After the Baroque Era came the Classical Era of Music (1750 – 1820). Even though this was not a very long period of music, it was an important time in the music world. Many things changed in the way music was written and performed. And the audiences for the music changed also.
Characteristics of the Classical Era
Melody Reigns Supreme
Shorter, simpler, singable melodies feature in the music of this era. Melody became the most important thing for composers to get right!
Music for Everyone
Who wants to go to a concert? Musicians start to give public concerts – open to anyone. The idea of public concerts brings music to the common people. Music becomes a form of entertainment for all.
Instrumental Music Takes Center Stage
Music with an instrumental solo and accompaniment becomes very popular. The main form of small group performance (or chamber music) is the string quartet. Orchestras got larger, and the symphonies they played got longer.
Composers Take Control
Composers began to control more about how their music was played. They wrote more specific notations in the music to tell the performers how to play it. They specified how fast they wanted the music played. Composers wrote markings in the music about when to play loud and soft.
Music is Simpler and with more Variety
By simpler, we don’t mean easier to play, but with a single melody happening, and chord structures underneath to support the melody. The music wasn’t as complex as the music from the Baroque Era. And the music had more variety. The dynamics changed during a piece. Composers tried to write music that was lighter, more elegant, and clearer than the music of the Baroque.
Composers of the Classical Era
The Big Three
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Music of Mozart
Franz Joseph Haydn Music of Haydn
Ludwig van Beethoven Music of Beethoven
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach
Christoph Willibald Gluck
Listen to some music written by these composers and some by the Baroque composers we talked about last week. Which one do you like better? It’s OK to like the music from both eras. One kind of music is not necessarily better than the other – just different. Let me know your favorites in the comments!