Associated through descriptive texts with literature, politics, religion, and other subjects, 'characteristic' symphonies offer an opportunity to study instrumental music as it engages important social and political debates of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. This first full-length study of the genre illuminates the relationship between symphonies and their aesthetic and social contexts by focussing on the musical representation of feeling, human physical movement, and the passage of time. The works discussed include Beethoven's Pastoral and Eroica Symphonies, Haydn's Seven Last Words of our Savior on the Cross, Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf's symphonies on Ovid's Metamorphoses, and orchestral battle reenactments of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic eras. A separate chapter details the aesthetic context within which characteristic symphonies were conceived, as well as their subsequent reception, and a series of appendixes summarises bibliographic information for over 225 relevant examples.
Richard Will is Assistant Professor of Music History at the University of Washington. He has articles published or forthcoming on Beethoven, Haydn, and other topics in eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century music in the Journal of the American Musicological Society, Music and Letters, and Beethoven Forum. He has also written a series of critical essays on Jimi Hendrix for the International Dictionary of Black Composers.