Musical Musings

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The Classical Era of Music History

Friday, August 28, 2020 by Paula Augustine | Music History

An Introduction to the Classical Era

When we hear 'Classical music' generally what comes to mind is older historic music that is not rock, pop, jazz or anything played today on the radio. However, there is also a Classical era in music history. It is between two other eras in music Baroque and Romantic. Usually the Classical Era includes compositions written from 1750 to 1825. We will be learning about a few composers from this time during our lessons each week.

During the European Classical Era music was written a little more simple with a strong melody and more elegant. Music was written more for entertainment rather than just for the church. Composers were hired by the wealthy aristocrats to compose music for their parties. 

In Europe during this time there was a growing middle class of people who had money to spend on concerts and events. It was the beginning of the Industrialization time in Europe with steam power and iron bridges. The middle class wanted to enjoy parties and music like the aristocrats but were not rich enough to hire a composer. Composers took advantage of this later in the Classical Era and would showcase their composition in concerts where everyone would pay just a little to hear the music.

The symphony orchestra began to get bigger during this time. Before the group of players needed to be smaller, they were playing in people's homes. But, as composers wanted to play for bigger groups of people they would write for larger orchestras. Larger buildings to play for groups of people were built. Joseph Hadyn was known as the Father of the Symphony. He was known as papa Hadyn by his pupils.

Remember I said the music was elegant? Part of this elegance was to not have music that was too strong emotionally. The music was to be just as dignified as the people were to be in public. Think about all those parties where girls wore stiff corsets under the dresses with hats and men wore tight coats and wigs. Everything was supposed to look perfect on the outside. Mozart wrote much music with simple melodies that were very elegant.

The Piano, called the pianoforte during this time because it could play both loud and soft, was being developed during this time. It still wasn't the piano we have today but it was much closer than the harpsichord. Much of the music would show off this amazing development and music would go between soft and loud a lot.

Beethoven's music started out very classical and then he helped bring in the next era of music, Romantic. His first few symphonies were very classical, then his music started to be less simple and more emotional. 

Music was played all throughout the world during all our music eras. But the European or what we call Western Music was actually written down and sold on paper. Because it was written down we can actually show its history and how it developed.

More about the Classical Era

Here are some other websites with more information about the Classical Era in Music History: