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Vienna in the Classical Period

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Published: Mon, 05 Jun 2017

This essay will review the information which justify the question: “Why was Vienna such an important cultural centre in classical period?” First of all I will refer to the city of Vienna in which a great civilization was developed in the past and actually in classical period. Vienna is characterized as the cultural capital of Europe, until today. In 1918 Vienna was designated the capital of Austria which was one of the four countries which were containing the Multi Empire of Habsburg. Also classical period refers to the period that began around 1750 and ended in 1830. So this essay will provide the cultural development of eighteenth century which took place in Vienna.

During the late eighteenth century Vienna attracted composers from across Europe. Composers like Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven were drawn to the city by patronage of Habsburgs who were willing to support the music. [1] Furthermore during the eighteenth century, except of the music development, a cultural development in the field of architecture and arts occured. The words elegance, grace, symmetry and restrain are the most suitable words for the tendencies of the music, of art and the architecture of that period. [2] Also in classical period a development in theatre and opera style was noticed. Furthermore there is confusion between the words cultural and civilization. Most people believe that, these two words refer to the same thing, but there is a difference, which will be explained bellow, to make sense what is mean by “cultural centre”.

When we talk about civilization we mean the tradition, the customs, the habits, the intellectual and artistic development of particular country or city. It is a way of creating one state in which lives and activates a society, with education. On the other hand cultural is the approach monument of development of previous civilisations as historical objects and also the study of them. Cultural means cultivation and development. It is the knowledge of an object. So that is the difference between civilizations and cultural. When we mention in cultural centre we mean the study of the objects that happened or developed in this particular place and the study of the civilization in this time. So this essay will explain what happened in Vienna in classical period and which areas developed culturally.

The Habsburg Empire during the eighteenth century became one of the greatest Dynastic States in Europe and Austria was one of the countries, were consisting the rule of the Habsburg Empire. Since the sixteenth century Vienna had been under the threat of the Turks but in 1685 Austria achieved to defeat the Turks and drove them back to Hungary. [3] The territories of the Habsburg Empire were located in eastern and south-central Europe. As David F. Good mentions in his book Vienna was the geographical nucleus centre of the Empire and so the city famed historical importance. [4] While Austria was under the Habsburg Crown it was an autonomous state, [5] and was ruling in most territories of the Empire.

After the death of Charles VI Archduke in October in 1740, his daughter Maria Theresa, who was born in Vienna, took the rule. [6] She was regarded as the greatest of the Habsburgs rules. [7] When she became empress she was 40 years and led the Austria in a golden era. Maria Theresa spread the education and she introduced 500 public schools. She helped the industry growth and put lower taxes on the products. Thus she improved the economy. She also reformed the army and the legal system. Maria also contributed in the developed of Classical music as it was the main development in that period. Maria and her 16 children performed operas and dances. In 1762, Maria Theresa presented Vienna with the forts performance of Gluck’s innovation opera “Orpheus and Eurydice”. [8] Joseph II, Marias Theresa’s was the continuer of her activities, from 1780 until 1790. He was another one zealous reformer, who abolished the selfdom and he secularized the religious properties. [9] 

It is known that when, the economy of a country is going very well and the only occupation of its habitants it is not the struggle of survival, they turn to the development of their civilization. They turn to the development of arts and they are giving importance to education. During the classical period the economy of Austria was going very well and that contributed to be their only concern the cultural development. That made Vienna a cultural centre and wider the capital of Europe. The elements of civilization that were developed in Vienna in classical period were music, the theatre the architecture, and the arts like painting and sculpture.

In ancient times the music accompanied the people in their activities, which the most of them were religious. But the ideological difference of Renaissance changed the data. During the eighteenth century music gained its own ground and released from the religiosity. In that period composers from all over the Europe were drawn to Vienna by the patronage of Habsburgs. That period, European music enriched from instruments. Further Vienna could be characterized also as “the capital of serious music” because it hosted important representatives of the great European traditional.

The famous composers all of the time, who were considered as the three “monsters” of classical period and contributed with their remarkable musical work, to be the city of Vienna such an important cultural centre were Haydn Mozart and Beethoven. Franz Joseph Haydn was born in Rohrou, in Austria he considered as the “father of symphony”. Additionally it is necessary to mention that in 1797, Haydn became the composer of the Austrian national anthem “Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser”. In 1803, the city of Vienna gave to Haydn the large golden Salvator -medal, and during the 1804 became an honour citizen of Vienna. After his dead he took the sympathy of Viennese people and they called for his honour his cemetery as the Haydn Park. [10] 

Likewise Mozart, the “musical genius” born in Salzburg, in Austria. His father, Leopold, as a violin teacher, recognized soon, the musical talent of his son. By the age of 5 Mozart started to compose minuets. His fame as a great musician began by the age of 6, when the family invited from the Empress Maria Theresa in Vienna and there he played piano. Then Mozart started travelling in European countries with high music culture and he was conducting concerts, but he decide to move back to Vienna, because he believed that it was the best place for him to stay. He lived in Vienna many creative and successful years, [11] where he became a great concert organizer and a piano virtuoso, a conductor and an important composer. Also he composed many sonatas, strings quartet and operas which still heard until nowadays.

In the same way, Beethoven is classified in the list of most famous composers of classical period. He born in Bonn, in Germany, moved to the note musical centre, Vienna with the ambition to be a great and famous composer as Haydn and Mozart. [12] The dream of Beethoven became true. He appeared in concerts in Vienna as a pianist, since he established as the city pianist. He also composed remarkable sonatas and symphonies. Beethoven became the first successful freelance of Vienna. [13] The musical life works of that composers still hearing until nowadays and the visitors of Vienna go to the capital of classical music to enjoy live that great works.

The theatre as well noticed a great development in Austria and especially in Vienna, which became the city of religious drama. During the Middle Ages developed three forms of theatre, the Jesuit drama, the commedia Dell Arte and the Italian Opera. That forms underlie the theatre of eighteenth century and figured the Vienna one of the most attractive theatrical cultures of Europe. The popular theatre appeared for the first time in 1711, with the contribution of Josef Stranitzky who was an improvisational player and led the Karntnerto Theater in Vienna to take over by an Italian company. Stranitzky was instantly supported by the populace. But in the second half of eighteenth century the improvisation gradually started to disappear from the theatrical stage. In the late eighteenth century in 1791, appeared one of the greatest theatrical productions, in Vienna. [14] 

Additionally, during the eighteenth century, Vienna flourished and became a cosmopolitan centre. The architecture of the city was characterized by bulky building which beautified the skyline. Those buildings do not have the style of early medieval buildings but many of those Gothic buildings had the style of older foundations. Let have a look where has its roots the architecture of eighteenth century. During the 1300s the architecture of the churches was based on the Hallenkirche (hall church), which it was German style. The St. Stephan’s Cathedral, where the famous composer of classical period Haydn performed from his childhood as tenor, has the style of Hallenkirche. In Renaissance other buildings were not built up, because the Turks, who besieged the city periodically from 1529 until the 1680, were allowing only the strength of Vienna’s fortifications. [15] 

Austria’s architects started to produce in the golden age of Austria baroque architecture, when the Leopold I, was ruling. Johan Bernhard Fischer von Erlach, (1656-1723) was an architect, who took elements from the Italianate baroque and tried to approximate them to the Viennese style. He was the architect of Maria Theresa’s Schonbrum Palace and his work characterized by a restrained and monumental style. The palace has the style of rococo which developed in the early eighteenth century and has similarities with the baroque style. The Schonbrum Palace and the other building of rococo style were gilded stucco with brightly colored frescoes. After Fischer another architect became famous for his design, Johann Lukans von Hildebrand (1668 -1745). The Belvedere Palace of Prince Eugene, designed by Hildebrand with interlocking cubes and a style of slopping mansard roof. So that provides the influence from Fischer von Erlach. Also the Schahwarzenberg Palace in Vienna was designed by Hildebrand. [16] 

The Viennese architects in eighteenth century were using the neoclassical architecture styles. They approximated the classical architect of Greeks and Romans. They used cleaner lines in their designs and squarer. The buildings were bulkier and they had preponderance of columns.

Further painting and sculpture remarked a development during the eighteenth century. Bernardo Bellotto, who was a pupil of his uncle famous Painter Venetian, Canalrtto, invited from Maria Theresa to make the city flat with clear light, details and accuracy. Bellotto’s painting can be characterized as social, historical and artistic documents. Martin van Meysten was another one famous painter of eighteenth century. Meysten composed his cavances with clumsiness and they are overburdened. Those cavances are the best of Austrian court’s balls and receptions. In 1730, he became the manager of Fine Arts Academy in Vienna. [17] 

Also the sculpture developed during the classical period in Vienna. There were three famous sculptors who stayed in history for their remarkable works. The first was Georg Raphael Donner, who made the bronzes of the Fountain of Providence in the Neuer Mark and it has life-size. Also Bathasar Permoser created the equestrian statues, which was located in the courtyard of the Belvedere Palace. Further Balthasar Moll was the third famous sculptor and created the double sarcophagus for Maria Theresa and his husband Frances Stephan. Sarcophagus located in the Kapuzinerkirche. Franz Xaver Messerschmidt was a habitant of Vienna and he is famous for his portrait bust. Franz made the portrait of famous representatives as Maria Theresa, of her son Joseph II and others. [18] 

In addition the economic prosperity in Vienna in eighteenth century fostered the conditions of intellectual Rise. Greeks immigrants contributed in this as they created a Greek colony in Vienna when they left from the Greece to escape from the chaos that prevailed in the country at the long of Turkish rule. The ideas of the enlightenment found in Vienna fertile ground. Before the French revolution scholars clergy like Anthimos Gajis, Neofitos Doukas and Constantinos Koumas made Vienna the most important intellectual centre. In that period strong editorial activity at the Greek printings in Vienna was noticed; which were printing books of philosophy, of science of mathematics, of geography pedagogical and also medical books. [19] 

To conclude undoubtedly Vienna developed a great civilization in classical period and was characterised from many people as a cultural centre and as the capital of classical music because activated there the most famous composers all of the times. Fairly, we can give to Vienna these characterizations. In this contributed the great Dynastic, the Habsburg Empire, mainly Maria Theresa and his son Joseph II. It is known that Maria Theresa contributed to the rise and aid of the economy of Vienna, which was not very good, because of the wars conductor in classical period. Maria Theresa was an admirable empress who achieved to strengthen the economy of Vienna by stimulating the industry. She lowered the taxes and she gave importance on the establishment of schools. The cultural development of each nation is based on the education of the people who live in an organized society.

Also it is important to refer to the Greeks immigrants who created a colony in Vienna and by this contributed in the rise of Vienna’s economy. Greeks developed a strong economic activity and they dealt with the commercial and they made Vienna in the eighteenth century a commercial crossroad. Hence, the economy of Vienna was going very well. The civilization “found”, fertile ground to develop in all aspects and the Vienna became a great intellectual and cultural centre.

Finally Vienna, fairly took the title of a “cultural centre” Because in that city in eighteenth century and especially in classical period, all the aspects of civilization as the music, the architecture, the painting and the sculpture developed. As mentioned before, cultural means the study of an object, the cultivation and the development of a particular place in a particular period. Thus Vienna can be characterised as one of the most important cultural centres in classical period.


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