Baroque Musical Period in Austria
There is something utterly intriguing about baroque classical music: the way pompous sounds align with simple tunes; the way every melody adopts a distinct personality, and the way baroque instruments create that other-worldly spirit. Learn about the best of the baroque music in Austria, and the best concert venues in Vienna.
Baroque Musical Period in Austria
The baroque music era in Austria and the former Habsburg Empire covers the early 17th to the mid 18th century. The baroque period in Vienna mirrors that music: I find monumental town palaces, lavish churches, broderie flower beds and rich cream cakes in many baroque tunes.
The local baroque classical music is warm and vibrant. And it has a distinct ethno-sound! Some of the worldly baroque music even includes dance rhythms and Austrian alpine music. The crownlands of the Habsburg Empire, especially Hungary and the Slavic regions, added elements of their rhythmic folk music to many baroque music pieces. Still, baroque classical music from Austria is profoundly court music. It was mostly composed on commission of the conservative Habsburg Emperors. Emperor Leopold I was an avid baroque composer.
Where To Enjoy Baroque Classical Music In Vienna
There are regular chamber music events taking place at various venues in Vienna: Lone trumpets arguing with cliques of strings, an organ uncorking its pipes of sparkling music, baroque recorders creating twitter streams. The Theater an der Wien, one of Vienna’s four opera houses, has established itself as the centre of excellence for baroque opera.
Find out more about chamber music events in Vienna;
Search for baroque opera performances in Vienna;
The Habsburg Emperors, from Emperor Leopold I to Empress Maria Theresia, loved the pomp and glory of baroque operas: The mostly Italian and French operas at the time required an army of actors and dancers, luxurious baroque costumes, and elaborate stage settings. The most famous composers at the Habsburg Court were court bandmasters Antonio Cesti (‘Il pomo d’oro’, 1667) and Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber.
The Theater an der Wien, Vienna’s centre of excellence for baroque operas, regularly stages baroque operas in concerto. Learn more about baroque operas playing in Vienna.
Top Six Austrian Baroque Composers
My top six Austrian baroque classical music composers include five geniuses of their time, and Austria’s only living baroque composer, Franz Xaver Frenzel.
Johann Heinrich Schmelzer (1623 to 1680)
Baroque composer Johann Schmelzer came from Lower Austrian baker’s family. He worked as (the first German speaking) court bandmaster for Habsburg Emperor Leopold I and composed a grand variety of chamber music, ballet music and sacred music. He loved trumpet solos and composed the first known sonata for solo violin.
Best works: dance suites and violin sonatas, such as La Margarita, and Balletto A Cavallo. The latter, a pompous equestrian ballet for 600 horses and 100 musicians, was composed on occasion of the wedding of the Spanish Infanta Margarita Teresa (remember the little princess portrayed by Velazquez?) to Emperor Leopold I.
Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber
Heinrich Biber, a disciple of Johann Heinrich Schmelzer, is one of the grand masters of Austrian baroque classical music. His sonatas, such as ‘Sonatae tam Aris quam Aulis servientes’ include virtuous violin passages and some brilliant baroque trumpet solos. The baroque composer loved folk-music-inspired rhythms that allow different instruments to engage in a powerful conversation: organ, cembalo, baroque guitar, and baroque lute.
Best works: Biber: Requiem / Battalia / Sonatae, various ciacconas.
Johann Josef Fux (1660 to 1741)
Baroque composer Johann Josef Fux was the son of Styrian farmers who advanced to court musical director in Vienna in 1711. His baroque classical music focuses on conservative catholic sacred music of the counter reformation. Best works: Magnificat K 98; Dafne in Lauro K 308, Orfeo ed Euridice K 309, serenades, rondeaus and sonatas;
Benedikt Anton Aufschnaiter (1665 to 1742)
Benedikt Aufschnaiter was a composer of sacred music. Born in the Tyrol, he worked at a respectable band in Vienna before becoming bandmaster at the court of Passau. He is sometimes referred to as a still underrated baroque composer because of his technically perfect and typically opulent baroque music. A definite insider tip of baroque classical music. Best works: Dulcis Fidium Harmonia, opus 4; serenades
Wolff Jacob Lauffensteiner (1676 to 1754)
Wolff Jacob Lauffensteiner was an Austrian lutenist, and son of an Upper Austrian musician. The baroque lute was a leading instrument at the times, and worthy of a respected musical teacher like Lauffensteiner. He composed chamber symphonies, concerts and solo pieces for lute. He worked for the Bavarian court of Prince Ferdinand, who loved baroque lutes and chamber symphonies. Best works: various pieces for baroque lute
Franz Xaver Frenzel (1945 to date)
Friedemann Katt (his artist’s name is Franz Xaver Frenzel) refers to himself as the only living baroque composer. He was born to a composer father just after the Second World War. Frenzel played the organ at Heiligenkreuz Abbey in the Vienna Woods and was a musical teacher. He has produced dozens of baroque symphonies, sonatas, string quartets, preludias, sacred music, and an opera (Merlin). Listening to his baroque classiccal music reminds me of contemporary baroque theatre costumes: They are clearly old style, but the material and making is fresh and new. Best works: Symphonic Fantasies; Fantasy for string orchestra;