The transition from baroque music to the classical period is marked by key cultural trends including the Romantic movement, revolutions in America and France, increasing scientific progress and the prevalence of logical ideas over religious dogma. The manifestation of Man, as the pride and joy of the Universe’s creation, influenced the popular taste in music.
Over some time, it became appropriate to jettison the ornamented improvisation techniques of baroque music, usually played before the reigning monarchs of Europe, to the simplicity and harmony of classical music which was technically more sophisticated, aiming for perfection rather than improvisation.
To understand the roots of the classical style, one must listen to Bach’s sonata for flute and continuo, a musical composition which spells out the difference from his own earlier piece of work, the Brandenburg Concerto No.5, which was played in a baroque style. Some of the fundamental differences that can be picked include a lack of rich instrumentation such as the harpsichord and polyphonic texture.
In its place, clarity and simplicity are evident at all layers, with a homo-rhythmic texture where a solo instrument, the flute stands out in melody from other background voices which tend to agree with it. The sonata form consists of an allegro, several slow movements, and finally, a faster tempo. Instead of fatigue due to recurring themes played, there is greater harmony and an eventual climax.
The pitch in the Sonata-allegro form is more perfect and tries to convey a greater range of emotions that would have been possible with the baroque era composition. To further illustrate the soft dynamics of classical music evolution from the baroque to the classical era, one must listen to Mannheim, Symphony in a Major, by Johann Stamitz.
It consists of a four-movement composition which was later perfected by leading composers of the classical period including Beethoven, Mozart, and Haydn. Essential characteristics of Stamitz’s symphony texture include the creative accumulation of stringed instruments such as the cello and violins. The four movements of the symphony vary in tempo from slow to fast.
The composition manages to juxtapose rich melodies played using cellos with chords conveying rhythmic phases. The overall balance tilts in favor of harmony while giving ample room for different orchestral voices. Another key development in the classical era is the introduction of percussion instruments such as the piano which would lay the foundation of the modern-day orchestra.
To illustrate an example, one may consider Mozart’s First Movement Piano Concerto #23. This is a good example for depicting the harmonious blend of two or more instruments to produce singular appeal and an imaginative sense of proportion unique to Mozart. If one examines the printed score of the Piano Concerto, the pairing of various concerti is evident.
The texture comprises of solo segments, cadenzas, and continuo which are cleverly used to convey a rich set of different emotions. The form is sparse in its depiction of simplicity, and the cadenza is a major highlight of the overall musical score. The above examples from classical era music stand out in comparison to the more rigid, ornamental style of the baroque era.
Each composer tried to accommodate different methods of harmony to bring synchronization to his piece of work. These classical compositions are marked by greater fluidity, balance, grace and were usually prepared, keeping in mind large orchestras and huge audiences, the precursor of musical traditions including Opera and high drama.