The Classical Symphony (1785-1805): Haydn’s “Paris” Symphonies to Beethoven’s “Eroica” - Eric Wen
(Classical Symphony (Fall 2017))

This course will explore the masterpieces of the Classical symphony as exemplified by the works of Haydn, Mozart, and early Beethoven. It will trace the evolution of the genre from its origins in rounded binary form to its earliest model developed by Sammartini in the early-18th century. By the mid-18th century the “Viennese Classical Symphony” was represented by a vast plethora of composers – many of whom came from Bohemia and Moravia – including Monn, Dittersdorf, Wagenseil, Richter, Reutter, Holzbauer, Stamitz, Vanhall, Benda, and Dussek. Among this rich flourishing of symphonic creations, those composed by three figures – Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven – remain unrivaled. This course will survey the the symphonic output of these three great exponents of the “First” Viennese School. It will cover a 30-year period from 1785, the year Haydn was commissioned to write six symphonies for Le Concert de la loge Olympique in Paris, to 1805, the year of the first performance of Beethoven’s “Eroica” Symphony. We will examine the circumstances behind the works these composers produced during this period, as well as the reception history of the individual symphonies themselves. The course will also consider the variety of ways in which these composers work out and expand the sonata principle, and look analytically at selected movements by the three masters who brought to the symphony a logic of construction and richness of expression that remains unsurpassed to this day. Historical and analytical readings will be drawn from works by Charles Rosen, H. C. Robbins Landon, Barry Cooper, Paul Henry Lang, Alfred Einstein, Heinrich Schenker, and Donald Francis Tovey, and students will be expected to write a final paper focusing on one Haydn symphony.

 

Readings: Rosen, The Classical Style; Tovey, Essays in Musical Analysis (vol.1); Landon, Haydn: His Life and Music; Abert, Mozart, Cooper (ed.) The Beethoven Companion; Cooper, Beethoven

Final project: paper (ca. 1500 words) on one Haydn symphony.