Monday, September 19, 2022

Music From The Classical Period

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Symphony No 5 In C Minor Op 67 By Ludwig Van Beethoven

This symphony by Beethoven opens with perhaps the four most famous notes of all time known to many simply as: da da da duuum!. Some critics have suggested that this opening represents the sound of Fate knocking at the door. We cant know for sure what Beethoven had in mind when he wrote this timeless opening to his Symphony No. 5 in C minor but whats beyond a shadow of a doubt is that this piece easily ranks in the top 10 most iconic, reaching beyond its genre and making an appearance in films, advertising, and even pop songs.

Video Performance by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.

Transitioning To The Renaissance

Missa O Crux LignumAntoine Busnois

Demarcating the end of the medieval era and the beginning of the Renaissance era, with regard to the composition of music, is difficult. While the music of the fourteenth century is fairly obviously medieval in conception, the music of the early fifteenth century is often conceived as belonging to a transitional period, not only retaining some of the ideals of the end of the Middle Ages , but also showing some of the characteristic traits of the Renaissance . Music historians do not agree on when the Renaissance era began, but most historians agree that England was still a medieval society in the early fifteenth century . While there is no consensus, 1400 is a useful marker, because it was around that time that the Renaissance came into full swing in Italy.

The increasing reliance on the interval of the third as a consonance is one of the most pronounced features of transition into the Renaissance. Polyphony, in use since the 12th century, became increasingly elaborate with highly independent voices throughout the 14th century. With John Dunstaple and other English composers, partly through the local technique of faburden , the interval of the third emerges as an important musical development because of this Contenance Angloise , English composers’ music is often regarded as the first to sound less truly bizarre to 2000s-era audiences who are not trained in music history.

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The Classical Period: Music History Composers And Pieces

The Classical period in music was from 1750-1820, and is the era that people tend to be the most familiar with. This is where you get symphonies and sonatas by famous guys like Mozart and Beethoven.

As pianists, our Classical music learning adventures will typically start with sonatinas and evolve toward the more difficult and lengthy sonatas.

When Was The Classical Music Era

Classical era music: a beginner

Things got a little lighter and more elegant in the Classical Period, which spanned 1730-1820.

There was a move towards simplicity, and some incredible, beautifully memorable melodies were written by the likes of Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who is, for many, the greatest composer of them all.

Important developments included the invention of the piano and the birth of the string quartet which well cover later.

The Classical period came after the Baroque era, with the Galant style briefly linking the two periods.

It preceded the Romantic era, making it the fourth of the six major periods of Western classical music.

Here are the others along with their dates:

  • The Contemporary era

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Key Characteristics Of Classical Music

The most important forms from the Classical period are the string quartet, opera , trio sonata, symphony, and solo concertos written for a variety of different instruments. While each of these musical forms are separate and unique, they each have the same three key characteristics in common:

Simplicity

When compared to the Baroque period that came before, Classical period music puts a lot more emphasis and importance on simplicity, tonal harmony, single-line melodies, and enlarged ensembles. In contrast to the elaborate melodies and embellishments of high Baroque music, this newer style utilized somewhat simple melodies and supported them with large ensembles.

Classical period music borrowed melodies from folk music and could be arranged to create new variations with changes in tonality, tempo, and dynamics. While this trend got its start during the Classical period, it would continue to be used, and indeed expanded, during the Romantic period that followed behind the Classical era.

Classicism

During the first half of the eighteenth century, European popular culture experienced a surge in a stylistic movement called Classicism. Those who followed the tenant of Classicism had a special love for the Classical period of antiquity, meaning Greece during the fifth century or so. This love for the art and architecture of Classical Greece could be found even in the musical tastes of the eighteenth century.

Accessibility

Troubadours Trouvres And Minnesnger

The music of the troubadours and trouvères was a vernacular tradition of monophonic secular song, probably accompanied by instruments, sung by professional, occasionally itinerant, musicians who were as skilled as poets as they were singers and instrumentalists. The language of the troubadours was Occitan the language of the trouvères was Old French . The period of the troubadours corresponded to the flowering of cultural life in Provence which lasted through the twelfth century and into the first decade of the thirteenth. Typical subjects of troubadour song were war, chivalry and courtly lovethe love of an idealized woman from afar. The period of the troubadours wound down after the Albigensian Crusade, the fierce campaign by Pope Innocent III to eliminate the Cathar heresy . Surviving troubadours went either to Portugal, Spain, northern Italy or northern France , where their skills and techniques contributed to the later developments of secular musical culture in those places.

The trouvères and troubadours shared similar musical styes, but the trouvères were generally noblemen. The music of the trouvères was similar to that of the troubadours, but was able to survive into the thirteenth century unaffected by the Albigensian Crusade. Most of the more than two thousand surviving trouvère songs include music, and show a sophistication as great as that of the poetry it accompanies.

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Beethoven Symphony No 9

Also known as the ‘Choral’ Symphony, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 includes the text of German poet Friedrich Shiller’s poem An Die Freude .

The symphony has four vocal soloists and a chorus, hence why it is called ‘Choral’.

Arguably the greatest symphony composed by Beethoven, it’s one that the great composer never even got to hear for himself!

At the time the great Symphony No. 9 was being composed, Beethoven was steadily losing his hearing, and by the time it premiered, the composer was profoundly deaf.

Symphony No. 9 premiered to an enthusiastic audience in Vienna on May 7, 1824. By then too deaf to conduct, Beethoven didn’t even notice the standing ovation that he received at the end of the performance.

He had failed to hear a single note of his magnificent composition.

This famous and much loved symphony has been used to mark several monumental public events.

It is the European Union’s choice of anthem since 1985. It was also a part of the opening ceremony celebrations of the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan.

The Choral symphony, regarded as the pinnacle of Beethoven’s compositions, is the longest and most complex of all of his symphonies. It was also his last symphony before his death in 1827.

Songs Of The Classical Age

Classical Music: The Classical Period (Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn…)

While the classical era is synonymous with Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert, Songs of the Classical Age illuminates a host of other composers of the Age of Enlightenment, along with less-familiar works by the aforementioned titans.

Soprano Patrice Michaels, with keyboard artist David Schrader on fortepiano, performs an exceptionally wide-ranging program of 27 songs in four languages by 17 composers, including seven women and a Black composer from the French Caribbean. On this CD, a companion to her previous recital disc, Songs of the Romantic Age, Ms. Michaels turns to what many consider her core repertoire: the music of Mozart and his contemporaries.

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Characteristics Of Classical Music: An Introduction

Periods of music are often hotly contested and accompanied by the notion that over-night one period of music magically transformed into the next. Imagine falling asleep in the Baroque and waking to a whole new Classical world. For the purposes of this article, we will agree that the Classical Period stretched from around 1750 1820. It is the music and its characteristics that I will examine in this piece with a view to providing an outline of the key features of this periods music.

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A Complete Guide To Classical Music Eras

The European classical music tradition stretches all the way back from the Middle Ages and as early as 500AD up to the 20th and 21st Centuries. A number of things link all this music together, but one of the defining features of Western art music, as it is sometimes called, is the use of formal musical notation. This distinguishes it from other genres such as folk music, which tend not to be written down.

As youd expect with such a massive time frame, classical music changed and developed massively over the years, decades and centuries. As a result, we split classical music into periods, or eras. Each one has its own distinctive sounds, features and key composers. A Gregorian chant from the Medieval period sounds very different to a Romantic-era opera and, ideally, you should be able to listen to a piece and know roughly when it was written and who the composer might be.

This post will act as a guide to the different periods of classical music, with an overview of the six main eras: Medieval music, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic and 20th Century classical. Thats a time span of more than one and a half millennia!

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Evolution Of Musical Forms

Having noble, provincial patrons, rather than a local church or royal court with nearly unlimited resources, often left Classical composers with fewer musicians of varying skill. This relative scarcity aligned nicely with Age of Enlightenment values of simpler, universal music that could be enjoyed and even performed, by middle-class music aficionados. The result was the growth of chamber music during the Classical Era. Examples include:

  • Forms of chamber music popularly played at outdoor concerts and festivals, such as divertimenti, serenades, and nocturnes

Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik KV 525

  • The string quartet, which grew out of the Baroque trio sonata, but in the Classical evolution, gave each of the four instruments a clear voice.

Haydn’s String Quartet Op. 33, No. 3

Haydn also standardized the symphony format into four movements :

  • first movement: often in sonata form, in allegro
  • second movement: slower and more lyrical, perhaps in sonata form
  • third movement: minuet and trio format or scherzo and trio another lively movement that evokes dancing, with the trio sandwiched by the minuet or scherzo
  • fourth movement: the energetic finale, typically in either sonata or rondo form

Standardization of the sonata form was a necessary part of the formalizing the four-movement symphony. During this era, the sonata form was codified into its exposition development recapitulation design of thematic exploration.

Which Instruments Were Used In The Classical Period

Learning to Listen: the sound of the Classical Era

The instruments of the Classical period were constantly changing and evolving as various bright sparks came up with handy innovations and revolutionary ideas, but there are two main developments that we can point to first, the piano.

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Previously, the harpsichords twangy sound was all over the place in the Baroque period, but it gradually became replaced by the piano because of its ability to play much more softly and subtly than the harpsichord.

The second major development in sound in the Classical period was the expansion of the orchestra. In the Baroque period you could expect modest strings-only orchestras with occasional woodwind accompaniment and a harpsichord. But as woodwind instruments like the clarinet, flute, horns and oboe got better and more versatile, they managed to bag their very own section in a standard orchestra.

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And with huge numbers of symphonies now being composed, the orchestra started to resemble the orchestras we see in concert halls today. Other developments included the emergence of the string quartet , but the real meat was coming from the orchestra. Have a listen:

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Evolution Of Orchestras And Instruments During The Classical Period

One of the main departures from the Baroque Era was the disappearance of the harpsichord from Classical Era composition. The pianoforte replaced it by the middle of the eighteenth century, but it wasn’t a central instrument in the works as the harpsichord was. However, the appearance of the piano, much as we know it today, arrived by the late eighteenth century and classical composers loved it, writing many concertos and sonatas.

The strings took on greater prominence, due to their particular ability to best reflect the human voice. That human, natural element was appealing to Classical audiences. Mozart formalized the violin sonata with piano accompaniment during the Classical Era, which generally contained two movements. Mozart’s Violin Sonata No. 21 in E Minor

The woodwinds also took on a conspicuous role and for the first time, became a distinct section within the orchestra. Like strings, woodwinds were prized for their ability to produce natural, elegant tones. The number and type of woodwind and horn instruments that became standard in an orchestra grew.

Serenade No 13 In G Major K 525 Eine Kleine Nachtmusik By Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

The incandescently brilliant Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed music for 30 of his 35 years, and today his name is known by nearly everyone in the world. Eine kleine Nachtmusik is arguably his most recognizable work, especially its first movement. Outside of the concert hall and classical recordings, youre likely to hear it pacifying phone users on hold and to sell a dizzying array of products. With his infamous sense of humor, the composer may have had quite a laugh at this!

Video performance by Slovak Chamber Orchestra.

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Works From The Late Classical Period

Antonio Salieri composed many great operas, so check them out. But we’ve included an interesting concerto by him instead:

  • Triple Concerto for Violin, Cello and Oboe in D Major, No. 1
  • Of the well-known Classical Era composers, Muzio Clementi doesn’t always get the same attention as other names. Here are two works from him:

  • Symphony No. 3 in G Major, WoO 34
  • Sonata for Piano and Violin, Op. 4 No. 4
  • Alright, here he is the Classical Era’s and classical music’s most popularly known composer: Mozart

  • Lacrimosa from Requiem in D Minor
  • The overture from opera The Magic Flute
  • Aria from The Magic Flute, “Der Hölle Rache”, otherwise known as the Queen of the Night
  • Violin Concerto No. 2 in D, K211
  • Chevalier de Saint-Georges composed many violin concertos, but here’s one of his quartets:

  • Quartet No. 4 in C Minor
  • Closing things off with Beethoven:

  • String Quartet No. 3 in D Major, Op. 18 No. 3
  • Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, Op. 55
  • What works should we add to the playlist?

    If you want to move on to the Romantic Era, check out our playlist here.

    What Makes Something Classical

    The Classical Period [MH]

    The Classical Period of Western art music lasted from roughly 1750-1820.

    Its important to note that not all works of classical music were composed during this period. The Classical era makes up just one of the three main periods of what we refer to as classical music.

    In case youre curious, the other two periods are the Baroque and Romantic eras.

    So, what’s the defining characteristic of Classic period music?

    It’s fairly simple: The compositions of the Classical period are defined above all by their simplicity, singable melodies, and balance.

    They also express much more emotion than the music of the Baroque era which came before.

    Mozart, Beethoven, and Haydn are three of the Classical eras biggest composers. Some people think Beethoven belongs to the Romantic era, because his life and work straddled the fence between the Classical and Romantic periods.

    For the sake of simplicity, though, we’ll just call him Classical

    Now, let’s get into the music!

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    Messiah By George Frideric Handel

    It is difficult to put into words just what makes Handels Messiah iconic. This Baroque oratorio, originally composed to be performed in celebration of the Christian Easter holiday, is now a near-permanent fixture during the Christmas season as well, and its artistic power expands well beyond any specific holiday or faith. From its memorable melodies to its celebrated choruses, Messiah is a grand and radiant display of the power of classical music to move humanity, and share stories as no other art form can.

    Video performance by Choir of Kings College, Cambridge.

    Instruments Of The Classical Period

    It is important to understand that there were 3 very significant instrumental developments in the classical period:

  • The Orchestra very significantly increased in number of instruments.
  • The Piano replaced the harpsichord had huge potential as an instrument for composers.
  • The improvised continuo part so commonplace in the Baroque period gradually died out as composers specified which instruments would play in accompaniments. This was typical of a more structured approach to music. Composers also added dynamic markings and phrasing to bring added interest to the single melody line.
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