Chapter 5: Music of the Classical Period

Jeff Kluball and Elizabeth Kramer

5.1 Objectives

  1. Demonstrate knowledge of historical and cultural contexts of the classical period
  2. Recognize musical performing forces (voices, instruments, and ensembles), styles, composers, and genres of the classical period
  3. Aurally identify selected music of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven and explain how it interacts with forms of the day

5.2 Key Terms and Individuals

5.3 Introduction and Historical Context

Of all the musical periods, the Classical period is the shortest, spanning less than a century. Its music is dominated by three composers whose works are still some of the best known of all Western art music: Franz Joseph Haydn (1732–1809), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791), and Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827). Although born in different European regions, all three spent a substantial amount of time in Vienna, Austria, which might be considered the European musical capital of the time.

Music scholars have referred to this time as the Classical period in music for several reasons. For one, the music of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven has served as the model for most composers after their time and is still played today; in this way, the music is "classic" in that it has provided an exemplar and has stood the test of time. As we will also see, this music has often been perceived as emulating the balance and portion of ancient Greek and Roman art, the time period to which the word "classical" is affixed within literature and art history, as well as the wider field of history.

Our use of the Classical period to refer to music of roughly 1750 to 1815, however, should not be confused with our broader use of the term "classical music" to refer to art music (music that does not otherwise fall within the spheres of popular music or folk music).

Beginning towards the end of the 16th century, citizens in Europe became skeptical of traditional politics, governance, wealth distribution, and the aristocracy. Philosophers and theorists across Europe began to questioning these norms and issues and began suggesting instead that humanity could benefit from change. Publications and scientific discoveries of these thinkers proving and understanding many of nature's laws spurred the paradigm shift of logic referred to as the Age of Reason, or the Enlightenment.

The seeds for the Enlightenment can be found in England in approximately the 1680s. In that decade, Newton published Principia Mathematica and John Locke published his "Essay Concerning Human Understanding." These two works provided the philosophical, mathematical, and scientific foundation for the Enlightenment's great developments. Locke stressed that knowledge is gained through accumulated life experience rather than by acquired outside truth. Newton's mathematics and optical theory showed that humans can observe, study, define, and test the world around them and can also mathematically measure and prove natural occurrences.

Besides Locke and Newton, Enlightenment thinkers included Voltaire, Montesquieu, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Benjamin Franklin, and Immanuel Kant. Their works especially stressed improving humanity's condition through the use of reason and common sense in order to provide liberty and justice for all. Many Enlightenment thinkers challenged blind and unconditional following of the authority of religious traditions and institutions and emphasized what they saw as "universal human goods and rights." They believed that if humankind would simply act with common sense—found in ideas such as "the golden rule"—then societies might advance with greater universal justice and liberty.

Being able to solve and understand many of the mysteries of the universe in a quantifiable manner using math and reason, was empowering. Much of the educated middle class applied these learned principles to improve society. Enlightenment ideals led to political revolutions throughout the Western world. Governmental changes such as Britain's embrace of constitutional democratic form of government and later the United States of America's establishment of democratic republic completely changed the outlook of the function of a nation/state. The overall well-being and prosperity of all in society became the mission of governance.

Portrait of Benjamin Franklin

Figure 5.1 | Benjamin Franklin, 1759
Author | Benjamin Wilson
Source | Wikimedia Commons
License | Public Domain

Up until the mid-1700s art, including music, was under the direct control or patronage of the monarchy/aristocracy, the class whose unquestioned rule was founded on divine hereditary right. The arts were their (and the church's) privilege, luxury, and adornment for generations to come. In its infancy, the Enlightenment's power shift toward the middle class was neither perceived nor anticipated by those in power. America's successful revolution against England landed a devastating blow to the doctrine of the divine ruling rights of kings. Shortly afterward, the ensuing French Revolution had an unintentional impact on the arts and is one of the greatest influences on Western classical music.

Artists and architects of the second half of the eighteenth century looked to classical antiquity as its model; their work is referred to as neoclassical. You can see this interest when one compares the Parthenon in Athens to the columns of the White House. While in power, aristocrats and their wealthy peers exalted the Hellenism that protected them from getting too involved in the current issues of life. The aristocrats saw the ancient Roman gods, heroes, and kings as semblances of themselves. They viewed themselves in the same light as super humans entitled to rule, possess great wealth, and be powerful. This detachment shaped their relationship with the arts in architecture and the visual arts. The rising middle class, on the contrary, viewed and interpreted neoclassical arts as representations of Roman and Greek city-states. This view assisted their resolve to rebel against the tyrants and abolish despotism. Here musical terminology diverges from that used by art historians (Neoclassicism in music would have to wait for the 20th century). As we have few musical exemplars from classical antiquity and as the music of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven would become the model for nineteenth century music, music historians have referred to this period as a time of Musical Classicism.

The mid and second half of the 18th century saw a revolutionary political and economic shift in Europe. Here the dramatic paramount shift of power from the aristocracy to the middle class began and strengthened. The wealth of the middle class had been expanding due the growing capitalism from the Industrial Revolution. This revolution resulted from a series of momentous inventions of the mid-1700s, including the Watt Steam Engine, James Hargreaves's spinning jenny, Edmund Cartwright's power loom, and Eli Whitney's cotton gin.

The following decades witnessed great scientific achievements and discoveries including: electricity by Benjamin Franklin, medical smallpox vaccination by Edward Jenner (1749–1823), the discovery of oxygen by Joseph Priestly (1733–1804), the advancement of the mechanistic view of the universe by Pierre-Simon Laplace (1749–1827), and the invention of the voltaic pile (battery) by Alessandro Volta (1745–1827) a gifted and talented scientist and mathematician, felt that due to scientific explanation for the planets, their motion, and possibly how they began, humans no longer had any need for God. This mindset even further reduces the influence of the church on society and music.

During the Enlightenment, the burgeoning middle class became a major market for art superseding the aristocracy as the principal consumer of music and art. This market shift facilitated a great demand for new innovations in the humanities. While the increased literacy of the middle class led to the proliferation of newspapers, periodicals, and novels throughout Western Europe. These sources provide us with reviews of concerts and published music and capture eighteenth century impressions of and responses to music.

5.3.1 The Visual Arts and Architecture

The visual arts developed two major styles in the Enlightenment. Both are representative of the dualism found in the arts during the classical era. As the aristocracy tried to adhere to the Greek and Roman mythological antiquity, artists such as the painter Jacques-Louis David (1748–1835), of the French revolution adorned his canvases with themes of Roman and Athenian democracy. David's paintings were admired by Thomas Jefferson, but David's painting The Death of Marat (1793) received particular praise. Marat, to whom the painting refers, is the murdered Jean-Paul Marat, an influential French revolutionary leader. Marat's previous influence paired with his murder and David's painting instantly transposed him into a political martyr. David's painting thus became a symbol of sacrifice in the name of the republic.1

Architecture in the late eighteenth century leaned toward the clean lines of ancient buildings such as the Athenian Parthenon and away from the highly ornate decorative accents of Baroque and Rococo design. One might also argue that the music of Haydn, Mozart, and early Beethoven aspires toward a certain simplicity and calmness stemming from ancient Greek art.

1 "Jacques-Louis David." A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 18 December 2015.

5.3.2 Music in Late Eighteenth Century

The three most important composers of the Classical period were Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Ludwig van Beethoven. Although they were born in different places, all three composers spent the last years of their lives in Vienna, Austria, a city which might be considered the musical capitol of the Classical period (see map below).

Map of Europe. Text overlay says England: Mozart and Haydn traveled here. Bonn, Germany: Beethoven born here. Vienna, Austria: Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven spent their last years here. France: Home of the French Revolution. Salzburg, Austria: Mozart born here. Italy: Mozart learned how to compose opera here.

Figure 5.3 | Map of Europe
Author | User: "Ssolbergj"
Source | Wikimedia Commons
License | CC BY-SA 3.0

Their music careers illustrate the changing role of the composer during this time. The aristocratic sponsors of the Classical artists—who were still functioning under the patronage system—were more interested in the final product than in the artists' intrinsic motivations for creating art for its own sake. For most of his life, Haydn worked for the aristocracy composing to order and wearing the livery of the Esterházy family, who were his patrons. Though successful working under their patronage, Haydn had more freedom to forge his own career after Prince Nikolaus Esterházy's death and staged concerts for his own commercial benefit in London and Vienna.

Beethoven, the son of a court musician, was sent to Vienna to learn to compose. By 1809, he had succeeded in securing a lifetime annuity (a promise from local noblemen for annual support). Beethoven did not have to compose music for them; he simply had to stay in Vienna and compose. In some ways, the role of aristocratic patron and composer was turned on its head. When philosophically compatible with a sponsor, the artist flourished and could express his/her creativity.

But in Mozart's case, the patronage system was stifling and counterproductive to his abilities. Mozart was also born and raised by a father who was a court musician, though his father was a court musician for the Archbishop of Salzburg. It was expected that Mozart would also enter the service of the Archbishop; instead, he escaped to Vienna, where he attempted the life of a freelancer. After initial successes, he struggled to earn enough money to make ends meet and died a pauper in 1791. The journey through the Classical period is one between two camps, the old and the new: the old based upon an aristocracy with city states and the new in the rising and more powerful educated middle class. The traditional despotism is dying while the new class system increasingly thrives.

5.3.3 Musical Timeline

Events in History Events in Music
1732: Haydn born
1750: J. S. Bach dies
1756: Mozart born
1762: French philosopher Rousseau publishes Émile, or Treatise on Education, outlining Englightenment educational ideas
1770: Beethoven born
1776: Declaration of Independence in the U.S.A.
1781: Mozart settles in Vienna
1789: Storming of the Bastille and beginning of the French Revolution (Paris, France)
1790: Beethoven moves to Vienna
1791: Mozart dies
1791–95: Haydn travels to London
1792: Beethoven moves to Vienna
1793: In the U.S.A., invention of the Cotton Gin, an innovation of the Industrial Revolution
1809: Haydn dies
1827: Beethoven dies

5.4 Music in the Classical Period

5.4.1 Music Comparison Overview

Baroque Music Classical Music
  • Rise of homophony; polyphony still used
  • Rise of instrumental music, including the violin family
  • Meter more important than before
  • New genres such as opera, oratorio, concerto, cantata, and fugue
  • Emergence of program music
  • Continued presence of music at church and court
  • Continued increase of music among merchant classes
  • Motor rhythm
  • Mostly homophony, but with variation
  • New genres such as the symphony and string quartet
  • Use of crescendos and decrescendos
  • Question and answer (aka antecedent consequent) phrases that are shorter than earlier phrases
  • New emphasis on musical form: for example, sonata form, theme and variations, minuet and trio, rondo, and first-movement concerto form
  • Greater use of contrasting dynamics, articulations, and tempos

5.4.2 General Trends of Classical Music

Musical Style

The Classical style of music embodies balance, structure, and flexibility of expression, arguably related to the noble simplicity and calm grandeur that the eighteenth century art historian Johann Joachim Winckelmann saw in ancient Greek art. In the music of Haydn, Mozart, and the early Beethoven, we find tuneful melodies using question/answer or antecedent/consequent phrasing; flexible deployment of rhythm and rests; and slower harmonic rhythm (harmonic rhythm is the rate at which the chords or harmonies change). Composers included more expressive marks in their music, such as the crescendo and decrescendo. The homophony of the Classical period featured predominant melody lines accompanied by relatively interesting and independent lines. In the case of a symphony or operatic ensemble, the texture might be described as homophony with multiple accompanying lines or polyphony with a predominant melodic line.

Performing Forces

The Classical period saw new performing forces such as the piano and the string quartet and an expansion of the orchestra. Initially called the fortepiano, then the pianoforte, and now the piano was capable of dynamics from soft to loud; the player needed only to adjust the weight applied when depressing a key. This feature was not available in the Baroque harpsichord. Although the first pianos were developed in the first half of the eighteenth century, most of the technological advancements that led the piano to overtaking all other keyboard instruments in popularity occurred in the late eighteenth century.

Besides the keyboard instruments, the string quartet was the most popular new chamber music ensembles of the Classical period and comprised two violins, a viola, and a cello. In addition to string quartets, composers wrote duets, trios, quintets, and even sextets, septets, and octets. Whether performed in a palace or a more modest middle class home, chamber music, as the name implies, was generally performed in chamber or smaller room.

In the Classical period, the orchestra expanded into an ensemble that might include as many as thirty to sixty musicians distributed into four sections. The sections include the strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion. Classical composers explored the individual unique tone colors of the instruments and they did not treat the instrumental sections interchangeably. An orchestral classical piece features a much larger tonal palette and more rapid changes of the ensemble's timbre through a variety of orchestration techniques. Each section in the classical orchestra has a unique musical purpose as penned by the composer. The string section still holds its prominence as the center-piece for the orchestra. Composers continue predominantly the melody to assign the first violins and the accompaniment to the lower strings. The woodwinds are orchestrated to provide diverse tone colors and often assigned melodic solo passages. By the beginning of the nineteenth century, clarinets were added to the flutes and oboes to complete the woodwind section. To add volume and to emphasize louder dynamic, horns and trumpets were used. The horns and trumpets also filled out the harmonies. The brass usually were not assigned the melody or solos. The kettle drum or timpani were used for volume highlights and for rhythmic pulse. Overall, the Classical orchestra matured into a multifaceted tone color ensemble that composers could utilize to produce their most demanding musical thoughts acoustically through an extensive tonal palette. General differences between the Baroque and Classical (1750–1815) orchestras are summarized in the following chart.

Baroque Orchestras Classical Orchestras
  • Strings at the core
  • Woodwind and brass instruments such as the flutes or oboes and trumpets and horns doubled the themes played by the strings or provided harmonies
  • Any percussion was provided by timpani
  • Harpsichord, sometimes accompanied by cello or bassoon, provided the basso continuo
  • Generally led by the harpsichord player
  • Strings at the core
  • More woodwind instruments—flutes and oboes and (increasingly) clarinets—which were sometimes given their own melodic themes and solo parts
  • More brass instruments, including, after 1808, trombones.
  • More percussion instruments, including cymbals, the triangle, and other drums
  • Phasing out of the basso continuo
  • Generally led by the concertmaster (the most important first violinist) and increasingly by a conductor

Emergence of New Musical Venues

The Classical period saw performing ensembles such as the orchestra appearing at an increasing number of concerts. These concerts were typically held in theaters or in the large halls of palaces and attended by anyone who could afford the ticket price, which was reasonable for a substantial portion of the growing middle class. For this reason, the birth of the public concert is often traced to the late eighteenth century. At the same time, more music was incorporated into a growing number of middle class households.

The redistribution of wealth and power of this era affected the performing forces and musical venues in two ways. First, although the aristocracy still employed musicians, professional composers were no longer exclusively employed by the wealthy. This meant that not all musicians were bound to a particular person or family as their patron/sponsor. Therefore, public concerts shifted from performances in the homes and halls of the rich to performances for the masses which evolved the symphony into a genre for the public concert, as they were eventually written for larger and larger ensembles. Second, middle class families incorporated more music into their households for personal entertainment. For example, middle class households would have their children take music lesson and participate in chamber music or small musical ensembles. Musicians could now support themselves through teaching lessons, composing and publishing music, and performing in public venues, such as in public concerts. Other opportunities included the public opera house, which was the center for vocal music experimentation during the Classical era. Composers also continued to write music for the church.

Musical Form

As musical compositions of the Classical period incorporated more performing forces and increased in length, a composition's structure became more important. As an element of organization and coherence, form helps give meaning to a musical movement or piece, we have some evidence to suggest that late eighteenth and early nineteenth century audiences heard form in music that was especially composed to play on their expectations.

Sonata Form

The most important innovation in form during the Classical period is what we call Sonata Form. This form got its name from being used as the first movement of most piano sonatas of the Classical period. Consisting of three sections—Exposition, Development, and Recapitulation—it was also used for the first movements (and sometimes final movements) of almost all Classical symphonies and string quartets. The exposition of a sonata form presents the primary themes and keys of the movement. After the first theme is presented in the home (or "tonic") key, the music modulates to a different key during a sub-section that is called a "transition." Once the new key is established, subsequent themes appear. The exposition generally ends with a rousing confirmation of the new key in a sub-section called the "closing." The exposition then usually repeats.

As its name implies, the development "develops" the primary themes of the movement. The motives that comprise the musical themes are often broken apart and given to different parts of the orchestra. These motives are often repeated in sequences (refer back to Chapter 1 for more about sequences), and these sequences often lead to frequent modulations from one musical key to another that contribute to an overall sense of instability. Near the end of the development, there is sometimes a sub-section called the "retransition" during which the harmonies, textures, and dynamics of the music prepare the listener for the final section of the form, the recapitulation.

Also true to its name, the recapitulation brings back the primary themes and home key of the movement. A simultaneous return of the first theme and home key generally marks its beginning. In the recapitulation, the listener hears the same musical themes as in the first presented in the exposition. The main difference between the exposition and the recapitulation is that the recapitulation stays in the home key. After all, the movement is about to end and ending in the home key provides the listener a sense of closure. Recapitulations often end with sub-sections called codas. The coda, or "tail," of the movement is a sub-section that re-emphasizes the home key and that generally provides a dramatic conclusion.

Starting in the late eighteenth century, there are reports of listeners recognizing the basic sections of sonata form, and contemporary music theorists outlined them in music composition treatises. Their descriptions are generalizations based on the multitudinous sonata-form movements composed by Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. Although their sonata form movements share many of the characteristics outlined above, each sonata form is slightly different. Perhaps that is what makes their music so interesting: it takes what is expected and does something different. In fact, composers continued to write sonata forms through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. By the end of the nineteenth century, some of these sonata forms were massive, almost-hour-long movements. You will have the opportunity to hear sonata form in several of our focus compositions from the Classical period.

Other Important Forms in Classical Music

Another form of the Classical period is the Theme and Variations. Theme and Variations form consists of the presentation of a theme and then the variations upon it. The theme may be illustrated as A with any number of variations following it: A', A'', A''', A'''', etc. Each theme is a varied version of the original, keeping enough of the theme to be recognizable, but providing enough variety in style for interest. Variations change melodies (often through ornamentation), harmonies, rhythms, and instrumentation. Theme and variations forms were often found in slow movements of symphonies and string quartets. Some fast movements are also in theme and variations form.

The Minuet and Trio form found in many Classical symphonies and string quartets stems from the stylized dances of the Baroque Period (see chapter 4), and then followed by the Minuet A section: A B A for short. To save paper, the return of the A section was generally not written out. Instead, the composer wrote the words da capo, meaning to the head, at the end of the B section indicating a return to the A section. As a movement in three parts, Minuet and Trio form is sometimes called a ternary form. As we will see in our discussion of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, by the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Minuet and Trio was perceived as dated, and composers started writing fast ABA ternary form movements called Scherzos.

The Rondo is another popular instrumental form of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Rondo consists of the alternation of a refrain "A" with contrasting sections ("B," "C," "D," etc.). Rondos are often the final movements of string quartets, classical symphonies, concerti, and sonata (instrumental solos).


We normally classify musical compositions into genres by considering their performing forces, function, the presence and quality of any text, and their musical style and form. Changes in any of these factors can lead to changes in genres. The two most important new genres of the Classical period were the Symphony and the String Quartet; instrumental genres that continued from the Baroque period include the concerto.

Although one might trace its origins to the opera overture, the symphony developed as an orchestral composition for the public concert. By the end of the Classical period, it typically had four movements. The first movement was generally fast in tempo and in sonata form. The final movement was normally fast in tempo and used sonata, rondo, or theme and variations form. The interior movements consisted of a slow and lyrical movement and a moderate-tempo dancelike movement generally using the style of the minuet, a popular eighteenth century dance.

The string quartet became one of the most popular genres of Classical chamber music. Its overall structure and form was exactly like the symphony. However, it was always performed by two violins, one viola, and one cello (thus its name) and commonly used as entertainment in the home, although on occasion string quartets were performed in public concerts.

Also popular for personal diversion was the piano sonata, which normally had only three movements (generally lacking the minuet movement found in the string quartet and the symphony).

The most pronounced change in the Classical period vocal music was the growing popularity of Opera Buffa, or comic opera, over the more serious plot and aristocratic characters of Baroque Opera Seria. Opera buffa portrayed the lives of middle class characters and often mixed tragedy with comedy; as we will see, Mozart would produce some of the most famous opera buffa of all time. (As a side note, Mozart also transformed the opera overture into a preview of the musical themes to follow in the opera proper.) Composers Haydn and Beethoven also continued to write oratorios.

5.5 Music of Franz Joseph Haydn (1732–1809)

Born in 1732, Franz Joseph Haydn grew up in a small village that was located about a six-hour coach ride east of Vienna (today the two are about an hour apart by car). His family loved to sing together, and perceiving that their son had musical talent, apprenticed six-year-old Haydn to a relative who was a schoolmaster and choirmaster. As an apprentice, Haydn learned harpsichord and violin and sang in the church. So distinct was Haydn's voice that he was recommended to Vienna's St. Stephen's Cathedral's music director. In 1740 Haydn became of student of St. Stephen's Cathedral. He sang with the St. Stephen's Cathedral boys' choir for almost ten years, until his voice broke (changed). After searching, he found a job as valet to the Italian opera composer Nicola Porpora and most likely started studying music theory and music composition in a systematic way at that time. He composed a comic musical and eventually became a chapel master for a Czech nobleman. When this noble family fell into hard times, they released Haydn. In 1761, he became a Vice-Chapel Master for an even wealthier nobleman, the Hungarian Prince Esterházy. Haydn spent almost thirty years working for their family. He was considered a skilled servant, who soon became their head Chapel Master and was highly prized, especially by the second and most musical of the Esterházy princes for whom Haydn worked.

Figure 5.4 | Franz Joseph Haydn, 1791
Author | Thomas Hardy
Source | Wikimedia Commons
License | Public Domain

The Esterházys kept Haydn very busy: he wrote music, which he played both for and with his patrons, ran the orchestra, and staged operas. In 1779, Haydn's contract was renegotiated, allowing him to write and sell music outside of the Esterházy family. Within a decade, he was the most famous composer in Europe. In 1790, the musical Prince Nikolaus Esterházy died and his son Anton downsized the family's musical activities. This shift allowed Haydn to accept an offer to give a concert in London, England, where his music was very popular. Haydn left Vienna for London in December. For the concerts there, he composed an opera, symphonies, and chamber music, all of which were extremely popular. Haydn revisited London twice in the following years, 1791 to 1795, earning—after expenses—as much as he had in twenty years of employment with the Esterházys. Nonetheless, a new Esterházy prince decided to reestablish the family's musical foothold, so Haydn returned to their service in 1796. In the last years of his life, he wrote two important oratorios (he had been much impressed by performances of Handel's oratorios while in London) as well as more chamber music.

5.5.1 Overview of Haydn's Music

Like his younger contemporaries Mozart and Beethoven, Haydn composed in all the genres of his day. From a historical perspective, his contributions to the string quartet and the symphony are particularly significant: in fact, he is often called the Father of the Symphony. His music is also known for its motivic construction, use of folk tunes, and musical wit. Central to Haydn's compositional process was his ability to take small numbers of short musical motives and vary them in enough ways so as to provide interesting music for movements that were several minutes long. Folk-like as well as popular tunes of the day can be heard in many of his compositions for piano, string quartet, and orchestra. Contemporary audiences and critics seemed to appreciate this mixing of musical complexity and the familiar. Ernst Ludwig Gerber (1790–92), an important eighteenth-century musical connoisseur, wrote that Haydn "possessed the great art of appearing familiar in his themes" (Historisch-biographisches Lexikon der Tonkünstler of 1790–1792). Additionally, many of his contemporaries remarked on Haydn's musical wit, or humor. Several of his music compositions play on the listeners' expectations, especially through the use of surprise rests, held out notes, and sudden dynamic changes.

Focus Composition: Haydn, String Quartet in D Major, Op. 20, No. 4 (1772)

The string quartet was one of the important performing forces and genres of the Classical period, and Haydn was one of its most important composers. Over the course of his life, Haydn wrote sixty-eight quartets, many of which were played both by Haydn's aristocratic patrons and published and available for the amateur musician to purchase and play. In fact, many late eighteenth century writers (including the famous German poet Goethe) referred to the string quartet as "a conversation between four intelligent people," in this case, the four people being the first and second violinist, violist, and cellist.

The string quartet by Haydn which we will study is one of six quartets that he wrote in 1772 and published as opus 20 quartets in 1774 (roughly speaking, the "20" meant that this was Haydn's twentieth publication to date). In many ways, this follows the norms of other string quartets of the day. It is in four movements, with a fast first movement in sonata form, a slow second movement that uses a theme-and-variations form, a moderate-tempo third movement that is like a minuet, and a fourth fast movement, here in sonata form. As we will see, the third movement is subtitled "alla Zingarese," or "in the style of the Hungarians" (a good example of Haydn being "folky"). The entire quartet comprises a little over twenty minutes of music.

First, we will listen to the first movement, which is marked "allegro di molto," or very fast, and is in D major, as expected given the string quartet's title. It uses sonata form, and as stated earlier, in the exposition, the home key and musical themes of the movement are introduced, or "exposed." In the development, those themes are broken apart and combined in new and different ways, or "developed." In the recapitulation, the home key and original musical themes return; in other words, they are "recapitulated" or "recapped."

The exposition, development, and recapitulation are further broken into subsections to correspond to modulations in keys and the presentation of new and different themes. For the time being, simply listen for the main sections of sonata form in the first movement of Haydn's string quartet. You might also listen for Haydn's motivic style. In the first musical theme, you'll hear three motives. The first motive, for example, repeats the same pitch three times. The second motive consists of an arched musical phrase that ascends and descends and outlines the pitches of an important chord of the movement. The final motive that Haydn packs into his opening musical theme is a musical turn, or a series of notes that move by rapids. Each of these motives is heard repeatedly through the rest of the movement.

Listening Guide

For audio, go to: Watch a video of Haydn's String Quartet in D major, op. 20, no. 4

Performed by the Badke Quartet

Listening Guide
Composer Haydn
Composition String Quartet in D major, Op. 20, no. 4 (I: Allegro di molto)
Date 1772
Genre string quartet
Form I: Allegro di molto is in sonata form
Performing Forces string quartet, i.e., two violins, one viola, one cello
What we want you to remember about this composition
  • It uses sonata form: exposition, development, and recapitulation
  • It is in D major
  • Haydn's style here is very motivic
Other things to listen for
  • The interplay of the two violins, viola, and cello, in ways that might remind you of a "conversation between four intelligent people."
  • The subsections of the sonata form
Timing Performing Forces, Melody, and Texture Text and Form
0:00 First theme in D major consists of three motives, including a first repeated note motive; first heard in the first violin and then passed to the other instruments, too. EXPOSITION: First theme
0:38 Uses fast triplets (three notes per beat) in sequences to modulate to the key of A major transition
1:12 New combinations of motives in themes in A major: starts with three-note motive, then a rapidly rising scale in the first violin, then more triplets, a more lyrical leaping motive, and ending with more triplets. Second theme and closing theme
2:22 See above EXPOSITION repeats; see above
4:44 Sequences the repeated note motive DEVELOPMENT
5:12 Sounds like the first theme in the home key, but then shifts to another key. Repeated note and fast triplet motives follow in sequences, modulating to different keys (major and minor).
5:44 A pause and the first motive, but not in the home key of D major; triplets, the more lyrical leaping motive and then a pause and the first motive, but still not in the home key.
7:04 After a pause, the first theme in D major RECAPITULATION: First theme
7:25 Uses fast triplets like the exposition's transition section, followed by more lyrical motives, but it does not modulate away from D major. Transition-like section
7:48 Return of the three-note motive followed by a rapidly rising scale in the first violin, then more triplets, a more lyrical leaping motive, and ending with more triplets but still in D major (was in A major in the exposition). Second theme and closing theme

The third movement of Haydn's String Quartet in D major, Op. 20, no. 4 uses a moderate tempo (it is marked "allegretto," in this case, a slow allegro) and the form of a minuet. Keeping with the popular culture of the day, a great number of Haydn's compositions included minuet movements.

Here, however, we see Haydn playing on our expectations for the minuet and writing a movement that is alla zingarese. The minuet was not a Hungarian dance, so the listener's experience and expectations are altered when the third movement sounds more like a lively Hungarian folk dance than the stately western-European minuet. (For comparison's sake, you can listen to the second movement of Haydn's String Quartet in E flat, Op. 20, no. 1, which is a much more traditional-sounding minuet.) Haydn retains the form of the stylized minuet, which consisted of a minuet and a trio. The trio consists of musical phrases that contrast with what was heard in the minuet: the trio got its name from an earlier practice of assigning this music to a group of three wind players. Here the entire string quartet plays throughout. After the trio, the group returns to the minuet, resulting in a minuet (A)—trio (B)—minuet (A). As was the custom, Haydn did not write out the minuet music at its return—remember paper was much more expensive 200 years ago than it is today. Instead, Haydn wrote two Italian words: da capo. As these words were used by all composers of the day, the players knew immediately to flip to the beginning of the movement and repeat the minuet, generally without repeats.

Listening Guide

Watch a video of Haydn's String Quartet in D major, op. 20, no. 4, Third Movement

Performed by the Badke Quartet

Listening Guide
Composer Haydn
Composition String Quartet in D major, op. 20, no. 4 (III. Allegretto alla zingarese)
Date 1772
Genre string quartet
Form III. Allegretto alla zingarese uses the form of a minuet and trio, that is, Minuet (A) Trio (B) Minuet (A).
Performing Forces string quartet (2 violins, 1 viola, and 1 cello)
What we want you to remember about this composition
  • It is in triple time and a moderate tempo, like most minuets
  • The music for the repeat of the minuet is not written out; instead, Haydn writes "da capo" at the end of the Trio
  • Instead of sounding like a stately minuet, it sounds more like a lively Hungarian dance
Other things to listen for
  • It hardly sounds like triple meter, because Haydn writes accents on beats two and three instead of mainly on beat one
Timing Performing Forces, Melody, and Texture Text and Form
0:00 Lots of unexpected accents on beats two and three of the triple time meter; homophonic texture: the first violin gets the solo and the other voices accompany; in D major MINUET: A
0:09 " a repeats
0:17 Similar to a, but the melody is even more disjunct, with more leaps. B
0:27 " b repeats
0:41 Accents back on the first beat of each measure (that is, of each measure of the triple meter); homophonic texture: the cello gets the solo and the other voices accompany; still in D major TRIO: Cc
0:57 Similar to c; note the drone pitches in the 2nd violin and viola accompaniment at the beginning of the phrase dd
1:14 See above MINUET: A
1:20 See above B

Focus Composition: Haydn, Symphony No. 94 in G Major, "Surprise"

Haydn is also often called the Father of the Symphony because he wrote over 100 symphonies, which, like his string quartets, span most of his compositional career. As already noted, the Classical orchestra featured primarily strings, with flutes and oboes (and, with Haydn's last symphonies, clarinets) for woodwinds, trumpets and horns for brass, and timpani (and occasionally another drums or the cymbals or triangle) for percussion. The symphony gradually took on the four-movement form that was a norm for over a century, although as we will see, composers sometimes relished departing from the norm.

Haydn wrote some of his most successful symphonies for his times in London. His Symphony No. 94 in G Major, which premiered in London in 1792, is a good example of Haydn's thwarting musical expectations for witty ends. Like most symphonies of its day, the first movement is in sonata form. (Haydn does open the symphony with a brief, slow introduction before launching into the first movement proper.)

Haydn's sense of humor is most evident in the moderately slow andante second movement which starts like a typical theme and variations movement consisting of a musical theme that the composer then varies several times. Each variation retains enough of the original theme to be recognizable but adds other elements to provide interest. The themes used for theme and variations movements tended to be simple, tuneful melody lines. In this case, the theme consists of an eight-measure musical phrase that is repeated. This movement, like many movements of Classical symphonies and string quartets, ends with a coda.

Why did Haydn write such a loud chord at the end of the second statement of the a phrase of the theme? Commentators have long speculated that Haydn may have noticed that audience members tended to drift off to sleep in slow and often quietly lyrical middle movements of symphonies and decided to give them an abrupt wakeup. Haydn himself said nothing of the sort, although his letters, as well as his music, do suggest that he was attentive to his audience's opinions and attempted at every juncture to give them music that was new and interesting: for Haydn, that clearly meant playing upon his listener's expectations in ways that might even be considered humorous.

Listening Guide

Watch Haydn's "Surprise" Symphony, II on YouTube

Performed by The Orchestra of the 18th Century, conducted by Frans Brüggen.

Listening Guide
Composer Haydn
Composition Symphony No. 94 in G major, "Surprise" (II. Andante)
Date 1791
Genre symphony
Form II. Andante is in theme and variations form
Performing Forces Classical orchestra here with 1st violin section, 2nd violin section, viola section, cellos/bass section, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 trumpets, 2 horns, 2 bassoons, and timpani
What we want you to remember about this composition
  • It is in theme and variations form
  • The very loud chord that ends the first phrase of the theme provides the "surprise"
Other things to listen for
  • The different ways that Haydn varies the theme: texture, register, instrumentation, key
Timing Performing Forces, Melody, and Texture Text and Form
8:46 Eight-measure theme with a question-and-answer structure. The "question" ascends and descends and then the "answer" ascends and descends, and ends with a very loud chord (the answer). In C major and mostly consonant. In homophonic texture, with melody in the violins and accompaniment by the other strings; soft dynamics and then very soft staccato notes until ending with a very loud chord played by the full orchestra, the "surprise." Theme: aa
9:21 Contrasting more legato eight-measure phrase ends like the staccato motives of the a phrase without the loud chord; b
9:39 Repetition of b b
9:57 Theme in the second violins and violas under a higher-pitched 1st violin countermelody. Still in C major and mostly consonant. Ascending part of the theme is forte and the descending part of the phrase is piano; the first-violin countermelody is an interesting line but the overall texture is still homophonic Variation 1: aa
10:30 Similar in texture and harmonies; piano dynamic throughout bb
11:05 The first four measures are in unison monophonic texture and very loud and the second four measures (the answer) are in homophonic texture and very soft; In C minor Variation 2: aa
11:41 In C minor with more dissonance; very loud in dynamics; The motives are passed from instrument to instrument in polyphonic imitation. Develops motives from a and b phrases
12:20 Back in C major.The oboes and flutes get the a phrase with fast repeated notes in a higher register; the second time, the violins play the a phrase at original pitch; uses homophonic texture throughout. Variation 3: aa
12:56 The flutes and oboes play countermelodies while the strings play the theme. bb
13:27 The winds get the first a phrase and then it returns to the first violin; very loud for the first statement of a and very soft for the second statement of a; homophonic texture throughout. Variation 4: ab
14:01 Shifting dynamics bb + extension
14:50 Coda

The third movement of Haydn's "Surprise" Symphony is a rather traditional minuet and trio movement. The fourth movement is equally traditional; it uses a light-hearted form called the rondo. As state above, in a rondo, a musical refrain, labeled as "A," alternates with other sections, alternately called B, C, D, etc. See if you can hear the recurrence of the refrain as you listen to this joyful conclusion to the symphony.

Listening Guide

Watch Haydn's "Surprise" Symphony, III on YouTube

Performed by The Orchestra of the 18th Century, conducted by Frans Brüggen.

Listening Guide
Composer Haydn
Composition Symphony No. 94 in G major, "Surprise" (IV. Finale: Allegro Molto)
Date 1791
Genre symphony
Form IV. Finale: Allegro molto is in a (sonata) rondo form
Performing Forces Classical orchestra here with 1st violin section, 2nd violin section, viola section, cellos/bass section, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 trumpets, 2 horns, 2 bassoons, and timpani
What we want you to remember about this composition
  • This movement uses a rondo form
  • It is at a very fast tempo
  • It uses a full orchestra
Other things to listen for
  • The alternation of the different sections of the rondo form
  • The changes in key and texture
Timing Performing Forces, Melody, and Texture Text and Form
19:17 Fast and tuneful theme in duple time in homophonic texture; in G major, with more dissonances as the music modulates to… A
20:19 D major for a different tuneful theme that opens descending motion; B
20:42 Returns to G major and the first theme; texture becomes more polyphonic as it… A'
20:49 modulates through several keys. C
21:17 Return to the first theme in G major A
21:26 Opening motive of the first theme in minor and then sequences on other motives that modulate through minor keys. D
21:47 Back in G major with the first theme and other music of A that is extended into a coda that brings back b momentarily and juxtaposes forte and piano dynamics before its rousing close. A and coda

Haydn's symphonies greatly influenced the musical style of both Mozart and Beethoven; indeed, these two composers learned how to develop motives from Haydn's earlier symphonies. Works such as the Surprise Symphony were especially shaping for the young Beethoven, who, as we will later discuss, was taking music composition lessons from Haydn about the same time that Haydn was composing the Symphony No. 94 before his trip to London.

5.6 Music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791)

[EDITOR'S NOTE: The narrative on Mozart in this book was so poorly written that I have commented it out and replaced it with a passage from Essentials of Music History, a public-domain book from 1914 by Thomas Tapper and Percy Goetschius. If you would like to read the original text from Understanding Music, you may look at the source code or download the original book from the Galileo website.]

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart* was born at Salzburg, January 27, 1756. He received his first musical training from his father, Leopold Mozart, a man justly noted not only for his musical intelligence but also for his general scientific learning. Young Mozart made such rapid progress that in 1762 (when he was six years old) he was already able to undertake a concert tour, under his father's protection, to Munich, Vienna, Paris, London, The Hague, and Amsterdam; everywhere he was acknowledged to be a most extraordinary prodigy, and was idolised as much for his childish grace and self-assurance as for his rare artistic talent. His first published work (two sonatas for clavichord and violin) appeared in 1763, when the lad was seven years of age; and mention has been made of the opera he wrote in his twelfth and thirteenth year, at the emperor's request. In 1770, at the age of fourteen, he is recorded in the Salzburg court calendar as concert-master. In 1769 he travelled with his father to Italy, visiting Verona, Mantua, Milan, and Parma. In December, 1770, his opera Mitridate was given in Milan. (His career as opera composer is traced in Chapter XXVII.) In 1788–90 he created the three masterly symphonies in E flat, G minor, and C major which firmly established his fame as an instrumental composer of most eminent classic genius.

* Mozart's full name was Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus (Amadæus) Mozart.

Figure 5.5 | Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Author | Barbara Krafft
Source | Wikimedia Commons
License | Public Domain

Mozart devoted his energies to instrumental composition from his earliest youth, and contributed a greater volume to this kind of musical literature than to vocal music, albeit his fame rests chiefly upon his connection with the opera. Like many masters of that early period, Mozart was incredibly prolific, having written more in his short life than any dozen modern composers together. Besides his operas and other vocal works, he bequeathed to posterity forty-nine [sic; should be 41] symphonies, fifty-five concertos, thirty-three orchestral divertissements, serenades, cassationes, and the like, twenty-two pianoforte sonatas and fantasies, thirty-two string quartets, forty-five violin sonatas and variations, fifteen string duos, trios, and quintets, and a large number of miscellaneous compositions for pianoforte and orchestra. His last and, in many respects, most impressive work was the famous Requiem, written for Count Walsegg of Stuppach but not quite finished. Death overtook Mozart while he was engaged upon this work, December 5, 1791, at the age of a little less than thirty-six years.

Mozart was proverbial for his simple cheerfulness, his ingenuous goodness of heart, and his frankness, free from the remotest trace of deceit.

Though perhaps not one of the grandest and, intellectually, most powerful of the great masters, he is surely the most amiable character in all music history, as his music is at once the purest and most scholarly. This attribute of musical purity and refinement, proof against the most searching theoretic and aesthetic scrutiny, is the salient trait of his work. The distracting method of life he was compelled to lead did not in the least affect his musical pursuits; he was as serious, tenacious, and thorough in his art as was ever the sternest pedant, but without the slightest taint anywhere of dogmatism or mere scholasticism; his counterpoint is natural because, even when most complex, it seems to unfold as free of technical effort as an improvisation.

Mozart's greatest strength lay in his dramatic instincts and expression; hence his most significant creations were those in the secular dramatic forms, which he advanced far more than can be claimed for his instrumental forms. The latter manifest all the wondrous purity, beauty, and perfection of form of which he was a master but do not really excel the greatest of Haydn's instrumental works in anything but superior refinement of detail—surely not in originality or breadth of spirit and conception. This perfection of detail is chiefly evident in Mozart's manipulation of the orchestra. In consequence of his accurate knowledge of the nature and technic of each single instrument, his orchestration was very much richer and more vital than that of any of his predecessors and became, especially in his operas, a medium of dramatic expression of great musical power, vividness, individuality, and variety.

Mozart's Operas

Mozart…did for the opera what Beethoven subsequently accomplished for the symphony—elevating it to an eminence of artistic perfection which, from the classic point of view, has probably never yet been excelled.

It was natural that Mozart, also, should at first have simply fallen into the prevailing current of dramatic and musical conception and have closely imitated not only the Italians but the better class of German operetta composers. His genius, almost cosmopolitan in its scope, enabled him to choose with unerring discrimination what was of true value in Italian opera, to discern the best melodic methods of his own countrymen in their popular light operas, and to adopt the best of French dramatic art—but without becoming dependent upon any one of these.

From the Italians he learned the true power of song and how to treat vocal melody in the most masterly and effective manner. To these acquisitions were added his own innate musical qualities, the ardency, deep fervour, wholesome simplicity of his feelings, and the seriousness of his artistic labour. He was of a most cheerful, optimistic nature and took life easily; but his art was to him ever an exceedingly serious matter.

Mozart's first opera was composed in his thirteenth year (in 1768)—an opera buffa in three acts, entitled La finta semplice, which was never performed. The same year he produced a short Singspiel, Bastien et Bastienne, that was heard in private circles only. At the age of fourteen his Mitridate was produced in Milan with tremendous success. In 1772 he wrote Il sogno di Scipione for the Archbishop of Salzburg, in 1773 Lucia Silla for Milan, in 1775 La bella finta giardiniera for Munich, and, in the same year, Il re pastore for Salzburg. Besides the music to Thamos and the opera Zäide, Mozart next wrote the first one of his operas that was to become in the most eminent sense famous, Idomeneo, for Munich, in 1781. In this work Mozart begins to tread his individual path as dramatic tone-poet. The same year he began Belmonte und Constanze (or Die Entführung). In 1786, having made his home in Vienna, he composed the Schauspieldirektor; May 1 of the same year witnessed the first performance of Figaro; October 29, 1787, came Don Giovanni in Prague; then followed Cosi fan tutte (1790), Titus (1791), and finally Die Zauberflöte (Magic Flute), first produced September 30, 1791, a few weeks before his death.

Mozart's characters are musically conceived: they feel, think, and act in tones; each person appears before the listener in amazing fidelity to nature and life, in his or her musical characterisation. And, with it all, the conditions of most refined musical beauty and freedom of expression are never sacrificed, or the practice of technical scholarship neglected. In view of the qualities Mozart possessed, it seems regrettable that he did not oftener turn his thoughts to loftier themes, but in this respect he was the child of his times and died too young to have learned that art does not achieve its greatest triumphs through artistic perfection alone, but rather through the nobility and sublimity of its ideals.

The librettos of his operas are almost all so trivial and even vulgar that they required genius of Mozart's calibre to become fitting objects for artistic dramatic presentation with music. Hence it was here again possible to advance a step farther toward the highest aesthetic achievement, and this time it was Beethoven who was to make it in his one opera, Leonora (Fidelio).

Mozart's treatment of the orchestral accompaniment in his operas was also of extreme significance. The degree of co-ordination and independence which he gave to the instrumental parts was quite unheard of before his day. His orchestra takes as active a part in the unfolding of the dramatic scheme as any of the personal characters do, and contributes its manifold resources and means of expression to a far more vivid and animated dramatic result than had ever been accomplished by earlier writers, and in a fashion later pursued by Mozart's successors, culminating in the effects created by Wagner and Richard Strauss.

[end of passage from Essentials of Music History]

Focus Composition: Mozart, Don Giovanni [1787]

Listening Guide

View Don Giovanni Plot Summary

Listen Here
Composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte
Composition Deh, vieni alla finestra, Testo (Aria) from Don Giovanni, in Italian
Date 1787, First performed October 29, 1787
Genre Aria for baritone voice
Form binary
Nature of Text Originally in Italian (View English Translation)
Performing Forces Baritone and Classical Orchestra
What we want you to remember about this composition This is a really a beautiful love-song where the womanizer Don Giovanni tries to woo Elvira's maid. The piece in D major begins in a 6/8 meter. The musical scoring includes a mandolin in the orchestra with light plucked accompaniments from the violins which supplement the feel of the mandolin. The atmo-sphere created by the aria tends to convince the audience of a heartfelt personal love and attraction The piece is written in a way to present a very light secular style canzonetta in binary form, which tends to help capture the playfulness of the Don Giovanni character.
Other things to listen for This piece could very easily be used in a contemporary opera or musical.

Focus Composition: Mozart, Piano Concerto No. 20 in D Minor, K. 466 [1785]

Classical composers like Mozart took the Baroque concerto for soloist and orchestra and expanded it into a much larger form. Like Vivaldi's concertos, Mozart's concertos were generally in three movements, with fast, slow, and fast tempos, respectively. The first movements of Mozart's concertos also featured the alternation of ritornello sections and solo sections, like we heard in the concerto by Vivaldi in the previous chapter. Mozart, however, also applied the principles of sonata form to the first movements of his concertos, resulting in a form that we now call double-exposition form.

In double-exposition form, the first statement of the exposition was assigned to the orchestra, and the second statement of the exposition was assigned to the soloist with orchestral accompaniment in the background. The alternation between orchestra and soloist sections continues in the development and recapitulation.

Near the end of the recapitulation and during the final orchestra exposition, the orchestra holds a suspenseful chord, at which point the soloist enters and the orchestra drops out. For a minute or longer, the soloist plays a cadenza. A cadenza is a solo section that sounds improvised, though sometimes composers or performers wrote these ahead of time, as is the case with this concerto (the recording cited by the text features a cadenza that was written by Beethoven). A cadenza normally ends with the pianist sustaining a chord (often with a trill) signaling the orchestra's final entrance in the piece, playing the last phrase of the ritornello to bring the movement to a conclusion. You can see an example how ritornello form and sonata form were merged in a double exposition form:

Table 5.1: Double Exposition Form
Ritornello Form Ritornello Solo Section Ritornello Solo Section Ritornello Solo Section Ritornello (including cadenza)

The first movement of Mozart's Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K. 466 is a good example of double-exposition form. As the program annotator for the Burgess Hill Symphony Orchestra puts it:

The orchestral tutti opens with the D minor first subject. This suggests dark threatening skies, emphasised [sic] by syncopation and dynamic contrasts. For a brief while the louring mood is relieved by the second subject, which has modulated into F major. The solo piano makes its entry with a plaintive new theme back in D minor — a little theme that refuses to go away. As the development progresses Mozart reviews all his themes, and presses onwards to a rather stormy climax leading to the cadenza. Mozart left no written cadenzas for this work. When the score came into the hands of Beethoven, he immediately decided that such a dramatic movement as this sorely needed one. He promptly sat down and wrote the shadowed brilliance that will be played by today's soloist.3

3"Mozart: Piano Concerto no 20 in D Minor." Burgess Hill Symphony Orchestra. Burgess Hill Symphony Orchestra, n.d. Web. 18 December 2015

You might also listen to and take notes on this lecture recital about the first movement of the concerto.

Listening Guide

Listen to Mozart's Piano Concerto no 20 on YouTube

Martha Argerich, piano, with the Orchestra di Padova e del Veneto, conducted by Alexandre Rabinovitch

Composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Composition Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K466, First Movement 1. Allegro (Cadenzas by Beethoven)
Date 1785
Genre Piano Concerto
Form Double exposition form
Performing Forces piano soloist and Classical orchestra
What we want you to remember about this composition
  • It is in double exposition form.
  • At the end of the recapitulation, in the final ritornello, the orchestra drops out and the soloist plays a cadenza that sounds improvised.
Timing Performing Forces, Melody, and Texture Text and Form
0:00 Orchestra alone, in a minor key throughout. Orchestral Exposition
2:18 Spotlight on the solo piano, with some accompaniment from the orchestra; the key modulates to F major. Solo Exposition
5:05 Focus switches back and forth from solo piano and the orchestra while the music develops the themes, motives, and harmonies from the exposition. Development
7:23 Back in D minor with the first themes from the exposition. Frequent alternation between the soloist and orchestra as they share the themes. Recapitulation: Ritornello & solo sections
10:17 Orchestra begins the final ritornello and then sustains a suspenseful chord. Recapitulation: Final ritornello
10:35 The pianist plays in a improvisatory manner, shifting suddenly between different motives, tempos, and styles. Listen for many ornaments such as trills and rapid and virtuosic scales. After a final, extended series of trills (starting at 12:17), the orchestra returns for… Recapitulation: Cadenza
12:30 the final phrase of the ritornello and movement (which ends in D minor). Recapitulation: Ritornello concludes

Focus Composition: Mozart, Symphony No. 41 in C Major, K. 551 (1788)

Like Haydn, Mozart also wrote symphonies. Mozart's final symphony, the Symphony No. 41 in major, K. 551 is one of his greatest compositions. It very quickly acquired the nickname "Jupiter," a reference to the Greek god, perhaps because of its grand scale and use of complex musical techniques. For example, Mozart introduced more modulations and key changes in this piece than was typical. The symphony opens with a first movement in sonata form with an exposition, development, and recapitulation.

Listen to the first movement with the listening guide below. You can also find an animated listening guide providing guidance to various sections and identifying the different musical elements as they are introduced in this video:

Listening Guide
Watch a live performance of Mozart's Symphony no. 41 on YouTube

(Video of live orchestral performance); The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Zubin Mehta

Composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Composition Symphony No. 41 in C Major, K. 551 — 1st Movement, Allegro Vivace
Date 1788
Genre Symphony
Form Sonata form
Performing Forces Classical orchestra
What we want you to remember about this composition
  • Listen to the different sections identified in sonata form.
  • During the development section you will feel the instability of the piece induced by the key changes and ever changing instrument voicings.
Other things to listen for
  • Its melodic line is mostly conjunct.
  • Its melody contains many melismas.
  • It has a Latin text sung in a strophic form.
I: Allegro Vivace Time index follows this YouTube video
Timing Performing Forces, Melody, and Texture Text and Form
0:00 Full orchestra. Stated twice—First loud and then soft short responses. EXPOSITION: Opening triplet motive
0:18 The forte dynamic continues, with emphasis on dotted rhythms.Winds perform opening melody followed by staccato string answer;Full bowed motion in strings. First theme in C major
1:30 Motive of three notes continues; Soft lyrical theme with moving ornamentation in accompaniment. Pause followed by second theme of the exposition
2:08 Sudden forte dynamic. Energy increases until sudden softening to third pause; Brass fanfares with complement of the timpani. Second Pause followed by transition to build tension
2:41 Theme played in the strings with grace notes used. Melody builds to a closing;A light singable melody derived from Mozart's aria "Un baccio di mano" After the third pause, the third theme is introduced
3:12 The entire exposition repeats itself
6:21 Transition played by flute, oboe and bassoon followed by third theme in strings;
DEVELOPMENT SECTION: Transition to third theme
6:40 Modulations in this section add to the instability of the section;
Starts like the exposition but with repetition in different keys.
Modulation to the minor
7:21 Slight introduction of third theme motif;
Quiet and subdued.
Implied recapitulation: "Transition"
8:05 Now started by the oboes and bassoons;
Now in C minor, not E flat major, which provides a more ominous tone.
Recapitulation in original key: First theme
9:29 Pause followed by second theme
10:39 After a sudden piano articulation of the SSSL motive, suddenly ends in a loud and bombastic manner: Fate threatens;
Re-emphasizes C minor.
Third theme
10:53 Closing material similar to exposition
11:09 Full orchestra at forte dynamic. Closing cadence for the movement

It is impossible to know how many more operas and symphonies Mozart would have written had he lived into his forties, fifties, or even sixties. Haydn's music written after the death of Mozart shows the influence of his younger contemporary, and Beethoven's early music was also shaped by Mozart's. In fact, in 1792, a twenty-something Beethoven was sent to Vienna with the expressed purpose of receiving "the spirit of Mozart from the hands of Haydn."

5.7 Music of Ludwig Van Beethoven (1770–1827)

Beethoven was born in Bonn in December of 1770. As you can see from the map at the beginning of this chapter, Bonn sat at the Western edge of the Germanic lands, on the Rhine River. Those in Bonn were well-acquainted with traditions of the Netherlands and of the French; they would be some of the first to hear of the revolutionary ideas coming out of France in the 1780s. The area was ruled by the Elector of Cologne. As the Kapellmeister for the Elector, Beethoven's grandfather held the most important musical position in Bonn; he died when Beethoven was three years old. Beethoven's father, Johann Beethoven, sang in the Electoral Chapel his entire life. While he may have provided his son with music lessons at an early stage of Ludwig's life, it appears that Johann had given into alcoholism and depression, especially after the death of Maria Magdalena Keverich (Johann's wife and Ludwig's mother) in 1787.

Although hundreds of miles east of Vienna, the Electorate of Cologne was under the jurisdiction of the Austrian Habsburg empire that was ruled from this Eastern European city. The close ties between these lands made it convenient for the Elector, with the support of the music-loving Count Ferdinand Ernst Gabriel von Waldstein (1762–1823), to send Beethoven to Vienna to further his music training. Ferdinand was the youngest of an aristocratic family in Bonn. He greatly supported the arts and became a patron of Beethoven. Beethoven's first stay in Vienna in 1787 was interrupted by the death of his mother. In 1792, he returned to Vienna for good.

Perhaps the most universally-known fact of Beethoven's life is that he went deaf. You can read entire books on the topic; for our present purposes, the timing of his hearing loss is most important. It was at the end of the 1790s that Beethoven first recognized that he was losing his hearing. By 1801, he was writing about it to his most trusted friends. It is clear that the loss of his hearing was an existential crisis for Beethoven. During the fall of 1802, he composed a letter to his brothers that included his last will and testament, a document that we've come to know as the "Heiligenstadt Testament" named after the small town of Heiligenstadt, north of the Viennese city center, where he was staying. (To view the Testament and for more information visit the Heiligenstadt Testament Wikipedia page.

The "Heiligenstadt Testament" provides us insight to Beethoven's heart and mind. Most striking is his statement that his experiences of social alienation, connected to his hearing loss, "drove me almost to despair, a little more of that and I have ended my life—it was only my art that held me back." The idea that Beethoven found in art a reason to live suggests both his valuing of art and a certain self-awareness of what he had to offer music. Beethoven and his physicians tried various means to counter the hearing loss and improve his ability to function in society. By 1818, however, Beethoven was completely deaf.

Figure 5.6 | Ludwig van Beethoven
Author | Joseph Karl Stieler
Source | Wikimedia Commons
License | Public Domain

Beethoven had a complex personality. Although he read the most profound philosophers of his day and was compelled by lofty philosophical ideals, his own writing was broken and his personal accounts show errors in basic math. He craved close human relationships yet had difficulty sustaining them. By 1810, he had secured a lifetime annuity from local noblemen, meaning that Beethoven never lacked for money. Still, his letters—as well as the accounts of contemporaries—suggest a man suspicious of others and preoccupied with the compensation he was receiving.

5.7.1 Overview of Beethoven's Music

Upon arriving in Vienna in the early 1790s, Beethoven supported himself by playing piano at salons and by giving music lessons. Salons were gatherings of literary types, visual artists, musicians, and thinkers, often hosted by noblewomen for their friends. Here Beethoven both played music of his own composition and improvised upon musical themes given to him by those in attendance.

In April of 1800 Beethoven gave his first concert for his own benefit, held at the important Burgtheater. As typical for the time, the concert included a variety of types of music, vocal, orchestral, and even, in this case, chamber music. Many of the selections were by Haydn and Mozart, for Beethoven's music from this period was profoundly influ-enced by these two composers.

Scholars have traditionally divided Beethoven's output into three chronological periods: early, middle, and late. Like all efforts to categorize, this one proposes boundaries that are open to debate. Probably most controversial is the dating of the end of the middle period and the beginning of the late period. Beethoven did not compose much music between 1814 and 1818, meaning that any division of those years would fall more on Beethoven's life than on his music.

In general, the music of Beethoven's first period (roughly until 1803) reflects the influence of Haydn and Mozart. Beethoven's second period (1803–1814) is sometimes called his "heroic" period, based on his recovery from depression documented in the "Heiligenstadt Testament" mentioned earlier. This period includes such music compositions as his Third Symphony, which Beethoven subtitled "Eroica" (that is, heroic), the Fifth Symphony, and Beethoven's one opera, Fidelio, which took the French revolution as its inspiration. Other works composed during this time include Symphonies No. 3 through No. 8 and famous piano works, such as the sonatas "Waldstein," "Appassionata," and "Lebewohl" and Concertos No. 4 and No. 5. He continued to write instrumental chamber music, choral music, and songs into his heroic middle period. In these works of his middle period, Beethoven is often regarded as having come into his own because they display a new and original musical style. In comparison to the works of Haydn and Mozart and Beethoven's earlier music, these longer compositions feature larger performing forces, thicker polyphonic textures, more complex motivic relationships, more dissonance and delayed resolution of dissonance, and more syncopation.

Figure 5.7 | Burgtheater
Author | Michael Frankenstein
Source | Wikimedia Commons
License | Public Domain

When Beethoven started composing again in 1818, his music was much more experimental. Some of his contemporaries believed that he had lost his ability to compose as he lost his hearing. The late piano sonatas, last five string quartets, monumental Missa Solemnis, and Symphony No. 9 in D minor (The Choral Symphony) are now perceived to be some of Beethoven's most revolutionary compositions, although they were not uniformly applauded during his lifetime. Beethoven's late style was one of contrasts: extremely slow music next to extremely fast music and extremely complex and dissonant music next to extremely simple and consonant music.

Although this chapter will not discuss the music of Beethoven's early period or late period in any depth, you might want to explore this music on your own. Bee-thoven's first published piano sonata, the Sonata in F minor, Op. 2, No. 1 (1795), shows the influence of its dedicatee, Franz Joseph Haydn. One of Beethoven's last works, his famous Ninth Symphony, departs from the norms of the day by incorporating vocal soloists and a choir into a symphony, which was almost always written only for orchestral instruments. The Ninth Symphony is Beethoven's longest; its first three movements, although innovative in many ways, use the expected forms: a fast sonata form, a scherzo (which by the early nineteenth century—as we will see in our discussion of the Fifth Symphony—had replaced the minuet and trio), and a slow theme and variations form. The finale, in which the vocalists participate, is truly revolutionary in terms of its length, the sheer extremes of the musical styles it uses, and the combination of large orchestra and choir. The text or words that Beethoven chose for the vocalists speak of joy and the hope that all humankind might live together in brotherly love. The "Ode to Joy" melody to which Beethoven set these words was later used for the hymn "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee."

Focus Composition: beethoven, symphony no. 5 in C minor, op. 67 (1808)

In this chapter, we will focus on possibly Beethoven's most famous composition, his Fifth Symphony (1808). The premiere of the Fifth Symphony took place at perhaps the most infamous of all of Beethoven's concerts, an event that lasted for some four hours in an unheated theater on a bitterly cold Viennese evening. At this time, Beethoven was not on good terms with the performers, several who refused to rehearse with the composer in the room. In addition, the final number of the performance was finished too late to be sufficiently practiced, and in the concert, it had to be stopped and restarted. Belying its less than auspicious first performance, once published the Fifth Symphony quickly gained the critical acclaim it has held ever since.

The most famous part of the Fifth Symphony is its commanding opening. This opening features the entire orchestra playing in unison a musical motive that we will call the short-short-short-long (SSSL) motive, because of the rhythm of its four notes. We will also refer to it as the Fate motive, because at least since the 1830s, music critics have likened it to fate knocking on the door, as discussed on NPR Music. The short notes repeat the same pitch and then the long, held-out note leaps down a third. After the orchestra releases the held note, it plays the motive again, now sequenced a step lower, then again at the original pitches, then at higher pitches. This sequenced phrase, which has become the first theme of the movement, then repeats, and the fast sonata-form movement starts to pick up steam. This is the exposition of the movement.

After a transition, the second theme is heard. It also starts with the SSSL motive, although the pitches heard are quite different. The horn presents the question phrase of the second theme; then, the strings respond with the answer phrase of the second theme. You should note that the key has changed—the music is now in E-flat major, which has a much more peaceful feel than C minor—and the answering phrase of the second theme is much more legato than anything yet heard in the symphony. This tuneful legato music does not last for long and the closing section returns to the rapid sequencing of the SSSL motive. Then the orchestra returns to the beginning of the movement for a repeat of the exposition.

Figure 5.8 | Opening of Symphony No. 5, Op. 67
Author | Stelios Samelis
Source | Mutopia Project
License | Public Domain

The development section of this first movement does everything we might expect of a development: the SSSL motive appears in sequence and is altered as the keys change rapidly. Also, we hear more polyphonic imitative in the development than elsewhere in the movement. Near the end of the development, the dynamics alternate between piano and forte and, before the listener knows it, the music has returned to the home key of C minor as well as the opening version of the SSSL motive: this starts the recapitulation. The music transitions to the second theme—now still in the home key of C minor—and the closing section. Then, just when the listener expects the recapitulation to end, Beethoven extends the movement in a coda. This coda is much longer than any coda we have yet listened to in the music of Haydn or Mozart, although it is not as long as the coda to the final movement of this symphony. These long codas are also another element that Beethoven is known for. He often restates the conclusive cadence many times and in many rhythmic durations.

The second movement is a lyrical theme-and-variations movement in a major key, which provides a few minutes of respite from the menacing C minor; if you listen carefully, though, you might hear some reference to the SSSL fate motive. The third movement returns to C minor and is a scherzo. Scherzos retain the form of the minuet, having a contrasting trio section that divides the two presentations of the scherzo. Like the minuet, scherzos also have a triple feel, although they tend to be somewhat faster in tempo than the minuet.

This scherzo third movement opens with a mysterious, even spooky, opening theme played by the lower strings. The second theme returns to the SSSL motive, although now with different pitches. The mood changes with a very imitative and very polyphonic trio in C major, but the spooky theme reappears, alongside the fate motive, with the repeat of the scherzo. Instead of making the scherzo a discrete movement, Beethoven chose to write a musical transition between the scherzo and the final movement, so that the music runs continuously from one movement to another. After suddenly getting very soft, the music gradually grows in dynamic as the motive sequences higher and higher until the fourth movement bursts onto the scene with a triumphant and loud C major theme. It seems that perhaps our hero, whether we think of the hero as the music of the symphony or perhaps as Beethoven himself, has finally triumphed over Fate.

The fourth movement is a rather typical fast sonata form finale with one exception. The second theme of the scherzo (b), which contains the SSSL fate motive, appears one final time at the end of the movement's development section, as if to try one more time to derail the hero's conquest. But, the movement ultimately ends with a lot of loud cadences in C major, providing ample support for an interpretation of the composition as the overcoming of Fate. This is the interpretation that most commentators for almost two hundred years have given the symphony. It is pretty amazing to think that a musical composition might express so aptly the human theme of struggle and triumph. Listen to the piece and see if you hear it the same way.

Listening Guide

Listen to First and Second Movements

Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique (on period instruments) conducted by John Eliot Gardiner

Composer Beethoven
Composition Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67
Date 1808
Genre symphony
Form Four movements as follows: I. Allegro con brio – fast, sonata formII. Andante con moto – slow, theme and variations formIII. Scherzo. Allegro – Scherzo and Trio (ABA)IV. Allegro – fast, sonata form
Performing Forces piccolo (fourth movement only), two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, contrabassoon (fourth movement only), two horns, two trumpets, three trombones (fourth movement only), timpani, and strings (first and second violins, viola, cellos, and double basses)
What we want you to remember about this composition
  • Its fast first movement in sonata form opens with the short-shortshort-long motive (which pervades much of the symphony): Fate knocking at the door?
  • The symphony starts in C minor but ends in C major: a triumphant over fate?
Allegro con moto View a guided analysis of the first movement by Gerard Schwarz
What we want you to remember about this movement
  • Its fast first movement in sonata form opens with the short-shortshort-long motive (which pervades much of the symphony): Fate knocking at the door?
  • Its C minor key modulates for a while to other keys but returns at the end of this movement
  • The staccato first theme comprised of sequencing of the short-shortshort-long motive (SSSL) greatly contrasts the more lyrical and legato second theme
  • The coda at the end of the movement provides dramatic closure.
Timing Performing Forces, Melody, and Texture Text and Form
0:00 Full orchestra in a mostly homophonic texture and forte dynamic. Melody starts with the SSSL motive introduced and then suspended with a fermata (or hold). After this happens twice, the melody continues with the SSSL motive in rising sequences. EXPOSITION: First theme
0:21 The forte dynamic continues, with emphasis from the timpani. Falling sequences using the SSSL rhythm. Transition
0:40 After the horn call, the strings lead this quieter section. A horn call using the SSSL motive introduces a more lyrical theme—now in a major key. Second theme
1:01 SSSL rhythms passes through the full orchestra that plays at a forte dynamic.
The SSSL rhythm returns in downward sequences.
1:17 EXPOSITION: Repeats
2:32 Some polyphonic imitation; lots of dialogue between the low and high instruments and the strings and winds.
Rapid sequences and changing of keys, fragmentation and alternation of the original motive.
3:23 Music moves from louds to softs Retransition
3:40 but ends with a short oboe cadenza. Starts like the exposition. RECAPITULATION: First theme
4:09 Similar to the transition in the exposition but does not modulate. "Transition"
4:28 Now started by the oboes and bassoons.
Now in C minor, not E flat major, which provides a more ominous tone.
Second theme
4:53 As above Closing
5:08 After a sudden piano articulation of the SSSL motive, suddenly ends in a loud and bombastic manner: Fate threatens.
Re-emphasizes C minor.
Listening Guide

Watch a guided analysis of the second movement by conductor Gerard Schwarz

What we want you to remember about this movement
  • It is a slow theme and variations movement
  • Its major key provides contrast from the minor key of the first movement
Timing Performing Forces, Melody, and Texture Text and Form
Mostly homophonic. Consists of two themes, the first more lyrical; the second more march-like. Theme: a and b
More legato and softer at the beginning, although growing loud for the final statement of b in the brass before decrescendoing to piano again. Violas subdivide the beat with fast running notes, while the other instruments play the theme. Variation 1: a and b
Starts with a softer dynamic and more legato articulations for the "a" phrase and staccato and louder march-like texture when "b" enters, after which the music decrescendos into the next variation. Even more rapid subdivision of the beat in the lower strings at the beginning of "a." Then the "b" phrase returns at the very end of the section. Variation 2: a and b
Lighter in texture and more staccato, starting piano and crescendoing to forte for the final variation. The "a" phrase assumes a jaunty rhythm and then falls apart. Variation 3: a
The full orchestra plays forte and then sections of the orchestra trade motives at a quieter dynamic. The violins play the first phrase of the melody and then the winds respond with its answer. Variation 4: A
Full orchestra plays, soft at first, and then crescendoing, decrescen-doing, and crescendoing a final time to the end of the movement. Motives are passed through the orchestra and re-emphasized at the very end of the movement. Coda
Scherzo. Allegro View a guided analysis of the third and four movements by conductor Gerard Schwarz
What we really want you to remember about this movement
  • It is a scherzo movement that has a scherzo (A) trio (B) scherzo (A) form
  • The short-short-short-long motive returns in the scherzo sections
  • The scherzo section is mostly homophonic, and the trio section is mostly imitative polyphony
  • It flows directly into the final movement without a break
Timing Performing Forces, Melody, and Texture Text and Form
15:26 Lower strings and at a quiet dynamics. Rapidly ascending legato melody. Scherzo (A): A
15:49 Presented by the brass in a forte dynamic.
Fate motive.
16:05 a b a b
17:09 Polyphonic imitation lead by the lower strings.
Fast melody.
Trio (B): c c d d
18:30 Now the repetitious SSSL theme is played by the bassoons, staccato.
Fast melody.
Scherzo (A): A
18:49 Strings are playing pizzicato (plucking) and the whole ensemble playing at a piano dynamic.Fate motive but in the oboes and strings. B
19:31 Very soft dynamic to begin with and then slowly crescendos to the forte opening of the fourth movement. Sequenced motive gradually ascends in register. Transition to the fourth movement
What we want you to remember about this movement
  • It is a fast sonata form movement in C major: the triumph over Fate?
  • The SSSL motive via the scherzo "b" theme returns one final time at the end of the development
  • The trombones for their first appearance in a symphony to date
  • It has a very long coda
Timing Performing Forces, Melody, and Texture Text and Form
Forte and played by the full orchestra (including trombones, contra-bassoon and piccolo). Triumph triadic theme in C major. EXPOSITION: First theme
20:41 Full orchestra, led by the brass and then continued by the strings. The opening motive of the first theme sequenced as the music modulates to the away key. Transition
Full orchestra and slightly softer. Triumphant, if more lyrical, using triplet rhythms in the melody and in G Major. Second theme
Full orchestra, forte again. Repetition of a descending them. Closing theme
Motives passed through all sections of the orchestra. Motives from second theme appear, then motives from the first theme. DEVELOPMENT
Piano dynamic with the theme in the winds and the strings accompanying. Using the fate motive Return of scherzo theme
Performing forces are as before. C major. RECAPITULATION: First theme
Performing forces are as before. Does not modulate. "transition"
As before. Second theme
Starts softly with the woodwinds and then played forte by the whole orchestra. Does not modulate. Closing theme
Notice the dramatic silences, the alternation of of legato and staccato articulations, and the sudden increase in tempo near the coda's conclusion: full orchestra.Lengthy coda starting with motive from second theme, then proceeding through with a lot of repeated cadences emphasizing C major and repetition of other motives until the final repeated cadences. CODA

View Leon Botstein's "An Appreciation" of Beethoven and his Symphony.