Part 4 – The Classical Style

Project One – Classical Forms of Composition

Classical is music composed roughly between the years 1740 and 1800. Embodies Balance, simplicity, perfection of form and clean, unornamented lines.

The classical period in context with arts and sciences

Writers and PhilosophersArtistsScientists
Voltaire (1694 – 1778)Thomas Gainsborough (1727 – 88)Henry Cavendish (1731-1810)
Johann Goethe (1749 -1832)Francisco Goya (1746 – 1828)Antoine Lavoisier (1743 – 94)
William Blake (1757 – 1827)Katsushika Hokusai (1760 – 1849)Edward Jenner (1749 – 1823)
Robert Burns (1759 – 96)Joseph Turner (1775 – 1851)Andre Ampere (1775 – 1836)
Friedrich Schiller (1759 – 1805)Jean Ingres (1780 – 1867)Humphrey Davy (1778 – 1829)

The main compositional forms developed from Baroque dance suits were the symphony, sonata, concerto and string quartet – the majority of these consist of three or four contrasting movements, usually in the form of fast-slow-dance (minuend trio) – fast or fast – slow – fast.

First movement was often in sonata form. The standard compositional layout comproses

  • Introduction – sometimes omitted
  • Exposition – statement of main theme in home key – bridge section – statement of second theme in he dominant key or relative major (if tonic is in a minor key) – codetta (short end passage)
  • Development – based on thematic ideas from the exposition but moving in new directions and including modulations to different keys, sometimes distant from the tonic.
  • Recapitulation – restatement of exposition themes in the original order, but with both themes in the home key – coda

Dance style movements often appeared within later scale works, most commonly in the form of the minuet and trio, which frequently formed the 3rd movement of a sonata or symphony.

  • In triple time, the minuet is formed of two repeated sections often with a proportional phrase structure, such as 16 bars in the first section and 32 in the second.
  • The trio is heard after the minuet, followed by a reprise of the minuet without repeats.

This rather formal dance style contrasts with the use of fold dance rhythms in there later Romantic era and is n keeping with the clean and balanced nature of the overall work compared with the emotionalism and possibly nationalism of Romantic Music.

Exercise – Enjoying Classical Music

Beethoven Piano Sonata No.14 – I have aimed this at a child listening for the first time

This piece is also known as the Moonlight Sonata. It is one of the most recognisable pieces by Beethoven and you may have heard little bits of it before. However it may not remind you of moonlight. Beethoven did not give this sonata the name, it was given to it years later.

A sonata has 3 parts to it which are called movements and each movement is different. In each movement the pianist has some words written here and there letting them know how to play the music. These are called performance directions. Sometimes there are just letters for the pianist to read. When this sonata starts the pianist sees the following written..pp sempre. The pp means very quietly and sempre is Italian for always. So until the pianist sees anything else written down, they must play the piano quietly until there is change. There are directions in the piece as a whole and you may hear the piece getting louder or softer, or changes in the speed, these are all taken from the words in the piece of music.

Each movement has a different sound to it, which is determined by the key signature and you can usually hear when one movement ends and another begins. A brief pause and continuing in another key signature. The first movement is written in a minor key, and a minor key sounds sad. When the first movement goes into the second movement the key changes to a major key and this always sounds much livelier, you will hear this and you will know the movement has changed. The third movement is in the same minor key that the pice started with and you will hear sadness again. Sometimes when you listen to the movements you may want to describe how the music makes you feel and there is no wrong or right answer and if someone else is listening to it they may feel something else.

When you are listening to this piece you will hear the same patterns repeated in different parts of the piece. This is a theme or motif and when you hear it, you may hear it in different ways but you will know that is something that you have heard

Project two – Composers of the Classical Era

Dominated by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven

Other names of the Classical Era include the following:-

  • Johann Christian Bach (1735–1782)
  • William Herschel (1738–1822)
  • Antonio Rosetti  (c. 1750–1792)
  • Georg Friedrich Fuchs (1752–1821)
  • Johann Friedrich Anton Fleischmann (1766–1798)
  • Samuel Wesley (1766–1837)

I chose to listen and research William Herschel

William Herschel (1738–1822)

I chose Herschel because I wondered if he was related to the man who the famous telescope was named after and I find that he is one and the same! Most places I have looked at online do not give me much information on his music but from what I have read he was a brilliant musician who then became a brilliant world renowned Astronomer. Reading his astrological accomplishments I was stunned.

I am sat here listening to his music and I am really enjoying it. My initial thoughts on it are that he is very much a rigid exponent of the Classical style, with no leeway for an independent expression of musicianship available to the musicians. However I am really impressed with the compositions (see list). To me they very such sound like they could have been played at the royal court, they have a regality about them. I am not sure but I think I can hear a harpsichord here, only now and again. It is lovely. Its very much a classical piece, it seems so rigid in its construction, but I must say I am very pleasantly surprised by the pieces. I am really surprised by the man himself too. I didn’t find any connection with Hayden, Mozart or Beethoven though.

Project three- Musical performance in the Classical Era

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