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ACE2473 Great Works of Classical Music: A Musical Journey from Schubert to Mahler (on campus only)

Started 6 Feb 2024

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Full course description

Course Overview :

This course will take students on an entertaining and instructive musical journey from the Vienna of Schubert to the Vienna of Mahler.  The great symphonic tradition is illustrated by the works of composers such as Schubert, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Bruckner and Mahler; the rise of the virtuosi is considered in the music of Chopin and Liszt; the operatic rivalry of Verdi and Wagner is revealed through their respective masterpieces while music generated by nationalistic fervour is considered in the works of Dvořák and Grieg. These and many other composers will feature throughout the course while each lecture highlights the cultural context by reference to the art, literature, history, science, etc. of the time. This course is ideal for people who want to know more about classical music.

Course Practicalities:

Classes will be delivered on Tuesdays, 7:00-9:00pm for eight weeks, 6th of February to 26th of March 2024.

Venue Western Gateway Building room G09

Closing date for applications: Monday 29th of January 2024

Course Content:

1    Week 1: From A Winter Journey to a Witches’ Sabbath: Schubert and Berlioz.

Schubert who died in Vienna in 1828, just a year after Beethoven, is one of the first great romantic composers, famed for his songs, chamber music and symphonies. In complete contrast, Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique (1830) heralded Berlioz as a self-proclaimed heir of Beethoven, taking romanticism in new directions.

2   Week 2:  From the Hamburg Docks to Vienna: The Life and Times of Johannes Brahms.

Brahms’ musical life began in the seedy bars and bordellos of the Hamburg docks and ended in elegant Vienna. His great symphonies and concertos perpetuate the great classical tradition while his turbulent relationship with Robert and Clara Schumann reveals two key characters of the time. The musical wars between Brahms and the “New German School” of Liszt and Wagner cast a light on the different directions that music was taking at this time.

3   Week 3: The Rise of the Virtuoso: Paganini, Field, Chopin and Liszt.

The 19th century was the great age of the composer-virtuoso. The exploits of Paganini the violin virtuoso caused him to be accused of being in league with the devil while the piano music of Field, Chopin and Liszt dazzled and enchanted audiences. The "long 19th century", from 1789 to 1914 saw the drastic social, political and economic changes initiated by the Industrial Revolution, the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars.

F   Week 4: From Bohemia to the New World: Dvořák, Grieg and the Rise of Nationalism.

A characteristic feature of late 19th century music is its nationalistic fervour, as exemplified by such composers as Dvořák, Grieg and Smetena. Dvořák’s music in particular, is grounded in his native Bohemia, combining the symphonic tradition with folk influences, as seen in his Slavonic Dances, Violin and Cello Concertos, and symphonies.

5   Week 5: The World of Opera: Verdi and Wagner.

Wagner revolutionised opera in the second half of the century, from The Flying Dutchman to Tristan and Isolde and the four operas of the Ring of the Nibelung. In compete contrast, Verdi, the last great Italian composer of the 19th century, wrote pieces in a less revolutionary style which allied spectacular show and subtle emotions. Aida, La Traviata, Falstaff, etc. are full of memorable music while the searing Requiem has often been called Verdi’s ‘greatest opera’.

1    Week 6: Tchaikovsky, Russia and The Five.

Tchaikovsky’s symphonies, concertos and ballet music (The Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, etc.) are famed for their charged emotional content and romanticism. He had a mixed relationship with The Five - composers of the contemporary nationalist movement  (BalakirevCuiMussorgskyRimsky-Korsakov and Borodin), who also shaped a new Russian music. The golden age of Russian literature (Gogol, Tolstoy, Chekov, Dostoyevsky, etc.) parallels these new directions in Russian music.

1   Week 7:  La Belle Époque and Impressionism.

French composers in particular during the late 19th century had a major impact on European music, moving it from romanticism toward impressionism and modernism. Bizet’s Carmen, Saint-Saëns’ 3rd Symphony, Massenet’s Manon lead on to more modern, experimental composers such as Debussy, Satie and Ravel.

2    Week 8: Romantic Twilight: The Symphonies of Bruckner and Mahler.

Bruckner’s symphonies evoke great Alpine scenery in their scale and visionary power, reflecting Wagner’s influence and Bruckner’s fervent belief in a deity. Mahler’s symphonies bring the form into the 20th century as they dramatise a totally new symphonic world. The Vienna of Mahler is a ferment of experimentation in the arts, architecture and philosophy.

Course Lecturer:

Tony Hartnett holds a master’s degree on the fiction of Elizabeth Bowen and has taught English in many parts of the world including the UK, Ireland, the USA, Spain, Luxembourg, Belgium, Bahrain, China and Mexico. He has also taught Geography and History and has a special interest in teaching across the disciplines linking such subjects as art, music, literature, history and science.

Entry Requirements:

Applicants must be at least 18 years old at course commencement.

Contact Details for Further Information


Please note our refund policy as follows
100% refund  if student cancels before course commencement
100% refund if student's course is cancelled due to insufficient numbers. 
If the student cancels after the first week of the course - full refund minus €50 processing fee