The Blog

THE CLASSICAL ERA ( CA 1750 – CA 1825)


  •   Historians often refer to the late 18ht century as the Age of Enlightenment.
  •   Era characterized by the pursuit of knowledge, rational thinking, and growing desire for equality among all people
  •   Baroque era was replaced by Classical ideas of proportion, symmetry and balance.
  •   Musicians, artists and architects in this era took their inspiration form the simplicity and clean lines of Greco-Roman architectural models.


  • Vienna is the capital of Austria
  •   City stood at the crossroads between Europe and the East and attracted the leading artists, architects and writers and musicians of the day.
  • In 18th Vienna, Austria emerged as a musical center
  •   Principal composers include Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven leader in the forging of the Classical style.


  • High level of emotionalism and dealing with the individual’s revolt against society
  • 2 writers use are Friedrich Schiller and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
  • German for “storm and stress”
  • Literary movement roughly spanning the years 1760-1785
  • Artistic aim was to frighten, shock or otherwise overwhelm the reader with emotion
  • Musically, it translated into passionate outburst and emphasis on minor keys
  • Evident in the music of the sons of Bach, Haydn, and Mozart


  • Developed from the 3 section Italian overture (fast slow fast)
  •  Mannheim composers inserted the minuet and trio, thereby establishing the 4 movements sonata cycle
  •  Incorporated the newly emerging sonata form
  •  Composed with the 4 orchestral families in mind


  •  Multi-movement orchestral work
  • Orchestra consisted of the 4 families: strings, winds, brass, and percussion
  • Generally had 4 contrasting movements as shown below

1st movement
Establishes tonic key
Sonata form
May commence with slow introduction

2nd movement
Often in subdominant key
Possible forms include ternary, theme and variations, rondo
Lyrical, expressive, character


3rd movement
In tonic key
Fast or medium-fast
Ternary form(ABA) minuet and trio
Beethoven replaced the elegant Minuet and Trio with the more dynamic Scherzo and Trio


4th movement
In tonic key
Possible forms include sonata, rondo, sonata-rondo, and theme and variations
lively finale


  • Group of composers active at the court of Mannheim, Germany in the latter half of the 18th
  • Leading figures included Karl Stamitz and Christian Cannabich
  • Developed the orchestral crescendo and rocket theme exerted a strong influence on the composers of the Viennese School