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Learning Goal: I’m working on a music theory discussion question and need an explanation and answer to help me learn.Mozart was the definitive composer of the Classical Era. One of the ways a great composer can show their mastery is through reworking established tunes that everyone knows. This week we will listen to Mozart’s Twelve Variations on “Ah vous dirai-je, Maman”, K. 265/300e. You recognize the main theme as Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. This work is a theme and variations, so the main theme (Twinkle Twinkle Little Star) is presented at the beginning, and then each subsequent piece is a variation on that theme. After listening to the work (linked below), you will discuss the theme and two variations from the work using our musical materials.
Make Sure to Address The Following:Listen to Mozart’s Twelve Variations on “Ah vous dirai-je, Maman”, K. 265/300e through the link below.
Discuss the opening theme of the piece.
Discuss the opening theme’s Melody, Harmony, Tempo, and Dynamics.
You will recognize the tune!
Choose two variations from the piece and discuss them as well. Each variation is listed in the upper left of the video as it plays.
Discuss each of your variation choice’s Melody, Harmony, Tempo, and Dynamics.
Also, can you hear the original theme in each variation? Are more notes or embellishments used? Is the theme still the melody? Does the accompaniment differ?
Below is a YouTube video of Mozart’s Twelve Variations on “Ah vous dirai-je, Maman”, K. 265/300e*Make sure to include which variations you choose in your discussion. Remember all posts must be your own original work!.These are the professor’s notesWelcome to Module 6, where we will discuss the Classical Era! From this point forward, our musical “Eras” have quite a bit of information, so we will instead focus on the most important aspects from each Era. As far as the Classical Era, we will finally hear famous composers such as Mozart, Haydn and early Beethoven. The Classical Era is perhaps the most widely popular and understandable Era we will listen to in this class. This is probably why most Art Music is referred to as “Classical Music.” I hope you enjoy! The Classical Period (c.1750-1825)The Classical Period was a time of change. Music of the Baroque era was polyphonic in texture, with an emphasis on complexity and constant movement. Here in our Classical Period, we will begin to hear music becoming more lyrical, elegant and homphonically textured. You will be able to hear this in our listening examples’ melodies. The melodies of the Classical Era will be recognizable you as well as catchy and memorable! The Classical Era is defined by the life of one of the greatest and most popular composers in music history, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. While Mozart dies before the era truly concludes, his impact is enormous. We will also look at other significant composers such as Haydn and the early works of Beethoven. These big three composers were all centered and composed around Vienna, Austria. Now, let’s review some of the major developments we will listen for in the Classical Era, before we move to discussing these composers in detail. Thematic DevelopmentAs I mentioned above, melodies will become more memorable and appealing to the listener. There are a number of in-depth reasons for this outside the scope of this class, but in short, composers composed entire works based around a melody, or theme. They then elaborated on this melodies and varied them throughout a work, developing the theme. You will be able to hear these ideas in the melodies of our pieces from this chapter. New Classical Forms and GenresIn the Classical Era, we will begin to hear the concept of Absolute Music become more popular. Absolute Music is when there is no story or text to accompany the music. The music is the story in itself. The composer did not compose the work with any “program” in mind. This is the opposite of Program Music, which we discussed last module in the context of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons. This will become quite a large debate in our next module.We will also have several new genres, such as the Sonata and the Symphony, but I would like to discuss these in the context of our composers and listening examples. I would however like to mention the development of Multi-Movement works in the Classical Era. Several of the pieces we will listen to will have multiple “movements,” or smaller works within them. Each movement within a larger work usually has a different tempo and musical mood than the others. This will be fairly common moving forward in our course. Let’s jump in to discussing our different Classical Era composers and some of their contributions to music! Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)Joseph Haydn was born and composed in Austria. He eventually entered the employ of the wealthy Esterhazy family as their in-residence music master. He composed much of his music during this period and lived quite comfortably. This was known as the Patronage System, in which a composer would compose music for the nobility of Europe and would be well taken care of. This was the primary goal of many Classical Era composers and Haydn is perhaps the biggest beneficiary of the system. Haydn was revered throughout Europe during his life and we mostly remember his contributions to instrumental music. Haydn pioneered the genre of Chamber Music. We have briefly discussed different musical ensembles in Module 3, but to recap, Chamber Music and Ensembles are small ensembles only using a few select instruments. It is a music meant to take advantage of a small and intimate space with the audience. It is music that is often smaller in scope but larger in expression. Think of it as a smaller “Conversation” between the instruments. The most famous Chamber Ensemble instrumentation is a String Quartet. This consists of 2 violins, a viola and a cello. This is what we will hear below. A Haydn Chamber Music listening example and brief lesson from The Enjoyment of MusicGo to Playlists (Chapter 29- LG 19) and listen to the provided examples. Haydn: String Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 33, No. 2 (Joke), IV. As you listen, listen to how the smaller instrumentation compares to some of the larger orchestral works we have heard. Does it feel more defined, smaller and more intimate? Is the melody more listenable and memorable in line with Classical Era ideals?
In addition to Haydn’s contributions to Chamber Music, he also revolutionized composing for the Orchestra. Haydn expanded the size of the orchestra, calling for more musicians and instruments in the orchestra. All instrumental families of the orchestra now have key roles to play. The String family remains at the heart of the ensemble, but Brass, Woodwinds and Percussion were added and developed to add color and impact to the orchestra. Below is a list of the instruments primarily used by Classical Era orchestras after Haydn’s additions.Strings: Violins 1 & 2, Violas, Cellos, Basses
Woodwinds: Flutes, Oboes, Clarinets, Bassoons
Brass: Trumpets, Horns
Below in the illustration you can see the setup of a typical orchestra in the Classical Era: Haydn exemplified this growth in the orchestra through his own Symphonies. A Symphony is a larger multi-movement orchestral work usually containing four movements differentiated by tempo and style. Haydn wrote over 100 symphonies, which are admittedly much smaller in scope that later symphonies by other composers.Below is a listening example of a single movement from a Haydn Symphony.This movement below utilizes a form known as Theme and Variations which we have previously heard in our Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra from Benjamin Britten. The composer begins with a main theme and then varies it throughout the work. A Haydn Symphony Music listening example and brief lesson from The Enjoyment of MusicGo to Playlists (Chapter 30- LG 20) and listen to the provided examples. Haydn: Symphony No. 94 in G Major (Surprise), II. Compare this work to the previous instrumental work we have heard in the Baroque Era. Does it sound larger? Do you hear the other instrumental families having larger roles? Can you continue to hear the same theme throughout the work, even if it is changed?
Haydn is pictured below! Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)Mozart was born in Austria to Leopold Mozart, an established musician and violinist. Mozart was a child prodigy and immediately began composing and performing on various instruments at the age of 5. He traveled around Europe in his youth performing across the continent. Mozart composed 600 or so works that include piano pieces, theme and variations, symphonies, concertos, and especially, Opera. Mozart was mentored by Haydn and Haydn recognized the young Mozart for his genius. Mozart was a composer who attempted to rebel against the patronagesystem, and never quite caught on in a noble’s court. Because of this, he constantly had issues with money and died in poverty. His famous Operas include The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, Cosi fan tutte, and The Magic Flute. His final work, Requiem, is also quite famous. He died in 1791 at the age of 35. A master of drama, contrast, and elegance, he is the defining figure of the Classical Period. For now, we will focus Mozart’s instrumental music.Mozart was influenced by Haydn’s chamber works and sought to compose his own chamber music. In listening to Mozart, he is a master of contrasts. He will present one thing to the listener, and then present the opposite in some way, keeping the listener engaged. Now, a famous Mozart string quartet. A Mozart Chamber Music listening example and brief lesson from The Enjoyment of MusicGo to Playlists (Chapter 31- LG 21) and listen to the provided examples. Mozart: Eine kleine Nachtmusik, K. 525, I and III. You will certainly recognize the melody of this work, which exemplifies the “catchiness” and memorability of Classical Era melodies. Listen to Mozart’s use of contrast and Major/Consonant harmonies as well. How does it compare to Haydn’s string quartet?
Much like Haydn, Mozart also composed for the full orchestra. Mozart is quite famous for many instrumental genres, but we will focus on his Concertos here. We have previously heard a Concerto in Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, which is a work that features a single virtuosic soloist being accompanied by the orchestra. A Concerto can have a solo piano, solo violin, or many other solo instruments. Here we will hear the piano soloist.One of the biggest instrumental developments in the Classical Period was the Fortepiano. While not quite the piano we know today, it was a step towards that direction. In place of the harpsichord, the fortepiano became the popular instrument. Even though the harpsichord was still used, composers were more interested in using the new and more expressive fortepiano. Dynamics were much easier to accomplish, as the strings were struck by hammers rather than plucked, as in the harpsichord. In light of this development of the Fortepiano, Mozart incorporated Cadenzas into his Concertos. A Cadenza is an extended virtuosic solo passages that feels as though it is improvised by the featured performer. Listen for the Cadenza in the following Mozart Concerto! A Mozart Concerto listening example and brief lesson from The Enjoyment of MusicGo to Playlists (Chapter 32- LG 22) and listen to the provided examples. Mozart: Piano Concerto in G Major, K. 453, I. Now that the piano is an established and capable instrument, listen as to how it interacts with the orchestra. Can you hear the further emphasis on homophonic texture than the Baroque Era? Can you hear the cadenza near the end?
We will return to Mozart (pictured below) soon enough to discuss perhaps his most famous works, his operas.But first, we must look at our last major composer of the Classical Era, Beethoven. Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)Born in Germany, Beethoven made his way to Vienna. He famously spurned the Patronage System and succeeded without it. The wealthy nobility were happy to give him gifts, pay him well for lessons, or commission compositions. He spent much of this money seeking custody of his nephew later in his life. In his twenties, Beethoven began to lose his hearing. He became reclusive but continued composing. There are stories of him sawing the legs off of his piano and placing his ear to the floor in order to hear the vibrations. He continued to compose despite his disability and it is to miraculous to think that he composed many of his most famous works while deaf. Beethoven serves as a bridge between the Classical Era, and the Romantic Era will we see next week. Beethoven takes the ideas of the Classical Era and expands on them further. Much of his music utilizes large scale genres and he is often divided into three distinct compositional periods. The first period is quite in line with Classical Era ideals, while his second period becomes more emotional and expressive like we will hear in our next module, The Romantic Era. His third period continues in experimentalism and is far ahead of his time. While he composed one Opera, we will focus on his instrumental music, particularly his Sonatas and Symphonies.First, let’s discuss Beethoven’s Sonatas. A Sonata is a composition for one or two instruments and featuring multiple movements. This genre became important for amateur musicians to perform at home as well as composers to perform at concerts. This is a landmark and important genre in composing for one or two instruments. Let’s listen to perhaps Beethoven’s most famous sonata. A Beethoven Piano Sonata listening example and brief lesson from The Enjoyment of MusicGo to Playlists (Chapter 33- LG 23) and listen to the provided examples. Beethoven: Piano Sonata in C-sharp minor, Op. 27, No. 2 (Moonlight), I. While composed during his transition to his second musical period, this work certainly has more emotion than our other Classical Era works. Listen to how Beethoven composes for a single instrument yet keeps the listener’s attention.
Now let us look at Beethoven composing for the orchestra. Beethoven’s symphonies are considered some of the greatest music ever written. These symphonies maintain Classical structures and forms, yet stretch beyond the Classical Era. We will listen to and discuss the Fifth Symphony in this lecture, but I encourage you to listen to his other symphonies, particularly his Third and Ninth Symphonies. The Ninth symphony has been used to mark many political movements since its inception, as described on page 198 of the textbook. For now, let’s listen and focus on the Fifth Symphony. A Beethoven Fifth Symphony listening example and brief lesson from The Enjoyment of MusicGo to Playlists (Chapter 34- LG 24) and listen to the provided examples. Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67. You are most certainly familiar with the opening bars of the first movement. Listen for the previously unseen emotion present in this work. This is what makes Beethoven stand out in the Classical Era. Listen for how he treats the famous opening rhythm and then continues to reference it throughout the work. How does it feel listening to an extended work such as this through all four movements? Does this feel different from everything else we’ve listened to this chapter so far?
Again, Beethoven acts as the transitional figure between the Classical and Romantic Eras. His music is the bridge that moves music itself forward with new innovations and his contributions cannot be understated. Beethoven can be seen below!Mozart Opera and RequiemFollowing the thread of Opera from the previous Baroque Era, Opera continues growing in popularity. Opera characters in the Classical Era attempt to convey realistic emotion when compared to Baroque Era. Human emotion is complicated and often contains conflicting feelings. Classical Era Opera and particularly Mozart’s Operas reflect these conflicting emotions. As we’ve mentioned before, the Italian style of Opera spread across all of Europe and was the defining style of Opera. Italian Operatic style can be broken down into two different types.Our first type is Opera Seria, or serious tragic opera. Opera Seria often features a historical, or ancient setting, and tells a story with a moral for the audience.Our other type is Opera Buffa, or comic opera. Comic opera is often featured in the vernacular language and became wildly popular. It features humor, catchy music and satire, which appealed to all classes of people. Mozart has many famous operas, but we will focus on Don Giovanni. This opera combines elements of Opera Buffa and Opera Seria into one work. The opera tells the tale of a womanizer who resorts to murder and is later doomed to hell. The work has witty dialogue, beautiful arias and a plot with a moral for the audience. I insist you read the plot on Pages 204-205 as it is quite interesting. A Mozart Opera listening example and brief lesson from The Enjoyment of MusicGo to Playlists (Chapter 35- LG 25) and listen to the provided examples. Mozart: Don Giovanni, excerpts. There are several excerpts in this example, which features arias and a recitative from Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni. The Catalogue Aria by Leporello is particularly amusing. As you listen, note Mozart’s setting of the text as well as his treatment of the voice. How does the orchestra and accompaniment react to the characters of the opera?
Finally, we will turn towards Mozart’s religious works. Mozart tragically passed away at the young age of 35, with his last work being a Requiem mass which was left unfinished. If you recall, a Requiem mass is a worship service for the dead. You will notice many similarities to religious works of the past, such as the Latin language. Mozart’s Requiem is quite a large multi-movement work featuring a choir and an orchestra. This work has stood the test of time and continues to be performed in times of great mourning or tragedy. A Mozart Requiem listening example and brief lesson from The Enjoyment of MusicGo to Playlists (Chapter 36- LG 26) and listen to the provided examples. Mozart: Dies irae, from Requiem. Listen for the grandeur of the work and how Mozart combines the orchestra and choir. How do our new Classical Era elements translate into a religious work, especially when compared to those of the Baroque Era?
Classical Era RecapTo finish this module, I want to just provide a quick bullet point list to recap the Classical Era. These are all elements we see and hear in the Classical Era and are the largest takeaways. Composers such as Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven
Greater emphasis on homophonic textures
Fewer but still present polyphonic textures
Music that emphasizes emotional balance and restraint
Lighter musical motives (ideas)
Simpler and more memorable melodies
An expanded orchestra with symphonies
Chamber music and ensembles
Solo compositions (Sonatas)
Finally, I just want to mention how musical performances changed in the Classical Era. Live Musical performances drew more of the general populace at this time, as music was beginning to appear in the concert hall rather than the palace. Of course, performances in the palace still existed, but the concert hall gave the opportunity for composers to have public concerts and conduct their own music. Composers, such as Beethoven and Mozart, played their own compositions at the piano in front of many audiences. This created a different atmosphere for the performers and the audience. They were now able to interact with one another, which signified a great time of change for both audience and composer. I hope you enjoyed the Classical Era! It is often many students’ favorite module and I love teaching it and discussing it.