nl en

Musical compositions as documents of Austrian history


Admission requirements

The lecture will be taught in English, but students need to read German. Abiltiy to read music is not required.


Works of art reflect and constitute identities and history, and music is never always „only“ about sounds. Not only does the way we hear and perform it reflect belief systems we may not even know about – a well known example is Mendelssohn whose music was much loved until 1933, when it was discredited in Germany as being second-rate because he was Jewish and as being second-rate without any given reason after 1945. Why and even how music was composed is determined by much more than by an inherently musical stylistic progress: the very structures can be read as renderings of politics and mentalities which they also helped to shape. Thus, the strict rules regulating Baroque music can be tied to the inherited social status, and the constant structural changes in Mozart’s works reflect the new musical and personal freedom from these traditional constraints; while his, Haydn’s and Beethoven’s musical forms are influenced by the emerging capitalism’s new concept of time, Schubert’s different shaping of musical time may be associated with the oppression in Metternich’s police state; and dances and marches, directly influencing bodies and moods, are valuable sources for discovering political strategies, such as the introduction of a certain dance at the Austrian court under Joseph II in order to bridge the divide between the noblilty and the lower classes.
The lecture will cover music from the mid 17th to the early 20st cent. when the erosion of tonal and formal conventions in music coincided with the collapse of the Habsburg empire.
Teaching material: music examples, projections of illustrations and scores (which will be used like graphs to facilitate listening; students do not need to be able to read music).

Course objectives

Compositions, as any other cultural product, can be enjoyed in an unsophisticated way even when not interpreted as witnesses of power structures and mentalities. But since one only notices what one knows, I hope, while making students more familiar with Austria’s history and culture, to enable them to perceive music and other art works in greater detail and with even more pleasure.


See timetable History

Mode of instruction


Course Load

5 ECTS = 140 hours.

  • Lectures: 2 hours/week: 28 hours.

  • Studying literature: appr. 70 hours.

  • Following-up course work, preparation of classes and exam: app. 40 hours.

Assessment method

Written exam.




  • Brigitte Hamann: Österreich. Ein historisches Portrait. München [Beck] 2009. (224 pages). ISBN 978-3-406-59213-3 (ca.18 €).

  • Karl Vocelka: Geschichte Österreichs. Kultur – Gesellschaft – Politik. München [Heyne] 9/2002, ISBN 978-3-453-21622-8 (ca. 12, 50 €), pages 107-271.

More reading material will be made available on Blackboard.



Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs



The instructor of this lecture is a guest professor from Austria: prof. dr. Marie-Agnes Dittrich.

Contact person: Dr. P.G.C. Dassen