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16:30 - 17:30

Sean Rafferty presents a selection of music and guests from the arts world.

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17:30 Opera on 3

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Music Genres
Ludwig van Beethoven
The changing nature of society signalled by the French Revolution inevitably led to changes in music too. Aristocratic patronage gradually diminished, to be replaced by the growth of public concerts. Composers ceased to be attached to courts or wealthy families and became freelance creators whose music reflected their individual concerns as much as those of the societies in which they lived. The Romantic age saw music linking itself increasingly to ideas contained in literature and the other arts, as well as occasionally making direct or oblique political statements. 
  • Ludwig van Beethoven bridged the transitional period, beginning with works conceived in the spirit of his teacher Haydn but then expanding their size and expressive range to unprecedented levels.
  • Conversely, in the forms of the string quartet and the piano sonata he increasingly explored an inner world of feeling.
  • Though he was little known during his life, Franz Schubert was later recognised as bringing the best elements of late Classicism and early Romanticism together in his songs, piano sonatas, quartets and symphonies.
  • In opera, Carl Maria von Weber re-introduced the supernatural element that had largely disappeared during the Classical period, setting German opera on a new course. He also developed a new unifying device in the use of recurring themes that was to be enormously expanded by Richard Wagner, in whose music dramas -- based on mythology, and intended to convey philosophical and political ideas -- it became the main structural principle. Wagner's increasing use of dissonant harmony would have long-term consequences.
  • Giuseppe Verdi revolutionised Italian opera by dissolving its structures into a looser, more epigrammatic style. His successor Giacomo Puccini followed the new verismo (or 'realist') aesthetic, focussing on ordinary people whose emotions he explored in depth.
  • In orchestral music Hector Berlioz continued the expansion begun by Beethoven, achieving an extraordinary range of effects.
  • Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky developed a range of personal expression in the public context of the symphony and the ballet (a form to which he gave new status).
  • Gustav Mahler continued this personal vein, though allying it to a wide philosophical view, in a series of ambitious symphonies.
  • His colleague Richard Strauss penned a sequence of illustrative symphonic poems that seemed to employ ever-larger forces.
  • In contrast Johannes Brahms had shown that it was possible to be entirely Romantic in expression whilst remaining loyal to Classical structural principles. 

Guide to Classical Music
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