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  • Chris Anderson

Music Revision - Classical Period Overview

We are now entering the Classical Period.

The word “classical” is used to describe music that isn’t jazz, rock, pop, blues, etc..

However, the Classical Period is a short period in music history and was dominated by Viennese composers. In fact, Vienna was so important that some scholars occasionally refer to the Classical Period as the Viennese Period. Classicism in music emphasised order and form, gracefulness and beauty. It was a simpler time…musically.

It’s A Date

The Classical Period went from 1750 - 1830.

The early Classical Period went from 1750-1775 (approx)

The middle Classical Period went from 1775 - 1790 (approx)

The late Classical Period went from 1790 - 1830 (approx)

Music To My Ears

There was a transition from Baroque to Classical as tastes changed. The instruments also got more versatile. Composers moved away from the polyphonic sounds of the Baroque Period and began focussing more on homophonic music. However, certain aspects of the Baroque Period were still used (Binary and Ternary Form, Theme & Variations) and Mozart mastered the art of writing fugue.

In addition to this the invention of the piano meant that the harpsichord was phased out. This enabled composers to write with gradual dynamics. Another instrument that was invented was the clarinet.

At the start of the Classical Period composers would continue work for rich patrons (which included royalty and aristocrats) as they had done in the Baroque Period. They were paid to compose music for specific events. As time went on in the Classical Period, society developed and middle-class people had more money and wanted entertaining so concert halls were built. Composers such as Haydn would still work for patrons but would also put concerts on in these new halls.

Building On Foundations

The orchestras of the Classical Period got bigger. The invention of the piano and indeed the clarinet meant that the setup became more standardised.

Opera was developed from the Baroque beginnings.


Basset Horn - A member of the clarinet family. Low, sonorous tones.

Clarinet - Developed from the earlier chalumeau.

Double Bass - During the Baroque Period the double bass would follow the basso continuo bass line. During the Classical Period the double bass would then double up what the cello played (albeit and octave lower) and this would be called “bassi”. As the period developed some composers would write a separate part for the double bass.

Fortepiano - The forerunner to the modern piano. About four octaves. The hammers were covered with leather and the strings were thin similar to those of a harpsichord. The action was considerably lighter than that which we know today.

Post Horn - Valveless, cylindrical brass instrument with a cupped mouthpiece. No keys.

Turkish Music - Bass drum, cymbals triangle, and tambourine. Music modelled on the music of Turkish military bands.


There are many well known composers of the Classical Period. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is probably the most famous. Others of note include:

Ludwig van Beethoven (late Classical to Romantic)

Josef Haydn

Franz Schubert

Gioachino Rossini

Muzio Clementi

Samuel Wesley

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