The Classical period is known as the "age of enlightenment" as the power shifted from the aristocracy and church to the middle class. During this period, the appreciation of music was no longer limited to the rich and powerful; those belonging to the middle class became patrons of music as well. Start your exploration of Classical music with these legendary composers:
Franz Joseph Haydn - Haydn wrote around 104 symphonies, the earliest of which were written when he was employed by the Esterhazy family. He is capable of creating an entire movement based on a single main theme. Most of his symphonies have joyful and optimistic melodies and many of these have humorous nicknames as titles. Many of his works reflect influences from folk music. The third movements of Haydn’s symphonies are usually in minuet and trio form in moderate or a fairly quick tempo. The fourth movement usually has a fast tempo.
Wolfgang Amadues Mozart - Mozart wrote over 40 symphonies. His early symphonies were mostly influenced by the works of other composers that he met in his journeys. However, what sets his symphonies apart from his early influences is that it’s more expressive and powerful. He is the first to utilize the full orchestra in his later works. Mozart’s melodies are more serious sounding than Haydn’s. The third movements of Mozart’s symphonies are usually in minuet and trio; the fourth movement is likewise in a fast tempo.
Ludwig van Beethoven - Beethoven has the least number of symphonies (9 in all) composed but it is longer in length than Haydn’s and Mozart’s. The third movement of Beethoven’s symphonies are usually a fast scherzo, very different from that of Haydn and Mozart. His fourth movement is also more dramatic. His early works may have been influenced by his contemporaries but Beethoven was very innovative and made his music his own.
During the Romantic period, composers were more like “free artists;” they believed in allowing their imagination and passion to soar spontaneously and interpret it through their works. Tone color became richer; harmony became more intricate. Dynamics, pitch and tempo had wider ranges and the use of rubato became popular. The orchestra was also expanded. Begin your exploration of Romantic music with these two remarkable composers:
Franz Liszt - Liszt was a composer of adventurous music, a piano virtuoso, performer, arranger and conductor. As a composer, he was well-received by the masses and adored by ladies. He was also a teacher and considered the figurehead of the New German School. He was also influenced by the works of Niccolo Paganini whose works he adapted to the piano. Liszt penned the term "symphonic poem." It has been said that he was a very generous man who often extended help to other composers.
Louis-Hector Berlioz - Berlioz was one of the most original composers of the 19th century and a master of orchestration. Unlike his contemporaries, Berlioz' wasn't as easily accepted by the public. It might be said that his manner of instrumentation and orchestration was too advanced for that era. Because of the public's lack of acceptance, Berlioz shifted to other music forms such as symphonies and wrote newspaper reviews to earn money. His compositions were greatly appreciated years later after his death.