The Blog


Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

Life and Musical Career
• Born in Hamburg, Germany, into an intellectual and musical Jewish family
• Grandfather, Moses Mendelssohn, was a rabbi and philosopher
• Father, Abraham, was a merchant banker
• Mother, Lea, supervised children’s musical education
• Felix was a fourth child, oldest sister Fanny was a talented pianist and composer
• Because of political and social concerns, the family was converted to Christianity and added Bartholdy to their surname
• Age of 7, Felix had lessons with pianist Marie Bigot in Paris
• Age of 10, studying music history with Carl Friedtich Zelter, director of the Berlin Singakademie
• Age of 12, travels to Europe countries, meets German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
• Age of 16 meets Franz Liszt and Luigi Cherubini.

19th Century Continues

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
• German poet, writer, and philosopher provided inspiration for generation of artists and musicians
• “ The sorrows of Young Werther”, “Egmont”,”Faust”


Napoleon Bonaparte
• Brilliant strategists and political leader in history
• Led France to become a dominant force in 19th century Europe
• “Napoleonic Code” was established for the foundation for European law


Caspar David Friedrich
• 19th century painter who embodies Romanticism in his landscapes; like “Wanderer Above the Mist”, “ The Abbey in the Oakwood”


Charles Dickens
• Popular English writer, his novels reflects idealism and harsh realities of 19th century life in England
• His classical works “ Oliver Twist”, “A Tale of Two Cities”, “ A Christmas Carol”, ”Great Expectations”


Elements of Romantic Musical Style

• Lyrical and expansive
• Influenced by folk song and dance

• Increased chromaticism
• Exploration for new tonal centers (mediant and submediant)
• Exploration of modal harmony

Formal Structure
• Development and formation of forms” Symphony, opera, song cycles
• Cyclical structure, linking of movements
• Development of miniature forms Lieder- character pieces for piano

Programmatic elements
• Popular in 19th century and instrumental music associated with literary, poetic, visual texts
• Titles that evokes specific images in the listener’s imagination
• Orchestral genres includes concert overture, symphonic poem, program symphony, and incidental music


  • “Music History” by J. Lopinski. J.Ringhofer,P.Zarins;
  • “The Enjoyment of Music 10th Edition” by K.Forney, J.Machlis.
  • pictures: from google website.


• Fascination with the distant and foreign
• Evoked in music through melody, rhythm inspired by local dances, modal inflections, chromatic harmony and colorful orchestration
• Giuseppe Verdi “ Aida” , Jules Massenet’s “ Thais”, Delibe’s “Lakme”.

• 19th century political and social climate marked by politics fervor , desire for independence, and escape from oppression
• Folk songs: Frederic Chopin’s “Polonauses” and “ Mazurkas”, Antonin Dvorak’s “Slavonic Dances”, and Franz Liszt’s “Rhapsodies”.
• Also local myths, and legends and historical events were characterized. Like, Bedrich Smetana’s “Vltava” (“The Moldau”)
• Seeking distraction and relief from the pressures of everyday teality
• Flights of fantasy, reveire and imagination. Like literature of personal journal of Thomas de Quincey “Confessions of an English Opium-Easter”
• Example: Hector Berlioz’s “Symphonies Fantastique”
Fascination with the supernatural
• Writers and painters were drawn to mystical, magical and spectral phenomena
• Fairy tales by Brothers Grimm in 1812
• Paintings by John Henry Fuseli “ Titania and Bottom”
• Carl Maria von Weber’s opera “ Der Freischutz”, Adolphe Adam’s music for the ballet “ Giselle “ and Hector Berlioz’s “ Symphonies Fantastique”( 5th movement)
Morbid fascination with death
• Attraction to the finality of death, to the macabre, the sinister
• Franz Liszt’s “Totentanz” (Dance of Death) and the final :love death aria by Richard Wagner’s “Tristan und Isolde”(Leibestod)
Art as religion
• Art became a replacement for traditional religion
• The pursuit of the divine spark, the search for sublime beauty
• Richard Wagner referred opera “Parsifal” as festival drama of consecration
Adoration of nature
• Nature viewed allegorically; a mirror of the artist’s soul
• Celebration of the awesome forces of nature, including the violence of ocean storms, untamed wilderness
• Paintings J.M.W . Turner and Caspar David Friedrich; Music Ludwig van Beethoven “Symphony No 6 “ Pastoral”


  • “Music History” by J. Lopinski. J.Ringhofer,P.Zarins;
  • “The Enjoyment of Music 10th Edition” by K.Forney, J.Machlis.
January 26, 2014 0 Comments


The French Revolution 1789 marked the dawning of the Romantic era. Aristocratic privilege was not eliminated entirely; the rise of middle class was restricted. The voice of the individual, freely expressing a uniquely subjective view of the world.
Romanticism came before Classicism. There was balance, asymmetry no followed, emotional restraint was replaced by unbridled passion; objective viewpoints had dominated, a deeply personal, subjective perspective now emerged.

• German for “longing”
• Yearning for the unattainable, which found expression in works such as Richard Wagner’s opera “Tristan und Isolde” and Franz Schubert’s song “Gretchen am Spinnrade”
• Artists express their won uniquely personal view of the world
• Jean-Jacques Rousseau in “The Confessions”, who said: if I am not better (than other people), at least I am different.
Heightened emotionalism
• Classical restraint gave way to unbridled expressions of human emotions and passions
• Represented in literary works such as Gustave Flaubet’s “Madame Bovary” and Alexandre Dumas’ “ La Dame aux camellias”
• Evident in music for piano , like Robert Schumann’s “ Fantasy “ and Chopin’s “ Nocturnes” and orchestral Tchaikovsky’s “ Symphony No 6 in B Minor po74 “ Pathetique.”
• German for “ world- weariness”
• Pessimism began to permeate the works of writers, artist, and musicians
• Franz Schubert’s “Winterreise” song cycle.

January 23, 2014 0 Comments


The time of turbulence, contrasts, and changes. These qualities are reflected in the art and music of the period. Birthday of opera and death of J.S. Bach. In between many new forms, genres, and textures emerged and new instruments were developed. The crystallization of the major-minor system provided the harmonic backbone of Baroque style. Patronage of the arts was an essential factor in shaping the lives and careers of composers in the 18th century. Artist and musicians relied on the generous support of patrons from different segments of society:aristocracy, the church, the state.. artists were often provided not only with monetary compensation, but also with security ,lodging, and opportunities to develop artistically.

January 23, 2014 0 Comments



  • Chorus– large group of singers.
  • Choir– small group, church of sacred music.
  • Madrigal choir– perform without accompaniment,”part of song”
  • Chamber choir– Capella; no accompaniment or piano; 24 singers.
  • Homogeneous– only men voice.
  • Heterogeneous– others featuring instruments from diff. families.


  • String quartet:violin,violin,viola,cello.
  • Sting quintet: violin,violin,cello,viola,viola.
  • Piano trio: piano,violin,cello.
  • String trio: violin,violin or viola,cello.
  • Woodwind quintet: flute , oboe,clarinet,bassoon,French horn(bass instrument)
  • Duos: piano, solo instrument.
  • Piano quintet: piano , violin,violin,viola,cello.
  • Piano quartet: piano,violin,viola,cello.
  • Brass quintet: trumpet,trumpet,French horn,trombone,tuba.(india strings and percussion ensemble; china: plucked, bowed+flutes)



  • Organ– a keyboard back to the middle ages often associates with church music; sound is generated by air passing through pipes or reeds.
  • Harpsichord– a keyboard popular from the late 16th through 18th centuries; sound is generated by small quills inside the instrument that pluck the strings.
  • Clavichord– a small keyboard popular from late 16th through 18th centuries; sound is generated by small metal tangents that strike the strings inside the instruments.
  • Piano– keyboard instrument invented early 18th century; sound is generated by hammers inside the instrument that strike the string.
  • Synthesizer– a device (usually played with a keyboard) that generates and modifies sounds electronically. Robert Moog popularized the synthesizer in the 1960.

(Idiophones- sound produced from substance of instrument itself eg.bells, rattles, cymbals, xylophones)

(Membranophones- drum-types, sound produced from tightly stretched membranes eg. Drum)

(Aerophones- produced sound by using air eg. flutes, whistles, accordions, bagpipes, horns)

(Chordophones- produced sound from vibrating string stretched btw 2 points eg. violin, guitar, harp, Japanese’s koto)

January 21, 2014 0 Comments


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January 17, 2014 0 Comments


PERCUSSION INSTRUMENT-accentuate rhythm;more excitement;two categories:definite pitch,indefinite pitch.

  • Timpani(kettledrums)-played insets of 2 or 4;has hemispheric copper shell head stretched of plastic or calfskin place by a metal ring;pedal changes tension of head;played by 2 padded sticks;arrived in western Europe from middle east.
  • Xylophone– used in Africa,southeast Asia, Americas;consists tuned blocks of wood or metal shaped like a keyboard;struck with mallets with hard head
  • Marimba– mellow xylophone in Africa origin.
  • Vibraphone– in jazz;xylophones with resonators containing disks operated by electric motors that exaggerate vibrato.
  • Glockenspiel(set of bells)– horizontal steel bars of various sizes struck produce bright,metallic sound.
  • Celesta – kinda glockenspiel operated by means of a keyboard;resemble miniature upright piano;sreels plates struck by small hammers.
  • Chimes or tubular bells– sets of tuned metal tubes of various lengths suspended from frame;struck with hammer;simulate church bell.


  • Snare drum(side drum)– small cylindrical drum with 2 heads(top and bottom);played with 2 drumsticks;vibrates lower heard against taut snares(strings)
  • Tenor drum– larger in size,has wooden shell,no snares.
  • Bass drum– played larger soft headed sticks;produce low , heavy sound.
  • Tom-tom– native American or African drum.
  • Tambourine– round,hand-held drum with “jingles”(little metals plates inserted in rim);can be stroke by fingers or elbow,shke it, pass hand over the jingles.
  • Castanets– originated in Spain; little wooden clappers moved by player’s thumps and forefinger
  • Triangle– slender rod of steel bent into 3 cornered shape;struck by steel beater.
  • Cymbals– originated from central Asia in middle ages;arrived to west;2 large circular brass plates of equal sizes, struck against each other.
  • Gong(tam-tam)– circular disk of metal suspended in frame to hang freely;struck with heavy drumstick,deep roar;southeast Asia and far east known gamelan instrument.
January 15, 2014 0 Comments


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January 14, 2014 0 Comments