Music of the Classical Era Part 1

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's compositions charact...Image via Wikipedia
(Text in large print for classroom projection)

Characteristics of Classical Era Music

Homophony and clarity of melody
Balance and proportion
More contrast
Melodies simplified and less ornate
Folk music influence

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star by Mozart
"Ah! Vous dirai-je, Maman" Twelve Variations by Mozart

Music was considered the "language of the heart"

Major Composers

Joseph Hadyn

Amadeus Mozart


Music was meant to reach the listener emotionally.

Composer Training:



Characters were more realistic
Themes were often political in nature

Opera Buffa (Comic Opera)
Real life characters in humorous situations

Mozart "Marriage of Figaro"

Mozart Opera by Victor Borge

Humorous wrong translation of opera

Musical Developments in the Classical Era

Theme and Variations
Minuet Form
Rounded Binary Form
Rondo Form
Sonata Form
Harpsichord less used
More tone color

Style Gallant (musical counterpart to the rococo style in art. Used by composers in the late Baroque, like Bach's sons). Light and graceful (similar to rococo art's lighter touch and softer lines).

Contrast was increased greatly in the Classical Era. Contrasts in mood, dynamics, instrumentation, etc. Textures changed often.

The orchestra began to be standardized, with a set number of strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion. The number of musicians in an orchestra could change.

Rhythm had more variance. Syncopations and pauses.

Music was primarily homophonic. The melody gained importance again. Polyphonic lines were rarely, if ever, used. No more improvisation on the basso continuo, instead music was written down completely.

Classical Forms

Had specific movements following a pattern of fast-slow-dance-fast generally. Introduced several themes in the same movement, often contrasting them greatly from one another.

The Symphony

1. Fast
2. Slow
3. Dance
4. Fast

The Sonata (one or two instruments)
(See text for details)

Amadeus Mozart

Johann Christian Bach

Ludwig von Beethoven
Ode to Joy
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