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The Classical Orchestra

Instrumentation
The classical orchestra typically consisted of four sections: strings, woodwind, brass and percussion. Overall the classical orchestra shows the point where the orchestra was at its smallest; the orchestra continued to grow into the modern orchestra that we have today.

Strings:
In the classical orchestra, the strings has various different instruments; first violins, second violins, violas, cellos and double basses. Typically in the classical orchestra, the strings, especially then first violins, carry the melody line, in contrast to Beethovens 1st symphony which showed the woodwind section carrying the melody line. The double bass was normally played with a bow in the classical orchestra, while the violins were both bowed and plucked (played pizzicato). Because the string instruments are made of wood, the wooden body resonates the sound.

Woodwind:
The woodwind section is made up of four instruments; flute, oboe, clarinet and bassoon. In a classical orchestra there is usually two of each instrument. The main differences between the flute and other woodwind instruments are that it is played to the side, and does not have a reed. This creates a different timbre; it is more airy compared other woodwind instruments that are more piercing. Though these instruments arent usually used as instruments that carry the melody line, Beethoven chose to accentuate their role in the 1st symphony, which was a bold decision. Through the symphony, the oboe and clarinet have a main role in creating a melody. This took the attention away from the violins which would usually carry the melody line.

Brass:
In the classical era, the brass section was very basic, just made up of two French horns and two trumpets. These instruments themselves were very basic, because in the time of Beethoven, they didnt have any valves. This made the parts for the brass section very simple, as shown in Beethovens 1st Symphony.

Sonata Form
Sonata form has three main sections: the exposition (where the melody the sonata is based on begins), the development (where the melody is changed) and the recapitulation (where the original melody is compared to the new melody).

The Classical Era


Beethovens contemporaries:

Joseph Haydn

Franz Liszt

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Beethovens first symphony was thought of as controversial at the time, as the introduction was particularly unusual compared to other symphonies of the time. This was because of his lack of settling in the key signature, as he started in a completely different one to the title of the piece, which was titled a symphony in C major. This lack of clarity was completely different to what other composers of the era had dared to do; this shocked the audience. He added to the controversy by bringing out the woodwind section by allowing them to carry the melody line. This went against the norm of most classical pieces which have the violins carrying the melody line. The antiphonal exchange between the woodwind section and the strings accentuates the woodwi nds importance in the piece.