Princeton Course info

The Music of the Viennese Classical Style:  Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven

Professor Scott Burnham

Course Description  

   How did three composers associated with one European city become the prime movers of Western art music’s most consistently revered historical era?  This course offers some perspectives on this question by addressing the principal values of the musical language shared by Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, as well as by engaging in detailed explorations of the music of each composer.  We will also draw upon the rich cultural contexts of their music, including poetics, philosophy, politics and biography, as we move from the eighteenth to the nineteenth century, from Enlightenment to Romanticism.

     Preparation for our discussions will include listening to plenty of musical repertoire, including string quartets, concertos, symphonies and operas, as well as absorbing a robust roster of readings that will include some of the finest English-language writing on the Classical style (by Donald Francis Tovey, Charles Rosen, Joseph Kerman et al).  As a special supplement, we will attend a concert in Richardson Auditorium, featuring Beethoven string quartets performed by the renowned Takacs Quartet. 


 About Scott Burnham

     Scott Burnham (Yale School of Music ’82) is Distinguished Professor of Music at the CUNY Graduate Center and Scheide Professor of Music History Emeritus at Princeton University.  His teaching and research centers on issues of music criticism, analysis, and reception; historical music theory of the 18th- through 20th centuries; and the music of Western composers such as Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, and Schumann.  Burnham’s best known books are Beethoven Hero (1995), a study of the values and reception of Beethoven’s heroic-style music, and Mozart’s Grace (2013), on beauty in the music of Mozart.  He is the grateful recipient of various honors, including Princeton University’s Howard T. Behrman Award for Distinguished Achievement in the Humanities, the Society of Music Theory’s Wallace Berry Award for Beethoven Hero, and the American Musicological Society’s Otto Kinkeldey Award for Mozart’s Grace.

     Devoted to the challenge of speaking about music to general audiences, Burnham lectures regularly for Princeton University Concerts, and he has presented pre-concert talks for Lincoln Center in New York, McCarter Theatre in Princeton, the Bard Music Festival, the Cleveland Orchestra, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.