August Wilhelm Ambros (1816-1876) Enlightenment in Musicology

Contemporary musicology on its practical or phenomenological bases and besides as its historical approach to the music of the past, possibly began about the middle of the nineteenth century, as such innovators like Samuel Wesley and Felix Mendelssohn launched a general curiosity towards the execution of the music from earliest composers.

The nineteenth century also experienced the publishing of the Gesellschaft editions by George Friedrich Handel and Johann Sebastian Bach , endorsed with the fresh musicological learning. After the end, the research by such scholars like Johannes Wolf resulted in the analyses of medieval schemes of notation and in the rewriting and publishing of the pieces by numerous medieval and Renaissance composers.

The disciplines scientific discipline of psychology and ethnology yield an effect on musicology, as did the research of the connection between the life and the work by a composer. The following flow apparition of biographies created usually an expanded penetration into the works itself.

In our present day, the area of musicology is outlined by universities, where such field of study is focused on, and includes study of musical form and notational system, national, time period, and personalized styles, the lives of composers and performers, musical instruments, acoustics, ethno-musicology, and aesthetics.

Ironically, the study of actual musical compositions per-se, when separate from the study of information associated with them, is not looked on inside the area of musicology but rather in the academically apart branch of work named music theory.

Theory in music embodies the discipline implying the elaboration of cognitive schemes to be used like a tool for apprehending pieces of music. This branch of knowledge is divided into what may be called speculative and analytical theory.

The aim of the history of music is the conception of a comprehensive image of the evolution of musical culture, displaying the intimate interaction of its diverse views and its dependency on modifications in social conditions. In practicing search on the phenomena of musical works, the history of music bases itself on data supplied by the analysis of works of music.

Nevertheless, the results arrived at by the assistance of music theory are incomplete and cannot be scientifically formalized unless the historic foundation for the phenomena of composing is studied.

Francois Joseph Fetis (1784-1871) and August Wilhelm Ambros (1816-76).

In the nineteenth century the worldwide curiosity in antiquity stimulated interest in earlier music and the main problem of the apprehension of antiquated figures of musical notation.

Francois Joseph Fetis (1784-1871) and August Wilhelm Ambros (1816-76) represented among the first to issue satisfactorily studied overviews of the evolution of Western music. Their assertion of transcriptions of obscure medieval and Renaissance works is particularly crucial.

August Wilhelm Ambros was born at Myto, Rokycany territory, Bohemia. His father was a cultivated person, and his mother was the sister of Raphael Georg Kiesewetter (1773-1850), a music archaeologist and collector. Ambros was educated in the University of Prague and was very knowledgeable regarding music and other arts, which constituted his lasting passion.

He was, nevertheless, intended for a law carrier and an official position in the Austrian civil service, and he served in numerous crucial positions in the ministry of justice, music activities constituting a spare-time activity.

From 1850 forward he became renowned as a critic and essay-writer, and in 1860 he started working at his most important work, the “History of Music“, which has been printed at intervals from 1862 in five volumes, the last twos (1878, 1882) having been edited and finished by Otto Kade and Wilhelm Langhans.

Ambros has been professor of the history of music at Prague from 1869 to 1871. Likewise in Czech capital, he was a member in the board of governors in the Prague Royal Conservatory. By 1872, he lived living in Vienna and has been engaged by the Department of Justice as an officer and by Prince Rudolf’s fellowship as a private instructor.

During his employment in Vienna, he received leave of absence for half the year so to allow him travel around the world to accumulate musical data to include in his “History of Music”. He has been a first-class piano player, and the composer of many pieces of music reasonably evocative Felix Mendelssohn.

Ambros died in Vienna, Austria at the age of 59. Enlightenment historiographers are broadly speaking believed to have shaped the course of history according to an evolutive image. Advanced medieval music frequently got along unwell considered from this linear perspective, attracting unfavorable judgment for their lack to reflect the elaborations of modernistic music.

Initially, Forkel joined this argumentation, but his commentaries on samples of 15th-century music in the “Allgemeine Geschichte der Musik” also divulge his ability to hit a relativist model concerning a lot of them, and even to propose straight-out praise.

The modifications in Forkel’s attitude are retraced to philosophic pieces of writing acknowledged to have been part of his book collection, and to his strong belief that the music of Johann Sebastian Bach was higher-ranking to that of his own era. Accepting that point of view must certainly have aroused doubts in his judgment concerning his previous loyalty to the progressive perspective of history.

In 1868, Wilhelm Ambros glorified a quantity of compositions by Johannes Ockeghem, including the triple canon “Prenez sur moy”. Emphasizing the expressive qualities of this music, he suggested that the author had emitted into them a ”singing soulfulness”.

A few decades before, Johann Forkel, as well centered on “Prenez sur moy”, dropped it, all together, as ”unsingable”!

Forkel’s receptiveness to Modern bibliographical concepts shows that he, of all Enlightenment authors about music, could have detected value in Ockeghem’s music, wholly the more so because he has been fuller enlightened concerning Ockeghem’s leading position in his own epoch than anybody else at the time, and due to his knowing of a contemporary Germanic tradition that considered Ockeghem as ”the Bach of his day”.

Nevertheless Forkel’s denigration of Ockeghem’s music is one of the hardest points to understand in the literature.

His counter stand can be followed to his appreciation for a 16th-century pamphlet about instructing music, the “Compendium musices” by Adrian Petit Coclico, who demonises Ockeghem like an icon of the pedant approach to music.

Forkel’s own allegiance to a human-centered preference in music education certainly conducted him to consider Coclico as wright.

“The Boundaries of Music and Poetry: A Study in Musical Aesthetics”, Ambros is undertaking in this publication a serious investigation. The table of contents alone is able to give an idea of the magnitude of the philosophical scope: “Music in his attitude to other arts; The ideal feature of Music; The points of contact between music and poetry; Music considered in his objective attitude by the side of poetry; Music considered as the result of the subjective intellectual activity of the composer; Music as object of subjective interpretation on the part of the listener; Music with interpretation restricted by words attached to it (Program Music)”.

The fundamental idea of the book is that music has, or shall have, an inner structure of its own which is independent of anything that may be attached to it such as a “program”, words (lyrics) etc.

This position is the opposite of that of Eduard Hanslick‘s as stated in ”Von musikalish Schonen” where Hanslick states ”moving forms in sound are the sole content of music”.

About David Ezra (Mehmet) Okonsar

David Ezra Okonsar, formerly Mehmet, pianist, composer, conductor and musicologist is the First Prize Winner at the International Young Virtuosos Competition, Antwerp, Belgium, 1982 and laureate of other prestigious international piano competitions such as the Gina Bachauer, Sixth Prize, Salt Lake City-UT, 1991 and J. S. Bach, Second Prize, Paris, France 1989. He is graduated from the Brussels Royal Conservatory of Music. His extensive discography includes a series of works by J. S. Bach, Liszt and Schumann. As a musicologist, writer and lecturer, Okonsar's writings are published in several music periodics. His essays and analyses are released in English and French, he is a lecturer on music, composing and technology.
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