Classical – 1750 to 1820

Classical – 1750 to 1820

Classical music has a lighter, clearer texture than Baroque music and is less complex. It is mainly homophonic; a melody above chordal accompaniment.

Variety of keys, melodies, rhythms and dynamics (using crescendo, diminuendo and sforzando), along with frequent changes of mood and timbre were more commonplace in the Classical period than they had been in the Baroque.

The Orchestra increased in size and range; the harpsichord continuo fell out of use, and the woodwind became a self-contained section. As a solo instrument, the harpsichord was replaced by the piano (or fortepiano). Early piano music was light in texture, often with Alberti bass accompaniment, but it later became richer, more sonorous and more powerful.

Importance was given to instrumental music—the main kinds were sonata, trio, string quartet, symphony, concerto, serenade anddivertimento. Sonata form developed and became the most important form. It was used to build up the first movement of most large-scale works, but also other movements and single pieces (such as overtures).

Joseph Haydn (1732 – 1809) Austrian He was often nicknamed “Father of the Symphony” or “Father of the String Quartet” because of his important contribution to their development.

He wrote a lot of music – possibly due to being employed for most of his career as a court musician by the wealthy Esterházy family. He wrote much chamber music and was instrumental in the development of sonata form and the piano trio.

He wrote 104 symphonies, oratorios, string quartets, piano trios, “The Creation” and “The Seasons”. His main appointment was that of Kapellmeister at Esterhaz.

He was instrumental in the development of Sonata Form. This form (sometimes called “First Movement Form”) is used in the Sonata, Symphony, Concerto and Overture.

Definition of Chamber Music (music for a room) is one instrument to one part.

W.A. Mozart (1759 – 1791) Austrian. Child Prodigy and musical genius. Started playing the piano when he was two; wrote his first composition aged four or five; at age seven, started a 3-year tour of Europe with his father, Leopold, and sister, Maria Anna. He is best known today for his:-

Operas:- “Magic Flute”, “Marriage of Figaro”

Symphonies:- He wrote 41 although nos. 39, 40 and 41 are the most important.

27 Piano Concertos

He wrote concertos for many different instruments: piano (27), clarinet (1), violin (5), French Horn (4) Bassoon (1), Flute (1), Flute and Harp (1), oboe (1), concertante for violin and viola (1), concertante for oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon, and a flute concerto (arrangement of Bassoon concerto).

Piano Sonatas:- 37 in total

Chamber Music:- “Hunt” Quartet

“Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” – The first movement ( Allegro ) is in Sonata form which is fairly typical of Classical Sonatas, Concertos, Symphonies and Overtures.

Beethoven’s 1817 Broadwood
Grand Piano

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827) German. He was the first free-lance composer and musician in History. In his early days he challenged other pianists to competitions at the piano, which he always won. He was a social rebel with rather uncouth ways (and a terrible temper) but stands as one of the greatest composers and pianists of all time. Compared to early Classical composers, Beethoven’s output was relatively small, but the quality was far superior.

Main Works:- 9 symphonies (No. 3 “The Erioca”; No. 5; No. 6 “The Pastoral”; No. 9 “The Choral” being the most important).

5 Piano Concertos

32 Piano Sonatas

1 Opera (“Fidelio”)

1 Violin Concerto

Chamber Music

Listen to Beethoven’s Piano Sonata no. 6 in F major, 1st movement. This is written in Sonata Form. You can follow the score ( Sonata in F major no 6 Opus 10 no 2 Beethoven) and listen to the audio
Carl-Maria von Weber (1786 – 1826) German. Mainly an operatic composer e.g. “Der Freischutz” (The Marksman). He also wrote clarinet concertos.Franz Schubert (1797 – 1828) Austrian. He had a great sense of melody and he was very fond of dotted rhythms. He is considered a traditionalist although much of his music is clearly influenced Romantic ideals.

Main Works:- 11 Symphonies (most important are “Great” Symphony in C Major and the “Unfinished” Symphony in B minor).

604 songs (Earl-King, Ave Marie, The Trout, The Wandering Miller)

Chamber Music (“Trout” Quartet).

Rossini (1792 – 1868) Italian. Operatic Composer:- “William Tell”, “The Thieving Magpie”. Watch the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra perform the last section to the William Tell Overture. The whole piece lasts for 11 minutes but here is the final 3 minutes – the famous ‘chase’ music.


Alberti Bass, Bridge passage, Chamber music, Classical, Concerto, Da capo aria, Exposition, Lied, Minuet and trio, Overture, Piano, Scherzo, Sonata, Sonata form, Symphony.

Alberti bass – Broken chords played by the left hand outlining harmonies whilst the right hand plays the melody. Classical composers such as Haydn and Mozart used this technique extensively in their piano music.
Bridge – A link between two themes. In sonata form the bridge or transition links the first subject-group to the second subject-group and also modulates to the key of the second subject. See Sonata form.
Chamber music – Music written for a small instrumental ensemble with one player to a part.
Classical – 1750 to 1810 approximately. The era of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. (For an extended definition, see Symphony, Concerto, Sonata form, Minuet and trio, and Alberti bass.)
Da capo aria – An aria in Ternary form (A B A), found in opera and oratorio in the 17th and 18th centuries. The third section is not written out but the instruction Da capo (from the beginning) is given instead. The repeat of the A section was performed with the solo ornamented.
Exposition – The first section of a movement in Sonata form (Exposition – Development – Recapitulation) or the first section of a Fugue where each voice has played or sung at least one entry of subject or answer.
Lied – This term (the German word for song) refers specifically in the Romantic era to works for solo voice and piano. The text is in German, the structure of the verses is strophic and through composed. An important feature is that voice and piano are equally important. See Strophic, Through composed, Romantic.
Minuet and trio – The minuet is a graceful dance with three beats in a bar. The trio is a contrasting minuet after which the first minuet is repeated. The first minuet and the trio have repeats whilst the minuet when repeated has no repeats.
Piano – A keyboard instrument that produces sounds by hammers striking strings.
Scherzo – A lively movement in triple time usually in Ternary form and often found as the third movement of a symphony, sonata or chamber work.
Sonata – A work for solo piano, or a solo instrument accompanied by piano, in three or four movements.
Sonata form – Sometimes known as first movement form. This term is used to describe the structure of the first movement of many sonatas, symphonies and often overtures. It falls into three sections: exposition, development and recapitulation. The exposition introduces two contrasting themes in related keys. These are developed and heard again in the recapitulation, this time in the same key.
Symphony – A large work for orchestra usually in four movements. (Extended definition – In the Classical period the movements were normally fast, slow, minuet and trio, fast.)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s