Bellman, Dr. Jonathan

Committee Member

Kauffman, Dr. Deborah


Music History and Literature


University of Northern Colorado

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Place of Publication

Greeley (Colo.)


University of Northern Colorado

Date Created



85 pages

Digital Origin

Born digital


The instrumental battle piece, as it was at the time of the Napoleonic Wars, was a genre largely reserved for amateur musicians. However, within these commercial compositions there was a distinct topical language. Analysis of multiple pieces that discuss the same battle, but come from composers of different nations reveals that composers of different nationalities often changed the narrative of the battle being portrayed in order to paint their country—or adopted country— in a better light. This can be seen in a comparison of compositions based on the battles of Trafalgar and Waterloo, by composers writing for English and Germanic audiences. This was likely due to composers pandering to their intended audience; a composition intended for publication in England is going to see increased sales if the English forces play a prominent and positive role in the narrative. Daniel Steibelt is the exception to these general traits; His battle pieces are written for his own use as a concert pianist, not the commercial music market. As such, the topical language employed by Steibelt in his compositions is on a whole more creative than other composers, and elements of theater are often incorporated, as are popular songs and opera arias. In addition, Steibelt traveled regularly during the time period, and thus his output includes compositions written from both the pro-French and anti-French perspectives. Though the genre of the battle piece is often critically panned, examples of the topical techniques developed in these pieces can be found in more respected orchestral works that depict battle from the mid to late Romantic era, including works by Tchaikovsky and Liszt. Thus, musicologists and others who write off the compositions of Steibelt and his contemporaries are ignoring a part of the repertoire that clearly influenced these later canonical works.

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Copyright is held by the author.