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The Classical Era

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Michael Lupo

on 24 March 2017

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Transcript of The Classical Era

The Classical Era (1750-1820)
"The age of Enlightenment is mankind's final coming of age, the emancipation of the human consciousness from an immature state of ignorance and error." --Immanuel Kant, 1784
Important composers:
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
Musical features

Focus on melody; tune
Melodic and harmonic periodicity
Emotional contrast (sturm und drang)
Prominent Genres

Symphony/String Quartet/Solo Concerto/Piano Sonata
From Baroque to Classical

Love of ornamentation, virtuosity, expressive extremes gives way to balance, clarity, and "naturalness"
Bring human kind to a new age of splendor, free from superstition (especially from 1720s-1790s)
Science: Persuasion through empirical observation; not opulence, but reason and critical thinking
Melody: Tuneful, simple, symmetrical, often based on rhythms of dance music
Texture: Mostly homophonic: clarity is essential (counterpoint is too dense)
Simple, yet highly structured
Music, Revolution, and Class
Tumultuous revolutionary spirit permeates the music of the Classical Era

French Revolution, American Revolution

In Mozart’s opera, The Marriage of Figaro, Count Almavivia gets outwitted by his servants; there is a general climate of discontent with the established order and a drive for human rights and equality (“life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”)
Voltaire (1694-1778) and Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) argued for the innate goodness of human beings and the for the pursuit of social betterment.

The U.S. Declaration of Independence as quintessential document of the Enlightenment, for it recognizes the inherent dignity of the individual; its principal author,Thomas Jefferson, establishes UVA (“illimitable freedom the human mind")French and American revolutions have global consequences
Music and the New Economy
Steam engine, cotton gin, manufacturing, interchangeable parts

National economies: from agriculture to industry; rise of the city

Theaters and concert halls flourish (though they complement rather than replace the court and the church

Haydn (Esterhazy), Mozart (free-lancer)

Prestige of the musician?
The Art of the Natural
Preoccupation with nature

Art should hide artifice; effort concealed

"Cult of the Genius" has it origins and flourishes in the Romantic Era to come

Goal of counterpoint study: spontaneous, direct emotion, not ostentation

"Natural" texture: homophonic

Comic opera portrayed real-life situations (e.g., Mozart's "Marriage of Figaro")
Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
For almost three decades, Joseph Haydn was the musical director (writing, conducting, organizing musicians) at the court of Prince Nicholas Esterházy (in Austria-Hungary)

“My Prince was satisfied with all of my works, and I received applause. As the director of an orchestra, I could make experiments, observe what elicited or weakened an impression, and thus correct, add, delete, take risks. I was cut off from the world, no one in my vicinity could cause me to doubt myself or pester me, and so I had to become original.”

Haydn was to present himself before the prince every morning to ask what his highness wished to hear for that day. After Esterházy dies in 1790, Haydn takes two tours in England

Beethoven’s teacher, and a friend of Mozart
“Papa” Haydn composed:

String quartets (~80)
Piano Sonatas (52)
Symphonies (over 100)
Piano Pieces (12)
Oratorios (3)
Masses (14)
String Quartet in C Major, op. 76, no. 3 (Second Movement), 1797
Movements: From Baroque suite

The String Quartet (2 violins, viola, cello); conversation amongst friends (so be mindful of timbral relationships) Haydn uses repetition, variation, and contrast in this movement

The melody taken from a song Haydn had written for the birthday of Holy Roman Emperor Franz II, who resided in Vienna (“God save Franz, the emperor”)

Invariant melody (a “steadfast” emperor); solution: repeat the theme, surround it with contrasting lines in other instruments Haydn popularizes the genre of the string quartet; composers looked to demonstrate their talents with this practice (composer’s music?)

String Quartet: intimate genre; home (or court; the “chamber”) and only rarely in public concerts; all instruments are on equal footing (as opposed to the concerto, for example); A conversation (performer’s music?)
The String Quartet and the Symphony: Four Contrasting Movements
Movement I

Sonata Form (the most vital form in the Classical Era)
The Classical Era (1750-1820)
Movement II

In a contrasting key

Could take one of any number of forms: usually Theme & Variations, Sonata, or Ternary (ABA). Haydn chooses Theme & Variations
Movement III
Minuet & Trio: Lively dance in triple meter

Ternary Form (ABA) with Rounded Binaries

In the tonic key
Movement IV (finale)
Lighter and quicker than Movement I

Usually in Sonata or Rondo form
Changing Textures
Changes textures throughout: Theme 1 is first in the top voice (violin I), with other instruments supporting it, at the same pace (homophonic)

Variation I: Violin II caries the theme while Violin I weaves an accompanimental figure it

Variation II: Theme in cello

Variation III: Three voices, melody in viola, cello silent; when cello enters, Violin I drops out; later, all voices together

Employs a coda (It. "tail"): A section at the end of a musical work or movement that stands outside any formal structure and brings the whole to a close
Theme & Variations form was extremely popular throughout the Classical Era.

It is a simple structure: a theme is presented and then altered in some way—through harmony, melody, texture, dynamics, or some combination of these—in a succession of individual variations. It works well with musical appropriation (e.g. Mozart’s “Twinkle, twinkle…”)
Melody: Periodic Phrase Structure
Five phrases (marked by a cadence after each)

A, A, B, C, C (Half cadences between A/B and B/C, full cadence between C/C)

Half cadences do not end on the tonic, while full cadences do (like a comma)

To be clear: A periodic phrase structure is a kind of phrase structure with antecedent and consequent units that together make a larger whole
Antecedent Phrase I Antecedent Phrase II Consequent Phrase
___________________ ____________________ ___________________
If I'm still here tomorrow, (comma) and if you're back, (comma) I'll stop by your place. (period)
Musical Appropriation?
Symphony no. 102 in B-Flat Major (Movements 3 &4),1795
Premiere in London (revolution and its aftermath)
Audience: French aristocrats who had recently fled the Reign of Terror that followed the French Revolution
"Liberty and equality" (personal freedom and democracy) with "fraternity" (social order)
Symphony perceived as a sonic realization of the social ideal of fraternity; large number of varied instruments working together in concert--strings, winds, percussion. Each contributed uniquely, but all-encompassing harmony
Mirror social ideal, ideal society
Built for a large audience in a public space; collective aspirations
Symphony: An orchestral work in multiple movements, usually 4; inherited from the Italian opera overture

Timbre: The Orchestra; size depends on practical considerations such as availability of performers, size of the hall, available instruments, etc.

Size: In a large orchestra:

Strings (8-10 first violins, 6-8 second violins), (4-6 violas), (3-4 cellos), (2 double basses)

Winds: 2 flutes, 2 bassoons, 2 trumpets, 2 horns

Percussion: "kettle drums"
As in the string quartet, listen for how these instruments are combined, contrasted, and sectioned

Dynamics of surprise: What happens when we hear an extended passage played in a given dynamic (e.g., pp or p)?

N.B.: Dynamics operate independently of the number or combination of instruments that happen to be playing
Symphony no. 102 in B-Flat Major: 3rd Movement (Minuet)
Courtly, elegant dance held over from Baroque suite

In triple time, with accent on the first beat of each measure

Form: A (the Minuet Proper), B, A (term for this?)
A: The Minuet Proper
A repeated Binary Form: 2 sections, each of which is repeated
About halfway through the second section, the opening idea returns in the tonic, "rounding out" the form: Rounded Binary Form

B: The Trio
Also in Binary Form
Contrasts mood and theme of the Minuet Proper
At the end of the Trio, we get the Italian da capo ("from the top"); this tells the orchestra to play the Minuet Proper again

A: Return of the Minuet Proper
Performers return to the beginning, and the movement as a whole ends with the end of the Minuet Proper (often not done in modern performances)
Symphony no, 102 in B-Flat Major: 4th Movement (Rondo)
Lighter in tone than other movements

Rondo Form:

A sections repeated over the course of movement, interspersed with contrasting ideas (B, C, etc.). Here, we get: ABACADACA

Rondo (It. "round dance"): One dancer in a circle of dancers repeated moves away from a starting point and then returns (like the music)

A is usually brief and simple, which makes it recognizable (here, we get a distinct rhythm)

Haydn plays with expectation: We think the opening theme is about to return, but it continues to be delayed (at least temporarily)

Simple, yet sophisticated
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
Born in Salzburg, Austria

Child prodigy; first public concert at age 8

Could "write in any style"

Extensive travels all over Europe with his father and older sister, Nannerl (who was also a child prodigy)

Moves to more metropolitan Vienna at 25; fails to attain court appointment (a "difficult" personality; court appointments go the more conservative and respectful Antonio Salieri)

Supports himself by giving public performances, selling his published compositions, and giving private lessons to the daughters of wealthy aristocrats
Brief Biography
Compositional Output
Operas: "The Magic Flute," "Don Giovanni," "The Marriage of Figaro"
Sacred Music: Masses, Requiems
Symphonies (41 in total)
String Quartets
Solo Concertos (including 27 piano concertos, in which he would have performed the solo part)
Piano Sonatas
Violin Sonatas
Claude Joseph Varent, "Shipwreck" (1772)
Symphony no. 40 in G minor, K. 550, mov. I
One of three symphonies written while Mozart was in Vienna (1788) A musical drama without words: We have memorable personalities or characters (melodies), conflict (juxtaposition and transformation of those melodies), and resolution (restoration of these melodies in their more-or-less original form)The events unfold in the same kind of logical sequence that we see in a three-act play. We meet the main characters and supporting cast (Act 1)
We witness their interaction and transformation: they fall in and/or out of love, they fight, the search or struggle for something (Act 2)We experience some kind of resolution at the end; it may be a happy or unhappy ending, or something in between, but we recognize it is an ending because all the strands of the plot are resolved (Act 3)
Sonata Form (or, more precisely, Sonata-Allegro Form
Sonata form is a structural plan that became widely used during the Classical and Romantic Periods. The first movements of string quartets, symphonies, and solo sonatas were often composed in sonata form.

I. (Act 1) Exposition: Exposes us to the movement’s thematic ideas. By the end of the exposition, we have “met all the musical characters.” Presents two contrasting themes
a. Theme I (tonic key)--bridge theme--Theme II (modulation to the dominant key)--coda theme

II. (Act 2) Development: development of the thematic ideas presented in the exposition; Involves motivic fragmentation, modulation, textural and instrumental variation
Modulation: A move to a different key area

III. (Act 3) Recapitulation: material from the exposition is restated with both themes in the tonic key

(Coda: a supplementary ending that often contains new material, and is imbued with a great deal of finality)
Piano Concerto in A Major, K. 488, Mov. I (1786)
A variety of moods across 3 movements
Tension/battle between the soloist and the orchestra found in 5 timbral characters:
I. Orchestra alone, II. Soloist alone, III. Orchestra supporting soloist, IV. Soloist supporting orchestra, V. Soloist and orchestra on equal footing

4 Themes/Melodies
Theme I: Serene, balanced, homophonic, mixture of conjunct and disjunct contour moves up and down
Theme II: More agitated, faster rhythms (shorter note values, loud, ascending contour
Theme III: Short note values, sense of calm, disjunct, downward contour
Theme IV: Calm, longer note values, polyphonic (with some imitation), highly disjunct, soft
Double-Exposition Concerto Form
2 different expositions: one for the orchestra, and one for the soloist plus orchestra
The first exposition (for orchestra alone) stays in the tonic key (only in the second exposition, for orchestra and soloist, does the second theme modulate as it normally should)
A the end of the recapitulation, the soloist plays a cadenza: an elaborate improvisation on themes heard earlier in the movement, with no orchestral accompaniment

Tutti Exposition--Solo Exposition--Development--Recapitulation--Cadenza--Coda
(orchestra only) (soloist + orchestra) (solo+orch) (solo + orch) (soloist) (orch)
Tonic Tonic + New Key Many Keys Tonic only Tonic only
The Marriage of Figaro, Act I., "Cosa Sento"
Text and music enrich one another
Librettist: Lorenzo da Ponte (1749-1838); based on a play by the the French dramatist Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais (1732-1799)
Opera buffa (comic opera): Depiction of real-life situations and characters, rather than mythology
Count Almaviva (bass): Married to the Countess, but has eyes on Susanna
Susanna: The Countess's maidservant who is engaged to be married to Figaro, the Count's manservant
Basilio: The music teacher at the court who is meddlesome and gossips
Cherubino: Page boy who is silent in this scene
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