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The Cambridge History of Musical Performance


Edited by Colin Lawson, Robin Stowell
Book DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521896115
Online ISBN: 9781139025966
Hardback ISBN: 9780521896115

Chapter
2 - Political process, social structure and musical performance in Eur
ope since 1450 pp. 35-62
Chapter DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521896115.003
Cambridge University Press

. 2 .

Political process, social structure and


musical performance in Europe since 1450
WILLIAM WEBER

I will examine the history of musical performance by, in political terms, seeing
how a cultural community is shaped by diering groups and forces. Performing
involves interaction among people involved in organising, paying, listening
and interpreting. Their relationships may vary at any time from close collaboration to intense conict. Dierent kinds of communities interact in this
political process, variously the performing institution, a court or a city, and
the state or a region of states. Negotiation must go on among participants,
according to organisational rules, musical practices and nancial constraints.
Tradition and change compete with each other under pressure from social
movements and individual opportunism. While these factors are usually just
taken for granted, crises often make them articulated in print.
An ecient way to enquire into these social and political processes is to
examine dualities which have recurred in Western musical life since the late
Middle Ages. Involving collaboration and conict to varying extents, the dualities within performing relationships can help us go beyond the banal phrase
Music and Society by identifying the dynamics aspects of musical culture. The
rst section of this chapter briey examines musical dualities under three
headings Location, Production and Taste. The second section discusses
how the dualities generally played out during four periods of music history
since around 1450. Scholars typically agree that a public musical world
emerged by around 1450 in Western and Central Europe, and we can see
lines of continuity from that time to the present.1 It is indeed enlightening
to see how the origins of modern practices can reach back so far. Even though
the dualities aecting musical life changed in nature from one period to
another, they largely retained certain basic roles throughout our period:
(A) Location:
Court and city
Nobles and bourgeois
Cosmopolitan versus local or national
1 R. Strohm, The Rise of European Music (13801500), Cambridge University Press, 1993.

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WILLIAM WEBER

(B) Production:
Amateurs and professionals
Entrepreneurship versus association
Vocal and instrumental music
Virtuoso versus ensemble
(C) Taste:
Old and new music
Performer and composer
Dierent modes of listening

Location
Location is the basis of the rst three related dualities in musical life. A dialectic
between the court and the city lasted to the end of the nineteenth century,
involving competition among noble and bourgeois, and tension between the
cosmopolitan, the national and the local which continues to this day.
Much of modern music history has been wrapped up in the dialectic between
the court and the city. On the one hand, the royal or aristocratic patron exerted
personal leadership in idiosyncratic ways to shape musical activities in a court.
Although court patronage could bring vital musical leadership for a period of
time, the shift from one generation to another could have disorienting consequences for the musical community. On the other hand, the highly institutionalised nature of governance in a city could generate regular musical activity over
succeeding generations.2 The funding available for musical activity was, none the
less, often more limited in a city than in a court, especially for instrumental
ensembles. The Italian cities of the early modern period most strikingly illustrate
this contrast, as the dierences between the extraordinary continuity in Venice
and the discontinuities in courts such as Ferrara or Florence.3
Yet because a court was often based in a city, a court and the citys government worked closely together, as can be seen in the evolution of opera houses
in the early modern period. In Italian cities opera was based on dierent kinds
of institutions a major court in Naples, a small one in Parma and patrician
leadership in Venice. During the eighteenth century, when the court was
usually located a moderate distance from the capital city, the urban theatre
then rivalled the one at the court. Whereas Louis XIV and English monarchs

2 Richard Leppert illustrates Flemish musical life in The Theme of Music in Flemish Paintings of the Seventeenth
Century, Munich, Musikverlag Katzbichler, 1977.
3 I. Fenlon, Music and Society, in I. Fenlon (ed.), The Renaissance from the 1470s to the End of the 16th
Century, London, Macmillan, 1989; E. Selfridge-Field, Song and Season: Science, Culture and Theatrical Time in
Early Modern Venice, Palo Alto, CA, Stanford University Press, 2007.

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37

after 1688 took little leadership in opera, Frederick II in Prussia and Joseph II
of the Habsburg Empire involved themselves considerably in such aairs.
Rulers in the smaller courts in this period developed signicant opera companies, as Daniel Heartz has shown in fascinating detail for Stuttgart and
Mannheim.4
Courts continued to play important roles in musical life during the rst half
of the nineteenth century despite the burgeoning of urban music publics.
Franz Liszt shifted his career from the concert stage to the court of SaxeCoburg-Meiningen in 1848; Louis Spohr, one of the most important composers in the rst half of the century, was based in the court of Hesse-Kassel from
the early 1830s until his death in 1859. While Liszt had considerable latitude
from his patron, Spohr was burdened by traditional restrictions as to residence
and repertoire. Continuity can also be seen in opera houses. Even though
control of them gradually shifted from courts to municipalities, traditional
leadership remained strong, as in Parma until Italian unication began in 1859
and in Dresden until the end of the century.5
During the twentieth century a dualism between state and private funding in
eect replaced that of court and city. By the 1870s the value of public funding of
concerts or opera was much debated in numerous countries. The greatest public
support for music emerged in nineteenth-century German municipalities, not
for the most part the Austrian Empire or individual German states. Until 1945
the least such funding existed in Britain. Publicly funded radio provided a major
new source of funding for classical music from the 1920s in Britain and almost all
other countries. The United States was the last major country where state
funding developed. The steady public funding for opera and concerts in
Germany led German emigrants to the United States to hold back from donating
to local institutions.6 Music beneted considerably less than painting or sculpture from the National Endowment for the Arts begun in 1965.7
Nobles and bourgeois both collaborated and vied with one another on the
historical stage. Nobility arose in the tenth century, only a century earlier than
did the bourgeoisie. Once feudal relationships established titled families with
control of land in the tenth century, bankers and professionals emerged in
cities to manage the growing money economy. To be sure, because the
4 D. Heartz, Music in European Capitals: The Galant Style, 17201780, New York, Norton, 2003.
5 J. Toelle, Oper als Geschft: Impresari an italienischen Opernhusern, 18601900, Kassel, Brenreiter, 2007;
Philipp Ther, In der Mitte der Gesellschaft: Operntheater in Zentraleuropa, 18151914, Vienna, Oldenbourg,
2006.
6 J. Hecht-Gienow, Trumpeting down the walls of Jericho: the politics of art, music and emotion in
GermanAmerican relations 18701920, Journal of Social History, 36 (2003), 585613; and Sound Diplomacy:
Music and Emotions in Transatlantic Relations, 18501920, University of Chicago Press, 2009.
7 D. Binkiewitz, Federalizing the Muse: United States Arts Policy and the National Endowment for the Arts, 1965
1980, Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 2004.

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WILLIAM WEBER

bourgeoisie did not control land the principal source of wealth it appeared
secondary to the nobility and therefore seemed to rise in subsequent periods.
But its source of capital and cash was vital to the nobility, some of whom
became involved with business leaders in many regions of Europe as of the
seventeenth century. One could nd numerous nobles in southern England
and northern France who took mortgages on their lands to develop mines and
small arms factories.8
Nobles and bourgeois likewise collaborated extensively in musical life,
serving as patrons, commentators and organisers of opera or concert institutions. Although much was written condemning the musical education of boys
in eighteenth-century England, Horace Walpole served as a talent scout for
the Kings Theatre, and John Montagu, Earl of Sandwich, was the principal
founder of the Catch Club and the Concert of Antient Music.9 The opera
companies in Venice, London and Prague were led in large part by men of the
two classes. The original chamber-music concerts in the rst half of the
nineteenth century owed their existence to support variously from high
nobles, bankers, socially prominent intellectuals and music teachers. The
collaboration of people from dierent social strata was crucial to these concerts, which were unprecedented for involving no pieces for voice. Concert
societies of the twentieth century likewise ourished only if their managers
worked hard to maintain support from wealthy patrons and a large paying
public.
The dialectic between cosmopolitan and local or national music has been
closely related with the dualities of court and city and noble and bourgeois.10
As applied here, the term cosmopolitan indicates the authority carried by a
genre Italian opera most of all that dominated repertoires and taste over a
wide geographical region. No single country or region could exist on its own;
involvement internationally was basic to musical culture, whether in collaborative or competitive terms. As Reinhard Strohm has shown, the dissemination
of music across geographical boundaries was closely linked with diplomatic
activity in the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance.11 A sovereign often took
his or her leading musicians to other courts while negotiating for marriage, war
or commerce, and numerous high-level musicians thereby served as secretaries

8 H. M. Scott (ed.), European Nobilities in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, 2 vols., Harlow,
Longman, 1995.
9 R. Leppert, Music and Image: Domesticity, Ideology and Socio-cultural Formation in Eighteenth-Century
England, Cambridge University Press, 1988.
10 For discussion of national styles, see C. Lawson and R. Stowell, The Historical Performance of Music: An
Introduction, Cambridge University Press, 1999, pp. 427, 81, 179.
11 R. Strohm, European politics and the distribution of music in the early fteenth century, Early Music
History, 1 (1981), 30523.

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39

or emissaries. George Frideric Handels rst visit to London occurred in 1708


chiey because his patron, King George of Hanover, wanted to hear about the
crisis-bound situation of English politics at the time.
Cosmopolitan authority was vested in particular genres in musical culture.12
By 1700 opera originating in various Italian cities had become established as
the principal repertoire in almost all courts and cities. Though still holding an
Italian identity, operatic works became the cosmopolitan standard throughout
Europe, being applied by locally born composers in their local communities.
M.-P.-G. Chabanon might have been speaking for Italian opera when in 1785
he declared that in their free circulation, the arts lose all of their indigenous
character . . . [i]n this regard Europe can be thought to be a mother country of
which all the arts are citizens.13 Yet at the same time, genres rooted in a given
region often rivalled cosmopolitan genres. The politics of musical life revolved
around competition between local and cosmopolitan opera and the struggle of
local composers to be recognised within the international community. Opera
in the vernacular called opra comique, Singspiel, or English opera thereby
challenged cosmopolitan Italian opera. Not only did intellectuals challenge the
hegemony of cosmopolitan opera, so did many members of the elites who often
attended opera performances. Moreover, the concertos and symphonies by
central European composers not just Germans acquired a similar if less
powerful such role in the late eighteenth century. Less hierarchy among
regions developed in performance of the highly international concerto, as
was also usually the case with sacred music prior to the rise of classical
repertoires during the early nineteenth century.
The nature of cosmopolitan music changed fundamentally in the middle of
the nineteenth century. The hegemony of Italian opera waned as the Parisian
theatres acquired greater international prominence and proponents of German
opera mounted a pointed ideological campaign, now taking Mozart into their
company more fully than had been the case earlier. A crisis in Italian opera was
even more evident in 1868, when the recently unied but deeply problematic
Italian state ended all subsidies for opera from the nation or its provinces.
Furthermore, by 1850 repertoires of classical music performed by orchestras
and string quartets had become central to cosmopolitan culture, rivalling opera
vigorously. Even though it was conventional to refer to classical music as
German in origin (despite the presence of Italians and others from Central

12 See further discussion in W. Weber, The Great Transformation of Musical Taste: Concert Programming from
Haydn to Brahms, Cambridge University Press, 2008, and Cosmopolitan, National, and Regional Identities
in Eighteenth-century European Musical Life, in J. Fulcher (ed.), Oxford Handbook to the New Cultural
History of Music, Oxford University Press, 2011.
13 Quoted in M. Noiray, Vocabulaire de la musique de lpoque classique, Paris, Minerve, 2005, p. 119.

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WILLIAM WEBER

Europe), it was expected that every orchestra would perform some of the
classical repertoire for orchestra or quartet. The primacy of cosmopolitan
classical repertoire in concert life by 1850 stimulated composers to dene
their music in nationalistic terms.14

Production
The production and performance of music entailed three related dualities concerning relations between amateur and professional musicians, the entrepreneur
and the association and practices of performing vocal and instrumental music.
Both the amateur and the professional musician can be considered to have had
careers. Amateurs followed extensive and in some cases signicant careers in
many periods, even though the term patron may be more appropriate for
amateurs in some contexts. There was a long tradition of a patron performing
alongside a high-ranking professional musician in private. Isabella dEste, wife of
the Marchese Francesco Gonzaga in the late 1400s, was a distinguished singer, as
was Empress Therese of the house of Habsburg between 1792 and 1807.15
British gentlemen sang with leading musicians of the Chapel Royal at the
gatherings of the Noblemens Catch Club (1760).16 In the early nineteenth
century amateur string players performed in private with musicians who were
putting on public concerts of chamber music. This tradition still survives;
for example, during the 1980s and 1990s Edward Edelman, elected Supervisor
of Los Angeles County (which has authority over the Music Center and the
Hollywood Bowl) often played with members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic
in his home.
During the eighteenth century the growing prominence of public concerts
created tensions between amateurs and professionals in some contexts. Music
societies in Britain often experienced this problem. There was great protest
against bringing London singers to perform in an oratorio concert in Halifax in
1767, and the Edinburgh Musical Society all but collapsed in 1798 as a result of
dispute of the same kind.17 The Society of the Friends of Music in Vienna
worked out an interesting compromise over the question of amateur performance during the rst three decades after its founding in 1814. Professionals

14 See Toelle, Oper als Geschft, and Ther, In der Mitte der Gesellschaft.
15 W. Priser, Lucrezia Borgia and Isabella dEste as patrons of music: the frottola at Mantua and Ferrara,
Journal of the American Musicological Society, 38 (1985), 133; J. Rice, Empress Marie Therese and Music at the
Viennese Court, 17921807, Cambridge University Press, 2003.
16 B. Robins, Catch and Glee Culture in Eighteenth-Century England, Woodbridge, Boydell Press, 2006.
17 A Plain and True Narrative of the Dierences, between Messrs. BS, and Members of the Musical Club, holden at
the Old-Cock, Halifax, In a Letter to a Friend, Halifax, 1767; D. Johnson, Music and Society in Lowland Scotland in
the Eighteenth Century, Oxford University Press, 1972.

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could not appear in its orchestral series (the Society Concerts), but they did
perform opera selections and virtuoso pieces at the smaller-scale Evening
Entertainments. The idealists in the society, unhappy about its repertoire
and performing standards, created a semi-professional orchestral series called
the Concert Spirituel (181948), where the rst systematic classical repertoire
appeared in Europe as a whole. The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, founded
in 1842, involved only members of the opera orchestra but failed to present
more than a few concerts a year until 1860. The Revolution of 1848 had the
eect of dividing fundamentally amateur from professional concerts.18
Concerts by amateur choral societies were often performed with professional soloists and orchestral players by the middle of the nineteenth century. The
English oratorio festivals originally involved professional singers, either from
cathedral choirs or theatre choruses. But by the 1840s choruses made up of
amateurs had become common, most prominently in Londons Sacred
Harmonic Society, many of whose members came from the lower middle
class. The new-found ability to train large numbers of amateurs to sing with
some success in performances of choral-orchestral pieces expanded the resources of music-making greatly for the rest of the century. Professional singers
seem sometimes to have helped lead the sections of otherwise amateur choruses. Choruses of varying size, social status and musical ability sprang up all
over Europe and America, making Handels best-known oratorios as widely
performed as the operas of Gioachino Rossini, Gaetano Donizetti and
Giuseppe Verdi. The British choral festivals nevertheless went into serious
decline towards the end of the nineteenth century. The impresarios found it
increasingly hard to please the public and get it to accept new works.19 Choral
groups took a particular path in the United States, where college glee clubs
kept active the English catch and glee tradition, with its special blend of
sociability, through the twentieth century.
The division between amateur and professional musicians became increasingly distinct during the twentieth century, in orchestras and choruses alike. A
new kind of interaction between amateurs and professionals nonetheless arose
in rock music. Since the 1960s young people have been building rock bands in
local communities with the ambition of becoming high-level professionals,
motivated by the success of such stars as the Beatles or the Rolling Stones.
Moreover, areas of popular music began to develop their own pedagogy.

18 Weber, Great Transformation of Musical Taste, pp. 197207, 2558.


19 G. Cumberland, Musical Problems: IV. Musical Festivals, Musical Opinion and Trade Review, 398
(November 1910), 901; H. Antclie, Musical festivals and modern works, Musical Opinion and Trade
Review, 391 (1 April 1910), 483. See also R. Demaine, Individual and institution in the musical life of Leeds,
19001914, Ph.D. thesis, University of York (1999).

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Whereas many singers and songwriters of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century were educated in conservatoires or with traditional music teachers, musicians in rock, country and folk music now are often trained within
their own professions.20
We can dierentiate between two ways of producing music: through entrepreneurship or association. It is possible to produce music either as a personal
speculation, for either prot or loss, or through an association whose members
intend to pursue larger collective goals. In present-day language, entrepreneurism is usually dened as the attempt to expand capital resources through
corporate organisation. Yet prior to the late nineteenth century the term was
used to denote individuals who performed services with limited, if any, economic resources, and included even those who bartered in a towns market.21
Entrepreneurism goes far back in musical culture, for the travelling entertainer
had to learn how to manipulate expenses and income in dierent kinds of
places. Music publishing was highly entrepreneurial from the start. James Haar
pointed to the entrepreneurial urge and the shrewd sense of self-promotion
in the career of Orlando di Lasso.22 Though not a publisher as such, Lasso
served as editor and business adviser for those who put his many volumes of
music into print. During the eighteenth century the growing size of the
musical world in some major cities led an increasing number of musicians to
work on a freelance basis, putting on subscription series, giving lessons and
sometimes even establishing music schools. Promenade concerts, nally, were
almost always highly commercial enterprises from their creation by Philippe
Musard in 1832 until after the Second World War.23 Aspirant rock groups
likewise function today in entrepreneurial fashion even though they have to
work through corporate management agencies.
To be sure, a ne line exists between the two types of venture, because an
association might make money, and a speculation can be driven in part by high
principles. Yet the moral implications seen in the prot motive have often led
to conict between entrepreneurial and associative goals. As early as the 1770s
musicians who published a lot of music for amateurs Carl Philip Emanuel
Bach, for example came into considerable disrepute for being overly
20 For a picture of one such world, see R. Walser, Running with the Devil: Power, Gender, and Madness in
Heavy Metal Music, Hanover, NH, University Press of New England, 1993.
21 W. Weber, in W. Weber (ed.), The Musician as Entrepreneur and Opportunist, 17001914: Managers,
Charlatans and Idealists, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 2004, Introduction.
22 J. Haar, Orlando di Lasso, composer and print entrepreneur, in K. van Orden (ed.), Music and the
Cultures of Print, New York, Garland, 2000, pp. 129, 131, 126. See also P. A. Starr, Musical entrepreneurship in fteenth-century Europe, Early Music, 32 (2004), 11933.
23 A history of the enterprises sponsoring Musards concerts, and a proposal for a mixture of dance music
and classical symphonies, can be found in the Archives Nationales, F 21 1157, Concerts Musard, rue
Vivienne, 183637; Concerts Vivienne, Concerts de la salle Montesquieu, 183336.

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commercial. The word charlatan was often used to criticise a virtuoso or a


promenade concert conductor, whose ambitions were thereby contrasted with
the higher goals seen in the concerts presented by groups of professional
musicians. Joseph Joachim employed the term in January 1857 to accuse
Louis Jullien of performing classical works in showy fashion.24 In the 1970s
widely known experimental composers such as Philip Glass and George Crumb
were derided by university composers for pandering to the commercial aspects
of popular music.
The musical association diered from entrepreneurial activity because it was
collective and often indeed egalitarian in nature. A group of musicians would
form a society to present concerts on a long-term basis. The earliest such
organisations borrowed the term academy from Italian or French societies
that were devoted to intellectual dialogue rather than performance, even
though sociability among colleagues existed in both cases. Thus the Academy
of Ancient Music in London (17261802) brought together singers from the
Chapel Royal and the cathedrals with a few of their patrons to sing works of
ancient music that were as old as the late sixteenth century. Almost all of the
professional orchestras founded in the nineteenth century were likewise collective undertakings run by musicians, most prominently the Philharmonic
Society of London (1813), the Socit des Concerts in Paris (1828), the Vienna
Philharmonic Orchestra (1842) and the New York Philharmonic Society
(1842). The subscription series held at the Gewandhaus in Leipzig, however,
was governed by a board of laymen, as was often the case with American
orchestras in the twentieth century.
In the world of opera, however, blended forms of governance tended to
arise, because the court or the state was often involved in some fashion along
with an entrepreneur. At its founding in 1669, the Acadmie Royale de
Musique in Paris was directed by Pierre Perrin, Jean-Baptiste Lully and a
succession of directeurs, but received necessary nancial support from the
court.25 Holding a monopoly over French opera, the Opra in 1725 then
gave a privilge over all public concerts to the Concert Spirituel, the citys
central series, whose directeurs developed concerts at their own behest. By
contrast, in London the Royal Academy of Music, which acquired the privilege
of the Kings Theatre in 1720, was led by a collegial board of directors as well as

24 J. Joachim, ed. and trans. N. Bickley as Letters from and to Joseph Joachim, London, Macmillan, 1914,
p. 141. Emphasis is original.
25 J. de la Gorce, LOpra Paris au temps de Louis XIV: Histoire dun thtre, Paris, ditions Desjonqures,
1992; V. Johnson, Backstage at the Revolution: How the Royal Paris Opera Survived the End of the Old Regime,
University of Chicago Press, 2008.

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an impresario. Made up of leading nobles and gentlemen, the board continued


to exercise authority until the early 1830s.26
From the start, Italian opera companies were controlled in diverse fashion by
a court, an impresario, box-owning patrons, or a combination of all three.
From the early eighteenth century most Italian halls were governed by an
impresario who obtained funding, an association of boxholders that protected
their investments, and often a monarch who served as patron. In Venice the
boxholders dominated, in Milan and Naples the patrons and in other cities all
three interest groups.27 In German cities municipalities provided funding for
opera during the nineteenth century. Yet close links between noble and
bourgeois patrons underlay the functioning of the theatre in cities such as
Dresden.28
The dualism between vocal music and instrumental music has been fundamental to Western musical culture. The two types of music needed and rivalled
one another throughout this history. Until the twentieth century it was
unusual for a court or public performance to involve just vocal or instrumental
pieces. Even though string quartets were giving concerts with no vocal component in Vienna and Paris by 1815, singers continued to appear in some such
concerts, and the great majority of orchestral series included solo or choral
pieces until the First World War. This tradition reected a deep fascination
with virtuosity in its contrasting forms. Voices and instruments had long been
thought to interact with one another in what Rodolfo Celletti called the love
duet inherent in the tradition of bel canto.29 During the late 1780s, for
example, listeners would ock to a concert to hear a rondo by Domenico
Cimarosa, followed by a violin concerto by Giovanni Viotti. The long prevalent
miscellaneous concert of opera selections and instrumental virtuoso pieces
gave a coherent set of expectations and practices to the tradition.
A programme of fteen opera selections and virtuoso pieces, each half
introduced by an overture, may seem unappealing to listeners today, but it
was among the most sought-out kinds of musical entertainment during the
eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. A musician who put on such a concert
followed what amounted to a political process in choosing performing forces,
genres, composers and pieces, based on his or her sense of what the public

26 E. Gibson, The Royal Academy of Music 17191728: The Institution and its Directors, New York, Garland,
1989; J. Hall-Witt, Fashionable Acts: Opera and Elite Culture in London, 17801880, Durham, NH, University
of New Hampshire Press, 2007.
27 J. Rosselli, The Opera Industry in Italy from Cimarosa to Verdi: The Role of the Impresario, Cambridge
University Press, 1984.
28 See Ther, In der Mitte der Gesellschaft.
29 R. Celletti, Storia del Bel Canto, trans. F. Fuller as A History of Bel Canto, Oxford University Press, 1991,
p. 3.

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expected in taste and in popular performers. The blending of short vocal and
instrumental pieces lives on in our day in school concerts and recitals organised
by music teachers.
Still, performances in court or in private rooms might include only vocal or
instrumental pieces. The need to accommodate a public did not apply as strictly
to an aristocrat presenting music in a stately home as it did to a musician
performing in public. For example, around 1800 the Habsburg Empress Marie
Therese, a singer in her own right, presented several concerts a week made up
almost entirely of vocal pieces, usually either opera bua or opera seria.30 The
patrons of Beethovens chamber music likewise held private performances
dedicated strictly to quartets and related genres. The English heir apparent
gave a concert in Devonshire House in 1823 made up of ensemble numbers
from Rossinis Il turco in Italia (1814), each half introduced by a sonata for
horns.31
Philosophical, indeed often ideological, dispute developed over the aesthetic
dichotomy between vocal and instrumental music. A critique of performing
numerous opera selections at concerts began as early as 1800, and by the 1860s
a few orchestras (the Prussian Court Orchestra in Berlin most of all) oered
little vocal music. Opera and classical-music concerts became increasingly
distant from one another, since the rationale for performing old operas evolved
on a commercial rather than an idealistic basis intellectually. Such aesthetic
dispute has persisted among scholars today. Music historians tend to disparage
the eighteenth-century principle that aesthetic meaning must arise from poetic
communication, leading to the argument that instrumental music became
emancipated from that principle as the idea of absolute music arose in the
early nineteenth century.32 Other scholars countered that commentators used
poetic language to interpret Beethovens music and that vocal music remained
central to aesthetic thinking, suggesting that absolute music appeared much
later.33
Distinctive types of homogeneous as opposed to miscellaneous programmes
emerged in the nineteenth century. The recital that is, performing entirely
30 J. Rice, Empress Marie Therese and Music at the Viennese Court, 17921807, Cambridge University Press,
2003, pp. 902, 1703.
31 London, Quarterly Music Magazine and Review, 5 (1823), 252.
32 J. Neubauer, The Emancipation of Music from Language: Departure from Mimesis in Eighteenth-century
Aesthetics, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1986. For a critique of this argument, see
D. A. Thomas, Music and the Origins of Language: Theories from the French Enlightenment, Cambridge
University Press, 1995.
33 R. Wallace, Beethovens Critics: Aesthetic Dilemmas and Resolutions during the Composers Lifetime,
Cambridge University Press, 1986; M. E. Bond, Idealism and the aesthetics of instrumental music at the
turn of the nineteenth century, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 50 (1997), 387420; M. E. Bond,
Music as Thought: Listening to the Symphony in the Age of Beethoven, Princeton University Press, 2006; Thomas,
Music and the Origins of Language.

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alone or just with an accompanist did not develop until Franz Liszt experimented with it in the late 1830s. Pianists such as Clara Schumann and Marie
Pleyel followed suit, and by the 1870s such programming was common in most
cities. Concerts by string quartets became more homogeneous as well. While in
1850 their programmes almost always included several genres a trio, quintet, or
even octet by 1900 a concert might oer just string quartets. In 1907 a London
violinist put on a recital made up entirely of Nicol Paganinis Caprices, a
programme that would have appealed to the virtuosos fans in the 1830s.34
Since the 1990s rst the Juilliard Quartet and then the Pacica Quartet have
played all six of Elliott Carters string quartets in two sittings.
Devoting a concert to a single work an oratorio or a symphony most
commonly was by denition foreign to traditional practice in musical life.
Still, performing a single work has come about when the genre has included
contrasting solo, choral and instrumental elements. Unusually ambitious composers have made their careers in large part by framing choral-orchestral works
in that fashion. Handel established the oratorio concert successfully because he
knew how to write for his public and could control what went on in a London
theatre. Gustav Mahler likewise monopolised many programmes with his long
symphonies, in a time when orchestral programmes included relatively few
recent works. He convinced orchestras to give a programme of this kind because
he was so much in demand as a conductor and because his symphonies blended
musical forces and evocative topoi.35
The relationship between the virtuoso and the ensemble is inherently a source
of either collaboration or tension. The self-promoting individual can either
threaten other musicians or open up opportunities for them as an ensemble.
The instrumental performers who toured courts and cities from the time of the
Middle Ages had to woo patrons and participate with local performers. Susan
McClary has shown how Italian singers began touring as stars during the 1580s,
applying something of the same tactics as instrumentalists.36 A citys musical
connoisseurs, listeners deemed to be good judges, helped facilitate negotiations
between local and touring musicians. It was customary for such a person to
invite a visiting musician to perform in private before musicians, learned listeners and potential patrons, making it possible for the performer to make contacts
for teaching or performing and to organise a concert. The leading such gures
during the late eighteenth century were J.-F.-K. Baron von Alvensleben in
London, Gottfried Baron van Swieten in Vienna and Alexandre Le Riche de
la Pouplinire in Paris. In the late nineteenth century concert agents often
34 Extant copy of the programme in the Centre for Performance History, Royal College of Music.
35 I am indebted to Paul Banks for this information and insight.
36 See forthcoming article Soprano as fetish: professional singers in early modern Italy by Susan McClary.

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assumed this role. Pianist Artur Schnabel wrote that the Viennese agent Albert
Gutmann presented a star parade of both performers and composers in his
home on Sunday afternoons.37
A crisis without precedent arose in the relationship between virtuosos and
the rest of the musical profession between about 1820 and 1850. The very
principle of virtuosity came into question in this period as idealistic commentators made a harsh critique of commercial exploitation, targeting especially
the fantaisie on themes from a well-known opera.38 In 1843 a critic in the
Musical Examiner went so far as to demand that the Philharmonic Society of
London forbid pianist Alexander Dreyshock from playing any of his own music
at its concerts.39 By 1860 most performers had abandoned the opera fantaisie
and focused their programmes on classical works. The relationship between
virtuoso and ensemble was re-established upon the classical repertoire, because
many concerts involved chamber works led by the star performer. Clara
Schumann, for example, often opened a concert with a piano quartet or
quintet. Still, most virtuosos did continue to perform their own works, at
least in genres for their instrument.40
An expansion in notoriety parallel to that of Paganini and Liszt occurred in the
careers of Elvis Presley and the Beatles during the 1950s and 1960s. In both epochs
new commercial frameworks were evolving which opened up wide new horizons
for musical stardom. Yet rock music became established on a rmer basis than
instrumental virtuosity, which had to share the stage with classics. Rock stars
quickly learned how to work with the large-scale commercial world evolving in
recording, radio and commercial publicity. The dichotomy between the star and
the ensemble was mediated by managers and by the growing popular music press,
which wielded great power over what individuals did musically or socially.

Taste
A particularly strong dichotomy has existed in Western musical culture
between old and new music. A balanced relationship between the old and the
new usually existed in the worlds of painting and sculpture, even when
academic styles retained hegemony during the nineteenth century.

37 A. Schnabel, My Life and Music, ed. E. Crankshaw, New York, St Martins, 1963, p. 9; W. Weber, From
the self-managing musician to the independent concert agent, in Weber (ed.), The Musician as Entrepreneur,
p. 119.
38 D. Gooley, Battle against instrumental virtuosity in the early nineteenth century, in C. Gibbs and
D. Gooley (eds.), Franz Liszt and his World, Princeton University Press, 2006, pp. 75112.
39 Fair play to all parties, Musical Examiner, 11 March 1843, 1334.
40 K. Hamilton, After the Golden Age: Romantic Pianism and Modern Performance, Oxford University Press,
2008.

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Traditionally, new music was thought inherently superior to the old. Johannes
Tinctoris made an iconic statement along these lines in his treatise on counterpoint in 1477, declaring that there does not exist a single piece of music, not
composed within the last forty years, that is regarded by the learned as worth
hearing.41 Major disputes occurred when a new style began to replace an old
one, as happened around 1375, 1600, 1710, 1800 and 1900.
Canonic repertoires emerged in a few places before the nineteenth century,
though without holding hegemonic authority over musical life in general.
During the late fteenth century a key musical canon developed in the
Sistine Chapel prior to 1500, providing the context where Giovanni
Palestrinas music was performed after his death in 1594.42 No comparable
repertoire has been found in Italian churches, but his hymns were sung in the
Habsburg court chapel during the eighteenth century. Secular canonic repertoires began to arise at that time in the opera houses of Paris and Berlin, and in
the concert life of London and other British cities. Practices shifted fundamentally during the early nineteenth century, as recent works became less and less
common in some though by no means all concert programmes. Canonic
repertoires gradually evolved in opera houses after 1850, but a coherent
aesthetic rationale for it did not evolve until at least 1900. Classical music
reached a peak in its hegemony in the 1950s, when orchestras and chamber
groups played little else, and popular music was another world save perhaps for
the eorts of Leonard Bernstein. Interest in new music came alive under the
inuence of minimalism in the 1970s, as groups such as the Kronos Quartet
combined old, new, popular and classical works on the same programmes.
The relationship between the performer and the composer changed in less
categorical terms during the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. To be
sure, a great many church musicians of the 1600s and 1700s were expected to
produce anthems or psalm settings as a matter of course, a professional expectation unusual today. Moreover, a virtuoso was by denition both composer
and performer until the time of Charles Hall or the later career of Clara
Schumann. But some of the leading opera composers of the eighteenth century such as Johann Adolf Hasse and Christoph Willibald Gluck had so
much to do setting new texts that they had relatively little to do with conducting in the pit or preparing singers for new productions. Late nineteenthcentury virtuosi such as Anton Rubinstein and Ignacy Paderewski continued
to compose for their own concerts. From the 1920s the line between the
41 Quoted in H. M. Brown and L. K. Stein, Music in the Renaissance, 2nd edn, Upper Saddle River, NJ,
Prentice Hall, 1999, p. 7.
42 J. Dean, The evolution of a canon at the Papal Chapel, Papal Music and Musicians in Late Medieval and
Renaissance Rome, Oxford University Press, 1998, pp. 13866.

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performer and the composer became particularly indistinct in experimental


music, thanks to new practices in performer choice and instrumentation. John
Cage and the pianist David Tudor worked as colleagues in such a fashion, and
the latter also toured alone playing his own works.43
The authority of the composer over the performer and performing institutions became a major issue professionally and ideologically at various points in
music history. A patron of Josquin des Prez in the late fteenth century
admitted that the composer would not produce the proper kind of music for
a court nearly as eciently as less brilliant musicians. Claudio Monteverdi used
his high reputation as cultural capital when he bargained with the Duke of
Mantua over his demand that he be able to travel much more often than was
conventional.44 The composers control of opera production grew signicantly
under Luigi Cherubini in Paris in the 1790s and then with Giuseppe Verdi in
the middle of the nineteenth century. The independence of the highest-level
composer expanded with Joseph Haydns freedom from the Esterhzy court,
Ludwig van Beethovens private patronage in his ailing years and Franz Liszts
leadership of the Saxe-Coburg court in Weimar. Richard Wagner drew upon
the rhetoric of revolutionary politics to assert his ability to control everything
in an opera house. Composers began building institutions to defend their
interests through the Allgemeine Deutsche Musikverein (1861) and the
Socit National de Musique (1871).
The dierent modes of listening in dierent social contexts have also
required negotiation among those involved in musical performance. Todays
readers bring to the subject rmly established sets of assumptions which
originated in the break between what was eventually called classical music
and popular music. It was often assumed in classical music concerts by around
1870 that the higher mode of listening takes place in a formal context where no
movement or sound is permitted from the audience, although dispute breaks
out periodically over applause anywhere other than at the end of a work.45
Practices vary today in the diverse kinds of jazz, rock, crossover or world
music; audiences may be just as strict as in the classical world, or much less so.
The intense moral assumptions which arose in the classical-music world
make it dicult for us to understand etiquette prior to the early nineteenth
century. Concert and opera came about recently, after all. The primary contexts where music was performed from the Middle Ages through the

43 W. Weber, John Cage: his life and time changes, Los Angeles Times, 28 March 1976, and Rainforest:
an electronic ecology, Los Angeles Times, 20 November 1975.
44 P. Weiss and R. Taruskin, Music in the Western World: A History in Documents, New York, Schirmer, 1984,
pp. 97100, 1213, 1804.
45 A. Ross, Why so serious? When the classical concert took shape, New Yorker, 8 September 2008, 7981.

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seventeenth century were in church services and before or after dinner.


Purposes other than musical performance were always involved, and in some
contexts people might move, speak or indeed sing during the performance.
Social custom preserved a certain decorum by regulating what happened
through an implicit negotiation between people with dierent interests. In
the fteenth-century Burgundian court, Howard Brown tells us, dinner,
sweets and drink were consumed, then dancing would commence, and nally
courtiers would sing solos or duets, seemingly to an attentive audience.46
During the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries etiquette was the most
varied in opera houses, since they were a key social gathering-point for the
upper classes, and less disruption must have gone on in concerts.47

Four historical periods


We will now examine the character which the patterns of collaboration and
conict in musical performance acquired in dierent periods. What was the
nature of political structures in a period, and how did that inuence the nature
of performing institutions? How did dualities between court and city or old
and new music play out in a period? In what respects did the structure of the
musical community change from one period to another?

14501700
Historians agree for the most part that the four centuries from about 1300 to
1700 comprised a distinct period in economy, society and politics that is often
called the early modern period or the ancien rgime.48 By around 1300 settled
cultivation had become the norm in most parts of Europe, bringing something
of a money economy focused on the cities. A limited but workable state
sovereignty was achieved by rulers in France, England, Bavaria, Austria and
Spain, and in dierent ways by the Holy Roman Empire and archbishoprics
such as Mainz, Trier and Salzburg. Nobility and monarchy vied for power
within complicated frameworks of authority and justice. Kings, dukes and
46 H. M. Brown, Songs after supper: How the aristocracy entertained themselves in the fteenth
century, in M. Fink, R. Gstrein and G. Mssmer (eds.), Musica Privata: Die Rolle der Musik im privaten
Leben, Festschrift zum 65. Geburtstag von Walter Salmen, Innsbruck, Helbling, 1991, pp. 3752.
47 J. H. Johnson, Listening in Paris: A Cultural History, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1995;
W. Weber, Did people listen in the eighteenth century?, Early Music, 25 (1997), 67891; M. Riley, Musical
Listening in the German Enlightenment: Attention, Wonder and Astonishment, Aldershot, Ashgate, 2004.
48 J. Merriman, History of Modern Europe, 2 vols., 2nd edn, New York, Norton, 2004, ch. 1; Forum: the
general crisis of the seventeenth century revisited, American Historical Review, 113 (2008), 102999,
especially J. Dewald, Crisis, chronology and the shaping of European social history; P. Goubert, trans.
S. Cox as The Ancien Regime: French Society, 16001750, New York, Harper & Row, 1973.

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archbishops accordingly competed with one another on a relatively equal plane


in displaying the cultural pre-eminence of their courts.49
As usually discussed, the term Renaissance means a congeries of cultural,
economic and political aspects with a period whose perimeters are dicult to
dene. Whether the revival of ancient works was related to the other aspects is
a moot point, for as Randolph Starn put it, scholars look at the period with
either fascination or denial.50 A longer period is now of greater interest to some
historians, since so much of what was developing in the 1400s economic
expansion, state formation and growing literacy can be traced back to the
1300s. The growing independence of secular from sacred music did not ow
from any set of ideas such as humanism, but rather resulted from the growing
power and centrality of secular institutions and the reshaping of Christianity.
Sacred and secular music ended up mutually interdependent in the long run.
Musical culture reached a new level of performing activity in both public and
private contexts by around 1450, from southern Italy to eastern Germany and
north to England. Reinhard Strohm characterised what went on in that period
as like a breaking of barriers everywhere, a ooding of ideas, an irrigation of
deserts.51 A set of practices for polyphonic as well as homophonic music
spread widely across Europe, based on the composition of individualised pieces
of music and the recognition of greatness in certain ones. Competition among
magnates expanded musical activities enormously in scale and in quality.
Ordinary people in many cities could easily hear masses or concerts in churches
or plazas, the music often written by major composers from dierent parts of
Europe. The most privileged members of the upper classes enjoyed a new kind
of privatised devotion when they sat down and listened to a singer, a lute duo
and perhaps an instrumental ensemble. Composers began to acquire a selfconscious identity, though opinions as to when that occurred range from
Guillaume Dufay in the early fteenth century to Josquin des Prez a century
later.52
During the early modern period the musical life in courts and cities tended to
be fairly separate from one another, even though music and musical practices
were often related and similar in many respects. A gulf lay between courts of the
major monarchs and the cities they governed, as is best seen in the German states

49 For discussion of European history, 13001700, see Merriman, A History of Modern Europe, ch. 1; and
Goubert, The Ancien Regime.
50 Brown and Stein, Music in the Renaissance, pp. 17; R. Starn, Renaissance redux, American Historical
Review, 103 (1998), 1224, and other articles on the problem in the same issue.
51 Strohm, Rise of European Music, pp. 110.
52 R. Wegman, The Crisis of Music in Early Modern Europe, 14701530, New York, Routledge, 2005;
A. Planchart, The early career of Guillaume Du Fay, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 46
(1993), 34268.

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around 1450. In any one city bourgeois and nobles interacted continuously,
nobles living either inside or outside the walls, and city ocials setting the
standard of conduct. By 1500 at least 150 German courts and 100 cities provided
strong musical activities, chiey for processions, banquets and dancing. Sacred
and secular music owed back and forth from one to another, for they could not
do without one other. But no other European city save Venice could equal the
scale of musical activities found in a major court such as Dresden.53 Only in the
eighteenth century did capital cities come to rival the courts.
The world of opera emerged within the dualism of court and city. The
complex of theatres in Italian cities included a multitude of mixtures between
court and city institutions. Court productions and their audiences were sometimes larger than those in the city, but in neither context did the opera public
involve many people outside the upper classes and professionals attendant
upon their needs.54 Opera provided a place where political and social exchange
could go on despite the disruptions of war, political upheaval or economic
change. In Italy talented men tended to go into the theatre rather than business
or government after economic decline and diplomatic irrelevance set in after
the late sixteenth century.55 The social ambience in theatres keen attention to
key scenes yet talking and walking at other moments suited the needs of
European elites generally. By 1700 the musical and social strength and stability
of Italian opera had aorded a model of elite entertainment for the rest of
Europe. Italian vocal music began to serve as a cosmopolitan standard even
where, as in France, listeners only heard it at concerts.

The eighteenth century


European politics changed fundamentally in the late seventeenth century,
following a hundred years of widespread civil war and economic decline. A
new order developed whereby monarchs built standing armies and enjoyed
territorial sovereignty unchallenged by dissident dukes. Countries achieved
varying solutions to the threat of civil war as the nature of monarchy changed:
nervous absolutism in Bourbon France, mixed authority in England, and
dependence on Habsburg or Bourbon rule among the diverse Italian states.
The notion of the public sharing in state authority part of what Jrgen
Habermas termed the public sphere began to arise in Britain and France,
53 K. Polk, German Instrumental Music of the Late Middle Ages: Players, Patrons and Performance Practice,
Cambridge University Press, 1992, pp. 68 and passim.
54 T. Walker and L. Bianconi, Production, consumption and political function of seventeenth-century
opera, Early Music History, 4 (1984), 20996.
55 H. Koenigsberger, Republics and courts in Italian and European culture in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Past and Present, 83 (1979), 3256.

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then Italy, Germany and the Habsburg lands. The vast expansion in the
circulation of books and periodicals and the concentration of elites in capital
cities limited state authority in signicant ways. As freewheeling discourse
began in salons and coee shops, cultural life apart from courts took on a new
primacy in the marshalling of public opinion.
Musical life took on an increasingly urban and public focus in this context.
Capital cities were much larger and more powerful than they had been a
century earlier, and some musicians were motivated to take on more or less
freelance careers. By 1700 many musicians in London and Paris were working
variously with the court, the theatres, wealthy families, concert productions
and the publishing business. A court was often now dependent upon the city
near it, and principal court theatres came under municipal control. Cities
diered in the relative importance of monopolies and entrepreneurism for
musical activities within the city. Paris possessed by far the strictest set of
cultural monopolies, followed fairly closely by Leipzig once the subscription
concerts in the Gewandhaus were founded in 1781. Entrepreneurism went the
furthest in London, where a sequence of political upheavals in the seventeenth
century limited municipal control over concerts almost completely; Viennese
musicians became equally adventurous from the 1780s.
The growth of periodicals and the broadening of political participation for
the better-o classes gave birth to the notion that the public held a form of
political authority, even though that amounted essentially to the manipulation
of opinion towards partisan ends. Those who wrote about opera and concert
performances reied the Public in order to sway taste and give a new kind of
authority to learned or opinionated listeners. Essays expressing controversial
opinions set o episodes called querelles in France and these had close parallels
in other countries. In 1706 John Dennis began a querelle over Italian opera in
London with the Essay on the Operas after the Italian Manner, just as Franois
Raguenet had done in Parallle des Italiens et des Franois, en ce qui regarde la
musique et les opras (1702). It is wise to be careful with usage of the term public
sphere, which can easily amount to clich. Jrgen Habermas dened it as
open-ended discourse on aairs of state authority, which ought not be seen
as always extending into realms of society in that period. While cultural worlds
interacted with state political issues, they had their own political institutions
which need independent denition.56 Members of the nobility as well as the
bourgeoisie participated in this intellectual activity; anyone able and ready to

56 C. Calhoun (ed.), Habermas and the Public Sphere, Cambridge, MA, MIT Press, 1992; and T. Blanning, The
Culture of Power and the Power of Culture: Old Regime Europe, 16601789, Oxford University Press, 2002,
pp. 125.

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oer an opinion by denition formed part of the new framework of public


discussion.
Cosmopolitan taste, primarily for Italian opera, came to wield a specially
strong hegemony in eighteenth-century musical life, its authority based in the
capital cities. To be sure, wealthy or inuential families had long dened their
high status by aunting the internationalism of their culture. But that tendency
became more pronounced at the turn of the eighteenth century, by which time
elite families were residing for a substantial part of the year in London, Paris,
Madrid and Vienna. The metropolis predominated over the court in upperclass social life in these cities, and oered a new culture of upper-class consumption. A redistribution of wealth from countryside to capital city thus
came about, enabled by the state, and fuelled the development of the capital
cities.57 Those who led this culture were often called the beau monde or the
World, which included people from the high nobility, inuential professionals
and the female demi-monde. London and Paris became the arbiters of taste
within Europe as a whole. A new kind of consumer-oriented magazine kept
readers informed about elite pleasures in those two cities dress, promenading, equipage, politics, theatre and a lot of Italian opera. Germans, knowing
how weak Berlin seemed compared to London or Paris, saw the change with
particular clarity while reading the Journal des Luxus und der Moden, begun in
Weimar in 1787, and the journal London und Paris begun in Leipzig in 1798.
The latter periodical published articles only from London and Paris.
Tensions sharpened during this period between the cosmopolitan and the
local in musical taste. In Italy works written to texts in regional dialects were
performed in the leading theatres, where educated in eect, cosmopolitan
Italian was the norm. As historian John Rosselli put it, by 1720 opera with
educated Italian became a regular and foremost entertainment within northern and central Italy and from the Iberian peninsula to London and Central
Europe.58 Yet many of the same opera-goers trooped to entertainments written to vernacular texts, the British ballad opera, the German Singspiel and
regional Italian dialects. Even though cosmopolitan taste usually held sway
over the domestic, local traditions and professional interests remained very
much in play in the process of negotiation among these dierent musics.
France was a special case in this regard. With only a few exceptions, the
Opra presented only works set to French texts by French composers until the
1770s. France had remained unusually inward-looking socially; its regional
diversity in language, law and culture made the upper classes suspicious of
57 D. Ringrose, Capital cities and urban networks, in B. Lepetit and P. Clark (eds.), Capital Cities and their
Hinterlands in Early Modern Europe, Aldershot, Ashgate, 1996.
58 J. Rosselli, Singers of Italian Opera: The History of a Profession, Cambridge University Press, 1992, pp. 201.

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foreigners, Italians particularly. Yet a cabal of connoisseurs spread taste for


Italian vocal music among the public, encouraging performance of selections
from Italian opera at the dominant concert series, the Concert Spirituel (1725
91). The admission of Italian and Austrian works to the Acadmie Royale de
Musique during the 1770s formed part of the rethinking of French politics,
often called libration, which presaged the Revolution of 1789.
In London the Kings Theatre followed a dierent indeed, the opposite
policy with equal rigour: almost no work set by British-born composers was
performed there until the premiere of Michael Balfes Falsta, with Italian text,
in 1838. British politics had a good deal to do with this: the Whiggish nobles,
who dominated both the Hanoverian Succession and the Kings Theatre,
dened their new authority culturally in the supremacy of Italian opera. Yet
music by British composers was widely performed in the theatres, pleasure
gardens, music clubs and benet concerts. Operas by Thomas Arne, William
Shield and Charles Dibdin drew a wide and passionate public, and during the
nineteenth century a canon of their music developed in editions of songs from
their works.
What role did the Enlightenment play in musical life of the eighteenth
century? The set of movements led by les lumires in France and called die
Aufklrung in Germany then dubbed the Enlightenment by American college
professors in the 1920s interacted with musical culture in complicated ways.
The term is too often reied and made a simplistic label. The most specic
denition of Enlightenment is to see it as a critique of tradition or custom, an
eort to reform that was directed most intensively at the established Church,
whether Catholic or Protestant. Daniel Heartz followed a broader denition in
Music in European Capitals: The Galant Style, 17201780.59 Finding great dierences between the movements across Europe, I tend to favour the strict
denition, following Robert Darnton in distinguishing between the
Enlightenment and the cultural life of the eighteenth century in general.60
We can speak of enlightened opinion in the musical writings of Jean-Jacques
Rousseau and in eorts to systematise musical knowledge in essays by such
writers as William Addison or Johann Mattheson. Yet relatively few ideological
campaigns against tradition comparable to those made against the Church can
be found in musical life in this period. After all, most repertoires continued to
be self-renewing, as new works succeeded the old, and printed musical commentary was in its infancy. The nature of the Austrian Aufklrung is particularly
59 D. Heartz, Music in European Capitals, New York, Norton, 2003.
60 R. Darnton, In search of the Enlightenment: recent attempts to create a social history of ideas, Journal
of Modern History, 43 (1971), 11332; R. Darnton, The High Enlightenment and the low-life of literature in
pre-revolutionary France, Past and Present, 51 (May, 1971), 81115.

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problematic. Hermann Abert and Derek Beales have shown that Mozart
avoided political or religious controversy and indeed followed Catholic
dogma carefully in his settings of sacred works. Dorothy Koenigsberger
pointed out that the Masonic ideas in Die Zauberte are rooted in late medieval
ideas just as much as in enlightened thought.61
Despite the continuing predominance of new works over the old, a few
canonic repertoires began to appear, chiey in France and in Britain. The two
countries possessed the most fully developed states, and music tended to
remain in performance longer there because the monarch no longer served as
the patron bringing in new works. The operas and ballets of Jean-Baptiste Lully
were revived regularly at the Paris Opra, and selections from them appeared in
concerts in cities such as Lyon and Bordeaux.62 The unusually long performing
season in Paris with closure only for two weeks after Easter made the Opra
need more repertoire than did its counterparts in London or Naples. An even
longer canonic tradition existed in Britain, where sacred works from the late
sixteenth century survived in the some cathedrals and chapels, and madrigals of
the same vintage were sung in a few homes and clubs. The persistence of operas
by Hasse and Carl Heinrich Graun in Berlin, the Prussian capital, conrms the
pattern that canonic repertoire appeared in the most fully developed states
where the monarch ceased to be patron. Lacking both money and will,
Frederick II, King of Prussia, kept the operas in performance after the Seven
Years War.63
The world of cultivated music existing in the 1780s was a tightly bound set
of institutions and tastes that had been developing for a century and a half.
Concert programmes tended to be similar in most contexts, mixing opera
selections, concertos, symphonies, pieces from sacred works and in some
contexts chamber pieces. Even though some genres were regarded as more
elevated than others, sometimes performed in separate theatres, their links
within the tightly bound musical community proved much more signicant
than any aesthetic hierarchy. In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries
the word popular did not carry strong ideological implications; it simply
meant that a particular number of people liked a piece. A set of political
61 H. Abert, W. A. Mozart, trans. S. Spencer and ed. C. Eisen, New Haven and London, Yale University
Press, 2007; D. Beales, Mozart and the Habsburgs: 1992 Stenton Lectures, University of Reading, 1993;
D. Koenigsberger, A new metaphor for Mozarts Magic Flute, European Studies Review, 5 (1975), 22975.
J. Van Horn Melton, School, stage, salon: musical cultures in Haydns Vienna, Journal of Modern History,
76/2 (2004), 25179.
62 Weber, Great Transformation of Musical Taste, pp. 6581; and W. Weber, Les programmes de concerts,
de Bordeaux Boston, in P. Taeb, N. Morel-Borotra and J. Gribenski (eds.), Le Muse de Bordeaux et la
musique de concert, 178393, University of Rouen, 2005, pp. 17593.
63 J. Mangum, Apollo and the German muses: opera and the articulation of class, politics and society in
Prussia, 17401806, Ph.D. thesis, University of California, Los Angeles (2002).

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processes conicts and compromises endowed contrasting musical activities and tastes with a tenuous unity. Some people complained about noise at
the opera, others about clich-ridden occasional pieces or virtuoso numbers.
But save for a few exceptions the idealistic commentator John Hawkins most
prominently idealists basically kept their peace in this period.

The nineteenth century


By the time of the Congress of Vienna in 181415 the musical world just described
had begun to fall apart. The crisis of the old order, as historians have long termed
it, began with a series of internal crises as early as one in Geneva in the early 1760s,
leading to upheaval of some sort almost everywhere in Europe and the Americas.
The Napoleonic Wars now seem as important as the French Revolution of 1789 in
widely bringing about a questioning of the nature of political authority. That
instability helped produce change in cultural worlds that could be related to, but
not necessarily derived from, national politics. Musicians and leading amateurs
took advantage of the situation to start creating new kinds of musical presentation,
either to take advantage of growing commercial markets or to apply idealistic
principles of high-level music-making, or a mixture of both. A half century of
turbulent change ensued, until the Revolutions of 18489 contributed to forcing
the question of how musical life should be dened, and a new order came into
existence within a decade or so. Much of the musical world found in 1870 still
exists in our experience today. Thus did the periods of change in national politics
and musical culture evolve in tandem.
The expansion of musical activities and the public involved in them grew
from the rapid growth in urban population, creating a set of social structures
which could not be united in the fashion attempted in the 1780s. The rise of
new kinds of production and marketing in cultural goods drew more people
from the general population into musical life than had been the case previously.
In 1837 the journalist and publisher Lon Escudier introduced the new periodical, France Musicale, by stating that Music is proliferating with astonishing
speed today. The art has passed from the theatre into the salons, from salons
into the shops, from there onto the street, seeking to become a force among the
masses.64 The operas of Rossini and Giacomo Meyerbeer and the virtuosity of
Sigismond Thalberg and Franz Liszt appealed to the new publics much more
than did any concerts devoted chiey to classical music.
Nineteenth-century musical culture became deeply divided in its values. One
can speak in relatively neutral terms about a dichotomy between commercial
64 Prospectus, France Musicale, 31 December 1838, p. 1.

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and idealistic notions of musical activity. Commercial eorts sprang up most


dynamically in the repackaging of well-known opera selections and virtuoso
pieces for amateurs, as well as in piano transcriptions of classical works.
Idealistic principles were part of the discourse emanating from orchestral
societies and string-quartet series, which aimed to raise the taste of the heterogeneous new public. The term classical music became standard by 1830 and
was understood to denote rmly works by revered, usually deceased composers, their music being thought to elevate taste beyond the trash of fantasies on
opera melodies. By the 1860s the word popular carried an ideological edge,
which editors of booklets of opera selections used to their own advantage.
Producers of concerts might borrow from the language of both classical
music and popular song as they probed opportunistically to build new publics.
Even though the opera fantasy was unusual in orchestral concerts by 1870, the
Society of the Friends of Music in Vienna still oered selections from ageing
operas and folk songs popularised by Jenny Lind. By the same token, the
entrepreneurs who built promenade concerts where listeners could walk
during the performance would perform one or two movements from a
Beethoven symphony along with opera medleys and quadrilles, waltzes and
polkas. A new kind of miscellaneous programme developed in promenade
concerts and is still widely produced today.
Musical institutions and professions became rooted in the new aesthetic
vocabulary. During the 1830s music critics assumed for themselves an authority far stronger than any connoisseurs or commentators in music life had
claimed previously. Such critics almost entirely men asserted their power
variously by interpreting the classics and identifying the best performers. By
the 1870s musicology was emerging as a scholarly discipline of sorts, rooted
variously in the music conservatoires appearing in many cities, and also in some
cases in universities.
The breakup of traditional musical culture occurred most fundamentally in
the rise of song concerts, usually called the music hall, the caf-concert, or
varit. Performing traditions in semi-private venues existed in almost every
country, oering songs in rooms where listeners could eat and drink. The
song-and-supper clubs in London resembled somewhat Pariss cafs-chantants
and goguettes where chansons were performed to airs du couplet related to skits
of vaudeville; in both contexts one can nd connoisseurs knowledgeable about
the idioms presented.
The musical venues which appeared during the 1840s and 1850s were much
more public and commercial, focusing on star singers and involving a small
orchestra rather than a piano. People from the lower middle class who attended
these events had experienced music in public chiey at theatres featuring songs

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and skits, what was called vaudeville in France. Opera selections Italian, British
or French were also performed at almost all theatres. For example, in 1862
Westons Music Hall in Holborn advertised that it would oer Mozarts great
works, a Rossini medley and a piece from Daniel Aubers Gustavus III (1833),
but, interestingly enough, a medley for four instruments based on music by
Felix Mendelssohn and Vincent Wallace. For that matter, Canterbury Hall,
located in Lambeth across the river from Westminster, presented the rst
British rendition of Charles Gounods Faust, in concert style in 1859.65 Yet
the great majority of the repertoire comprised well-known songs such as Look
out for a rainy day and Champagne Charlie.
The term popular music which was written occasionally was just as much
a novelty in 1850 as classical music had been in 1810. That is why one has to be
impressed with the prominence, scale and professionalism achieved by music
halls and cafs-concerts in their early decades. Although these events grew out of
strong traditions of music-making, what emerged by 1870 aected a far wider
range of social classes and stood proudly independent from elite institutions. If
the British music halls constituted the largest scale of entertainment, and ballad
concerts the most distinct national taste, French cafs-concerts acquired what
Bernard Gendron called a cultural empowerment of popular music, taking on
an authority parallel to the Conservatoire concerts.66 Particularly signicant
divisions occurred over matters of taste in Britain as quarrels arose over who
possessed opera selections the classical-music orchestras or the music halls.
The city with the freest market in musical life was thus the most fragmented in
taste. But the early opera galas stood apart from popular music. Opera was
identied with neither classics nor with popular songs, and it was thereby able
to contribute a common culture to the increasingly fragmented musical world.

The twentieth century


The framework of institutions and tastes formed around 1850 continued to exist
in the twentieth century to a considerable extent. Some old conicts became even
sharper than before, especially those surrounding the dichotomies between the
popular and the classical, and between the new and the old. But fresh opportunities emerged in the exploitation of technology for novel performing techniques
and expanding publics beyond the concert hall.67 Wholly new types of music
revitalised public life: jazz, big-band dance music and rock n roll.
65 Weber, Great Transformation of Musical Taste, p. 292.
66 B. Gendron, Between Montmartre and the Mudd Club: Popular Music and the Avant-garde, University of
Chicago Press, 2002, p. 5.
67 See R. P. Morgan, Modern Times: From World War I to the Present, Englewood Clis, NJ, Prentice Hall, 1993.

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Even though canonic repertoires became hegemonic over musical taste for
many genres by 1870, many parts of the music public remained open to hearing
new works for the most part. But around 1900 an ideologically driven position
emerged that rejected new music categorically, including pieces written in
conservative as well as advanced styles. For example, in 1913 a Leipzig magazine for amateur choral societies, whose music was rarely progressive,
declared, So you want even more modern music? Havent we had enough
already? Isnt it clear that as soon as a conductor brings on a new piece, the hall
empties out immediately, and that is the best way to scare people o?68 Thus
did the twentieth-century suspicion of new music arise after Arnold
Schoenberg turned towards atonality or Igor Stravinsky began his experiments
in rhythm and texture. The feverish ideological climate of the pre-war period
must have had something to do with this change.
Prototypical examples of the twentieth-century conict between classical
and modern music are to be found in books by the British critic Henry
Pleasants and the Russo-American encyclopedist Nicolas Slonimsky.
Pleasants opened The Agony of Modern Music (1955) by declaring that Serious
music is a dead art. The vein which for three hundred years oered a seemingly
inexhaustible yield of beautiful music has run out. What we know as modern
music is the noise made by deluded speculators picking through the slagpile.69
Slonimskys Lexicon of Musical Invective: Critical Assaults on Composers since
Beethovens Time (1953) pre-dated Pleasantss book by two years, and indeed
his Music since 1900 (1937) pregured it.70 Essential to his dogmatic construct is
the erection of a modernist counter-canon, founded upon the principle that
great works will eventually be recognised. The opening chapter, Nonacceptance of the unfamiliar, uses vocabulary just as blunt as Pleasantss slagheap, pointing to the fossilised senses of the anti-modernists. To listeners
steeped in traditional music, modern works are meaningless, as alien languages
are to a poor linguist. No wonder that music critics often borrow linguistic
similes to express their recoiling horror of the modernists.71
Yet in the long term the rhetoric that highlighted the dichotomy between
classical and contemporary music served as a means of negotiation between the
two sides. The stalemate between new and old music became institutionalised,
but in the process practices emerged which enabled new music to maintain at
68 R. Oehmichen, Mehr moderne Musik frs moderne tgliche Leben, Deutsche Sngerbundeszeitung, 7
(June 1913), 374; Weber, Consequences of Canon: institutionalization of enmity between contemporary
and classical music, c. 1910, Common Knowledge, 9 (2003), 7899.
69 H. Pleasants, The Agony of Modern Music, New York, Simon & Schuster, 1955, p. 3.
70 N. Slonimsky, Lexicon of Musical Invective: Critical Assaults on Composers since Beethovens Time, New York,
Coleman-Ross, 1953, p. 8.
71 Ibid., p. 4.

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least a limited standing within general concert life. The language of deprecation of the new proved politically malleable despite its harshness; those who
spoke it ended up working out new arrangements which permitted the new
and the old to relate with one another to some fashion. Thus did the British
Broadcasting Corporation fund extensive performances of avant-garde works
beginning in the late 1920s, and four decades later the National Endowment
for the Arts in the United States began requiring ensembles to be given grants
to oer some new music. Whether that helped or hurt public appreciation of
contemporary music is an open question, of course.72 Ideological conict
ourished in such contexts. In the United States, the committee awarding
the distinguished Pulitzer Prize in Music (1943) came under harsh attack for its
narrow selection in terms of style and the gendering of composers.73
Early examples of New Music concerts can be found as early as the 1830s,
specically in the meetings of the Society for British Musicians, and such events
ourished from the 1860s under the auspices of the Allgemeine Deutsche
Musikverein and the Socit National de Musique.74 Arnold Schoenberg
brought a harsh ideology to this kind of concert in barring members of the
press from the Society for Private Performances in Vienna (191921). A
counter-canon of music composed after 1900 began at a remarkably early
date. Founded in 1922, the International Society for Contemporary Music
gathered together composers of very dierent kinds, oering programmes
which parallel the present-day canon closely.
In the course of the twentieth century government support replaced private
patronage to a great extent, thereby changing many dimensions of musical life.
National identities became sharper than in the early nineteenth century as
conservatoires and concerts came under the aegis of the nation-state, the (to
some minds dubious) idea of a national music became deeply institutionalised.
Even though some monarchs had previously set the tone for opera, resistance
to the music they championed encouraged quite dierent composers and
styles.75 The regimes in the Third Reich, the Union of Soviet Socialist
Republics and the German Democratic Republic enforced policies on music
in some ways more restrictive than can be found in the nineteenth century.76
72 J. Doctor, The BBC and the Ultra-modern Music 192736: Shaping a Nations Tastes, Cambridge University
Press, 1999; J. Pasler, The political economy of composition in the American University, 19651985, in
J. Pasler, Writing through Music, Oxford University Press, 2008, pp. 31862.
73 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pulitzer_Prize_for_Music.
74 Weber, Great Transformation of Musical Taste, pp. 138, 140, 238, 2405, 252, 305.
75 G. Cowart, The Triumph of Pleasure: Louis XIV and the Politics of Spectacle, University of Chicago Press,
2008.
76 J. H. Calico, Fr eine neue deutsche Nationaloper: Opera in the discourses of unication and
legitimation in the German Democratic Republic, in C. Applegate and P. Potter (eds.), Music and
German National Identity, University of Chicago Press, 2002, pp. 190204.

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Resistance to ocial policy did of course occur; many historians of these


regimes in fact now avoid using the term totalitarian.
Technology opened up a wide range of opportunities for dierent musical
cultures. The phonograph and the radio widened the range of potential listening to an extent little imagined in 1900. The recording business almost started
from scratch in conceiving and organising its lists of repertoire. Classics and
popular songs were originally mixed together in lists of recordings, rather as
was the case with early nineteenth-century editors of musical editions. A
sorting out of musical and aesthetic categories came about as groups of listeners would meet in club-like gatherings to hear new recordings.77 Canonic
frameworks took form as people began to hear works at their own leisure.
During the twentieth century opera ceased to provide a common ground
between classical and popular music as opera repertoires became even more
rigidly canonic than orchestral ones by 1930. With the rise of rock music and
the rage for the Beatles in the 1960s, intellectual links began growing among
the widely separated regions of musical taste. In 1970 Richard Meltzer, claiming to have been expelled as a student from Yale University, published The
Aesthetics of Rock. So what he wrote, was a ne aesthetic judgment because it
sums up a valid experience and leaves the work itself untarnished.78 Much of
the music Meltzer heralded eventually entered a canon parallel to that in the
classical world. Likewise, by the late 1980s a jazz canon had become so rmly
established that young jazz players struggled to be recognised just about as
much as new classical composers did.
The process of fragmentation that broke up the eighteenth-century musical
world around 1800 thus continued in incremental stages for two more centuries, as types of music and musical sociability expanded in number and
variety. Crossover styles between jazz, rock, pop and classical music proved
problematic; the main worlds remained stubbornly separate from one another.
Early music brought about a vital new musicality beginning in the 1960s but
its self-denition the much debated principle of authenticity remained
controversial.79 Once again we nd the main story of this book: the multiplication of musical cultures competing for public attention.

77 S. Maisonneuve, La constitution dune culture et dune coute musicale nouvelles: le disque et ses
sociabilits comme agents de changement culturel dans les annes 1920 et 1930, Revue de musicology, 88
(2002), 4366, and LInvention du disque, 18771949: Gense de lusage des mdias musicaux contemporains,
Paris, ditions des Archives Contemporaines, 2009.
78 R. Meltzer, The Aesthetics of Rock, New York, Something Else Press, 1970, p. 12. See also C. W. Jones,
The Rock Canon: Canonical Values in the Reception of Rock Albums, Aldershot, Ashgate, 2008; and M. Long,
Beautiful Monsters: Imagining the Classic in Musical Media, Berkeley, University of California Press, 2008.
79 See Lawson and Stowell, The Historical Performance of Music; Nicholas Kenyon (ed.), Authenticity and Early
Music, Oxford University Press, 1988.

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