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Lesson 8: The Classical StyleIntroduction:As we have already observed (but which bears repeating), it is ironic that the Baroque era, whichhad 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, asheard 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 simplicitythat exhibits clarity, balance, symmetry, proportion.One of the hallmarks of the Classical style is its clarity of phrase structure. A musical phraseis 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 Cadenceand 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 quartetas the quintessential genre of chamber music. In addition, we will further investigate formin music, beginning with a theme and variationsmovement from a Haydn string quartet. We’ll then consider a theme composed byMozart for piano, which is arounded binary form. We will be introduced to sonata-allegro formand observe connections between the relative simplicity of rounded
binary formand the more elaborate sonata-allegro form, noting the ways in which sonata-allegro formderives from rounded binary form.Sonata-allegro form, as we know it, is the invention of the great Classical composers. Inmany 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 theClassical era.