Date of this Version
In 1800, Ludwig van Beethoven wrote his Septet, Op. 20 for a chamber ensemble of strings and winds that included the double bass. This piece, an enormous popular success, became a direct compositional model for Franz Schubert in his Octet, D. 803. A great deal of scholarship exists connecting these two works, but does not extend to the many other chamber works of the Romantic period written for similar ensembles. To varying degrees, the compositions for large chamber ensembles written by Louis Spohr, Franz Lachner, Georges Onslow, Adolphe Blanc, and Louise Farrenc also take Beethoven’s Septet as a model. It is the goal of this study to investigate the similarities and differences between the septets, octets, and nonets of these five composers, as well as the different circumstances in which these pieces were written.
The first chapter discusses the role of chamber music in Viennese society, beginning at the turn of the nineteenth century and extending through the Biedermeier period (1815-1848). Beethoven’s Septet and Schubert’s Octet are situated within these contexts in the following chapter, which continues with a brief discussion of the similarity between these two works. Following this, the same approach is undertaken with pieces for large chamber ensembles written by Spohr and Lachner, who both worked in Vienna during this period.
The investigation continues with Paris in the third chapter. The period in question is slightly longer, extending from 1785 to 1850, because of gradual changes in chamber music’s place in Parisian society taking place at this time. The effect of these changes on the large chamber ensembles of Onslow, Blanc, and Farrenc are fully described in the fourth chapter, as are the influences of Beethoven’s Septet and other earlier Viennese works.
Adviser: Pamela F. Starr