Reply To: Music

  • Encyclios

    April 24, 2023 at 9:30 AM

    Germany, Italy and France

    The ideal unity that had hitherto characterized the European musical tradition broke down under the urgency of nationalistic instances, which pushed composers to individualize their language by drawing on the folkloric traditions of their respective countries. The stylistic achievements of German Romanticism, from Weber to Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Wagner, Strauss, Bruckner, Mahler, Wolf, constituted for the whole of the nineteenth century and for part of the twentieth century a sort of international style (not dissimilar, as far as its historical function was concerned, from the Flemish style of the sixteenth century) with which musicians from all over the world had to measure themselves, if only to challenge it.

    In Italy, after the diaspora of the major composers of instrumental music and the fundamental experiences of artists who acted above all abroad (such as Cherubini and Spontini), the activity of authors such as Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti and Verdi contributed to polarize for a long time the attention of the musical environment and of the public around melodrama. It would be up to a series of musicians born around 1880 (A. Casella, G. F. Malipiero, I. Pizzetti, O. Respighi, etc.) to reknit, in the first decades of the 20th century, a European dialogue that had been interrupted for too many years (and perhaps kept alive only by Puccini, whose stimulating personality stands out among the group of exponents of musical verismo).

    In France, the very personal measure of Berlioz’s art had no followers for a long time. In the field of French musical theater, the bombastic season of grand-opéra, which had in Meyerbeer the most skilled if not the most inspired representative, was followed by the more subtle proposals of Gounod, Thomas, Bizet, Massenet, while C.. Franck, C. Saint-Saëns, V. d’Indy fought for a rebirth and a development of the national instrumental tradition. At the beginning of the twentieth century, thanks to the work of two great artists, such as C. Debussy and M. Ravel, Paris returned to play the role of international center of musical culture that it had already held in the first half of the nineteenth century.

    If Italy, Germany and France were the ideal poles of attraction and development of nineteenth-century music, the contribution of other nations, for a long time separated from the main line of evolution of European music, was also remarkable: Russia, which with Glinka and A. Dargomyžskij posed a new role in the development of European music. Dargomyžskij laid the foundations of the national style that would be developed by the so-called Group of Five (M. Balakirev, C. Kjui, A. Borodin, N. Rimskij-Korsakov and especially by M. Musorgskij), while composers such as P. I. Tchaikovsky, A. Glazunov and then S. Rachmaninov were more sensitive to the suggestions of the Western style. Smetana, A. Dvořák, L. Janáček; to Scandinavia with N. W. Gade, C. Nielsen, F. Berwald and especially E. Grieg, Ch. Sinding and J. Sibelius; to Spain, with I. Albéniz and E. Granados and later with M. de Falla.