Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
David Campbell (Clarinet)
Jonathan Carney (Conductor)
The term "style Galant" is often used to describe music from the classical period. It really just means "Elegant in style", but it hits on an important difference between music from the Classical and Baroque periods.
In Baroque music, composers used very complex counterpoint, weaving melodic ideas in and out of each other, and the music generally flowed in an unstructured constant development from beginning to end.
As Classical composers became more engaged in the structured development of their melodic ideas, it became more important to hear them in isolation, and so the distinction between melody and accompaniment became much clearer. This can be heard in most Classical music, but particularly in the compositions of Mozart and Haydn.
Mozart's Clarinet Concerto was the last piece of purely instrumental music that he wrote, and has won a popular place in the repertoire for its lush sonority and virtuosic showcasing of the solo clarinet.
| Ludwig van Beethoven
New Symphony Orchestra of London
André Bernard (Conductor)
Ludwig van Beethoven produced most of his great works towards the end of the Classical period, indeed for many people, Beethoven's death in 1827 marks the end of the Classical period. By this time, music had broken free from the mathematical shackles of Bach and had entered a new world of expressive experimentation that was to become known as the Romantic period.
A major feature of Classical music (with a big "C") is the way it uses thematic material. Almost any single movent classical piece will be based almost entirely on two tunes or melodic ideas.
The main bulk of the music will be based on these two themes, and this can be very clearly heard in Beethoven's Coriolan Overture.
His first idea, the sinister and insistent string theme of the opening, is contrasted with the fluid and beautiful music that follows it. The tension in the music comes from the way Beethoven plays these fundamentally quite simple ideas off against each other.
The Coriolan Overture was not reallly written for the opening of Heinrich Joseph von Collin's play of the same name, although it was inspired by it, and the two were later performed together.
(Franz) Joseph Haydn
Ronald Thomas (Conductor)
As with Classical architecture, furniture and gardening, formal structure was an ever present theme in Classical music. Having established a set of conventions for the way a piece of music, a symphony for example, ought to go, composers like Haydn and Beethoven spent their whole time playing about with the limitations of those formal rules.
The sonata-form first movement and the sequence and character of the subsequent movements of a symphony changed very little during the 80 years of the Classical period, but did slowly develop.
Haydn was responsible for a lot of the innovations in symphonic writing. Along with Mozart, he oversaw the expansion of the symphony orchestra to include trumpets, flutes and clarinets in addition to the usual pair of horns and oboes.
This, his last contribution to the symphonic repertoire, displays another of his ideas - the slow introduction to the fast first movement. This is a concept that was subsequetly adopted by many composers to set the scene before introducing their main musical ideas. Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique has a particularly grand example of a slow introduction.