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Sean Rafferty presents a selection of music and guests from the arts world.

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Music Timeline
Sir Andrew Davis with the BBC Symphony orchestra
Classical
The prevailing aesthetic of the Classical period is founded upon balance, with the various elements of a musical composition maintained in a structure that allows all to co-exist in equilibrium. The perfection of form in itself and its flawless alignment with expressive content makes the works of Joseph Haydn and his younger friend Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart unrivalled in these respects. 
  • In the hands of Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart the symphony rose to prominence as the major form cultivated in orchestral music.
  • Mozart achieved particular distinction too in the concerto form. The dramatic contrast between a solo instrument and the orchestra articulates a structure in which the integration of disparate elements achieves a final balance.
  • In a long series of works Joseph Haydn brought the string quartet to the dominant position within domestic music making.
  • In all these works, and in the sonata too, the sonata principle -- essentially one in which contrasting themes are stated, explored and brought into a new relationship by restatement -- became of fundamental structural importance.
  • Joseph Haydn gave renewed impetus to choral composition in a series of Masses conceived on symphonic lines and in oratorios which graft Classical principles onto the broad dramatic canvases of George Frideric Handel .
  • In the realm of opera , two names stand out. Christoph Willibald Gluck sought to reform the genre by replacing the decorative complexities of late-Baroque opera with something sparer, purer and ideally even more expressive. The protean genius of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart enabled him to empathise with and recreate in musical terms a huge diversity of characters responding to a variety of situations that places him at the pinnacle of operatic composers. 

Guide to Classical Music
Index
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