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Classical4: Classical Period
Classical period music from 1750 to 1810. The best known composers from this period are Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven; other notable names include Luigi Boccherini, Muzio Clementi, Johann Ladislaus Dussek, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, and Christoph Willibald Gluck.
Classical music has a lighter, clearer texture than Baroque music and is less complicated. It is mainly homophonic – melody above chordal accompaniment (but counterpoint is by no means forgotten, especially later in the period). There is an emphasis on grace and beauty of melody and form, proportion and balance, moderation and control; it is polished and elegant in character, with expressiveness and formal structure held in perfect balance.
Variety and contrast within a piece became more pronounced than before. Variety of keys, melodies, rhythms and dynamics (using crescendo, diminuendo and sforzando), along with frequent changes of mood and timbre were more commonplace in the Classical period than they had been in the Baroque. Melodies tended to be shorter than those of Baroque music, with clear-cut phrases and clearly marked cadences. The Orchestra increased in size and range; the harpsichord continuo fell out of use, and the woodwind became a self-contained section. As a solo instrument, the harpsichord was replaced by the piano (or fortepiano). Early piano music was light in texture, often with Alberti bass accompaniment, but it later became richer, more sonorous and more powerful.
Importance was given to instrumental music – the main kinds were sonata, trio, string quartet, symphony, concerto, serenade and divertimento. Sonata form developed and became the most important design. It was used to build up the first movement of most large-scale works, but also other movements and single pieces (such as overtures).