Classic Era

The Classic Era in music history came about with the Enlightenment, a period of time when all aspects of life emphasized naturalism and individual freedom.

Here you are toward the end of the 18th century. Much of the Church centered life present in the Baroque and the era that followed went through a revolutionary change in favor of everything natural in nature.  If you lived during this time, chances are you wanted to have more freedom of expression against authority and formality. You may still have wanted to wear your white powdered wig but you did not have to any more!

At the end of the Baroque Era music began to change to a less grander style but still decorative (ornamented) during the Classic Era, such as rococo and style gallant (gallant style) in France.  Gallant was a term used for everything that was new, chic, and with modern sophistication.  The style bourgeois (style of the up and coming middle class) developed as the more expressive style for each individual with less ornate music.

There were sharp dynamic contrasts written into the music whereas prior to this time there were dynamics that expressed the music but not the individual person's emotions.  Major keys changed into minor keys. Terraced dynamics (levels of louds and softs: p, mp, mf, and f) were used with beginning stages of more extreme Crescendos and diminuendos in the music as a means of self expression. Polyphonic music (many voices) of the Baroque Period was changing to a strong melody with supportive harmony rather than counterpoint.

The Classical Sonata piano pieces, many of which were written by such composers as Mozart, Haydn, Clementi and early Beethoven, were compositions of three or four movements (sections) contrasting in tempo and in mood. Here is an example of piano music from this period of time by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, from his piano Sonata 11 in A Major called Rondo alla Turca (Turkish Rondo).




Mozart contributed to the ideals of a universal musical language to get away from the boundaries of nationalism that prevailed during the Baroque Era. 

Wolfgang, (seventh born child in his family) and his elder sister, Maria Anna (nicknamed Nannerl), were child prodigies. He was given lessons by his father from the age of four. By the age of five he was not only playing duets with his sister, but composing little minuets in imitation of the pieces his father Leopold gave him. By early 1762 his father started taking the two of them on tours to perform all over Austria and Germany. He composed music for every style and many instruments available at the time-not only piano music-during his short life of only thirty six years. He loved writing opera music, symphonic orchestral music, many piano concertos and pieces for many instruments.


Muzio Clementi's Sonatina for piano, opus 36 no.1, is in the repertoire of most piano students. This piece is written as a march with a  drum beat in the left hand.


The next sample piece from the Classic Era is by Franz Joseph Haydn from the third movement of his sixteenth Sonata. It is written presto (very fast). Although his many orchestral symphonies and chamber music quartets showed his most outstanding genius abilities in music composition he wrote piano sonatas in every part of his life.



Ludwig van Beethoven was considered the connecting link between the Classic and Romantic Eras in music history. His early works were in the style of the Classic Era. His later pieces were favoring the Romantic style showing more emotion and individuality. His first Sonata was written when he was in his twenties. Notice the difference between this Classic Era style and the Romantic pieces that followed.



Here are samples of the first movement of one of the most famous pieces in piano literature, Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata and the second movement of his Pathetique Sonata.  If you took piano lessons and practiced you would have been able to play these beautiful pieces.  How great it is that these pieces are still played a lot!!   Now you can begin to take lessons and learn how to play them.  Go to the Register Here page to sign up for your piano lessons.

How great it is that these pieces are still enjoyed and played a lot!!   Now you can begin to take lessons and learn how to play them.  Go to the Register Here page to sign up for your piano lessons.



You have seen examples of some the most outstanding composers for piano of the Classic Era of music history. Here is a piano arrangement of the first movement of Beethoven's very famous 5th Symphony.  It was originally written for orchestra and is still played by symphony orchestras all over the world.



You are now ready to enter another era in piano music history.  You will be meeting such piano composers as Chopin, Schubert, Schumann, and many others each with their own distinctive style of personal expression.


Go from the Classic Era of music to the Romantic Era.