Classical period characteristics

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Classical

1750-1820

Melody

1. Short, balanced 4 bar phrases
2. 2 or more contrasting themes in a movement
3. Predictable and simple
4. Symmetrical
5. No improvisation

Harmony

1. Major/Minor tonalities
2. Contrast of tonic/dominant keys
3. Modulation
4. Strong tonal centre
5. Harmonic stability

Rhythm

1. Clearly defined and regular
2. Many rhythmic patterns
3. Sudden and gradual shifts in note lengths
4. Unexpected pauses
5. Syncopation

Texture

1. Frequently homophonic
2. Some shifts between homophonic and polyphonic

Tone Colour

1. Fortepiano replaces harpsichord
2. String quartet
3. Classical orchestra: "Noah's ark"
4. Variety and rapid changes
5. Contrast between brass, woodwind and string sections

Structure

1. Several movements contrasting in character and tempo
2. Often fast, slow, dance-related, fast
3. Symphony (4 mvmnts)
4. Sonata (2-4 mvmnts)
5. String quartet
6. Ternary form
7. Theme and variations
8. Minuet and trio
9. Rondo form

Dynamics

1. Common use of gradual change - cresc. and dim.
2. Little use of terraced dynamics

Context and composers

1. Mozart
2. Beethoven
3. Haydn

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