Jessica Baskin

Music in Jane Austenís Life: The Classical Period

During Jane Austenís lifetime there was a great movement in the music world called the classical period. Europe was just coming out of the Baroque Period (1600-1750), which showcased the talents of musical geniusí J.S. Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, and Corelli, when the Classical Period came to be. While most art forms of this new period, from 1750-1825, tend to be called "neo-classicism," music of this period was not. "Neo-classicism" is a term that applies to music from the early 20th century movement, led by Stravinsky.

To define the Classical Period more closely, it can be said that most of the composers of the period are of the Viennese Classical school. Characteristics of the Classical Period are:

Most of Classical music comes in Sonata form, which is defined as material first stated in a complementary key, restated in the "home" key. Sonata form can include multi-movement works such as sonatas, symphonies, and string quartets, or single movements such as an overture or tone poem. There is a great structure and harmonic rhythm to the Classical period, which gives it such a remarkable formula.

The three greatest contributors to the Classical Period were Joseph Haydn, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) was an Austrian from the Viennese School who started out writing and conducting for leading families. He has been called the "Father of the Symphony and String Quartet." Haydn heavily influenced other great composers such as Beethoven and Mozart. Mozart even dedicated some quartets to him.

Another leading composer, Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) wrote the majority of his music precisely during Janeís writing period. Beethoven started his training with Haydn, but apparently, they had several temper clashes, and Beethoven ended up studying with some other lesser-known composers. Beethovenís most original works are his piano sonatas including his Pathetique and his very familiar Moonlight Sonata. From an early age, Beethoven was a piano virtuoso for Viennese aristocracy. He was incredibly tortured by his music, especially, for some unknown reason, after the war in 1812. His journals are full of tears, scribblings, torn pages, and various other random markings. By 1814, Beethoven had gone almost completely dear. It is well known that in a concert he gave that year, he could not hear, resulting in a disaster of a performance. At his death in 1827, there were said to be 10,000 people at his funeral. Unlike his predecessors, he had become a public figure.

The final contributor to the Classical Period was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Mozart (1756-1791) is notable for his evident music genius from the age of five, when he first started composing. By the time he was six, he had already played for the Bavarian elector and the Austrian empress. His family started him on a tour through numerous courts in Europe. Mozart, unlike his fellow Classicists, was very involved with operas, as well as sonatas. His famous Marriage of Figaro, as well as Don Giovanni, secured him a place in the opera loverís heart. Mozart, unlike Beethoven, was buried with little ceremony in an unmarked grave, similar to those before him. At the time of his death, Haydn told Mozartís father that Mozart was "the greatest composer known to me in person or by name; he has taste and, what is more, the greatest knowledge of composition".

These three great composers make up the ideal of the Classical Period. Their music comprised the standard for musical forms that dominated the European music culture for the next several decades, and continue to be used today.

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