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Gurn Blanston:
After 15 years of listening to classical music, I've finally settled down to a favorite era. I have a lot of Baroque music that I truly enjoy, and even more Romantic Era music. I even have and listen to quite a lot of 20th century music (21st? Well, maybe a little bit). But the music that I enjoy most, and which constitutes by far the largest section of my collection, is Classical Era music.

My personal definition of the Classical Era is a rather broad one. It constitutes a period from roughly 1740 to roughly 1830. Of course, this period is dominated by the so-called "Viennese High Classical" school, whose main exponents were Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and and perhaps a few others who were ambitious enough to attempt to emulate them, sometimes successfully. But there are a true multitude of other composers who were working at this time, and producing a lot of worthwhile music too. I don't want to exclude them. And I don't want to get hung up on chronological complexities either, since there were many composers who were producing Baroque music well into the 1760's, and there were many who were producing what we now think of as Romantic music as early as the late 1790's. The Classical Era is merely a convenience for historians, it was not a cut and dried period of time in which it's constituent members were knowingly producing (or NOT producing) "Classical" music. :)

So, I invite you to join me in a regular discussion of the music of this time. I am not looking for recommended recordings, unless (as is often the case) there are only one or two recordings available and you want to point one out. We have plenty of threads to discuss the "Best Beethoven Symphony Cycle"... ::)  But if you are familiar with good books or articles on the subject, for example, they would be a welcome adjunct to the music itself.

Thanks for joining in. I hope we can all learn something here, and even make a few converts among the many who feel that Classical music is not for them.

Gurn 8)

Gurn Blanston:
The Classical Era: Where did it come from?

One has only to listen to music composed in 1725 and in 1775 to hear that there was a great change in music in that 50 year period. 

Classical music is less complicated and has a less dense texture. It is mainly homophonic – melody above chordal accompaniment. The emphasis is on grace and beauty of melody and form, proportion and balance. Elegance of character and perfect balance are the main characteristics. The hallmark style of the Classical Era was the sonata. Sonata form developed rather rapidly, but even by the end of the period it was never formally defined. Carl Czerny, (a pupil of Beethoven) was the first to put the tags we use today, exposition, development and recapitulation into a definition, and that was circa 1839, long after all the classicists were dead and gone.

The Early (or Pre-) Classical is often called the rococo or galant style. It was far more radically different from its immediate predecessors than later classical music was. Polyphony was strictly avoided, for example, while Haydn and later Mozart incorporated fugue and other polyphonic devices into their music. There was also a greater avoidance of structure earlier on, with composers such as CPE Bach specializing in free fantasias and in Italy, capriccios. This too would change, with the discovery that music was more pleasing to people when it had structure for them to guide their listening by.

More soon. Feel free to add or emend. :)


Dr. Dread:
What are some good books on the subject, Gurn?

Gurn Blanston:

--- Quote from: Mn Dave on February 22, 2009, 09:33:02 AM ---What are some good books on the subject, Gurn?

--- End quote ---

Well, there are 2 camps on the book subject. One is for musicians. The best one that I've found if you know music theory is "The Classical Style" by Charles Rosen. Even though I don't know much theory, I learned a lot from this book because Rosen is such a good writer and includes enough historical details that you can't help but learn a lot.

The second group is for mainly history buffs. A good choice to start with here is "The Age of Beethoven and Mozart" by Pestelli. This is a very good book, provides a lot of context and is quite readable. And there are no full pages of music scores ending in statements like "so it is obvious that Beethoven was influenced by Mozart's String Quartet in A major..." ::)  ;D

If you like biographies, I can heartily recommend "Mozart: A Cultural Biography" by Robert Gutman. Not only a good bio of Mozart, but a great overview of everything else that was going on in Europe at the time, both politically and in the arts.

Finally, "The Sonata in the Classic Era" by William S. Newman. You will be surprised that you don't have to be a musician to appreciate his arguments. And it covers every composer that you've heard of, and many that you haven't, along with comprehensive lists of their works. This book was a great find for me. :)


Hi Gurn, nice idea for a thread!  :)

I was given this book for my birthday last summer, and I think it's a pretty good book for relative newcomers to classical era music (but specifically on Mozart).

What to Listen For in Mozart - by Robert Harris


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