Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment

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Anton Bruckner (1824 – 1896)

Composer

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His Times: By the time Bruckner had moved to Vienna for a post at the University in about 1868, a fierce stylistic rivalry known as “The War of the Romantics” was going on.

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Gustav Mahler (1860 – 1911)

Composer

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His Times: Mahler said, ‘I am hitting my head against the walls, but the walls are giving way,’ a quote that aptly captures the musical world that Mahler and his contemporaries were creating in 19th century Austria and-Germany.

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Claudio Monteverdi (1567 –1643)

Composer

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His times: Monteverdi set in motion the development of what we’ve come to know as opera.

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Robert Schumann (1810 – 1856)

Composer

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His times: Schumann composed whilst the Romantic Movement was in full swing, when the popularity of virtuoso performers had become very widespread, and as a result much of his music requires a mastery of piano technique.

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Francesco Cavalli (1602 – 1676)

Composer

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His Times: One of the most notable students of the famous Monteverdi, Francesco Cavalli found himself pumping out operas in 17th century Venice, responding to the rising popularity of the genre (thanks largely to Monteverdi himself) and the appearance of more and more public opera houses.

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Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Composer

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His times: In Beethoven’s late twenties, France overthrew its monarchy and a wave of rebellion spread through Europe. The composer, a devout Republican, was presented with an opportunity not only to change music, but to change the social standing of ‘the artist’. He did both: from the early 1800s, music would never be the same again, and historians increasingly concur that with Beethoven an era of the artist-hero was born that arguably still holds sway today.

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Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)  

composer

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His times: Beethoven might have died six years before Brahms was born, but in a musical sense the former composer still dominated the landscape of the German-speaking world and beyond – and got inside Brahms’s head to quite a remarkable degree.

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Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1643-1704)

Composer

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His times: Charpentier was born in an aristocratic France where music was predominantly heard in the church and stylistically influenced by Italian and German models. Well-to-do Charpentier found himself studying law in Paris and eventually music – or perhaps it was painting to begin with, we don’t really know – in Rome. There he was spotted by the composer Giacomo Carissimi, who became his mentor. Back in France, Charpentier spent 17 years as court composer to Marie de Lorraine before working in a similar post for the Dauphin, son of Louis XIV and then as music master for the Jesuit order in Paris. Eventually he directed music at the Saint-Chapelle, the gothic chapel at the Palais de Justice.

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Jean-Phillippe Rameau (1683-1764)

Composer

Jean-Philippe-Rameau

The Man
Rameau was secretive about the first half of his life: it seems that he never imparted any detail of it to his friends or even to his wife. We know he was born in a family of musicians, that his father was his first teacher and that he worked as an organist in some churches, including the one in the Jesuit College where Voltaire was a pupil – a few years later he became the librettist of some of Rameau’s operas.

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Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)

Composer

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Himself: Despite his innate musical ability (he began studying music at the age of three), Verdi’s application for the Milan Conservatory was rejected due to his lack of piano technique and discipline. In 1839, he moved to Milan and he had his first success with Nabucco and also his first failure, with the comedy Un giorno di negro. He only composed one other comedy in his career: Falstaff, his last opera.

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Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)

Composer

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Vivaldi/The Man
Antonio Lucio Vivaldi was born in Venice.  He was baptized immediately after his birth by the midwife, which led many people to believe his life was somehow in danger.  The real reason is still not known for sure, some argue it was due to ill health while others state that an earthquake the same day led his mother to be in constant fear for her son’s life.  As a result, Vivaldi’s mother dedicated him to the Priesthood.

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Judith Bingham: Speed Interview

Tue 3 Jul 2012

Judith Bingham

Ahead of our two concerts this week at the City of London and Hythe Festivals, we caught up with composer Judith Bingham whose new piece, The Hythe, will be given its world premiere with us on 4 July as part of the City of London Festival and again in Hythe itself on 6 July.

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Judith Bingham (born 1952)

Composer

JB © Patrick Douglas Hamilton

Her times: Composers of our own time are freer than they have ever been before; free to pursue whatever stylistic paths they like and by whichever means – and largely without fear of discrimination due to race, gender or age. But that comes with its own complications, notably the increased need to write music that serves a purpose and punches through (live or through speakers and headphones) in an age full of noise where much creativity is built on commercial imperatives.

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Tansy Davies (born 1973)

Composer

Tansy Davies © Maurice Foxall

Her times: For the generation of composers who have come to creative maturity since the turn of the millennium, there are no longer any rules and the idea of musical ‘genres’ is eroding fast too. A composer can write on paper, on an instrument or on a computer. The act of composition might be one and the same as the act of performance. You might have trained at a music college or in a rock band.

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Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)

Composer

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His times: Fauré lived through a changing France, born into an entrenched tradition but witnessing the arrival of new trends and the shifting of the creative vanguard from Vienna to Paris. Though these changes were largely realised by the generation after Fauré, in a sense he paved the way for them by radically overhauling the country’s musical education system as director of the influential Paris Conservatoire.

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Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)

Composer

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His times: Like his colleague and compatriot Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel was active at a time when the epicentre of musical activity in Europe was moving from the Austro-German cities of Vienna and Berlin to the French capital. Led by a Paris on the cusp of Modernism, musical priorities were changing too. Suddenly beauty was a priority and the ‘development’ of musical themes wasn’t.

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Claude Debussy (1862-1918)

Composer

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His times: Debussy’s career straddled one of the most fascinating periods in music history: the dusk of Romanticism and the emergence of Modernism. Music was becoming less a harmonious, evolving journey of mutual learning and agreement and more an outright battle between opposing ideologies.

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Sally Beamish: Speed interview

Tue 7 Feb 2012

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As we get ready for In the Spirit of Tradition at St Georges Bristol, we look back at our speed interview with Sally Beamish…

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George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)

Composer

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His times: Handel’s Europe was ruled by what must have seemed like a clique of wealthy cronies, especially as the composer’s one-time boss the Elector of Hanover later became his new boss as King of England. It was to this land that Handel committed the greatest part of his life, settling here in 1712 and taking English citizenship in 1727.

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Johann Peter Salomon (1745–1815)

Composer

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When Joseph Haydn’s patron, Prince Nikolaus Esterházy died in 1790, Haydn was relieved of his musical duties at court (although he maintained his court salary!) and decided to leave Hungary for Vienna. Hearing of his departure from the court, a German musician named Johann Peter Salomon made it his business to find Haydn, in the hope of luring him to London.

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