A klasszikus zenei művek történeti kontextusának feltárása

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A klasszikus zenei művek történeti kontextusának feltárása

Classical Music and the various stylistic periods are closely tied to history. This is because we strive to faithfully render a musical work, and because it was composed within a specific context, performers face true challenges. History and music cannot be separated; if we examine history, we often realize that the division of human history into different periods often overlaps with musical stylistic periods.

Why? Because any composer, even today, can see how music is strongly influenced by the general context in which we live and by certain social aspects. To better understand the musical works we want to interpret, we must consider the social context in which they appeared.

But how does this research into historical context concretely help us? First and foremost, we must remember that there are stylistic periods like the Baroque era when instruments had different characteristics compared to today’s instruments. Even if we tend to believe that a different bow from the Baroque era does not significantly change the interpretation of a work from that period, it does influence the technique of the right hand and changes the sound or perception of it.

To avoid limiting ourselves to technical or tonal elements, we want to talk about the most important part, namely interpretation and the transmission of the same feelings that the composer wanted to convey a long time ago. To do this, we need to know the particularities of society. Certainly, we cannot interpret miniature works from the Romantic period in an aggressive and triumphant style, as we find in Beethoven, just as we will not interpret a work by Mozart the same way as one by Schoenberg.

Social context is directly related to the audience of that period, more precisely, “to whom” the respective works are addressed, what the financial possibilities of the audience are, and what moral norms the audience in the halls adopts. The particularities of the audience in stylistic periods must be the main category to which we should refer when we want to learn about the historical context because it directly influences composers who do nothing but capture the atmosphere of the society they live in in their works, and the main category with which they interact and watch to observe the reactions from the hall is that of music lovers.

At the same time, composers are also part of the society in which they live, so they are influenced by certain social norms, and as a concrete example, we can refer to Tchaikovsky, the composer who wrote Manfred to express his inner turmoil generated by society’s reticence towards his sexual orientation. As an interpreter or conductor to be able to interpret this work, we must immerse ourselves in the period in which Tchaikovsky lived, more precisely in the 19th-century Russian Empire. This can be achieved by learning about the historical and social context.

Certainly, there are numerous examples, and the space of this article is insufficient to present many examples of the importance of studying the historical context in which a musical work was composed. However, we want to offer a few examples, such as Olivier Messiaen’s work “Quartet for the End of Time,” which he wrote in an extremely unfavorable context as a prisoner in Germany during World War II. Also, let’s not forget the three Expressionist composers, because in their works, we can observe the strong influence of a period dominated by war and social insecurity.

In conclusion, do not forget to inform yourself about the historical and social context in which the work you are about to interpret was written. This will help you to immerse yourself in that era and to offer the audience a unique interpretation.

For More info check:

A Brief History of Classical Music