Vienna in the 17th and 18th Centuries

New Esterházy Quartet
New Esterházy Quartet

The New Esterházy Quartet aim to show that Vienna had an important and rich music culture well before the famous era of Mozart and Beethoven. This coming weekend the quartet (Lisa Weiss and Kati Kyme, violins; Anthony Martin, viola; and William Skeen, violoncello) will play a variety of pieces by composers who preceded Haydn (Antonio Bertali, Johann Heinrich Schmelzer, Johann Fux), early contemporaries of Haydn (Karl von Ordóñez, Florian Leopold Gassmann, and Johann Georg Albrechtsberger), as well as by Haydn himself.

Vienna’s musical culture did not begin with “The First Viennese School” of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven in the late eighteenth century. For at least a century before, Vienna and its court had attracted musicians and composers from all over the Hapsburg realms and from Italy.

Antonio Bertali brought the virtuosic Italian style of writing to the mid-seventeenth century court of King Ferdinand II. Johann Heinrich Schmelzer, the seventeenth century’s most prolific composer, continued writing in Bertali’s vein, though mixing in the older, contrapuntal style. Johann Fux literally wrote The Book on eighteenth-century composition technique, Gradus ad Parnassum (1725). Haydn knew Fux’s work and even worked through the musical examples in his book.

Ordoñez, Gassmann, and Albrechtsberger were Viennese contemporaries of Haydn during the early part of his career, while the father of Viennese Classicsism was relatively isolated at the Esterházy estate in the Hungarian countryside. There, undisturbed by the rivalries and factions in the capital, he was, as he put it, “forced to become original.”

Performances will take place 4:00 p.m., Saturday, May 3, at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in, San Francisco; and 7:30 p.m., Sunday, May 4, at All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Palo Alto. Both venues are wheelchair accessible. Please note these concerts are different than/separate from the concerts the quartet performs together with California Bach Society this same weekend. Also please note the special times for both performances.

Tickets are $25, with discounts for SFEMS members, seniors and students. For tickets or more information, phone 415-520-0611 or visit

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Written by Jonathan Harris