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In simple terms, classical music is the art of music that is rooted and produced in western music traditions. It covers a wide period beginning from the 11th century to present day. Nevertheless, the term ‘classical music’ did not appear until early on in the 19th century. It was used to canonize music from that era. Classical music has an extremely wide range of forms, genres, styles thus it is very challenging to come up with specific characteristics.
Nevertheless, musical experts have come to agree on the general types of classical music. Knowing some of these general types will help you enjoy and appreciate classical music more the next time you are out on a concert. It can also help you find out which kind of classical music you enjoy more and thus make the right choice the next time you buy. Here are some of these general classical music types:
Generally, this is a large-scale work involving full orchestras. This kind of classical music normally comprises of four sections or movements, which often alternate from fast to slow. The ninth symphony from Beethoven was the first to break this tradition in that it incorporated a full choir and soloist in to the last section of the symphony. Mozart and Brahms are other famous symphony composers you can try listening to. When you visit a classical concert, chances are you are listening to a symphony.
Similar to a symphony, a concerto is a large-scale work that involves full orchestras. The main difference is that a concerto has a lead instrumental soloist. Even though it can be any instrument of the orchestra, it is often a cello, violin or piano. The distinguishing mark of a concerto is the interplay between the soloist and the orchestra. A perfect example of a concerto is Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, where the violin is the soloist uses the violin.
This type of classical music is a good collection of various short pieces of music to form one large piece. These musical pieces can come from a symphony, concerto or solo instrument. The benefit of this kind of classical music is that it allows you to enjoy a broad range of classical music from different composers and different compositions at the same time. An excellent example of a suite is Ancient Airs and Dances by Respighi.
This is perhaps the most common type of classical music that people enjoy today. Operas comprise of very large-scale piece of both music and theatre. A typical opera has solo singer, full orchestra, and choir. The participants are required to sing and act on stage. Nevertheless, you can also enjoy operas purely for their music content. Some examples of well-known classical operas include magi flute by Mozart, Carmen by Bizet and Madame Butterfly by Puccini.
A simple definition of this kind of classical music is that it is made for a small audience. This kind of music consists of a small number of performers between one to six individuals. They can use any types of instrument but the focus is on the interplay between these instruments. This kind of classical music used to be enjoyed by kings and their guests, nobles, and affluent citizens in the privacy of their own homes.
This is the same as a symphony but only with one or two instruments. It consists of four movements or sections usually alternating fast-slow. Most sonatas consist of a piano or a violin. A violin sonata is normally accompanied by a piano to break the monotony. This kind of music suits individuals who enjoy listening to specific types of instruments in an orchestra. Beethoven composed about 31 piano sonatas in his lifetime. A piano sonata involves only the use of piano with no accompaniment.
Small groups of instruments
Classical music can also be composed of small groups of instruments, and called duos, trios, quartet, quintet, sextet and octet. The musical pieces can comprise a combination of any types of instrument, once again the focus being on the interplay between these instruments. One of the most common styles is the string quartet, comprising of two violins, cello and viola. These are normally very serious and complex musical pieces.
Dennis is a resident of New York who has, for many years, enjoyed listening to classical music. His favorite is always a classical string quartet.
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