chapter 5 the classical era 1750 1825
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Chapter 5: The Classical Era 1750 - 1825

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Chapter 5: The Classical Era 1750 - 1825. By Nikkei Tungol. Background of the Era. Historical Context: Era was referred to as “The Age of Reason” or the “Enlightenment” Growing middle class, change in philosophical thinking, and revolutions in US and France

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background of the era
Background of the Era
  • Historical Context: Era was referred to as “The Age of Reason” or the “Enlightenment”
  • Growing middle class, change in philosophical thinking, and revolutions in US and France
  • More emphasis on social change, education of the masses, reduced power of the church, and the embrace of humanitarian ideals
  • Musical performances became major social events and composers were more famed
  • The popularity of instrumental music rises, and opera undergoes a major reformation
  • Vocal music retains popularity, especially in the masses of the previous periods
the birth of classical music
The Birth of Classical Music
  • Classical music was seen as a reaction against the overly complex polyphonic music composed during the Baroque period
  • Classical elements have been incorporated as early as 1730, and thus the start and end dates to the classical period are subject to interpretation
  • The “Big Three” – Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven
    • But where’s Mr. Bach?  
departure from polyphonic elements
Departure from Polyphonic Elements
  • Public demand was for a direct, single melody with a simple accompaniment
  • The use of the harmonic rhythm, or the frequency with which chords change, slowed
    • The same basic harmony was held for a measure or two while the melody unfolded
  • The use of basso continuo also slowed, and was only used in orchestral settings
new stylistic elements
New Stylistic Elements
  • Galant: graceful, gentle, and pleasant style
  • Empfindsamkeit(sentimentality/sensibility): technique using sudden harmonic and/or rhythmic shifts with highly expressive melodies, and found most commonly in slower movements
  • Sturm und Drang (storm and stress): originally a literally style; most often used in multi-movement styles, using two or three of the emotive compositional styles
    • For example, first movement in galant, second in empfindsamkeit, and final movement in “crash and bash” sturm und drung
the birth of the modern symphony
The Birth of the Modern Symphony
  • The symphony became a compositional format, accompanied by the modern full symphony orchestra
  • The symphony grew out of the Baroque tradition of the Italian opera overture, or sinfonia
    • The overture typically had three sections, fast-slow-fast, and eventually became three separate movements
structural terms
Structural Terms
  • Sonata: a multi-movement work for solo piano, or a work for one solo instrument with piano accompaniment
  • Sonata Cycle: the multi-movement format used in the sonata works
    • The format is made up of three or four contrasting movements; the tempos are fast-slow-medium-really fast
    • The first movement, which as mentioned above, is typically fast, it is often referred to as sonata form or sonata-allegro form (reminding you that its fast)
    • The SONATA CYCLE is not just used for SONATA WORKS; it is in almost every type of Classical instrumental music (symphony, string quartet, concerto, etc.)
structural terms continued
Structural Terms (continued)
  • Sonata Form: one-movement structure with an exposition, a development, and a recapitulation
    • Optional sections: Introduction and Coda
    • Exposition: “Exposes” the listener to the music for the first time. There are typically two themes within the exposition: the first theme and the second theme, which distinguish between the different melodies
      • The first theme is presented in the tonic key, and transitions to a new key in the second theme
      • The first is dramatic and rhythmically active, while the second is lyrical
    • Development: Incorporates frequent key changes and alters the “shape” of the theme
      • “For example, themes may go up instead of down, use faster or slower note lengths, use stretto (the stacking of themes in different instrumental voices), or dismemberment, where the composer chops the theme up into tiny bits and pieces, passing it around to different instruments”
structural terms continued9
Structural Terms (continued)
  • Recapitulation: a restatement of the exposition, except without the key change from the first theme to the second theme
    • Entirely presented in the tonic key
    • The coda is the most commonly used in the recapitulation
rondo form
Rondo Form
  • After the sonata form, the most commonly used single-movement form is the rondo
    • It is typically used in the 2nd and 4th movements of the sonata cycle
    • Two basic types: the five-part rondo and the seven-part rondo
      • Seven-part rondo (with A being the first theme): A-B-A-C-A-B-A
      • “The quickest way to memorize it is to say it out loud: ABACABA.”
      • A less commonly used version is A-B-A-C-A-D-A... ABACADA!
      • Five-part rondo: A-B-A-C-A… ABACA!
sonata rondo form o o
Sonata-Rondo Form ………O_O
  • The most famous of all of the “hybrid forms”
    • Exposition: A-B-A; Development: C; Recapitulation: A-B-A
    • Like the regular rondo, the first theme (letter A) keeps repeating throughout the movement
    • Anything else?
    • NO.
minuet and trio
Minuet and Trio
  • The minuet is a ¾ waltz-styled dance, and in this case is written for a trio to keep the volume softer
  • Ternary form(-ish): Minuet (A), Trio (B), Minuet (A)
    • Minuet (A) Trio (B) Minuet (A)


or or or


      • Minuet form is called rounded binary: the B theme is “rounded off” by an incomplete return to the letter A melody
      • Trio is called rounded ternary: the D theme makes an incomplete return to the C melody
franz joseph haydn
Franz Joseph Haydn
  • Born in a small Austrian town, and served as a choirboy until his “voice changed.”
  • Served as an apprentice to composer Nicola Porpora
  • Joined the court orchestra of Count Morzin, and later accepted a court orchestra position for Prince Nicholas Esterhazy
  • Works often showed vibrancy; he would ask string players to mistune one of their strings to always play the wrong note
  • His last 12 symphonies, known collectively as the London symphonies, are considered perfect expressions of the Classical style
  • He died during the French occupation of Vienna in 1809
    • Napoleon Bonaparte gave his men strict instructions that Hayden was not to be disturbed in any way…. aaaawww <3 
franz joseph haydn continued
Franz Joseph Haydn (continued)
  • His compositions include solo keyboard works, duts and trios, 82 string quartets, concertos for violin and piano among other instruments and 104 compositions for full symphony orchestra
    • Helped establish the sonata cycle format through string quartet, concerto, and symphony
string quartet no 77 in c major emperor op 76 no 3 by haydn
String Quartet No. 77 in C major, “Emperor,” Op. 76, No. 3 by Haydn
  • Created the Austrian national anthem, titled Gotterhalte Franz den Kaiser (“God Protect Franz the Kaiser”)
  • In 1922, its lyrics were changed, and became a Nazi “party song,” titled Deutschland, Deutschland, uberalles (“Germany over all”), the anthem of the German Federal Republic
  • When the Berlin wall came down in the 1990s, the song became the anthem of a unified Germany
  • Instead of beginning and ending in the tonic major key, it starts in the minor key
  • Follows the exposition, development, and recapitulation structure, though with much more shifts in harmonies
symphony no 94 in g major surprise by haydn
Symphony No. 94 in G Major, “Surprise,” by Haydn
  • This is one of his final, most successful “London symphonies”
  • Four movement composition, characteristic of his final symphonic works with the exception of the second movement
    • Constantly juxtaposes theme 1 and theme 2, from happy and soft, to more somber and dramatic
    • In the first theme, you are lulled into a “false sense of security.” Beware. In the second theme, Haydn seems to be saying “No sleeping, please.”
wolfgang amadeus mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  • Christened Johannes Chrysotomus Wolfgangus Theophilus, [“which must have been tough to get printed up on a business card.” HAHAHAHAH. -_-]
  • Wrote his first compositions by five years old, and with the help of his composer and father Leopold, he performed in front of numerous heads of states and aristocrats
  • He also learned from musical encounters with J.C. Bach and Haydn
  • He fell in love with singer Aloysia Weber, though was rejected. He later married her younger sister, Constanze Weber.
  • His last three symphonies, Nos. 39, 40, and 41, are considered to be perfectly exemplary of the Classical styles
symphony no 40 k 550 by mozart movement 1 allegro molto
Symphony No. 40, K. 550, by MozartMovement 1: Allegro molto

Structured in sonata form

Exposition: first theme (A) is in the tonic key; second theme (B) is in a closely related key

Development: development of theme one, with a constantly shifting harmony

Some of the lower voiced instruments are sitting on a single note for the second half of the development, a technique known as pedal point, which is the dominant tone of the tonic key

Recapitulation: the first theme is again repeated as it is presented in the exposition

Remember, unlike the exposition, the recapitulation does NOT change keys in the second theme, so the transition is merely indicated as a bridge

eine kleine nachtmusik a little night music k 525 movement iii menuetto by mozart
Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (A Little Night Music), K. 525, Movement III – Menuetto, by Mozart

It is a serenade, originally created with five movements, but the first of two minuet and trio movements were later removed, and is now left with a conventional four-movement sonata cycle

It can be performed by both a full string orchestra or by a string quartet

Structured in minuet and trio form; it thus demonstrates the rounded binary form and rounded ternary form that accompany the minuet and trio, respectively

the solo concerto
The Solo Concerto

Usually three movements, in fast-slow-fast arrangement

First movement: Uses a double exposition

The first time the exposition is played, all of the themes are presented by only the orchestra, and the second theme does not change keys

The second time the exposition is played, the texture is dominated by a soloist alone

The double exposition technique is only applicable to the Classical period, and disappears after the period ends

The remainder of the piece, with the development and recapitulation, remains the same

When the recapitulation is over, the orchestra will drop out, and the soloist will play a cadenza, which are usually improvised; then, the coda follows

the solo concerto continued
The Solo Concerto (continued)

The second and third movements usually feature the soloist throughout

Second movement: Slow, lyrical, and sentimental

Third movement: The fastest of all the movements; usually in rondo form or sonata-rondo form

piano concerto no 23 in a major k 488 movement i allegro by mozart
Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major, K. 488Movement I – Allegro, by Mozart

Structured in first movement concerto form (sonata form with double exposition)

Double Exposition, Development, Recapitulation, Cadenza, Coda

mozart s operas
Mozart’s Operas

His two opera buffa pieces are The marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni

Mozart’s 21 operas are composed in three basic styles: the Italian opera seria (serious) and opera buffo (comical), and the German singspiel (song play with spoken dialogue)

ludwig van beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven

Born in Bonn, Germany

Beethoven’s father “encouraged” his son to practice harder by beating him

After his mother died, his father began drinking excessively and was dismissed from the court, and Beethoven took over as the head of the family

Haydn visited the court when Beethoven was 22, and invited him to study in Vienna

Beethoven also hoped to study with Mozart, but he died 

As his hearing got progressively worse, Beethoven wrote something of a “suicide note, the Heiligenstadt Testament, which historians point to as a turning point in Beethoven’s compositional style

ludwig van beethoven classical or romantic
Ludwig van Beethoven; Classical or Romantic?

“Most of Beethoven’s works are actually supposed to be in the Romantic Period.”


They are thus grouped into three large periods; early (1782-1802), middle (1803-1815), and late (1816-1827)

The early period features the string quartets, piano sonatas, a piano quintet, and his first two symphonies

The middle styles includes more symphonies, piano concertos, a violin concerto, string quartets, and his only opera

The late period has more string quartets

sonata no 8 in c minor pathetique op 13 by beethoven
Sonata No. 8 in c minor, “Pathetique,” Op. 13, by Beethoven

Movement I – Grave, Allegro di molto e con brio, Movement II – Adagio cantabileMovement III – Rondo Allegro

Beethoven added an extended, slow introduction in the first movement, which is usually reserved for symphonies

He often refers back to this slow introduction within the rest of the piece, for it characterizes his emotional state at that time

beethoven s symphonies
Beethoven’s Symphonies

He composed nine symphonies and started a tenth at the time of his death, and are most representative of the Classical period

The Sinfonia Eroica (Heroic Symphony) marks a turning point in his composition of symphonies

It is the first symphony to replace the standard third movement minuet and trio with the faster and more complex scherzo

Although it was originally dedicated to Napoleon, his self-proclamation as “Emperor” led Beethoven to destroy his dedication of the piece, changing it to read “To the Memory of a Great Man.”

symphony no 5 in c minor op 67 by beethoven movement i allegro con brio
Symphony No. 5 in c minor, Op. 67, by BeethovenMovement I – Allegro con brio

Structured in the standard four-movement sonata cycle format, to which he adds a new cyclic component

This means that a melodic and/or rhythmic idea presented in the first movement returns in the subsequent movements

In this particular symphony, the recurring idea (the first three short notes and the one long note) functions as both rhythmic and melodic

The second movement demonstrates two themes, and the third is a scherzo and trio

In the final movement, he adds a piccolo, a contrabassoon, and a full trombone section to the symphony orchestra, forever changing the traditional orchestra