Classical - Musical Definition

Classical - The Classical period in music stems from around 1750 to 1830 and is often thought of as the 'Viennese' period - the four principal composers of the period - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791), Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809), Franz Schubert (1797-1828) and Ludwig van Beethoven (1710-1827) - all had strong connections to the Austrian capital.

The period was one of enourmous change in which many of the major art forms we assoicate with Classical music in general were first developed - the string quartet, the piano sonata, the symphony and the concerto. It also saw the foundation of the modern symphony orchestra which has changed little to this day.

Musical form also changed substantially in the Classical period. Where the Baroque era was characterised by shorter collections of pieces such as a suite of dances, the Classical period saw the rise of a more extended 'developmental' approach to form - Beethoven shocked his contempories with his Eroica Symphony (1803) by writing a work which lasts a full hour.

The Classical period coincides with the 'Age of Enlightenment' in which the emphasis in society began to move away from the Royal court or the Church and towards the ever-burgeoning middle classes. Wealthy patrons allowed composers to find an income outside of the old establishments, supported by the growing demand for public concerts. The popularity of the piano sonata and the string quartet are to a large extent thanks to the middle class taste for art music to be played at home or in the 'salon'; and the 'art-song' as developed by Schubert shares a similar heritage.
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Musical examples from the Classical Period:

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