Monday, February 28, 2011

Classical Music

The dates of the Classical Period in Western music are generally accepted as being between about 1750 and 1830. However, the term classical music is used colloquially to describe a variety of Western musical styles from the ninth century to the present, and especially from the sixteenth or seventeenth to the nineteenth. This article is about the specific period from 1750 to 1830.
The Classical period falls between the Baroque and the Romantic periods. The best known composers from this period are Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Franz Schubert; other notable names include Luigi Boccherini, Muzio Clementi, Antonio Soler, Antonio Salieri, François Joseph Gossec, Johann Stamitz, Carl Friedrich Abel, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Johann Christian, and Christoph Willibald Gluck. It's a bit of an irony that two of J.S. Bach's children, Carl Philipp Emanuel (C.P.E.) a Johann Christian (J.C.), belonged among the leaders of the new Classical movement. Their father was the greatest figure in the Baroque style and thanks to the new era of his children, he became old-fashioned. 

Main Characteristics
*      Classical music has a lighter, clearer texture than Baroque music and is less complex. It is mainly homophonic  music where the melody and accompaniment are clearly distinct - was the main style during the classical era; new genres were discovered that completed the transformation from the Baroque era to the Classical (but counterpoint is by no means forgotten, especially later in the period).
*      Variety and contrast within a piece became more pronounced than before. 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. Melodies tended to be shorter than those of Baroque music, with clear-cut phrases and clearly marked cadences.
*      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 
and divertimento. Sonata form developed and became the most important form. It was used to build up the first movement of the most large-scale works, but also other movements and single pieces (such as overtures).

One of the most important "evolutionary steps" made in the Classical period was the development of public concerts. Although the aristocracy would still play a significant sponsoring role in musical life, it was now possible for composers to survive without being the permanent employee of some noble or his family. It also meant that concerts weren't limited to the salons and celebrations of aristocratic palaces. The increasing popularity of public concerts led to a growth in the popularity of the orchestra as well, to the enlargement in the number of musicians and the number of orchestras overall. Although chamber music was still performed, the expansion of orchestral concerts necessitated large public spaces. As a result of all these processes, symphonic music (including opera and oratoria) became more extroverted in character.