9. Textures also vary, from the purely homophonic with dominant upper parts, reminiscent of the trio sonata, to the intensely contrapuntal. Haydn's quartets of the late 1760s and early 1770s are high points in the early history of the quartet. In Italy, quartets were first cultivated on a regular basis by Luigi Boccherini and Giovanni Battista Sammartini. Two-movement quartets are common too, including Francois-Joseph Gossec's Op. 15 and all but one of Jean-Baptiste Davaux's Op. 9; four-movement quartets on the other hand, such as Pierre Vachon's, are rare. Quartets were less cultivated elsewhere in Europe.

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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

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