|Author||David Wyn Jones|
All the author’s previous books have been treatments of particular topics but this one is more like a tapestry: it asks, what was musical life in Vienna like in the periods centered around 1700, 1800, and 1900? In brief:
Circa 1700, musical life is already very lively, centered around the Emperor’s court and the Roman Catholicism for which he stood. Elsewhere in Europe, Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, and Scarlatti are composing their most famous works, but the star composers of Vienna, Fux and Caldara, today are obscure.
1800 sees a wrenching shift in the support for music from the aristocracy (including the emperor) to the middle class. Beethoven is the predominant living composer, and amateur participation in music is on a very high level.
By 1900, Vienna has grown eight times as big, and we witness the founding stages of the classical music culture of today: there is a Vienna Philharmonic and a conservatory, middle-class people attend concerts in subscription series, and musicology is an academic discipline. Veneration of Beethoven is rampant, and contemporary heroes include Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss.
Throughout, Jones draws interesting links — long-term causes and effects — between centuries. The whole thing forms a refreshing counterpart to the usual music history. As Jones points out, the information most classical music lovers get tends to come from composer biographies, and so we see Viennese musical culture only from the composer’s point of view. The shift in emphasis to Vienna itself is illuminating.