Ch. 11-Introduction to the Classical period-Music and the
Ch. 12-The Symphony
Ch. 13-Other Classical Genres
Introduction to the Classical period
In the visual arts and architecture this period and style is referred to as “neo-classical.” In music just “classical.”
“Neo-Classical” means “new-classical.” Classical refers to the civilizations of the Ancient Greeks and Romans. Their civilizations are referred to as “classical” because they are highly regarded.
Music, art, and architecture are called “classical” or “neo-classical” during this time because they tend to use certain elements of ancient Greek and Roman style, including grace, dignity, balance, symmetry, order, logic, and calmness.
Well known examples of neo-classical
architecture include many of the buildings in Washington
D.C. They were built in the late 1700s and early 1800s.
They were built this way because they were supposed to represent dignity, calmness, logic, and the reasonable laws of the new government of the United States.
A famous example of a classical style melody in music would be “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” It is very symmetrical, natural, logical, calm, and easily understood.
Ex. 1 Twinkle, twinkle. This is a famous example of a classical style melody. It is 12 measures long and neatly divides up into threee four measure long phrases. The first and third phrases are the same and the second phrase is different, but is still four measures like the others. The form of this melody is a-b-a. The melody is simple, logical, and symmetrical. The texture is homophonic with a melody in the right hand and a broken chord accompaniment in the left hand based upon basic chords (the tonic, dominant and subdominant triads).
Click on music to play
Important ideas in history during the 1700s
Influence of “classical” civilizations (see previous slides)
Age of Enlightenment (or Age of Reason)
“Rationalism” and “naturalism”
Middle class rebellion against nobility
The above ideas are all interrelated
Age of Enlightenment
Intellectuals began to question the authority of the nobility and clergy; felt they could reason things out for themselves rather than just relying on the authority and traditions of nobility and clergy; they felt that they had become enlightened through knowledge and their own reasoning powers.
Rising middle class began to demand their “natural” rights and a voice in governing themselves rather than blind obedience to the nobility
Rationalists believed in the power of one’s own mind to reason things out, rather than relying on one’s emotions, tradition, or authority.
Naturalism means a belief that people and their creations-art, music, architecture, literature, religion, government, etc. should be in harmony with nature.
Baroque art, which was considered bizarre, strange, overdone, etc., was not considered to be in harmony with nature; and a government in which a monarch had absolute power over the people, such as Louis XIV of France, was also not considered natural.
What was considered rational, natural, and enlightened?
Music, art, and architecture that was “classical”-orderly, balanced, symmetrical, calm, dignified, logical ( and not wild and emotional); also a music that the rising middle class could understand.
A government which was based upon the “natural rights” of people to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness with reasonable laws in which an educated middle class would have a say, rather than a government based upon the arbitrary whims of an absolute monarch and the meddling of the clergy.
Where did all this lead?
To a new musical style during the 1700s we today call “classical” and a new style in arts and architecture we call “neo-classical.”
To revolutions in America (1776) and in France (1789).
The founders of the United States were heavily influenced by the previous ideas
Classical style in music
Melody-elegant, graceful, symmetrical, easily sung, understood, and remembered; transitions between main melodies in a piece of music often contain rapid running notes, however.
Harmonies-harmonies not complex;basic chords often used (tonic, dominant, and subdominant triads) with modulations to closely related keys
Texture-easy to understand homophony predominates with some use of polyphony for contrast and drama
Rhythm-a variety of rhythms are used in a piece rather than only a few patterns of 16th and 8th notes as in the Baroque
Dynamics-now include crescendos and diminuendos, not just sudden shifts between volumes as in the Baroque
Timbre-instrumental music becomes more important than vocal music; the piano becomes popular and the orchestra becomes standardized in its make-up.
Classical style, conclusion
Overall classical style is calm, dignified, graceful, elegant, and laid-back sounding; there are however, contrasts in emotion within movements, unlike Baroque style which only has one emotion per movement
The emotions in classical style are always under careful control, the music never becomes too emotional
The Classical orchestra
The following is a typical orchestra during the late 1700s: about 8 1st violins; 6 2nd violins; 4 violas. 4 cellos; 2 string basses; and winds in pairs: 2 flutes; 2 oboes; 2 clarinets; 2 bassoons; 2 trumpets; 2 French horns; 2 timpani (played by one person); the basso continuo disappears
The orchestra became larger over the years
The most famous Classical composers were Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791); Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809;) and Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven all lived and worked in Vienna, Austria, which had become an important musical center in the 1700s (sometimes their musical style is also referred to as “Viennese” because of this)
A child genius; wrote first musical compositions at about age 6; played keyboards and violin proficiently by then also
Father was a court composer who showed off Mozart and his sister , who was also an accomplished musician at a young age, all over Europe
Mozart was a court composer as well, but he was always in conflict with his boss, about 1781 he quit his job to become a freelance musician in Vienna
Wrote over 600 pieces of music, including over 40 symphonies, as well as string quartets, divertimentos, piano sonatas, concertos, operas, and masses
His later symphonies, concertos, operas, and requiem mass are considered his best pieces
Could write music very quickly, as fast as we can write sentences
Died at only age 35
A court composer; remembered as being good natured; his music reflects this
An important developer of the symphony and string quartet
Wrote 104 symphonies, 68 string quartets, piano sonatas, piano trios (piano, violin, cello), concertos, divertimentos, operas, oratorios, and masses
After retirement conducted a series of public concerts in London, England; his last 12 symphonies were written for these concerts
Public concerts became increasingly important during the classical period, as middle class audiences were becoming consumers of music (performances at court were closed to the general public)
Classical composers began to take middle class tastes into account by writing music they could enjoy
Ch. 12-Classical Symphonies
Putting music in logical formats was important to Classical composers
The main genres (types) are symphonies, concertos, string quartets, divertimentos (also called serenades), and piano sonatas
The main forms are sonata form, theme and variation form, ABA form, rondo form, and sonata-rondo form (a combination of two forms)
Classical symphonies are long, ambitious pieces for Classical orchestra, and contain four movements
The first movement is fast and uses sonata form
The second movement is slow and can use various forms
The third movement is in ABA form and is a minuet, a popular aristocratic dance of the day
The fourth movement is fast and uses sonata form, or rondo form, or sonata-rondo form
All the movements are in the same key except for the second, which is in a closely related key
Sonata form was always used in the first movement and sometimes the last movement of Classical compositions
Sonata form is easier understood with a diagram than with words
Sonata form contains three main parts: exposition, development, recapitulation
Theme and variation form
Theme and variation form was sometimes used for the slow (2nd) movements of Classical compositions. Theme and variation form can be diagrammed something like this:
Variation I of the main theme
Variation II of the main theme
Variation III of the main theme
Variation IV of the main theme
ABA form (Ternary form)
The third movement of Classical symphonies and string quartets are minuets (a popular type of dance of that day) which use ABA form. The middle section (part B) is called the “trio” and the A sections called the “minuet.”
Minuet and trios are in a meter of 3
Minuet and trios in ABA form are easily understood with a diagram
Rondo form is often used in the last movements of Classical symphonies, string quartets, and concertos
Rondos are usually lively and happy sounding; they made good endings for Classical pieces
Rondo form is easily understood with a diagram
What will we hear as examples?
Wynton Marsalis’s description of sonata form in which he uses the first movement of Prokofiev’s Classical Symphony as an example
Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K. 550, 1st movement. The first movement uses sonata form.
Symphony No. 94 in G Major ("Surprise"), 2nd movement.
This is a slow movement, and uses a theme and variations form.
Chapter 13-Other Classical Genres
Piano sonatas are three movement works (fast-slow-fast) which feature a piano soloist
The format is the same as a concerto, but with no orchestra accompanying
Like a concerto, the first movement is fast and uses sonata form, the second is slow and can use various forms, and the third is fast and uses sonata form, rondo form, or sonata-rondo form
What will we hear as an example?
Piano Sonata No. 11 in A Major, K. 331, third movement
("Rondo alla turca")
Ottoman Janissary Band:
Concertos are pieces written for an orchestra and a featured soloist
The piano is often featured. Concertos which featured the violin, cello, flute, clarinet, oboe, bassoon,trumpet, or French horn were also written
Concertos use a three movement format of fast-slow-fast. The ABA form minuet is not used in concertos; the other movements use the same formats as symphonies and string quartets
What will we hear as an example?
Mozart, Piano Concerto in E flat Major, K. 482, 3rd movement. This movement is in a rondo format. The main theme heard at the beginning keeps returning throughout the movement.
Classical string quartets
String quartets are pieces written for two violins, a viola, and a cello, and use the same four movement format as a symphony
String quartets fall under the category of “chamber music,” that
is, music written for a small group and to be performed in a small
room (chamber), not a large auditorium
String Quartet No. 30 in E flat Major, Op. 33, No. 2 ("The
Joke"), 1st movement
Other chamber music groups include woodwind octets, woodwind quintets, and brass quintets
Divertimentos (sometimes called serenades) were pieces written for entertainment at parties and other social gatherings
Divertimentos were written for various combinations of instruments, including string orchestras, woodwind octets, woodwind quintets, or string orchestras with a few winds added
Divertimentos can contain anywhere from three to six movements, and these movements use the traditional classical forms (sonata, rondo, etc.)
What will we hear as an example?
Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (A Little Night Music), a
serenade for strings in G Major, first movement. This is the
most famous example of a
divertimento (also called serenade), pieces written for entertainment at parties and social gatherings. The 1st movement uses sonata form, and the 3rd movement is a minuet and trio in ABA form
In the Classical period opera remained the most important type of vocal music; however, middle class tastes demanded a change to comic operas rather than the serious operas of the Baroque.
Italian comic operas were called “opera buffa.” They were like situation comedies that featured everyday, normal people.
The most famous operas of this time were written by Mozart and included The Marriage of Figaro (an Italian opera buffa); Don Giovanni (an Italian opera buffa which mixes serious and comic elements in the plot); and The Magic Flute (a singspiel, which is a type of German opera that uses spoken dialogue rather than recitative)
Italian opera buffa
Like in the Baroque, Italian opera buffa uses arias (solo songs with orchestral accompaniment) and recitatives (a type of sung speech used for monologues and dialogues) to tell the story.
Mozart’s operas, however, make much more use of duets, trios, quartets, and other ensembles to tell the story.
Operas have instrumental introductions called “overtures” which are played before the curtain goes up to set the mood for the story.
What will we hear as examples?
of Figaro, Overture and Act 1, scene 1 (duet)
The Marriage of Figaro is based upon a play by the French writer Beaumarchais.
The play was considered very politically incorrect in its day.
The story line deals with love and class conflict.
In this story a member of the nobility, Count Almaviva, is sexually harassing one of his servants, Susanna.
Another one of the Count’s servants, Figaro, who is also Susanna’s boyfriend, figures out a way to get even with the Count for hitting on his girlfriend.
The rising middle class of the day loved this story because it showed the nobility as the “bad guys” and the servants as “good guys” who get even.
The nobility of the day hated this story and tried to censor it.