Although the Classical Era lasted for only 70 years, there was a substantial change in the music that was being produced. Classical music placed a greater stress on clarity with regard to melodic expression and instrumental color. Although opera and vocal music (both sacred and secular) were still being written, orchestral literature was performed on a much broader basis. The orchestra gained more color and flexibility as clarinets, flutes, oboes, and bassoons became permanent members of the orchestra. The classical style was dominated by homophony , which consisted of a single melodic line and an accompaniment. New forms of composition were developed to adapt to this style. The most important of these forms was the sonata which was in instrumental music. This form continued to change and evolve throughout the classical period, and it is important to note that the classical sonata was very different from the sonatas written by Baroque composers. The early 1700s reflected a musical style known as Rococo. This style served as a transition from the Baroque to the Classical Era. Rococo, which developed in France, is actually an art term that described a new art style which was both a light and embellished. Musically speaking, it is refered to as style galant. In Germany, after 1750, the style galant became empfindsamer stil. With this change in name came an added element of expressiveness and sentimentality. As classical music evolved, distinctive characteristics developed. Changes in form were seen along with changes in phrase structure. Shorter phraases and well defined cadences became more prevalent. During this time period, a favorite accompaniment pattern was the Alberti bass (name for Dominico Alberti), which featured a broken chord progression. The melodies of the Classical era were more compact and diatonic. Harmony was less structured. It used the tonic, dominant, and subdominant chords. In addition, during this period, diatonic harmony was more common then chromatic. Composers mainly used chords in triadic form and occasionally used seventh chords in their compositions. The four major composers of the Classical era were Haydn, Mozart, Gluck, and Beethoven. These composers wrote extensively for vocal and instrumental mediums.
The Classical period
The Classical era, which covers roughly the second half of the 18th century, is one of the most significant periods in the development of orchestration. The most talented composers of this period were Mozart and Haydn. Many important developments took place during this time. The orchestra became standardized. The Classical orchestra came to consist of strings (first and second violins, violas, violoncellos, and double basses), two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, two or four horns, two trumpets, and two timpani. Toward the end of his career, in the London Symphonies, Haydn introduced clarinets as part of the woodwind section, a change that was to be permanent. Haydn also introduced the following innovations: trumpets were used independently instead of always doubling the horns, cellos became separated from the double basses, and woodwind instruments were often given the main melodic line. In the Military Symphony (No. 100)Haydn introduced some percussion instruments not normally used in the orchestras of this time, namely, triangle, hand cymbals, and bass drum; and, what is still more unusual, they are employed in the second movement, which in the Classical tradition is normally the slow movement. In Haydn’s music a method of composition appeared that had a bearing on orchestration. This consisted of the conscious use of musical motives; motive is defined in the Harvard Dictionary of Music as: “The briefest intelligible and self-contained fragment of a musical theme or subject.” Perhaps the best known musical motive in Western music is the four-note group with which Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony begins. These musical cells became the...
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