Lesson 8 - Lesson 8 The Classical Style Introduction As we...

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Lesson 8: The Classical Style Introduction: As we have already observed (but which bears repeating), it is ironic that the Baroque era, which had its founding as a reaction against the complexity of Renaissance polyphony, would eventually give rise to the most extraordinary and complex polyphony in all of Western music, as heard in the works of Johann Sebastian Bach ( 1685-1750 ). J. S. Bach is the supreme master of counterpoint—which is the art of weaving together intricate lines to create a rich, polyphonic texture. His music is widely regarded as the epitome of the mature Baroque style. With the advent of the Classical style , then, once more a stylistic era would emerge as a reaction against the complexity of an earlier era. Even before Bach’s death at mid-century, the Classical style had already taken center stage. In the second half of the eighteenth century the Classical style would be brought to artistic maturity—and near perfection—in the works of Haydn , Mozart , and Beethoven . It is a style of elegance and simplicity that exhibits clarity, balance, symmetry, proportion. One of the hallmarks of the Classical style is its clarity of phrase structure. A musical phrase is a length of music that can be recognized by a point of repose at the end of it. In music, we identify such a point of repose as a cadence . The use of the term “phrase” implies a correlation to language that is fitting. A cadence is like a pause in speaking, whether to take a breath or to punctuate a sentence. As we have already observed, there are two types of cadences, inconclusive and conclusive, that correspond rather nicely to the comma and the period. We know these as the Half Cadence and the Authentic Cadence . In this lesson our focus will be on several works of Joseph Haydn ( 1732-1809 ), who was the first of the great Classical composers. Haydn was a pioneer in forging the Classical style from a variety of stylistic elements then current at mid-century. He ushered in the age of the great symphony , and at the same time established the string quartet as the quintessential genre of chamber music . In addition, we will further investigate form in music, beginning with a theme and variations movement from a Haydn string quartet. We’ll then consider a theme composed by Mozart for piano, which is a rounded binary form . We will be introduced to sonata- allegro form and observe connections between the relative simplicity of rounded
binary form and the more elaborate sonata-allegro form, noting the ways in which sonata-allegro form derives from rounded binary form. Sonata-allegro form , as we know it, is the invention of the great Classical composers. In many respects, it defines the era. Sonata-allegro form is, and remains, the most sophisticated tonal architecture ever invented. It is a form we will encounter frequently during our study of the Classical era.

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