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Europe in the Mid- to Late Eighteenth Century

Aspects of eighteenth-century life

Europe was dominated by a number of strong political powers, most
notably France, Britain, Prussia, Austria-Hungary, and Russia.
Revolutions in America and France had a strong impact on European
politics at the end of the century.
Changes in economic conditions resulted in a rising middle class and a
lessening of aristocratic power.
Europe enjoyed a cosmopolitan age, due in part to intermarriages of noble
A universal musical style emerged that blended features from all nations
(see HWM Source Reading, page 470).

The Enlightenment
The Enlightenment was an intellectual movement that applied reason to
issues of emotions, social relations, and politics.
Beliefs of the Enlightenment
Individual rights
Universal education
Social equality
Social reformers in France were known as philosophes.
Ideas of the Enlightenment were incorporated into the founding documents
of the United States.
Interest in the welfare of humankind extended to rulers, who oversaw social
An organization devoted to humanitarian ideas and brotherhood known as
Freemasonry emerged and spread throughout Europe and North America.
The middle class's increased interest in learning and the arts affected writers
and artists.

Social roles for music

Public concerts and private teaching provided musicians with methods to
supplement their income (see HWM Innovations, pages 472-73, and Figures
20.1 and 20.2).
A large repertoire of music was composed for amateur musicians to
perform at home (see HWM Figure 20.3).
Magazines devoted to music began to appear in midcentury.
The first universal histories of music were written.
Charles Burney, A General History of Music (1776-89)
John Hawkins, A General History of the Science and Practice of Music
Johann Nicolaus Forkel, Allgemeine Geschichte der Musik (General History
of Music, 1788-1801)

Musical Taste and Style

Musical styles in the mid- and late eighteenth century
Various musical styles coexisted, including the traditional Baroque style
and newer styles.
Contemporary critics developed a number of new values.
Composers should avoid contrapuntal complexity.
Melodies should contain short phrases and have simple accompaniments.
The language of music should be international.
Music should appeal to all tastes.
Music should be natural and immediately pleasing.

Terms for styles

Galant was a term for everything modern and sophisticated.
Melodies built from repeated motives and short phrases were emphasized.
Phrases were combined into larger periods.
The harmony was simple with frequent cadences.
Galant style became the foundation for music of the mid- to late eighteenth
century (see HWM Source Reading, page 477).

Empfindsam style ("sentimental style")

Originated in Italy, but most closely associated with C. P. E. Bach
Characterized by surprising turns of harmony, chromaticism, and
speechlike melodies

"Classical" music sometimes refers to art music of all ages, and sometimes it
specifies the music of the late eighteenth century.
The narrowest definition denotes the style associated with the mature music
of Haydn and Mozart.
The term was applied to music as an analogy to Greek and Roman art.
The Classic Period in music is approximately 1730 to 1815.
Qualities of the Classical Style
Baroque phrasing
Baroque melodies were spun out of a single melodic-rhythmic subject.
Baroque melodies embodied a single affection.
Sequential repetition of phrases with infrequent cadences resulted in
integrated movements without sharp contrasts.
The new melodic style broke up the melodic flow with a succession of short
distinct phrases of two to four measures in length.
A period, consisting of two or more phrases, formed a complete musical
This melodic style is characterized by frequent cadences.
Principles of rhetoric and grammar were applied to music, as described by
Heinrich Christoph Koch in Versuch einer Anleitung zur Composition (see
HWM Example 20.1).
A hierarchy of cadences developed; the strongest cadences mark the end of
a period or of sections and movements.
Harmonic movement, such as I-V-I, can be observed as a simple chord
progression and as large-scale harmonic schemes.
Harmonic movement was slower than in the Baroque era.
The Alberti bass set chords in repeating patterns to animate harmonies
without distracting from melodies (see HWM Example 20.2).
Distinctions between beginning, middle, and ending gestures allowed
composers to communicate location in the musical form.
Emotional contrasts
In the Baroque era, strong and invariable states of affection were thought to
dominate human emotions.
Deeper knowledge of blood circulation, the nervous system, and human
physiology suggested that emotional states were constantly changing.
The music of the classic era began to incorporate contrasting moods rather
than projecting a single affection.