Music- Orchestral Landmarks- Classic Period

Some cards with information on the Classic period, from the Orchestral Landmarks section of the AQA Music GCSE.

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  • Created by: Eleanor
  • Created on: 10-05-10 20:30

Classic Period- Structure

Suggested listening: Mozart, Hayden


The Classic period involved vast amounts of sturucture and planning. Let's start off simply...

Binary: two sections, A & B

Ternary: three sections, A B A

Theme and Variations: the theme (original melody/ section) in vaired in a second section. Uses added notes, change of tempo, inversion, retrograde (think of this as backwards and upside down), pitch, instrumentation and time signature.

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Classical Period- Structure

This next bit is not as easy to remember sadly...

Minuet and Trio: A:||: B A :||: C :||: D C :|| A B A

Sonata Form: Exposition, Development, Recapitulation

Exposition: two main subjects or themes (we'll call there S1 and S2)

Development: S1 and S2 are, surprisingly enough, developed.

Recapitulation: S1 and S2 repeated almost in exactly the same way as the Exposition, but it the relavtive key, so for example, if the Exposition is in C major, the Recapulation is in A minor.

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Classic Period- Instruments


Small groups were used, as music was only for the rich and privileged (back in ye olde days, when you really did have to be posh to be privileged)

Percussion: Timps

Brass: French Horns, Trumpets

Woodwind: Flutes, Obeos, Clarinets, Bassoons

Strings: 1st & 2nd Violins, Violas, Cellos, Doublebasses

At this time,brass instruments did not yet have any valves, and so (like modern cornets) were rather useless.Woodwind instruments were seen as inferior to Strings, so something to listen out for in the Classic period is a large use of the Strings, specifically the violin, on any main parts.

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Classic Period- Texture and Variations


Very simple, easy listening, pleasing to the ear. Mainly homophonic (all parts are similar). Also used a simple, easy to count time signature.


Modulation: movement from one key to another using the circle of fiths to jump

Cadences: a way to finish pieces, usually perfect cadences (V-I)

Retrograde: again, think upside down and back to front

Augmentation: makes the tune longer, e.g.double the note length

Diminusion: makes the tune shorter, e.g. halve the note length

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Classic Period- Concertos

Concertos: Usually a solo and accompniment. 3 movements- Cadenza: naccompnied bit, like an improvisation, played by the soloist

Symphonies: 4 movements, no soloist, just orchestra

Sonatas: 3 or 4 movements, solo or duet with piano accompniment

Each movement had it's own structure.

Usually followed this pattern:

1st- Sonata form, purposeful

2nd- Variation or Ternary, slow

3rd- Minuet or Dance, and guess what, you could dance to it

4th- Sonata, Ronda or Variation, cheerful and fast

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