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   - Pre-classical
      - Empfindsamer Stil
      - Strum und Drang
      - Mannheim
   - Classical

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General definition: The Classical Style

The classical style can be characterized as music notable for its masterly economy of form and resources, and for its lack of overt emotionalism. If Bach and Handel dominated the first half of the seventeenth century, Haydn and Mozart are their counterparts for the latter half, and epitomize the virtues of the Classical style.


  • Codification of patent formal procedures (e.g. Sonata, Sonata Allegro)
  • Modified use of contrapuntal technique
  • Sequence usage is expanded
  • Polythematic composition
  • Homophonic style used more often
  • Symmetrical phrase structure
  • Short phrase composed with melodic formula that reach caesuras and cadences more defined melodically
  • Emphasis on melody
  • Ornamentation not an integral part of the style
  • Abandoned the usage of basso continuo
  • Major/Minor tonalities continue with little change
  • Simple but with emphasis of the progression of I-IV-V or I-ii-V
  • Slow harmonic rhythm
  • Piano music dominant
  • Orchestra further developed and scored with codified modification
  • Use of alberti base
  • Variety in dynamics and more defined dynamics
  • Tempo changes are limited
  • Repeated notes
  • Reiteration of and emphasis on metric pulse is varied and somewhat lessened
  • Occasional pause and rhythmic rest points are common
  • Pulse is detectable but not emphasized
  • Replacement of majestic splendor with graceful delicacy
  • Mood was changeable in the same piece
  • Form dominant over music
  • As compared to Baroque, two or more different kind of affekt can exist in a piece.
  • Usage of chromaticism for expressive effect was common.
  • Enriched use of rhythm and silence
  • Usage of more dynamic variety

Why wasn't the pre-classical style significant enough to become a definitive classical musical period of its own? Discuss this in our forums together with other issues as well!

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