The History of the Orchestra in Eight Weeks
THE HISTORY OF THE ORCHESTRA: EIGHT COMPOSERS IN EIGHT WEEKS
This course will go through, week by week, the music and the life and times of eight composers who contributed to the change and development of the symphony orchestra for it to become what it is today. There will be discussion and audio/visual examples of some of their most influential pieces. This course will enrich your life’s experience by exploring some of the greatest music ever written.
Week 1 - Bach
Bach is considered to be the ‘grandfather’ of Western music. We look at his style, through listening and discussing some of his seminal works, such as the Brandenburg concertos, the St. Matthew Passion and the Mass in B minor. Where did his style come from? How was he different than his contemporaries? How did he influence later composers?
Week 2 - Haydn
Haydn is considered to be the ‘father of the symphony’. One of the three composers, along with Mozart and Beethoven, that we see as being the representatives of the Viennese Classical Style. We look at the way he developed and perfected this art form, as well as how he influenced his contemporaries, including Mozart.
Week 3 - Beethoven
Beethoven’s nine symphonies are the centre and the summit of the repertoire of all symphony orchestras. We will explore these revolutionary works which transformed the landscape of music.
Week 4 - Brahms
Seen as Beethoven’s heir in the realm of symphonic music, Brahms was a dichotomy of romantic and classicist, and of North German and Viennese. His works are the perfect marriage of head and heart. We will look at Brahms’ four symphonies, his violin and piano concertos, as well as selected other symphonic pieces for a glimpse into the late 19th-century mind.
Week 5 - Tchaikovsky
One of the best-loved composers of all time, Tchaikovsky brought Russian passion and Slavic melancholy into the world of the symphony. Long considered to be a ‘potboiler romantic’, we will look at his music and see why it is great.
Week 6 - Mahler
Mahler is where the Romantic age meets the Modern. His nine symphonies each embrace all of the world, each are a world unto themselves. Living in fin-de-siècle Vienna before the outbreak of the first World War, a contemporary of Freud, Wittgenstein and Klimt, Mahler wrote music which speaks directly to the hearts and minds of our contemporary world.
Week 7 - Debussy
When we think of French music and art, Debussy’s style comes immediately to mind. We will look at the new colours in music that Debussy infused into his orchestra, as well as the influences that he took from French painters and sculptors.
Week 8 - Shostakovich
How does a symphony speak out against tyranny and oppression? Shostakovich’s personal war against the politics of Soviet Russia is embodied in his symphonies, as well as the extreme depths of the human experience.