Haydn conference, day 2: James Johnson

1720-1780, dispersal of patronage beyond Versailles, to households of wealthy/noble individuals. Most influential: La Poupliniere. (Tax collector, wealthy bourgeois who “lived like a prince,” died 1762) Musicians lived in his household at Passy (including Rameau). Weekend concerts, Mass and concerts on Sunday, informal music all thru the week. Mozart’s letters mention playing various aristo households in Paris.

Distinction between old hereditary aristocracy and newly ennobled people  (so that complicates the category of “noble patrons”)

Household orchestras were small – 4 or 6-15 (so that complicates the categories “orchestral music” and “chamber music”)

1725: Academie Royale begins to sponsor “Concerts Spirituel” by the opera orchestra on days when operas weren’t played. Open to public, but very expensive, so effectively limited to elite.

Patrons began to pool resources to sponsor music/ensembles and offer semi-public subscription concerts. (Economic context of severe depression).  Eg 600-seat hall in the Hôtel de Soubise. Series directed by Gossec, composer/conductor

(Music example: Gossec, Revolutionary ode to Liberté – simple, syllabic, grand chorus with trumpets and drums. Gossec adapted the traditional form of a French opera tableau to the new Revolutionary content, with chorus hailing the allegorical figure of Liberty instead of Venus or the King.)

1782: Concerts de la Loge Olympique (Masonic lodge). Patrons/subscribers and musicians all required to be Freemasons. Ethos of reason, equality, humanitarianism. Women could also subscribe!
AMAZING INDIVIDUAL TO LEARN MORE ABOUT: the Chevalier de St. George, director of these concerts – son of a nobleman and his African slave in Guadeloup [?] – brought to France at age 7 – brilliant fencer, violinist, composer, conductor. Music example, harpsichord sonata by St George. [Some historical characters deserve to have novels written about them – any aspiring novelists reading this??]
This society commissioned the 6 “Paris” Symphonies.  Masonic connection Paris-Vienna.

WHY did patrons sponsor music? Exercise of power, discrimination, display of taste, power of making distinctions; sociability, occasions for gathering and socializing, accompaniment to dining and private devotions. Music all the time for everything.

By the 1770-80s, most musicians did NOT live in patrons’ household – commuted from Paris. (Even for early morning and late-night gigs). Difficult life. Some musicians doubled as servants, valets, cooks, etc.  After the Revolution, Grétry recalled that musicians under the Old Regime had been “no more than puppets,” “treated like instruments, to be put away when the sonata is finished.” Musicians were artisans, not artists.


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