The Classical Period

Getting it’s name from art history, the classic period in music extends
from 1740 to 1810 and includes the music of Haydn, Mozart, the first period of
Beethoven, and Bach’s sons. The classical period of music coordinated harmony,
melody, rhythm, and orchestration more effectively then earlier periods of music.

During the classical era the social function of music began to change
from earlier aristocratic and religious connections toward more public and
secular activities associated with the middle class. The rise of public
concerts, the spread of commercial opera houses, the growth of music publishing,
the increased number of musical pieces composed and played were all direct
effects of the changing musical times.

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Among the many musical types of the period, the classical period is best
known for the symphony, a form of a large orchestral ensemble. The symphonic
pieces generally had three movements, the sonata, the minuet, and the finale.

Building of the achievements of earlier composers, Haydn, and Mozart brought the
symphony to it’s peak in the last 20 years of the 18th century. Haydn excelled
in rhythmic drive and development of theme-based music. Mozart also added to
the symphony by contrasting memorable lyric themes in very full sounding
orchestral settings.

To satisfy the middle-class amateur, classic composers supplied a ton of
new chamber music for all imaginable combinations. The piano sonata became a
very important form of chamber music, especially after being refined by Haydn,
Mozart, and Beethoven. After 1765, the string quartet began to increasingly
dominate the chamber music field.

Unlike the concertos of the baroque period, the classic era mainly
emphasized the solo concerto. The choice of solo instrument, however, was
somewhat broader then in the baroque era. There was more of a trend during the
classical period towards keyboard concertos. This style was originated in
North Germany, by C.P.E. Bach, and gradually spread to other areas. Mozart took
the concerto to its greatest heights. “His incomparable ability to weave the
complex strands of the concerto fabric without entangling or obscuring either
soloist or orchestra has never been surpassed.”
To match the larger forms and more complex requirements of classic music,
the late 18th-century orchestra gained both in size and variety of personnel.

Composers increasingly employed pairs of woodwinds, now including clarinets as
well as flutes., oboes, and bassoons. Large court orchestras, such as those in
Vienna and Munich, numbered more then 50, but Haydn’s orchestra at Esterhz in
1783 consisted of only 24 players.

Category: Music and Movies