Test 4 Review-The Classical Period

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Terms To Know


rondo                                                         requiem

theme and variations                                   motive

fermata                                                      scherzo
symphony                                                   development

concerto                                                     minuet and trio

exposition                                                   transition          

coda                                                           recapitulation

string quartet                                              fortepiano                                             

cadenza                                                      serenade                                  

style galant                                                  countermelody                                      

vocal ensemble



Musical Examples To Know:


                Haydn Symphony No. 94 in G-Major, Mvt. II (CD 2/32)

            Haydn Concerto for Trumpet in Eb, Mvt. III (Kamien CD available in LRC, CD 3/44)

            Mozart Symphony No.40 in G-Minor, Mvt. I (CD 2/23)

            Mozart Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, Mvt. III, “Minuet and Trio” (CD 2/38)

            Mozart Piano Concerto No. 23, K. 488, Mvt. I (CD 3/5)

            Beethoven String Quartet, Op. 18, No. 4, Mvt. IV (CD 2/341)

            Beethoven Symphony No. 5, Mvt. I (CD 2/45)


 Musical Characteristics of the Classical Style:

Forms of the “Classical Style”


Sonata Form (Sonata-Allegro)


Single-movement form, in three sections, usually the 1st mvt. of a symphony or string quartet.


•  Exposition-establishes themes, sets up conflict of first key (tonic) and  second key.


            Theme I-tonic key

            Transition (bridge)-modulates to new key

            Theme II-new key

Closing-new key


•  Development-reworks themes by breaking them into fragments, avoids the tonic, frequent modulations.  Sometimes ends with a dominant preparation that sets up a return of the tonic key by emphasizing the dominant chord (V).


•  Recapitulation-restates material of the exposition, but all in the tonic key.


Theme I-tonic key

            Transition (bridge)-does not modulate

            Theme II- tonic key

Closing- tonic key

Coda (tail)-rounds out the form


            Example: Mozart Symphony No. 40 In G-Minor, Mvt. I

Theme and Variations


Multi-section single movement that repeats a theme, but varies it each time.  During each repetition of the theme some aspect(s) of the original will be “varied” others will be retained.  Some of the possible characteristics of the original theme that might be varied include: melody, rhythm, harmony, texture, accompaniment, mood.  Can be the 2nd movement of a symphony or string quartet.


            Example: Haydn Symphony No. 94, Mvt. II

                              Mozart Ah, vous dirai-je, maman



Minuet (and Trio)


            Dance-like form, usually the 3rd mvt. of a symphony or string quartet, in triple meter.  The

            trio was originally accompanied by just three instruments, hence the name.


            Ternary form:   

                                                A                                  B                                  A

                                     ll: a :ll: ba´ :ll               ll: c :ll: dc´ :ll                        a ba´


            Example:  *Mozart Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, Mvt. III

                                                “Minuet and Trio”


                                    *Also a serenade-a lyrical work intended for evening performance


            Sometimes the Minuet is replaced by a scherzo (Italian for “joke”) which is similar, but faster

            in tempo.  Beethoven preferred to use scherzos in his works.





Multi-section movement that features a recurring, “tuneful” main theme (A) that is similar to the Baroque “ritornello”.  The contrasting sections may be new themes (B, C, D). The main theme is usually easy to remember and is usually in tonic key so the listener will recognize its return.  The most common patterns are:


                                    A B A B A                     A B A C A                     A B A C A B A


            Example: Beethoven String Quartet In C-Minor, Opus 18, No. 4, Mvt. IV


The rondo can be a movement of a symphony, string quartet or sonata.  A hybrid of sonata form and rondo is the sonata-rondo.  It is basically a rondo with a development section in the middle:


                                                A   B   A   C (Development) A   B   A


The sonata-rondo often appears as the final movement of a concerto or symphony.




The Symphony


The Classical symphony is an extended work for orchestra usually lasting 20-45 minutes.  The piece is typically in four movements.  Each movement is a self-contained piece with its own themes, character and mood.  Occasionally, one theme will appear in more than one movement.  The movements are intended to compliment each other and to create balance and symmetry. 


I. Fast-often dramatic, in sonata form, tonic key                                

II. Slow-lyrical, ternary, theme and variations or sonata form, key other than tonic

III. Minuet or scherzo, tonic key                           

IV. Fast-brilliant, sonata or sonata-rondo, in tonic            


            Examples: Beethoven Symphony No. 5 in C-Minor, Mvt. I

                               Mozart Symphony No. 40 in G Minor, Mvt. I               



Chamber Music


Music designed to be played in a “room or chamber” of a home or palace. These pieces are written for 2-8 performers, one player to a part.  Chamber music is more subtle and intimate than music for full orchestra.  It is pleasing for the player as well as the listener.   During the Classical era, nobles and aristocrats would perform with professional musicians to entertain their guests.


In chamber music, every part has an equal role.  Thematic material is passed through the entire ensemble and the musicians have to be very sensitive to each other.  These pieces are usually performed without a conductor, so it is important for the players to collaborate on style, dynamics and phrasing.


During the classical period the most important type of chamber music was the string quartet, written for 2 violins, 1 viola and 1 cello.  String quartets, like symphonies, are usually in four movements:


I. Fast    II. Slow    III. Minuet or Scherzo    IV. Fast.


            Example: Beethoven String Quartet In C-Minor, Opus 18, No. 4, Mvt. IV



The Sonata


In The Classical period the sonata remained an important genre of instrumental music.  It evolved from the Baroque version featuring dance type movements to a 3-movement piece of contrasting tempos, fast-slow-fast.  Each movement would often feature one of the forms common to the period, such as: sonata-allegro, rondo, theme and variations or ternary.  Most often the sonata would begin with a sonata-allegro.  Because so many of these pieces were composed for piano, the term sonata usually refers to a work for solo piano.  Sonatas written for other instruments would be designated as such: violin sonata, flute sonata, etc.  In this case the solo instrument is usually accompanied by piano.


            Example:  Beethoven Piano Sonata, Opus 13, Mvt. I


The Concerto


Another important genre of the Classical period is the concerto.  While the Baroque period favored the concerto grosso, the Classical period favored the solo concerto.  The concerto became a large scale work for instrumental soloist and orchestra in three movements, fast-slow-fast.  The favored instrument of the period was piano, but many concertos were written for strings and winds as well.


Usually concertos begin with a sonata-allegro in the first movement, but the material is presented in a double exposition.  The orchestra plays all of the themes and transitions, but in the tonic key.  When the soloist enters the themes are presented as expected with a modulation to a new key for the second theme or themes.  Toward the end of the first movement, and sometimes the last, there is a section where the soloist plays without accompaniment.  It is called the cadenza from the Italian word for cadence.  This part is setup by a sustained chord played by the orchestra.  In the music this is indicated by a fermata, a symbol that means “to sustain the note.”  Originally, the cadenza was often improvised and gave the soloist a chance to “show off.”  During the cadenza, the soloist plays main themes in fragments much like the development section of sonata form.  The end of the cadenza is signaled by the soloist playing a long trill that leads back to the orchestra. 


Mozart would have performed his concertos on a fortepiano (literally-“loud-soft”), an early version

of a piano that was smaller (only five octaves) and had a lighter sound.  See pictures.


            Example:  Mozart Piano Concerto No. 23 in A-Major,  Mvt. I

                Example:  Haydn Trumpet Concerto In Eb Major-Mvt. III

                        Written for Haydn’s friend, court trumpeter Anton Weidinger, who helped develop the

                        "organized trumpet" or keyed bugle (See photo).



Keyed Bugle-similar to the instrument developed by           Fortepiano-Mozart’s piano concertos were                                   

Viennese court trumpeter, Anton Weidinger.                            written for this smaller, lighter sounding

     Haydn wrote his Trumpet Concerto in Eb Major                        predecessor of the modern piano.

     for this instrument.



Classical Style Opera


As many of the other musical genre evolved during the 18th century, so did opera.  Many of the features established in Baroque opera remained such as: the overture, recitative and aria, choral pieces.  The subject matter of opera changed however.  In contrast to the opera seria (serious opera) of the Baroque, 18th-century opera, especially in Italy, became a voice for social change.  Opera buffa (comic opera) features more real life characters.  These new operas featured more range of emotion and less distinction between recitative and aria.  Though a chorus was still

occasionally used to comment on the action,  the concept of vocal ensemble was introduced.  A group of two, three, four or even more soloists was used to express a variety of emotions, often simultaneously.


Clearly the master of 18th-century opera was Mozart who composed both opera seria in Italian and Singspiel a German style of opera buffa featuring dialogue and songs (arias).  Some of his operas were in the Italian comic opera style and included his masterpiece Don Giovanni.  Mozart collaborated with librettist Lorenzo da Ponte in creating this story about the famed Spanish lover, Don Juan.
Da Ponte also wrote the libretti for Mozart’s operas Cosi Fan Tutti and The Marriage of Figaro.


            Example: Mozart Don Giovanni, Act I


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