The Classical era in western music began in the mid 18th century as Europe began
to adapt to new styles of literature, architecture, and art generally known as
Classicism. In direct contrast from the Baroque period, a trend towards simplicity
in music rather than complexity was the structural goal amongst composers.
Public awareness of ideas in philosophy and Newton’s physics brought about
this taste for well articulated and organized structural clarity in the world of music.
This new period moved away from layered Baroque polyphony and towards
the new style of homophony where a melody was placed over a simple harmony
making the tonal structure of compositions much more obvious and audible.
The search of intellectual freedom and the obsession of graceful but delicate
structural clarity, defines the music of the classical era replacing the serious,
rigid, majestic splendor of the Baroque era with a lighter, less complicated feel.
Composers designed their music to be entertaining with simple, pleasing, tuneful
melodies consisting of short four bar phrases that could be easily repeated
between cadences. The Classical style broke away from the single emotional
quality of Baroque music establishing contrast between sections and movements.
Often a meaning or title was connected to a composition creating what is now
known as program music. This new style used a range of techniques including the use of emotional coloring, opposition
of major/minor tonality, use of harmonic modulations creating tension and release, and transitional episodes bringing occasions
of wit, delight and surprise to the composition. The orchestra increased in size and range bringing a heighten importance
to instrumental music. The piano also rose in popularity, becoming the favored instrument among classical composers
replacing its earlier predecessor, the harpsichord, due to its ability to produce a wider range of dynamic. The popularity
of instrumental music in the Classical period inspired the creation and definition of large scale compositional forms, including
the sonata form, which has dominated instrumental composition to the present day.