January 13, 2013 at 10:07 PMWhat is your favorite musical period? Mine changes pretty frequently; a moving performance of something from a certain musical period tends to renew my interest in it.
Here are some basic definitions for you (and perhaps your students). Please share what your (current) favorite musical period is, and what makes it your favorite.
For these definitions, I've quoted directly from an excellent article we have on V.com by Liz Lambson, called Classical Music Genres of the Common Practice Periods, which explains three of those periods very well, the Baroque, Classical and Modern periods. I've borrowed her style and added Renaissance and Modern. Feel free to add to (and argue about) these definitions! (Most up-in-the-air is the definition of the "modern" era!)
Definitive Composer: Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina
Other Renaissance Composers: Guillaume Dufay, Josquin des Prez, Johannes Ockeghem, William Byrd, Giovanni Gabrieli, John Dowland
Defining Characteristics: Use of modes, multiple parts, polyphony and independent voices, counterpoint
Performance Style: Use of pre-violin stringed instruments such as the viol (played like a cello, resting between the legs), lute, hurry gurdy
Definitive Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach
Other Baroque Composers: Antonio Vivaldi, Arcangelo Corelli, George Frederic Handel, Henry Purcell
Defining Characteristics: Continuous bass line (basso continuo), use of harpsichord and pipe organ, introduction of written works such as cantatas and oratorios, smaller ensembles with limited or no wind and percussion parts
Performance Style: added embellishments and tremelos, little or no vibrato, trills starting on the higher note
Definitive Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Other Classical Composers: Christoph Willibald Gluck, Carl Philipp Emanuel (C.P.E.) Bach, Joseph Haydn, Ludwig van Beethoven (early works)
Defining Characteristics: short melodies and phrases, obvious cadences, larger orchestra than Baroque, music in sonata form, eventual disuse of harpsichord and introduction of piano, quartet music
Performance Style: light and clear articulation, trills starting on the lower not, modest use of vibrato, more dynamic contrast
Definitive Composers: Ludwig Van Beethoven (transitional later works), Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Johannes Brahms
Other Romantic Composers: Franz Schubert, Felix Mendelssohn, Frederic Chopin, Robert Schumann, Richard Wagner, Antonin Dvorak, Edward Elgar, Gustav Mahler, Richard Strauss, Sergei Rachmaninoff
Defining Characteristics: reflective of human emotion and expression; a response to social and political movements; rich and song-like melodies; more modulation and key changes; larger orchestra with more winds, brass, and percussion; programme music and symphonic poems
Performance Style: dramatic, expressive, wide vibrato, dramatic and high-contrast articulation and dynamics, rich texture, virtuosic playing, lyrical and song-like phrasing
Definitive Composer: Igor Stravinsky, Aaron Copland, Arnold Schoenberg
Other Modern composers: Bela Bartok, Claude Debussy, Dmitri Shostakovich, Leonard Bernstein, Sergei Prokofiev,
Defining Characteristics: impressionism, atonality, dissonance, syncopation, neo-Classicism, neo-Romanticism, new styles, cross-genre experimentation, use of technology, frequently changing meters, minimalism
Performance Style: extremely variable, often experimental, with techniques such as Bartok pizzicato, col legno bowing, aleatoric passages (somewhat improvised and chaotic), unusual annotation, and more.
In the seventies and eighties I took up the recorder and though I touched on earlier periods I still found my focus on the Baroque though split between early French and later German, with an occasional dally into the Italian.
Then under two years ago I took up the violin and discovered Sarasate and my taste has begun to expand. And though Beethoven was always a part of my life just recently I discovered some of the late string quartets. Need I say more.
Picking up on Elise's point: Beethoven, Brahms, and Tchaikovsky were the masters whose scores I remember first hearing -- before I even started school. These early childhood influences are undoubtedly a factor -- though not the only factor -- in my preference.
But then I took up violin, and our little group got hooked on Corelli trio-sonatas. That's far enough back, isn't it? Except, perhaps, for that 2-CD set of Palestrina that I enjoy so much. But at last night's orchestra rehearsal the Mozart bassoon concerto started sounding so good. And I just melt when a certain part of Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring comes on the radio.
Let's face it, there's something I like in every era.
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