If we were asked to explain the purpose of music, our immediate reply might be ‘to give pleasure’. That would not be far from the truth, but there are other considerations. Music is a part of living and it has the power to awaken in us sensations and emotions of a spiritual kind.
Listening to music can be an emotional experience or an intellectual exercise. Having mastered the gift of listening to, say, a Haydn symphony, the ear and mind should be ready to admit Mozart, then to absorb Beethoven, then Brahms. After that, the pathway to the works of later composers will be found to be less bramblestrewn than we at first imagined.
Music, like language, is a living, moving thing. In early times organized music belonged to the church; later it became the property of the privileged few. Noble families took the best composers and the most talented into their service.
It is noteworthy that operas at first were performed privately; that the first ‘commercial’ operatic venture took place early in the seventeenth century, this leading to the opening of opera houses for the general public in many cities.
By the middle of the nineteenth century, composers were finding more and more inspiration of their heritage. The time had come to emancipate the music of their country from the domination of ‘foreign’ concepts and conventions.
One of the first countries to raise the banner was Russia, which had various sources of material as bases of an independent musical repertory, Russian folk songs and the music of the old Russian Church.
Glinka’s immediate successor was Dargomizhsky, then Balakirev, who is best remembered as the driving force in establishing ‘The Mogutschaya Kuchka’, a group which included Borodin, Cui, Moussorgsky and Rimsky-Korsakov.
Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) worked independently and was the first Russian composer to win widespread international recognition.
It is a narrow line that divides Operetta from Musical Comedy, both blending music...