The Classical Period: Emphasizing Instrumental Music

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Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,

The Classical period was an era of classical music between 1730 and 1820. The Classical period places an emphasis on instrumental music, unlike the Baroque period which focused on vocal music.

The Classical Period: Emphasizing Instrumental Music

One of the most important characteristics of the Classical period was the increased emphasis placed on instrumental music. This was in part due to the increased popularity of public concerts, where music for Orchestra and small ensembles was performed. But the main reason for the increased emphasis on instrumental music was the growing prestige of instrumentalists, who were able to command ever-larger fees for their services.

The Baroque Period: 1600-1750

In the mid-17th century, a powerful new style of music emerged in Europe. It was called the Baroque, a term derived from the Portuguese word for a misshapen pearl. This period in music history is generally considered to have lasted from 1600 to 1750.

The first half of the Baroque period coincided with the height of the Renaissance and the rise of absolutism as a form of government. The latter half saw the beginning of the Enlightenment, a time when reason and individual rights began to take precedence over tradition.

During the Baroque period, composers began to think more about how their music affected listeners emotionally. They also wrote music that was designed to be enjoyed by a wider range of people, not just wealthy patrons or religious institutions.

One of the most important developments of the Baroque period was the growth of instrumental music. Prior to this time, most music was vocal; that is, it was written for voices alone. But during the Baroque period, composers began writing more pieces for instruments, including solo works and concertos.

The Baroque period also saw changes in musical notation and in the way orchestras were organized. These changes made it possible for composers to write more complex pieces of music, with multiple parts that could be performed simultaneously.

Some of the most famous composers of the Baroque period include Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frideric Handel, Antonio Vivaldi, Claudio Monteverdi, and Henry Purcell.

The Classical Period: 1750-1820

The term “classical music” is used to describe a wide variety of styles that emerged during the period from 1750 to 1820. Although most people associate it with the music of composers such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven, it actually encompasses a much wider range of styles than that. The Classical period was also a time when many of the musical genres we take for granted today were first established, such as the symphony, concerto, and sonata.

Instrumental music was particularly important during the Classical period. This was partly due to the increasing popularity of public concerts, which gave performers (usually professional musicians) an opportunity to make a living from their art. It was also due to the rise of virtuoso performers, who were often able to command high fees for their services. This era saw the emergence of some of the most celebrated musicians in history, including Joseph Haydn, Franz Schubert, and Johann Sebastian Bach.

One of the most important developments in instrumental music during this period was the emergence of tonality. This is the system by which Western music has been organized since around 1600, and it is based on the use of major and minor scales. Prior to this, most music had been based on modes (such as the Dorian mode), which did not offer as clear a sense of tonality. The introduction of tonality made it possible for composers to write longer and more complex pieces of music, as they could now rely on key signatures and harmonic progressions to give structure to their work.

Despite its emphasis on instrumental music, the Classical period was also a time when opera flourished. This was thanks in part to the development of new genres such as comic opera (which combined elements of tragedy and comedy), as well as advances in stagecraft and scenic design. Many famous operas were written during this period, including Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro and Beethoven’s Fidelio.

While the Classical period is often seen as a golden age in Western musical history, it should be noted that it coincided with some turbulent political times. The American Revolution (1775-1783) and French Revolution (1789-1799) both took place during this era, and these events had a profound impact on many composers living in those countries (such as Benjamin Franklin and Napoleon Bonaparte). Nevertheless, despite these tumultuous political times, classical music continued to flourish throughout Europe and America during this period.

The Romantic Period: 1820-1900

Romanticism was an artistic, literary, and intellectual movement that originated in Europe toward the end of the 18th century and in most areas was at its peak in the approximate period from 1800 to 1850. Romanticism is characterized by a number of key features, including: a focus on the individual and the subjective experience; a celebration of nature; a rejection of earlier values, such as those associated with Classicism; and an embrace of imagination, emotion, and intuition.

The Romantic Period in music is often said to begin in 1815, the year Beethoven’s Third Symphony premiered, and to end in 1910, the year Mahler’s Tenth Symphony was completed (not performed until 1912). Other proposed dates for the beginning of the period include 1789 (the French Revolution) and 1832 (the publication of Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique). The ending date is less certain, though most scholars agree that it falls somewhere around 1900.

During the Romantic Period, music increasingly became a vehicle for personal expression. Composers sought to evoke specific emotions or tell personal stories in their music. They also sought to break away from the formal constraints of Classical-era music and give themselves more freedom to experiment. As a result, many composers began to write works that were expressive and highly original.

One downside of this increased freedom was that it sometimes led to overindulgence and self-indulgence on the part of composers. Many Romantic-era works are extremely long (sometimes over an hour in length), highly complex, and full of densely packed melodies, harmonies, and textures. While these features can make for very beautiful music, they can also make it difficult for listeners to follow what is going on.

Despite these challenges, there is much about Romantic-era music that is immensely rewarding for both performers and listeners alike. If you enjoy exploring new sonic worlds and being taken on an emotional journey by your favorite pieces of music, then you are sure to find much to love in this rich period of musical history.

The Baroque Period: 1600-1750

The Baroque period was characterized by a style of music that was highly ornamented and complex. This period saw the development of different forms of instrumental music, such as the concerto and the sonata. The Baroque period also saw the rise of the opera.

The early Baroque: 1600-1660

The early Baroque period began around 1600 in Rome, coinciding with the rediscovery of ancient Greek and Roman art and architecture. In music, the early Baroque period saw the development of monody and the madrigal, as well as new genres such as the opera. Monteverdi’s Orfeo, written in 1607, is generally considered to be the first opera. In addition, the early Baroque period saw the development of forms such as the concerto grosso and fugue.

The middle Baroque: 1660-1710

During the early part of the Baroque period, there was a great deal of experimentaton in instrumentation, tonality, and form. New instruments such as the violin family and oboe were added to the orchestra, along with the already established cornett and sackbut. This addition of new instruments helped create a greater range of sounds and allowed for more complex harmonies. The middleBaroque period saw a shift away from polyphonic texture to a more monophonic texture as composers began to favor melodic lines over counterpoint. This shift can be seen in the works of composer Arcangelo Corelli, who wrote many concerti grossi that featured distinct melodic lines for each instrument. The form of the concerto grosso began to evolve during this period as well, with composers such as Antonio Vivaldi exploring the possibilities of ritornello form.

The late Baroque: 1710-1750

The late Baroque period, which lasted from approximately 1710 to 1750, was a time of transition from the Renaissance style to the Classical style. The early years of the period were dominated by the last great Renaiassance composer, Arcangelo Corelli, and the later years by George Frideric Handel, who spent most of his life in England. Other important composers include Antonio Vivaldi, Georg Philipp Telemann, and Johann Sebastian Bach.

The music of this period is characterized by its grandeur and by its use of opera as a means of expressing emotion. The late Baroque period saw the rise of oratorio, a form of musical drama that uses religious themes to explore human emotions. Oratorios were often performed in churches, and they were usually based on stories from the Bible.

Instrumental music continued to develop during the late Baroque period. Composers began to write concertos for soloists and orchestra. Symphonies, which are pieces for orchestra without soloists, also became popular during this time.

The Classical Period: 1750-1820

The Classical period was one of the most important periods in music history. The music of this period is characterized by its balance, order, and elegance. The period saw the rise of instrumental music, and the composers of this time period were some of the most important in history.

The early Classical: 1750-1770

During the early Classical period, composers from Austria and Germany Systematically varied the number and placement of instrumental voices to create new colors and textures. They also experimented with rhythm, meter, and phrasing. The music of this era is softer and lighter in character than that of the Baroque. As the period progressed, it became more emotional, exaggerated, and dramatic.

The early Classical period saw the composition of some of the most influential works in music history. These include Haydn’s Symphonies Nos. 94 and 98, his Quartets Op. 20, Mozart’s Symphonies Nos. 40 and 41 (Jupiter), his Clarinet Concerto, and his operas The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni.

The middle Classical: 1770-1800

The 1770s and 1780s are generally seen as the middle of the Classical period; this was the era of Haydn’s great symphonies, Mozart’s first mature operas, and the beginnings of Beethoven’s career. All three composers were influenced by the work of Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel, as well as by the music of their contemporaries. The classical style is characterized by balance, elegance, and emotional restraint.

The late Classical: 1800-1820

During the last twenty years of the eighteenth century, as the gallant era of Marie Antoinette gave way to the grim days of the Revolution, Paris remained the musical center of Europe. The early 1780s were prosperous years there, with more than forty theaters in operation and a large number of professional musicians employed in various capacities. In 1789, however, the year of the fall of the Bastille, all but four theaters were closed, and many musicians left France. The Revolution brought death to some (the great violinist Pierre Rode among them), and others suffered imprisonment or exile. Amid these hardships a new kind of music was being created that looked back to no classical past but instead drew its inspiration from popular traditions. These composers—Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Luigi Boccherini, and Muzio Clementi—were termed “Classical” by later generations as a result of their emphasis on balance, proportion, clarity of form, and elegance of style.

The essential features of late eighteenth-century Classicism were already present in Clementi’s music. He was an Italian who had studied in Rome and London before moving to Vienna in 1781; five years later he settled in London for good. His first compositions for piano appeared around 1780; they are called “Gradus ad Parnassum” (“Steps to Parnassus”), a reference to an ancient Greek mythical Mount Parnassus, home of the Muses and source of poetic inspiration. These pieces are progressive etudes designed to teach pianists how to play with greater speed and dexterity; they are still used for that purpose today. Clementi also wrote six fine piano concertos (op. 7), which were published in London in 1785; these works attest to his mastery not only of formal design but also of keyboard technique.”

The Romantic Period: 1820-1900

The Romantic period was a time of great transformation in the arts. One of the most important changes was the shift from the conspicuous display of emotion in music to a more introspective and personal style. This move away from the public sphere is often seen as a reaction to the formalities of the neoclassical style that preceded it.

The early Romantic: 1820-1840

During the early years of the Romantic period, composers sought to reestablish the emotional power and structures that had been characteristic of pre-Classical music. In reaction to what they perceived as the emotional restraint of the Classical style, early Romantics such as Carl Maria von Weber and Giacomo Meyerbeer brought back stadium-sized orchestras, heavy use of choral forces, and elaborate stage productions. These composers also emphasized nationalistic Pride in their music. As a result, composers such as von Weber incorporated German folk melodies into his work; while Meyerbeer did something similar with French melodies.

The middle Romantic: 1840-1860

In the period from 1840 to 1860, music became increasingly expressive and emotional, expanding its range of tonal colors and rhythms. Variety and contrast within a piece became more pronounced than before. While the lovely melodies of earlier periods were retained, they were expanded harmonically and often ornamented with greater rhythmic freedom.

The late Romantic: 1860-1900

The late Romantic Era saw a continued trend towards expanded tonality and chromaticism begun in the early Romantic Era. The main compositional trend in instrumentation was the development of the orchestra, which now included such new instruments as the contrabassoon, Wagner tuba, and cornet. This expanded palette of tones and dynamics allowed composers to express themselves in previously inconceivable ways.

One of the most important late Romantic composers was Johann Strauss II, who wrote such famous works as The Blue Danube Waltz and The Radetzky March. These pieces are indicative of the Viennese waltz style that was so popular during this time period. Other important late Romantic composers include Anton Bruckner, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Giuseppe Verdi, and Giacomo Puccini.

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