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Classical vs. Romantic period The Classical period in music began from ca.

1750 to 1825 following the end of Baroque period which was marked by the death of George Handel. The return to the adulation of Greek ideals was the hallmark of the Classical period. The importance of balance, order and proportion were the qualities of the Greeks and were reflected during this period. The different revolutions such as the French and the American revolutions exemplify the popular view of balance of power and order among the citizens, signified by the rise of middle-class. Moreover, the development of theories in the scientific and philosophic realms ushered the emphasis on structure among the people. This period was greatly valued for the rise of reason and logic. The economic and social happenings during the Classical period largely affected music of that time. The rise in more communal activities in the society led to the rise in public concert halls. Operas that shed light on social issues became more popular. The development of orchestral music and its kind was another important aspect of the Classical period. Most importantly, growing middle-class in Europe accelerated strong demand for music and literature. Music in particular was greatly affected. Demand for music and culture among the middle-class led to open music schools, thereby music no longer became private art that could be learnt only by the aristocrats. With the rise of reason and logic in this era, there was birth of absolute music, which is logical and beautiful in its structure. This sense of structure and balance is reflected in the structured forms of musical pieces of this period. The classical music mostly stressed balanced, symmetrical melody, simplicity and clarity in structure. Their melodies were easy to remember and their textures were mostly homophonic. Moreover, the rhythmic changes were more elastic and fluctuating. Classical music distinguished itself with lots of dynamic contrast.

Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Mozart and Beethoven are considered the most notable composers of this era. The death of Beethoven is marked as the beginning of Romantic era in music. The years ranged from ca. 1820 to 1900. Romanticism was musically an extension of the classical era, however differed philosophically. It broke away from the age of logic and reason to more fascinating, mystical and emotional ancient things like magic, fairy tales, etc. The most influential advancement during this time period was the Industrial Revolution. The transformation to a manufacturing era radically transformed many aspects of people’s lives. Individual discoveries and inventions subsequently induced greater personal expression and freedom among people. In music, the Romantic era saw the introduction of new instruments such as the saxophone and tuba; greatly valued because of the industrial revolution. The modern day piano that is made with cast iron first came about during this time period. Just like the contemporary inventors, musicians displayed their own sense of individualism in their art. Musicians delved into their own fantasy and drew upon their personal impressions when composing their pieces. Artists did not tie themselves to structural forms while being predominantly influenced by emotional and subjective matters. Due to industrial revolution, the size and prosperity of middleclass had ascended and romantic composers wrote primarily for this class. The musical elements varied between the Classical and Romantic era. Steady tempo and regular meter were characters of rhythm in Classical pieces. In comparison, Romantic pieces consisted of more fluctuations in tempo. Romantic composers often used rubato, holding back or pressing forward of tempo. There was no pounding beat anywhere in romantic music as

compared to the classical. The harmony in Classical pieces was more diatonic compared to the very chromatic patterns found in Romantic works. Crescendos and decrescendos were more prominent during the Classical period, whereas dynamics were more expanded during the Romantic period with the use of both gradual and sudden shifts. Forms in the compositions during the Classical period were balanced string quartets and symphonies usually consisted of four movements which differed in tempo and character. In Romantic pieces forms, that were both miniature and monumental in form, differed more in length. Romantic music was extremely expressive and emotionally intense. The other difference between Classical and Romantic music was that during the former period, musicians did not have much freedom to compose their own pieces. Their pieces were mostly commissioned by their patrons. However, during the Romantic era musicians had more freedom to draw upon their own emotions while composing their music. (Kamien, 154-157, 213-217) Beethoven’s Sonata # 14 in C sharp minor, Op. 27, No. 2 “Moonlight” is an example of Classical composition. Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) was a German prodigy who was able to publish his musical compositions at the age of twelve. He dazzled Vienna, where he went to study music, with his virtuosity and improvisations. His musical intensity recognized him as a bridge between classical and romantic musical era. His “Moonlight” Sonata is an exceptional piece of his work written in 1801. It is considered as the most famous piece of serious art music ever written. Beethoven remarked that while composing this sonata he had visual scenarios in mind. Beethoven considered this sonata as quasi una fantasia. This sonata has three movements- Adagio Sostenuto, Allegretto, and Presto Agitato; however this sonata is not similar to the other sonata that begin with the sonata form. It is very unique and different from his other sonatas which follow the fast-slow-[fast]-fast

sequence. Instead, this work is much more intense in the third movement compared to the other first two. The first movement has strange and slow opening, which provides the main element of fantasy, as its name suggests- “Moonlight.” (Wilson, 21) The first movement is in sonata form. The movement is played very quietly and the loudest it gets is moderately loud. It fulfills all the characteristics of a Classical composition. The first theme is in the tonic key. He then moves to next key. “The first phase of the soprano melody ends with a full cadence on the conventional relative major, E.”(Rosen, 156-157) He develops the movement from C to E and B minor. Recapitulation begins as the music goes back to the tonic key- to full cadence on C sharp minor. The mood this movement displays is much serene and calm, I think- this is why it is famous as “Moonlight” sonata. The second movement is in scherzo and trio form. (Wikipedia) The opening of the second movement is faster than the first movement. It feels like he is using half note, sort of incomplete tone as compared to the first movement. The theme is developed and balanced, as is very easy to remember. The third movement is in sonata form. It is very stormy and fast. It is the longest movement and very emotionally intense. We can easily notice the trill almost at the end of the music. In the recapitulation, the closing theme leads back to the first theme. The theme at the end in the coda section leads to an elaborative cadenza ending with the very intense trills. (Rosen, 159) The melody throughout the piece is balanced and symmetrical. Such characteristics of the piece make it a true composition of the Classical period; however the third movement is much more considerable to be similar to romantic music because of its emotional intensity. Another great pianist like Beethoven was Frederic Chopin. Chopin’s piano sonata # 3 in B minor is a piece that reflects all the characteristics of a Romantic piece. Frederic Chopin (1810-1849) was a virtuoso pianist from Poland who later moved to Paris. He was a shy person by nature and thus preferred cozy salons instead of concert halls. Although he is known for his

exquisite piano pieces, his early works were “incredible dull and sterile.” Trying to develop himself from Beethovenian lines, Chopin’s early works were “so evidently a student-exercise” (Abraham, 14) Tuberculosis claimed Chopin’s life at an early age, but his piano works are still regarded as one of the most graceful in music.

Sonata # 3 in B minor is a miniature piano solo that is composed with many variations. This sonata has four movements- Allegro Maestoso, Scherzo: Molto Vivace, Largo, and Finale: Presto non tanto; Agitato. (Wikipedia) The use of B minor as tonic gives the piece a grave and somber tone; however, there are moments in the piece when Chopin shifts to a major key. This composition is the epitome of free flowing intimate nature of the Romantic era. One can easily notice the unsymmetrical nature of music in this example of sonata. Chopin also displays the era’s signature rubato style. There are times in the composition that makes listeners feel as if Chopin is holding time. Chopin fluctuates with the tempo very often in a Romantic fashion. The piece also displays the sharp contrasts in dynamics. The variations in the pace of the piece add to the varying mood that Chopin is trying to create. What starts as a slow and somber sound of piano turns frantic in the middle of the piece before returning to a smooth and gentle pace. Perhaps, Chopin was trying to imitate the unstable nature of human emotions in his composition. Listening to both Beethoven and Chopin one can clearly see the difference between a piece composed by a Classical artist and one by a Romantic artist. Beethoven’s Sonata was more to do dominantly with the balance of the piece, although there were moments where he tried the free flow of emotions, whereas Chopin’s dominant feature in the sonata is its emotional expressiveness. The Classical piece was pretty to the ears with a melody that could easily be stuck in the listener’s head. However, I prefer Chopin’s individuality. From the moment it begins, Chopin’s sonata takes listeners on a ride of varying emotions. From a very calm feeling

to a sudden rush of turbulence reflects the range of human emotions, which is why Chopin’s composition strikes a chord with the listener’s emotions.

Works Cited

Abraham, Geral. Chopin's Musical Style. London: Oxford University Press, 1968. Kamien, Roger. Music: An Appreciation. 6th ed. McGrawHill, 2007. Rosen, Charles. Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. 2002. Wilson, Conrad. Notes on Beethoven. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2005 2&playnext_from=PL&index=0&playnext=1