Torchbearers in harmony | Daily News

Torchbearers in harmony

Vladimir Jurowski of the London Philharmonic orchestra conducting the   Classical Greats.
Vladimir Jurowski of the London Philharmonic orchestra conducting the Classical Greats.

Try explaining the real concept behind it; you will end up like me. The harder I tried, I am still at square number one. In theory, one is left behind but the essence of classicism is more in keeping with practice we all go through it as a subject under our teacher's guidance.

Personally, to me, it’s a mix-up even after listening live to many international orchestras playing the masters of English classical especially that of basics way back at school.

So, I've given up the quest with Edward Elgar brain-washing me. If ever there lived a composer who brought English orchestral music to the front, it was Elgar. The self-taught music genius whose father was at the centre of Worchester's musical life connected with the Anglican Cathedral. By the time young Elgar was twelve, he deputized for his father at the organ that takes us back to the middle of the fifteenth century to reveal how powerful and important the course of music was to England. For example, Henry V of England employed thirty voices in the Chapel Royal while the Papal Chapel had only nine. Much followed thereafter that benefitted the development through to Burgundian Court to spread its style to all points of European compass when Elgar picked up its threads.

THE BEGINNING Like the emergence of English and literature that are bound by periods or schools of English so is music that spans many (periods)and schools of music beginning from:

Early Music





Early Romantic

High Romantic


Hand in hand parallel to the development of liturgical and church music was secular music as over two hundred years witnessed their changing order to jazz, rock and crazy noises that erupt from electronic musical instruments the young are addicted to. Researchers have discovered musical instruments dated to about 4000 BC. The west that produced architecture, painting, sculpture, and literature, how comparatively late and very indifferent was the progression from plainsong to polyphony, However, the leap onwards for the discovery of the symphony, sonata and other music forms was extraordinarily fast in the space of under one hundred years. The starting point for western music can be placed at 1000 AD. Thus the Christian Church was set in order by Bishop Ambrose of Milan to formulate single - line chants to inspire with no indication to the length of a note.

Time was no factor nor the urgency to move on but endless pleasure of discovery continued with great masters emerging one following another, all significant from Italian Guido d' Arezzo in 1000 to High Romantic American, Samuel Barber in 1900 (I stand to correction if wrong) Between these two composers, a multitude of heavenly composers debuted, who composed, orchestrated to take the universe by storm, each on his own, passionately in iconic splendor wielding their batons in their chosen school of music to linger in our hearts forever and forever leaving behind their legacies. No longer does one school of music prevail. They are seemingly linked one to another.

HOW THE CHANGE BEGAN Today, we hardly use a lyre to support a single voice: when in the 1500s controversy was aroused when words were sung by as much as five voices (mixed) that were not distinguished when the Ancients opted for a single voice. There was then the feel to renounce counterpoint or a word derived from 'contra' or point against the setting of the point though canon and fugue aspects are of counterpoint. The result is termed as polyphony. Along with counterpoint, different kind of instruments was rejected. I mention because singing voices range from solo to hundreds in the chorus. The solo singing is appreciated today; so are duets and many and numerous voices lined up to group singing. Since I am not a 'choral' person I yielded to the fact that it took thousand years from plainsong for the development of highly sophisticated forms to produce such magnificent masterpieces such as Palestrina's Stabat mater and Victoria's Ave velum corpus that I simply adore and venerate when in voice.

THE CHURCH'S STANCE The Church at the time was totally opposed to women knowing what a lyre or a flute looked like apart from playing them after St. Jerome made it clear no Christian maiden should play them under such circumstances thus the weakening of the Church's authority encouraged Reformation composers to write instrumental music which created a new concept and led to a vast number of soloist's entry to the music scene.

THE ROYAL PATRONAGE Among many brilliant voices, one belonged to the legendary Italian - born virtuoso, Jean - Baptist Lully who hand crossed over to France where fortune and fame awaited his arrival. No sooner he met up with the builder of the extravagant Versailles, King Louse XIV who was crazy over classical music and the arts, Lully was eagerly accepted by the Royal who already had in employment 120 musicians various ensembles. With Lulleys’ addition, a high - profile orchestra had twenty-four violins providing music for the French court.

CLASSICAL PERIOD AND HER COMPOSERS - With the growth of classical composers who were experiencing intensely the elaborate force of conveying their harmonic innovations, symphonies, became central to the repertoire to each and everyone whose works were gathering momentum. They experienced the beauty that the world held, her nature and abundant wealth of noises in the winds and water; the changing faces of seasons that influenced their scores. Thunder, lightning, gentle breeze; they held a wealth of material for classical scoring and all composers pounced on their versatility. For example, the Italian Baroque composer, Antonio Vivaldi's FOUR SEASONS gives us a glimpse of nature's beauty in Concerto No. 1 spring in E. (RV269) No. 2 Summer in G minor (RV 315) No. 3 Autumn in F (RV293) and No. 4 Winter, in F minor (RV297).

One must listen to all 4 concertos differently to feel the impact along with No.5 is La tempestta di mare in Flat (RV253) which binds the Four Seasons together.

Towards the tail end Renaissance and the beginning of the 1700s, the world saw her glorious Classical composers and to mention a few among others.


Greatly influenced by Mannheim School Handel and Mozart, he specialized in symphonic, concerto, choral. chamber and keyboard. Outstanding work -THE Creation in 1798. His imagination was let loose in this magnificent, sprawling work. It has some of the most adventurous orchestral writing of the entire century.

WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART (1756 - 1791) Music as never before scored of play, he was the most naturally gifted composer in history, a child prodigy who played, the piano and violin at six years of age. Beethoven and many masters influenced and specialized his magical scores. His sister, Anna Maria too was talented and both at the age of four motivated each other. He wrote for violin, keyboard and other instruments especially for opera, symphony, concerto, chamber, vocal.

Outstanding work - one cannot single out any as there were many highly scored versions but I pick Die Zeuberflote (MAGIC FLUTE) k620 along with The Marriage of Figaro K429 and with several string Quintets.

LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN (1770 -1827) The eccentric, radical of a genius German composer, became famous for his controversial symphony, EROICA No.3 E flat Op.55 and described as one of the incomprehensible work of arts and letters.

This renowned master became very irritable and angry with himself and society when he became deaf. Without a sound education and his German littered with grammatical errors, he knew little about other arts as talented he was but read books on theology but his heavenly music came gushing out in abundance with another composer to come even within a striking distance. He was untidy disgruntle man as revelled in handwriting. His last words when he died would have been 'I shall hear in heaven' hinting on his deafness.

Vienna mourned as all schools closed. People stayed away from work. Franz Schubert was one of the torchbearers.



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