The classic Period

The days of the Classical period in western music are generally embraced as being between about 1750 and 1820. However, the term classical music is provided in a colloquial sense as a synonym because that Western arts music, which describes a selection of western musical styles from the ninth century to the present, and also especially native the 16 or ten to the nineteenth. This post is around the specific period from 1730 to 1820.

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The Classical period falls in between the Baroque and also the Romantic periods. The best-known composers indigenous this duration are Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,Ludwig van Beethoven, and Franz Schubert; other remarkable names incorporate Luigi Boccherini, Muzio Clementi, Antonio Soler, Antonio Salieri, François Joseph Gossec,Johann Stamitz, Carl Friedrich Abel, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, and Christoph Willibald Gluck. Ludwig van Beethoven is additionally regarded either together a Romantic composer or a composer who was part of the transition to the Romantic.

Franz Schubert is additionally something the a transitional figure, as space Johann Nepomuk Hummel, Mauro Giuliani, Friedrich Kuhlau, Fernando Sor, Luigi Cherubini, january Ladislav Dussek, and also Carl Maria von Weber. The period is occasionally referred to together the era ofViennese classic or Classicism (German: Wiener Klassik), since Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Joseph Haydn, Antonio Salieri, and also Ludwig valve Beethoven all operated at part time in Vienna, and Franz Schubert was born there.


Main characteristics

Classical music has actually a lighter, fingerprint texture than Baroque music and also is much less complex. That is mainly homophonic—melody over chordal accompaniment (but counterpoint is through no method forgotten, particularly later in the period). It additionally make usage of Style gallant in the classical duration which was drawn in opposition come the strictures the the Baroque style, emphasizing irradiate elegance in ar of the Baroque’s dignified seriousness and impressive grandeur.

Variety and contrast within a item became much more pronounced 보다 before. Range of keys, melodies, rhythms and also dynamics (using crescendo, diminuendo and sforzando), in addition to frequent alters of mood and timbre were an ext commonplace in the Classical duration than they had remained in the Baroque. Melodies tended to be shorter than those the Baroque music, through clear-cut phrases and clearly marked cadences. The orchestra increased in size and also range; the harpsichord continuo fell out the use, and also the woodwind became a self-contained section. Together a solo instrument, the harpsichord was replaced by the piano (or fortepiano). Beforehand piano music to be light in texture, often with Alberti bass accompaniment, but it later became richer, more sonorous and an ext powerful.

Importance was offered to crucial music—the main kinds to be sonata, trio, wire quartet, symphony, concerto, serenade and divertimento. Sonata kind developed and also became the most essential form. The was used to build up the an initial movement of most massive works, but likewise other movements and single pieces (such together overtures).


The Baroque/Classical transition c. 1730–1760


Haydn, having worked for end a te as the music director because that a prince, had actually far an ext resources and scope for creating than most and likewise the capability to form the forces that would certainly play his music. This opportunity was not wasted, together Haydn, start quite at an early stage his career, seek to push forward the method of structure ideas in music. His next crucial breakthrough was in the Opus 33 wire quartets (1781), in i beg your pardon the melodic and the harmonic functions segue among the instruments: it is often momentarily unclear what is melody and what is harmony. This changes the method the ensemble functions its method between dramatic moment of shift and climactic sections: the music flows smoothly and also without noticeable interruption. He climate took this integrated style and began using it to orchestral and vocal music.

Haydn’s gift come music to be a means of composing, a method of structuring works, which to be at the exact same time in accord with the governing aesthetic that the brand-new style. However, a younger contemporary, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, carried his genius come Haydn’s ideas and also applied lock to two of the significant genres that the day: opera, and also the virtuoso concerto. Whereas Haydn spent lot of his functioning life as a court composer, Mozart want public success in the concert life of cities. This supposed opera, and it meant performing together a virtuoso. Haydn was no a virtuoso at the worldwide touring level; nor was he search to create operatic functions that might play for numerous nights in front of a huge audience. Mozart wanted both. Moreover, Mozart additionally had a taste for an ext chromatic chords (and higher contrasts in harmonic language generally), a higher love for producing a welter the melodies in a single work, and a more Italianate sensibility in music as a whole. That found, in Haydn’s music and later in his study of the polyphony that Bach, the means to discipline and enrich his gifts.

Mozart rapidly concerned the attention of Haydn, that hailed the new composer, studied his works, and considered the younger male his just true peer in music. In Mozart, Haydn uncovered a greater selection of instrumentation, dramatic effect and melodic resource; the discovering relationship relocated in two directions.

Mozart’s arrival in Vienna in 1780 lugged an acceleration in the advancement of the classic style. There Mozart took in the blend of Italianate brilliance and also Germanic cohesiveness that had been unavoidable for the vault 20 years. His own taste because that brilliances, rhythmically facility melodies and also figures, lengthy cantilena melodies, and virtuoso flourishes was an unified with one appreciation because that formal coherence and also internal connectedness. That is at this point that war and inflation stopped a tendency to larger orchestras and forced the disbanding or reduction of countless theater orchestras. This pressed the classical style inwards: towards seeking greater ensemble and also technical challenge—for example, scattering the melody across woodwinds, or utilizing thirds to to mark the melody bring away by them. This procedure placed a premium on room music for much more public performance, offering a further an increase to the wire quartet and other little ensemble groupings.

It was throughout this te that windy taste began, increasingly, to identify that Haydn and also Mozart had reached a higher standard that composition. By the moment Mozart come at age 25, in 1781, the leading styles that Vienna were recognizably linked to the emergence in the 1750s of the early classic style. Through the finish of the 1780s, changes in performance practice, the relative standing of instrumental and also vocal music, technical needs on musicians, and also stylistic unified had come to be established in the composers that imitated Mozart and also Haydn. Throughout this decade Mozart written his most renowned operas, his six late symphonies that aided to redefine the genre, and also a wire of piano concerti that still stand at the pinnacle of this forms.

One composer that was prominent in spreading the more serious format that Mozart and also Haydn had formed is Muzio Clementi, a gifted virtuoso pianist that tied with Mozart in a music “duel” prior to the emperor in which they every improvised and performed your compositions. Clementi’s sonatas for the piano circulated widely, and also he became the many successful composer in London during the 1780s. Also in London at this time was Jan Ladislav Dussek, who, like Clementi, encouraged piano equipments to prolong the selection and other attributes of their instruments, and then fully exploited the recently opened possibilities. The importance of London in the Classical duration is frequently overlooked, however it offered as the residence to the Broadwood’s factory for piano manufacturing and as the base because that composers who, while less notable 보다 the “Vienna School”, had a decisive influence on what come later. They to be composers of countless fine works, significant in their very own right. London’s taste because that virtuosity may well have encouraged the complex passage work and extended statements on tonic and also dominant.

Circa 1790–1820

When Haydn and Mozart began composing, symphonies to be played as single movements—before, between, or as interludes within various other works—and many of castle lasted only ten or twelve minutes; instrumental groups had varying criter of playing, and also the continuo was a main part that music-making.

In the intervening years, the social civilization of music had actually seen dramatic changes. Global publication and touring had actually grown explosively, and also concert cultures formed. Notation became much more specific, much more descriptive—and schematics for works had actually been simplified (yet became an ext varied in their specific working out). In 1790, just prior to Mozart’s death, v his reputation spreading rapidly, Haydn to be poised because that a collection of successes, notably his so late oratorios and also “London” symphonies. Composers inParis, Rome, and also all end Germany turned to Haydn and also Mozart because that their ideas on form.

The time to be again ripe for a dramatic shift. In the 1790s, a brand-new generation of composers, born approximately 1770, emerged. While they had grown up with the earlier styles, they heard in the recent works of Haydn and Mozart a vehicle for greater expression. In 1788 Luigi Cherubini settled in Paris and also in 1791 composed Lodoiska, an opera that raised him come fame. Its format is clearly reflective that the maturation Haydn and also Mozart, and also its instrumentation provided it a load that had actually not yet been feel in the grand opera. His contemporary Étienne Méhul extended instrumental results with his 1790 opera Euphrosine et Coradin, indigenous which complied with a collection of successes.

The most fateful that the new generation was Ludwig van Beethoven, who introduced his numbered functions in 1794 with a set of three piano trios, which remain in the repertoire. Somewhat younger than the others, though equally accomplished because that his youthful study under Mozart and his indigenous virtuosity, wasJohann Nepomuk Hummel. Hummel learned under Haydn as well; he was a girlfriend to Beethoven andFranz Schubert. That concentrated an ext on the piano than any kind of other instrument, and also his time in London in 1791 and also 1792 generated the composition and publication in 1793 of 3 piano sonatas, opus 2, i beg your pardon idiomatically provided Mozart’s techniques of preventing the expected cadence, and also Clementi’s sometimes modally uncertain virtuoso figuration. Take away together, these composers have the right to be seen as the vanguard that a large change in style and the facility of music. They studied one another’s works, replicated one another’s gestures in music, and on chance behaved choose quarrelsome rivals.

The critical differences with the vault wave can be seen in the downward shift in melodies, enhancing durations of movements, the acceptance of Mozart and also Haydn together paradigmatic, the higher use of key-board resources, the change from “vocal” writing to “pianistic” writing, the growing pull the the minor and also of modal ambiguity, and the raising importance of varying accompanying figures to carry “texture” forward together an aspect in music. In short, the late classic was seeking a music that was internally an ext complex. The growth of concert societies and also amateur orchestras, noting the prominence of music as part of middle-class life, added to a booming industry for pianos, piano music, and also virtuosi to offer as examplars. Hummel, Beethoven, and Clementi were every renowned for their improvising.

Direct affect of the Baroque continued to fade: the figured bass grew less prominent as a method of holding power together, the performance methods of the mid-18th century ongoing to dice out. However, in ~ the very same time, finish editions of Baroque masters started to come to be available, and also the influence of Baroque style ongoing to grow, specifically in the ever more expansive use of brass. One more feature that the duration is the growing number of performances where the composer was no present. This led to raised detail and also specificity in notation; for example, there were fewer “optional” parts that stood independently from the key score.

The pressure of this shifts became obvious with Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony, provided the name Eroica, which is Italian because that “heroic”, through the composer. Just like Stravinsky’s The Rite that Spring, it may not have been the an initial in every one of its innovations, however its aggressive usage of every component of the timeless style set it apart from its contemporary works: in length, ambition, and harmonic sources as well.

First Viennese School

The an initial Viennese institution is a name largely used to describe three composers the the Classical period in late-18th-centuryVienna: W. A. Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven. Franz Schubert is occasionally added to the list.

In German speaking countries, the term Wiener Klassik (lit. Viennese classical era/art) is used. That term is often an ext broadly used to the classic era in music as a whole, together a means to differentiate it from other periods that space colloquially described as classical, namely Baroque and Romantic music.

The ax “Viennese School” was an initial used through Austrian musicologist Raphael Georg Kiesewetter in 1834, although he only counted Haydn and also Mozart as members of the school. Other writers followed suit, and eventually Beethoven was added to the list. The designation “first” is included today to avoid confusion with the Second Viennese School.

Whilst, Schubert apart, these composers definitely knew each other (with Haydn and Mozart even being occasional chamber-music partners), over there is no sense in which they were involved in a collaborative effort in the sense that one would associate through 20th-century institutions such together the second Viennese School, or Les Six. No one is there any significant sense in which one composer was “schooled” by one more (in the method that Berg and Webern to be taught through Schoenberg), despite it is true the Beethoven for a time obtained lessons indigenous Haydn.

Attempts to extend the first Viennese college to encompass such later figures as Anton Bruckner, Johannes Brahms, and Gustav Mahler are merely journalistic, and never encountered in scholastic musicology.

Classical influence on later composers

1875 oil paint of Franz Schubert by Wilhelm august Rieder, ~ his very own 1825 watercolor portrait 

Musical periods seldom disappear in ~ once; instead, attributes are changed over time, until the old is merely felt as “old-fashioned”. The classic style did not “die” so lot as transform under the weight of changes.

One an essential change was the transition towards harmonies centering about “flatward” keys: move in thesubdominant direction. In the classic style, major vital was far more common 보다 minor, chromaticism gift moderated v the usage of “sharpward” modulation, and also sections in the minor setting were often merely because that contrast. Start with Mozart and Clementi, there started a creeping emigration of the subdominant region. V Schubert, subdominant moves prospered after being presented in contexts in which previously composers would have confined themselves to leading shifts. This presented darker colors come music, strengthened the minor mode, and also made structure harder to maintain. Beethoven added to this by his enhancing use that the fourth as a consonance, and modal ambiguity—for example, the opened of the D minor Symphony.

Franz Schubert, Carl Maria von Weber, and John Field are amongst the most prominent in this generation the “Classical Romantics”, together with the young Felix Mendelssohn. Their feeling of form was strongly affected by the classic style, and they were not yet “learned” (imitating rules which were codified through others), yet they straight responded to functions by Beethoven, Mozart, Clementi, and others, as they encountered them. The instrumental forces at your disposal were likewise quite “Classical” in number and variety, permit similarity with classical works.

However, the pressures destined to finish the host of the classical style gathered stamin in the works of every of the over composers. The most commonly cited one is harmonic innovation. Likewise important is the increasing emphasis on having a continuous and rhythmically uniform accompanying figuration:Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata was the design for numerous later pieces—where the shifting motion of a rhythmic number provides much of the drama and interest of the work, while a melody drifts above it. Greater knowledge that works, greater instrumental expertise, increasing range of instruments, the development of concert societies, and the unstoppable domination of the piano—which produced a vast audience for advanced music—all contributed to the change to the “Romantic” style.

Drawing the line between these two layouts is impossible: part sections that Mozart’s works, take away alone, are equivalent in harmony and also orchestration from music written 80 year later—and composers proceed to write in normative timeless styles into the 20th century. Even before Beethoven’s death, composers together as Louis Spohr were self-described Romantics, incorporating, because that example, more extravagant chromaticism in your works.

However, Vienna’s fall as the most vital musical facility for orchestral ingredient is generally felt to note the timeless style’s final eclipse—and the end of its continuous organic advance of one composer finding out in nearby proximity to others. Franz Liszt and Frédéric Chopin visited Vienna as soon as young, however they then moved on to various other vistas. Composers such as Carl Czerny, if deeply affected by Beethoven, likewise searched for brand-new ideas and brand-new forms to contain the larger world of musical expression and performance in which they lived.

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Renewed attention in the officially balance and also restraint of 18th century timeless music led in the early 20th century to the development of so-called Neoclassical style, which numbered Stravinsky and Prokofiev among its proponents, at least at particular times in your careers.

Classical period instruments




Basset clarinetBasset hornClarinette d’amourClassical clarinetChalumeau




BuccinOphicleide – serpent replacement, precursor of tubaFrench horn

Timeline of classic composers


Further reading

External links