Classical Composers and the Impact of Environment Term Paper

Pages: 4 (1322 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 2  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Music


Through the music of many classical composers, one can come to understand how their various environments influenced their musical output, for as artists, each was affected by what was occurring within their lives, whether related to a family crisis, marriage, the loss of a loved one, or some other social / cultural development in the arts or in politics. Of all the great Western composers, eight stand out as quintessential examples on how their music was influenced by the environment-Johann Sebastian Bach, Joseph Haydn, Richard Wagner, Peter Iljitch Tchaikovsky, Claude Debussy, Igor Stravinsky, Bela Bartok and George Crumb.

Johann Sebastian Bach:

In Bach's Christ lag in Todesbanden (Church Cantata No. 4), written for Easter Sunday, the hymn melody and its verses are used exclusively throughout the piece. The opening measure, in the style of Buxtehude, Bach's mentor, is followed by seven verses, each having its own musical signature. In this opening measure, one can hear that the music is touched by the sorrows of death, but in the third verse, there is an outpouring of joy. This cantata was written in 1724 during a period in Bach's life that was full of musical expression. However, in 1720, his first wife, Maria Barbara died, and in 1721, Bach married Anna Magdalena Wuelken who bore him thirteen children.

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Thus, through the music of Cantata No. 4, Bach's sadness over the death of his first wife can be sensed; however, due to his strict religious upbringing, his joy can be sensed in the third verse which reflects his knowledge that his late wife is now with God in Heaven. According to W.G. Whittaker, this piece contains "all moods except that of utter despair; (moods) of the utmost sublimity, of praise, of mourning, of peace. . . The arias. . .express all the experiences in the life of a Christian. . . For Bach's happiness in religion was so great that he turned naturally to an (expression) of joy" (Goulding, 1995, 67).

Joseph Hayden:

TOPIC: Term Paper on Classical Composers & the Impact of Environment Assignment

The twelve symphonies that Joseph Hayden wrote during his visits to London between 1791 and 1794 comprise his "London Symphonies" with Symphony No. 95 in C minor, opus 77, no. 1 being the third. Since these symphonies are so closely related to each other, it is difficult to speak of them separately, yet as an entire work, they represent the crowning achievement of Hayden's symphonic output. However, Symphony No. 95 contains a very noble melody which is supported by bassoons and violins; parts of this symphony are steeped in much vigor, maturity of thought and a profound sense of majesty. Thus, since this symphony was written during his first visit to London, Hayden seems to be conveying the nobility and regal splendor of the British crown while under the reign of King George.

Richard Wagner:

With Richard Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, it is clear that Wagner was inspired by the love and death of Tristan, the Cornish knight, and the Irish princess Iseult, both part of Arthurian legend. In 1859, when this "musical drama" was composed, Wagner was involved with Mathilde Wesendonck which made him "particularly receptive to such a passionate love story" (Goulding, 1995, 215). Regarding Wagner's inspiration for this piece of music, some scholars maintain that it was the result of his affair with Ms. Wesendonck; others say that Wagner "fell in love with Mathilde because he was writing an opera about love" (Goulding, 1995, 217). Nonetheless, Wagner, upon beginning his illicit affair with Ms. Wesendonck, was duly influenced by her, for he told her in a letter that he was filled with "the most unheard of joy and jubilation" while writing Tristan und Isolde.

Peter Ilitch Tchaikovsky:

As an overture-fantasy for orchestra, Romeo and Juliet represents Tchaikovsky's attempt to capture the true essence of Shakespeare in musical form. Tchiakovsky started this opera in the fall of 1869 and revised it in the summer of 1870. One of his closest comrades called… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Classical Composers and the Impact of Environment.  (2005, April 26).  Retrieved September 28, 2021, from

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"Classical Composers and the Impact of Environment."  26 April 2005.  Web.  28 September 2021. <>.

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"Classical Composers and the Impact of Environment."  April 26, 2005.  Accessed September 28, 2021.