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date: 23 January 2021

Abstract and Keywords

To the multiple audiences for whom Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and their contemporaries composed—patrons, publishers, players, and an expanding universe of listeners at different levels of knowledge—symphonies were the ubiquitous markers of public musical life in the later eighteenth century, opening and sometimes closing concerts and theatrical events. To heighten their appeal and intelligibility, classical composers found topics for their symphonies in the expressive worlds of opera and theater, as well as in the realms of human activity in nature, at court, or (less often) in the church. In so doing, they heightened their listeners’ range of musical experiences and the possibility of shared interpretations. Rereading contemporaneous opinion to find surprising topical correlations, this chapter develops an understanding of symphonic topics that draws both on referential musical styles and on the textures and colors of the orchestra itself.

Keywords: topic, symphony, concert, musical life, multiple audiences, public, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven

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