Classical Music: Key Features
- Balanced and clear cut phrases that form questions and answers
- More contrasts within a movement (compared to the baroque period)
- Changes in dynamic no longer always sudden as composers now use crescendos and diminuendos
- Texture are often simpler than in the Baroque period, and often homophonic
- The harpsichord is replaced with the piano
- Orchestras now included a range of wind instruments - although the melody is usually heard in the strings
- Other composers: Haydn, Beethoven
'Symphony No. 40'
- Written in 1788 during the classical period
- Intended to be performed in a large room of a stately home or a small concert hall
- The symphony has 4 movements. This is the first of those 4.
- No percussion, no trumpets and only one flute is unsual at this time!
Structure and Tonality
This movement is in sonata form, in they of G minor. There are 3 sections to the sonata form.
Exposition - made up of the first and second subjects. G minor, B flat major
The first subject is a melody characterised by a falling motif. It is first played by the strings.
The second subject is a melody with descending chromatic patterns, shared between woodwind and strings.
Development - Based on the first subject which is developed and fragmented. Moves through various keys starting in F sharp minor
Recapitulation - G minor
The first subject is repeated with some variation.
The second subject is repeated with some variation.
(Coda) Repeated perfect cadences in G minor finish the piece.
Melody and Harmony
- Most of the melodies are made up of balanced, four- or eight-bar phrases that sound like questions and answers.
- Many phrases are scalic (based on scales)
The harmony is diatonic (set in a key) and functional, based around standard major and minor triads. We can also find examples of:
- Chromatic chords, such as the diminished 7th and augmented 6th
- A circle of 5ths progression (in the second subject)
- Pedal notes, which the cellos have just before the second subject starts.
R/M/T and Texture
Rhythm, Metre and Tempo
- The metre is 4/4 throughout
- The tempo is 'Molto Allegro' - very fast
- Short rhythmic ideas are repeated regularly to create unity
- Rhythms are fairly simple, although there are some dotted rhythms and syncopation to create momentum and to add interest.
The texture is mostly homophonic. We can also find examples of:
- Counterpoint and imitation in the development
- Octave doublings, which are frequently used
- Dialogue between the woodwind and strings at the start of the second subject.
Dynamics and Instrumentation
In the exposition... Apart form a short passage in the middle, the first subject is quiet / The transition is loud / The second subject begins quietley and gets louder towards the end
The development has a loud section in the middle but starts and ends quietly.
The recapitulation has similar dynamics to the exposition.
Most dynamic contrasts occur suddenly - there are only a few crescends and no diminuendos.
Instrumentation - chamber orchestra (woodwind, strings and horns)
- The strings are busy almost all the time playing a variety of material (melody, quick running scales, sustained notes)
- The woodwind don't play quite so much, and tend to have more sutained notes, and fewer quick runs than the strings.
- The two horns are in different keys (G/B flat), which maximises the number of notes they can play between them . The horns mostly play held or repeated notes to sustain harmonies.