From the origins to the 18th century
From the earliest times, Germanic poetry benefited from singing, especially choral singing, alone or supported by instruments such as harp. In the early Middle Ages the spread of Christianity produced original blooms of choral singing, while from the 12th to the 14th century. a large troubadour movement developed, called Minnesang. Between the 15th and 16th centuries. German music was enriched by polyphonic experiences in the Lied but also in the motet. An abundant organ and lute practice also developed, while the profane art of the Meistersinger obtained greater fortunes among the people. At the beginning of the 17th century. H. Schütz assimilated many of the Italian stylistic features into his sacred production (Passions and Cantatas).
In the 18th century. German music experienced a vast flowering, by now trying its hand at all genres and with all forms: from the oratorio, of which GF Händel was the teacher, then active in London, to organ music, which from Nordic composers passed to the art of JS Bach, who cultivated all instrumental forms (large and solo concertos, sonatas for bow and harpsichord) and vocal (Passions and Cantatas), bringing the style of fugue and counterpoint to maximum elaboration. However, this style was immediately abandoned by the composers of the Mannheim school, brilliant innovators in orchestral music, especially symphonic music. Bach’s sons, KP Emanuel, also followed different directionsand J. Christian.
At the end of the 18th century, the thematic elaboration of the sonata and its various applications rose to the first great affirmations thanks to FJ Haydn. At the same time in the opera house the reforming action of CW Gluck showed the unmistakable characteristics of the German spirit. Innovator in symphony and opera, WA Mozart proposed with The Magic Flute an example of musical theater with marked national characteristics.
The nineteenth and twentieth centuries
According to MICROEDU, van Beethoven, at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries, represented the link between classicism and Romanticism, by virtue of the daring of themes and sounds hitherto unknown. The nineteenth century saw great results in vocal music (Lied) with F. Schubert and F. Mendelssohn, in orchestral and chamber music with R. Schumann and especially J. Brahms, in the symphonic poem with F. Liszt and in operatic music with CM von Weber. In the maturity of the romantic theater, the personality of R. Wagner emerged, who with his conception of musical drama concluded the romantic poetics in a total work of art.
The difficult Wagnerian legacy was collected, with different solutions and outcomes, by the generation of musicians who found themselves operating between the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century: M. Reger, A. Bruckner, Germany Mahler and R. Strauss. The latter, in particular, gave new luster to the symphonic poem and subsequently to the opera, in which the collaboration with H. von Hofmannsthal as librettist proved particularly successful.
Subsequently, with the advent of Nazism, the most advanced currents of musical art suffered a severe blow and the major German musicians were forced to move abroad. In Vienna, A. Schönberg and his pupils, A. Berg and A. von Webern, established the seat of the so-called Second Viennese school, giving rise first to atonal music and then to dodecaphonic theory. This current found an opponent in P. Hindemith, considered the greatest representative of the tonal direction and instrumental preclassicism.
In the early post-war years, exchanges of cultural experiences were frequent in the western areas of Allied occupation. A key role was played by the Darmstadt school, founded in 1946, a stronghold of integral serialism, but open to all contemporary musical trends. In the 1970s a new generation of composers, gathered under the label of the Neue Einfachkeit, aimed at a neo-romantic return to traditional tonality and forms (symphonies, quartets, sonatas, etc.). A more rigorous line of research has characterized the production of K. Stockhausen, a daring advocate of serialism and pioneer of electronics, of HW Henze, and of the Hungarian Germany Ligeti.
Social and political commitment prevailed in the German Democratic Republic, leading composers to abandon attitudes of advanced experimentalism. In the 1990s, the political reunification of Germany varied the categories according to which music was often understood and divided. The eruption of extra-cultured genres and music from other parts of the world also contributed to this process.