CHARACTERISTICS OF THE CLASSICAL PERIOD
CONTRAST OF MOOD:
A Classical composition will fluctuate in mood. Not only there are contrasting themes within a movement, but there also may be striking contrasts even within a single theme. Mood in classical music may change gradually or suddenly, expressing conflicting surges of elation and depression. But such conflict and contrast are under the firm control of the classical composer. Masters like Haydn and Beethoven were able to impart unity and logic to music of wide emotional range.
In Classical music, there is a flexibility of rhythm. A classical composition has a wealth of rhythmic patterns. The classical style also includes unexpected pauses, syncopations, and frequent changes from long notes to shorter ones. And the change from one pattern of note lengths to another may be either sudden or gradual.
Classical music is basically homophonic. However, texture is treated as flexibly as rhythm. Pieces shift smoothly or suddenly from one texture to another. A work may begin homophonically with a melody and simple accompaniment but then change to a more complex polyphonic texture that features two simultaneous melodies or melodic fragments imitated among the various instruments.
Classical melodie are among the most tuneful and easy to remember. The themes of even highly sophisticated compositions may have a folk or popular flavour. Occasionally, composer simply borrowed popular tunes, but more often, they wrote original themes with a popular character. Classical melodies often sound balanced and symmetrical because they are frequently made up of two phrases of the same length. The second phrase, in such melodies, may begin like the first, but it will end more conclusively and it will be easier to sing.
DYNAMICS AND THE PIANO:
The Classical composers' interest in expressing shades of emotion led to the widespread use of gradual dynamic change - crescendo (gradually getting louder) and diminuendo ( gradually getting softer). They did not restrict themselves to the terracd dynamics characteristic of Baroque music. During the period, the desire for gradual dynamic change led to the replacement of the harpsichord by the piano. By varying the finger pressure on the keys, a pianist can play more loudly or softly. Although the piano was invented around 1700, it began to replace the harpsichord only around 1775.
THE END OF BASSO CONTINUO:
The basso continuo was gradually abandoned during the classical period. One reason why the basso continuo became obsolete was that more and more music was written for amateurs, who could not master the difficult art of improvising from a figured bass. Also, classical composers wanted more control; they preferred to specify an accompaniment rather than trust the judgement of improvisers.