Classical period (about 1750-1800)

Ch. 11-Introduction to the Classical period-Music and the Enlightenment
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.

Neo-classical style

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

Classical composers

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)

Mozart (1756-1791)

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

Haydn (1732-1809)

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

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

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:

Main theme
Variation I of the main theme
Variation II of the main theme
Variation III of the main theme
Variation IV of the main theme
Coda (ending)

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

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.

Haydn, 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

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?

Mozart, Piano Sonata No. 11 in A Major, K. 331, third movement ("Rondo alla turca")

Ottoman Janissary Band:

Classical concertos

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

Haydn, 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 (Serenades)

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

Opera  Buffa

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?

Mozart, Marriage 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.