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Murstetten - Musikwissenschaft (18/25)
Musical Musikakademie


Music: Austria is considered to be the land of music and is primarily defined by its music (slogan "Austria, Land of Music"). First testimony to musical activity in Austria is given by bone whistles from the Palaeolithic age, yet, until the early Middle Ages it was immigrating peoples like Illyrians, Celts and Romans who determined musical culture in Austria, sometimes with various influences developing simultaneously. A specifically Austrian music culture has developed since Medieval times: from then until the middle of the 18th century the church (mainly monasteries and abbeys), the high nobility, and the monarchs were the representatives and supporters of high musical culture. Being regarded as subculture, the musical activities of the middle-class and the rural population were not appreciated until the 19th century (which explains the scarcity of sources from earlier times).

Austrian musical culture is a mixture of different European trends, a fundamental feature which makes it hardly possible to clearly determine the specific Austrian element.

The Babenbergs patronised minnesingers such as Neidhart von Reuental, Reinmar von Hagenau and Walther von der Vogelweide; the Nibelungenlied, for example, was composed on Austrian territory. The foundation of the Nicolai Brotherhood, a "guild of musicians", with its seat at St. Michael´s in Vienna, was a sign of an active musical life in the 13th century.

In medieval times as one of the Seven Liberal Arts ("septem artes liberales") music also became a university discipline, which was, however, taught as a scientific, mathematical phenomenon and not as the art of making music.

The turn from the Middle Ages to the Modern Age is characterized by Meistersang, which flourished mainly in Upper Austria (Wels, Steyr, Eferding) from the middle of the 16th to the early 17th century.

At the courts the development of a musical scene had already started in the Middle Ages; church music (court chapel) as well as secular music (minnesang or "ioculatores" performing at court feasts) were practiced, but it was not until princes began to ostentatiously display their power at the beginning of modern times that musical life at the courts could achieve ist full potential. After the extinction of the Luxembourgs (1437), the Habsburgs took over their Hofmusikkapelle (first court kapellmeister known by name was J. Brassart). Under Maximilian I (H. Isaac, L. Senfl, P. Hofhaimer) the musical scene at court reached its first peak, which culminated in supreme achievements at the Prague Court of Rudolf II (F. de Monte) and at the Graz Court of the late 16th and early 17th centuries. Finally, Graz experienced an important change in trend: while practitioners from the Low Countries had dominated musical life so far, the Italians started to take their place at the turn to the 17th century. At first the imperial court remained conservative, but the Archdukes of Graz, who succeeded the Austrian Habsburgs as Roman Emperor when the Austrian line died out, embraced the new trend, and the imperial court music chapel was "Italianized" in due course. Under Italian influence the forms of musical representation changed as well: it was no longer the state motet, but the court Opera which started dominating festivities from the middle of the 17th century (first opera performance north of the Alps in 1618 in Salzburg, first opera at the Imperial Court in 1625). It is mainly due to the emperors of the high and late Baroque, Ferdinand III, Leopold I, Joseph I and Karl VI, who, being composers and practising musicians themselves, had a great understanding of music, that the Vienna Court Music Chapel under A. Draghi, M. A. Ziani, A. Caldara and J. J. Fux became an ensemble of world fame. The most prominent musicians of that time were members of the chapel or composed for the court (C. Monteverdi, M. A. Cesti, A. Bertali, G. B. Bononcini, J. J. Froberger, W. Ebner, G. Muffat, etc.). The style represented by the music chapel of the Habsburg court ("Imperial Style") served as a model for incidental music, chamber music and church music, and was imitated to the last detail (secular and religious music), as was court protocol. It was not until the middle of the 18th century that the nobility started to develop an independent musical culture, gradually turning away from the imperial court style.

Music cultivated in Austrian monasteries and abbeys was modelled after the example given by the Imperial Court: the names of composers of the Imperial Court Music Chapel have also been found in the repertoires of abbeys, and forms like religious dramas and oratorios emulated the style of the court.

The death of Karl VI put an end to court Baroque in Austria. One of the first economy measures introduced by Empress Maria Theresia affected the Court Music Chapel, which was "rented out" - although only for a short period, and the nobility became the patrons of musical life. The development of Viennese Classicism from Rococo, "empfindsamer Stil" and style galant laid the foundations of Vienna's reputation as the world centre of music. The masters of the "Classical Trias", J. Haydn, W. A. Mozart and L. van Beethoven, exerted a decisive influence on instrumental music (symphony, string quartet, etc.). But the dramatic genres, once a domain of the court, also underwent a change, which, on the one hand, was due to the development of the grand opera (especially by C. W. Gluck and W. A. Mozart), and, on the other hand, of the Vienna Singspiel (W. A. Mozart, F. X. Süßmayer, J. B. Schenk, K. Ditters von Dittersdorf, J. Weigl, I. Umlauff, etc.). Another important aspect was the expansion of suburban theatres (Leopoldstadt, Josefstadt and Theater an der Wien), which with singspiels, parodies and musical plays became major centres of middle-class musical taste. Musical life around the end of the 18th century and at the beginning of the 19th century experienced another change, when the middle-class, emulating the aristocratic ways of life, more and more strove to conquer former aristocratic spheres: music, once a "privilege" of nobility became a general (middle-class) cultural tradition. Political phenomena like the end of the Holy Roman Empire and Metternich´s censorship state supported this "bourgeois" trend.

Although domestic music and salon music flourished in the Biedermeier era, and despite the many coercive measures enforced in the 1st half of the 19th century, many important institutions were founded, which still influence the music scene of today; in 1812 die Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde (Vienna), 1815 the Music Society of Styria (Graz), 1818 the Innsbruck Music Society, 1821 die Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde (Linz), 1828 the Carinthian Music Society, 1837 the Music Society of St. Pölten and 1841 the Music Society of the Salzburg Cathedral (Dommusikverein Salzburg). The number of music publishers and instrument makers rose considerably due to a booming market and strong demand, and magazines especially addressing music lovers were founded.

In the 2nd half of the 19th century and around the beginning of the 20th century Austrian musical life experienced another peak, which manifested itself in the fields of symphonic music (J. Brahms, A. Bruckner, G. Mahler), opera (R. Strauss and H. von Hofmannsthal, H. Wolf, F. Schreker, etc.), lieder (H. Wolf, R. Strauss, J. Brahms, successors of F. Schubert) as well as in more sophisticated light music (dance music, Waltz, polka, Military Music) and Operetta. Along with the Strauß family, J. Lanner and F. von Suppé as well as K. Millöcker, K. Zeller, R. Heuberger, F. Lehár, E. Kálmán and R. Stolz gained great popularity. The Vienna theatre (especially the Court Opera) and concert performances flourished, exerting considerable influence on European musical life. Late Romantic symphonies and lieder reached their peak in the works of G. Mahler, which already showed modern elements.

The beginning of the 20th century is closely connected with the names of A. Schönberg, A. Berg and A. Webern and the development of dodecaphony (twelve-tone music). This style was also the starting point for the "Viennese School", which has played a decisive role in the development of the avant-garde and still influences many composers. When National Socialism forced many representatives of the modern school into emigration, their style was spread worldwide. The 20th century is characterized (not only in Austria) by a marked pluralism of styles: many composers have striven to create an individual personal style using existing trends as a source of inspiration, i.e. late Romantic composers (J. Marx, E. Kornauth, J. Bittner), and dodecaphonists (E. Krenek, H. E. Apostel) as well as avant-gardists, like F. Cerha, R. Haubenstock-Ramati, K. Schwertsik, G. Ligeti or O. M. Zykan. Electro-acoustic media, strongly influenced by French composers and cultivated at avant-garde festivals such as the Ars electronica or the steirischer herbst Festival, have also been used by many Austrian composers (K.-H. Essl, D. Kaufmann, G. Ligeti, etc.).

In the sphere of light music, in addition to waltzes, polkas, operettas and Music for Wind Instruments, so-called "popular folk music" enjoys particularly great popularity and is usually seen to constitute a main element of Austrian identity by other countries.

Apart from major institutions (federal theatres, Vienna Konzerthaus, Musikverein concert hall, Brucknerhaus), professional choirs and orchestras, today's musical life is mainly represented by a large number of societies, schools and private initiatives.

Literature: R. Flotzinger and G. Gruber, Musik-Geschichte Österreichs, 21995; H. Goertz, Musik-Handbuch für Österreich, 1989; idem, Österr. Komponisten unserer Zeit, 1994; G. Schweiger, Österreichs Image im Ausland, 1988; G. Kraus (ed.), Musik in Österreich, 1989.

References to other albums:
History of Music: Roßballett der Spanischen Reitschule

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