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

Research point

I chose to compare two works by Mozart and chose the Academy of Ancient Music to listen to the piece in its original form.

Piano Concerto No 5 in D Major and Piano Concerto No 16 in D Major

The pieces played in the way in which they were composed sounded different from the modern interpretations of the concertos. My initial thoughts were the piano sounded more like it was a harpsichord, and I believe a lack of sustain was present as the notes sounded short and stunted if that sounds right. Comparing the two I would say that there aren’t as many instruments playing in the original piece as there would be in a more modern piece. The tones on the instruments sounded different, they didn’t sound as sharp and clear as the more modern pice. It gave quite a harsh sound to the piece. The orchestra as a whole in the more modern piece sound fuller and a lot softer, the piano sounds softer with the notes sounding more and not being cut off, the use of the sustain pedal doubt. The sound seemed to flow more than the piece as it was originally performed. Listening to the pieces you hear how the orchestra has developed, the sounds of the original performance are quite stunted and rigid but the modern orchestra give such a softer and more flowing sound. The orchestra seems much larger too which gives it that better sound. It was very interesting to do this exercise and hear the differences.


The Mannheim School


Vienna Harmoniemusik

Research. The History of Music Publishing up to 1900

The origin of printed sheet music dates to 1476 and Roman printer Ulrich Hans. However the father of modern music printing is generally acknowledged to be Ottaviano Pettruci, a Venetian Printer and publisher active in the early decades of the 16th Century. The next significant development in publishing was the creating of copyright law with its origins in England at the time of Henry VIII. It granted printers legal protections in the form of licenses and it was further modified under the Statute of Anne 1710.

Germany was the pioneer in modern music publishing. The first German music publishing enterprises date from the 18th century. Bernhard Christoph Breitkopf of Leipzig, a printer and general publisher, decided to specialize in music printing as of 1754. He became successful by developing improvements in the setting of music type. Gottfried Christoph Härtel joined the firm in 1795, which soon became the partnership of Breitkopf & Härtel. They were the original publishers for a who’s-who of great German composers, including Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart, Schubert, Schumann and Wagner.

Schott Music of Mainz was founded in 1770 by Bernhard Schott and still exists today. They specialized in French and Italian operas  N. Simrock of Bonn, and later Berlin, was established in 1790 by Nikolaus Simrock. Their original publications included works by Beethoven, Haydn, Meyerbeer, Weber, Mendelssohn, Schumann and Brahms.

The development of music publishing goes hand with the developments in printing the written word. To show how one house carried on this is taken from wikipedia

The Schott publishing house was founded by Bernhard Schott (1748–1809) in Mainz in 1770, the year of Beethoven’s birth.[3] The building, dated and now under a preservation order, is still the company’s head office. At the time of the foundation of the publishing house, Mainz boasted a flourishing cultural life and a busy court chapel. In 1780, Bernhard Schott was awarded the ‘privilegium exclusivum’ together with the title of ‘Court music engraver’. This meant that within the boundaries of the electorate of Mainz no third party was allowed to re-engrave or sell the works produced by him. Schott was one of the first publishers to use the printing technique of lithography, which meant that his editions were soon being printed and distributed on a wide scale.

During the French years of Mainz, the publisher suffered from high taxes, but the affectation to French music helped him in this stage. As a later consequence, the publishing house rapidly became established beyond the national borders of Germany. As early as 1823, Schott founded a branch in Antwerp, relocated to Brussels in 1839 (called Schott frères from 1879 onwards), and further offices in musical centres such as Leipzig, London, Paris and Vienna. From the very beginning, it was its commitment to contemporary music that earned the publishing house its international reputation. Initially, the publishing programme included works by composers from the Mannheim School such as Carl Stamitz and Georg Joseph Vogler, as well as virtuoso ballroom music and comic operas. The publication of the piano scores and first editions of Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni and Die Entführung aus dem Serail were among the highlights of the publishing house’s early history. They were soon followed by major late works of Ludwig van Beethoven, including the Ninth Symphony, the Missa Solemnis and the last two string quartets.

I believe that the increasing availability of published music affected the European Scene in many ways. If a composer could get his music published then he would have a source of income and do away with the need for patrons. Patronage was diminishing but there were still wealthy people who would patronise musicians. The widespread availability of music made it easier for the public to have their favourite music at their hand and this in turn led to music being played more at home and the demand for pianos increased. You could extend this and bring in the subject of royalties from performance of these works.


A Brief History of Music Publishing


Project Four – Opera in the Classical Era

Two forms of Opera existed – opera Buffa (comic opera) and opera serial (grand opera) eg Mozart wrote Cosi Fan Tutti which was an opera buffa and Idomneneo which was an opera seria.

Comic opera

Written in the language of their country of origin and usually had six or more characters representing a cross section of society.Arias were constructed from short melodic phrases accompanied by a simple harmony, while recitative accompanied only by the keyboard. In Italy an ensemble finale was developed to allow all of the characters to interact on stage in the final scene.

Additional information on comic opera

Grand opera

Used serious subject matter. Many had a mythological basis. Scenes would often include elements of war and ceremony. Organised into three acts, most musical material aleternating veiween recitative and aria.

Additional information on grand opera

Exercise – The Classic opera

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