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The Classical Music Period – Key Features

Ranging between 1750 -1820, the Classical period came straight after the Baroque period. It is also one of the shortest periods of music at just 70 years. There were four main composers during the Classical period being Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and Bach. Below is an analysis of the Classical period and its key features. Feel free to skip to the parts most relevant to you.

The Composers

Mozart (1756-1791) was a child prodigy who wrote 41 symphonies. Hadyn (1732-1809) was nicknamed the ‘father of symphonies’ because he wrote104 symphonies. He lived in Germany but travelled to London alot. His music was famous for being humerus and light hearted. Beethoven (1770-1827) became deaf in 1802 but had perfect pitch (could still write music). He wrote 9 symphonies. C.P.E. Bach lived from 1714-1788. As well as this, there were other composers being Schubert (1797-1828) who wrote lots of song cycles (he was most famous for his winter music). He wrote 9 symphonies like Beethoven. Finally, there’s Gluck (1714-1787) who was an early Classical composer who enjoyed doing opera.

I would reccomend you have a look at The Standard Classical Orchestra to gain an idea of the instruments used in the Classical period symphonies.

Key Features of Classical Music

  • Use of periodic phrasing (regular phrasing e.g. 4 bars followed by 4 bars).
  • A melody dominated homophony texture (melody supported by chords).
  • The structure has a sense of balance and symmetry.
  • Clear cut phrases and cadences at the end of sections.
  • The key of the piece is also clear cut.
  • There is a functional harmony meaning the chords do what you expect them to do.
  • Chords I, IV and V are used most (being the basic chords).
  • Dynamics are more contrasting from the instruments being of better quality.
  • There is a greater contrast in the key and melody.
  • The orchestra was the standard instrumental ensemble.
  • New instrumental genres emerged such as a string quartet, sonata for solo instruments and symphonies.

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