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Genres of Classical Music: History and Modernity

"Classical music" and "musical classics" are two absolutely equivalent formulations, free from the framework of terminology, reflecting the vast stratum of musical culture, its historical significance and prospects for further development. Quite often the term "classical music" is replaced by the phrase "academic music".

History of appearance

Regardless of the terminology, classical music has a definite historical origin, associated with the late enlightenment period of the era of classicism. Poetry of that time and drama were based on the works of ancient authors, and this technique also touched on musical culture. Trinity - time, action and place, were observed in the genre of opera and other musical directions associated with literary sources. Oratorios, cantatas bore the stamp of classicism, a kind of standard of the 17-19 centuries. In opera performances, the libretto was dominated, written on the grounds of the period of antiquity.


Virtually all genres of classical music are somehow connected with the era of classicism. Composer Gluck was one of the most vivid followers of ancient culture in music, he managed to observe all the canons of that time in his works. The era of the past was distinguished by a clear equilibrium logic, a clear design, harmony and, most importantly, the completeness of the classical musical work. At the same time, the distinction between genres was traced, when polyphony was softly, but insistently rejected, and in its place almost mathematically determined definition of the genre rose. Over time, the genres of classical music received a high degree of academicity.

In the opera, the solo parts began to noticeably prevail over the accompanying voices, whereas earlier all those who participated in the play were equal. The principle of domination enriched the sound, the libretto took a completely different form, and the performance became theatrical opera. Also instrumental ensembles were transformed, solo instruments were put forward, accompanying were kept in the background.

Musical genres, directions and styles

During the late classicism, new musical "patterns" were created. Genre of classical music became widespread in the late 18th century. Orchestral, ensemble, solo-vocal and especially symphonic ensembles followed the new canons in music, while improvisations were minimized.

What are the genres of classical music? Their list is as follows:

  • Variations;
  • Symphonies;
  • opera;
  • Instrumental concerts;
  • Cantatas;
  • Oratorios;
  • Preludes and fugues;
  • Sonatas;
  • Suites;
  • Tokaty;
  • Fantasy;
  • organ music;
  • Nocturnes;
  • Symphonies are vocal;
  • Wind music;
  • Overtures;
  • Musical Masses;
  • Psalms;
  • Elegies;
  • Etudes;
  • Choir as a musical form.


By the middle of the 18th century, the orchestras were assembled on the basis of randomness, and their composition determined the composer's work. The author of music had to build his work under specific instruments, most often it was stringed and a small number of wind instruments. Later, there were orchestras on a permanent basis, sufficiently unified, contributing to the development of the genre of symphony and instrumental music. These orchestras already had a name, were constantly performed and toured within the nearest territories.

In the early 19th century, several new trends were added to the list of musical genres. It was concerts for clarinet with orchestra, organa and orchestra and other combinations. Also there was a so-called symphonietta, a short musical work with the participation of the whole orchestra. Then he became a fashionable requiem.

Composers of the era of classicism, Johann Sebastian Bach with his sons, Christophe Gluck, representatives of the Italian and Mannheim operas formed the Viennese classical school, which also included Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. In the works of these masters appeared classical forms of symphony, sonatas, instrumental plays. Later there were chamber ensembles, a piano trio, various string quartets and quintets.

Vienna classical music of the end of the era of classicism smoothly passed into the next period, the time of romanticism. Many composers began to compose in a freer manner, their creativity now and then went beyond the academic canons of the past. Gradually, the aspirations of the masters were recognized as "exemplary."

Time checking

The genres of classical music continued to evolve, and in the end, for their definition, evaluation criteria appeared, according to which the degree of artistry of the work was derived, and its value in the future. Music that stood the test of time, was necessarily included in the concert repertoire of almost all orchestras. So it was with the works of Dmitry Shostakovich.

In the 19th century there was an attempt to classify some categories of so-called light music into the genres of classical music. It was about the operetta, which they hastened to call "semiclassical." However, this genre soon became completely independent, and artificial assimilation was not needed.

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