Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven… and Schuppanzigh?

Sunday, July 16, 2017

On the first Sunday of the festival, we welcomed esteemed musicologist Christopher H. Gibbs to the Menlo School campus. Christopher gave a fascinating Encounter lecture to his Martin Family Hall audience, entitled The Emergence of the Classical Style. He led audiences in an overview of the evolution of violin playing at the hands of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, and Schuppanzigh, a friend and colleague of Beethoven’s, central to the musical life of Vienna, and looked at the new techniques, fashions and musical styles that altered the course and sound of violin music as the eighteenth century progressed into the nineteenth.

Later on Sunday evening, a few minutes away at the Center for Performing Arts at Menlo-Atherton, audiences enjoyed a breathtaking presentation of some of the Classical period’s finest chamber music in Concert Program II, The Classical Style. The concert looked, through the lens of quartet and solo works, at how Haydn and Mozart crystallized the Classical tradition that Beethoven would inherit and transform, and the ever more sophisticated instrumental techniques. Violinists like Giovanni Battista Viotti, Ignaz Schuppanzigh, and others fueled great composers’ innovations, creating new technical styles and departures in technique for the violin. Alongside Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, Concert Program II spotlighted Viotti, who played a seminal role in defining the instrument’s tradition in England and France, as well as one of his musical heirs, Rodolphe Kreutzer—the dedicatee of Beethoven’s most fiendish violin sonata and a skilled composer in his own right.