The Classical Era Essay

Submitted By brockjenken
Words: 1958
Pages: 8

Classical Era
The Classical Era of music (c 1750-1815) was time period that graced developing Europe, bringing with it the idealisms of proper etiquette and formality in all areas of life, including architecture, art, self-conduct of the people, and especially music. Classical era music is known for its simplistic melodies, complex but effortless cadenzas, and rigorous attention to form. When discussing the Classical Era, three composers always tend to be mentioned: Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791), and Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) (Only early Beethoven tends to classicistic writing). Through their works and music, Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven all eloquently exemplify trends of the Classical Era through the use of Sonata form, three other forms common to the time period (Concerto, Theme and Variations, and Rondo), and their use of call and answer phrasing in their melodies. When looking at the Classical Era as a whole, Sonata form is unquestionably the most important and influential form created during this period. Many composers adopted this form due to its ability to give the composer strict guidelines, but also allow the composer to breathe and create unique songs within its boundaries. Sonata form follows this pattern: Intro (first theme, modulation to the dominant or relative major if in a minor key, second theme), Development (Composer has creative freedom here to develop the themes through rhythmic and melodic variations as well as the use of modulations), Recapitulation (first theme is stated with possible variations, second theme is stated in the home key), and optional Coda or Codetta. Through the use of Sonata form, each composer demonstrates their capability to create unique pieces of music thereby proving their ability to reflect the time period, shown by Haydn’s sonata in E flat, Mozart’s sonata in C, and Beethoven’s sonata in G. To begin, Haydn demonstrates great ability to write sonatas that conform to the measures and boundaries set by the form. In his sonata in E flat (Hob XIV:52 mov I), Haydn takes his first theme in E flat and modulates to the dominant for his second theme, following it up with a development through the keys of C major, c minor, and E major, and finally rounding it off with a slightly varied first theme and second theme in the tonic key of E flat. Despite his unorthodox modulations in his development, Haydn follows all the characteristics of standard sonata form, demonstrating the classical characteristics in his music. To continue, Mozart also shows great capability to write effortlessly and classically, and this can be shown by one of his shorter works, Sonata in C (K 545). At the beginning of this sonata, Mozart introduces as simple theme in C, followed by a modulation to the dominant through the use of descending, modular scales. Following his statement of the second theme, Mozart suddenly modulates to the relative minor of the second theme (g minor in this case) and proceeds to modulate through the use of repeated patterns, arrives to the first theme once again in the key of F (rather unusual albeit), and ends the song with a restatement of the second theme in the home key of C major. Despite his choice to begin the recapitulation in the subdominant key, Mozart’s ability to recreate sonata form in his music demonstrates his presence in the classical era and shows the classicism of his music. Finally, Beethoven, much like Haydn and Mozart, demonstrates trends of the classical era through some of his earlier sonatas, and can be exemplified by his Sonata in G (Op 49, No 2). Opening his sonata with an appreciated theme in G, Beethoven naturally modulates to the dominant, poses his second theme in D, extends the theme through scales, and modulates to d minor for a short development. Following the fourteen bars of development, Beethoven repeats a condensed first theme and continues to the second theme which is repeated in the tonic key, and