Influences | Musical Exodus | Late Baroque | Classical
By the eighteenth century many musicians had become accustomed to travelling far from their native cities or countries in search of employment, or in response to invitations from rulers of different states. In the late-Baroque period this type of wandering existence had become a standard feature of musical life in Europe, involving singers, instrumentalists and composers, in sometimes permanent separation from their homes and families. In this way musical styles could be carried long distances from the cultures in which they had evolved and therefore leave their mark on foreign lands.
The presense of an Italian master such as Agostino Steffani at the courts of Hanover and Dusseldorf in the late 1600s had an important influence on contemporary north German musicians, including Handel. While in Germany, however, Steffani fused his Venetian operatic idiom with the French mannerisms of Lully’s Versailles. Some composers working within alien traditions felt tempted to absorb the local styles of regional folk music: Domenico Scarlatti, for example, made use of dance rhythms and melodies encountered during nearly 40 years in Portugal and Spain.
Another musical exodus occurred in Italy. Although plenty of opportunities existed in the country for regular work in theatres and churches, more lucrative employment offers drew them north across the Alps. In London and Stockholm, Lisbon and Vienna, the presence of expatriate Italian composers, singers and poets was accepted as part of the musical infrastructure.
German composers frequently followed a similar nomadic pattern, though they often stayed within German-speaking domains. Georg Philipp Telemann (1681–1767) was born in Magdeburg and worked in Leipzig, Silesia, Eisenach, Frankfurt and Hamburg. The great J. S. Bach studied in Lüneburg, became organist to the Duke of Saxe-Weimar, spent five years at the court of Cöthen and, even when finally settled in Leipzig, may have hoped to find work in the Saxon Elector’s service at Dresden.
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