Music During The Classical Period

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The term classical generally refers to something that has a wide and long lasting appeal. In music, it indicates the music written from about 1750 to 1825. Balance and order were two of the most important qualities of the music of this period. Simplicity, diversity and elegance prevailed in contrast to what was seen as the excessive, complex characteristics of Baroque music.

The seeds of the Classical age were sown by a number of composers whose names are now, for the most part, forgotten. They were representative of a period which is variously described as rococo, a gradual move away from the Baroque style, or galante, a style characterized by symmetry and balance. It was this style that came to dominate the music of the latter half of the 18th century through three composers of extraordinary significance: Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and, later, Ludwig van Beethoven.

Music from the Classical period is characterized by balance, simplicity, and logic which make it easy to understand. The general public related quickly to simple, shorter melodic phrases and uncomplicated accompaniments. Following are some general characteristics of Classical music.

* Melody Balanced and symmetrical patterns form well-defined, usually short musical phrases that give listeners a sense of regularity. Listen, for example, to the famous opening of W. A. Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.

* Harmony Classic music used mostly straightforward progressions that keep harmony simple, logical, and yet elegant.

* Rhythm Use of regular and dance-like rhythms.

* Texture Mostly homophonic moving further away from the polyphonic texture of late Baroque music.

Vocal Music

The Classical era was primarily a period of instrument...

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... material into something new and interesting. The development should sustain your interest, make you wonder what is going to happen next, just like in a well-told story. The final section, the recapitulation, is like the closing section of a good story. In the recapitulation, the opening material comes back, but everything is resolved and finalized, just like wrapping up the loose ends in the story.

The following examples come from Mozart's Symphony No. 25 in G minor, which you might remember as the music for the opening scene of movie Amadeus.

Exposition: Musical theme is presented here in the tonic key. Through a bridge passage, a second subject is introduced in a new key.

Development: There is no set pattern in the section. The themes are treated through various keys and combinations.

Recapitulation: Returning to the main theme entirely in tonic key.
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