The Classical Music Portal

String quartet performing for the Mozart Year 2006 in Vienna
String quartet performing for the Mozart Year 2006 in Vienna

Classical music generally refers to the formal musical tradition of the Western world, considered to be distinct from Western folk music or popular music traditions. It is sometimes distinguished as Western classical music, as the term "classical music" may also refer to non-Western traditions which exhibit similar formal qualities. In addition to formality, classical music is often characterized by complexity in its musical form and harmonic organization, particularly with the use of polyphony. Since at least the 9th-century it has been primarily a written tradition, spawning a sophisticated notational system, as well as accompanying literature in analytical, critical, historiographical, musicological and philosophical practices. A foundational component of Western Culture, classical music is frequently seen from the perspective of individual or groups of composers, whose compositions, personalities and beliefs have fundamentally shaped its history.

Rooted in the patronage of churches and royal courts in Western Europe, early medieval music was chiefly religious, monophonic and vocal, with the music of ancient Greece and Rome influencing its thought and theory. The earliest extant music manuscripts date from the Carolingian Empire (800–888), around the time which Western plainchant gradually unified into what is termed Gregorian chant. Musical centers existed at the Abbey of Saint Gall, the Abbey of Saint Martial and Saint Emmeram's Abbey, while the 11th-century saw the development of staff notation and increasing output from medieval music theorists. By the mid-12th century France became the major European musical center: the religious Notre-Dame school first fully explored organized rhythms and polyphony, while secular music flourished with the troubadour and trouvère traditions led by poet-musician nobles. This culminated in the court sponsored French ars nova and Italian Trecento, which evolved into ars subtilior, a stylistic movement of extreme rhythmic diversity. Beginning in the early 15th-century, Renaissance composers of the influential Franco-Flemish School built off the harmonic principles in the English contenance angloise, bringing sacred music to new standards, particularly the mass and motet. Northern Italy soon emerged as the central musical region, where the Roman School engaged in highly sophisticated methods of polyphony in genres such as the madrigal, which inspired the brief English Madrigal School.

The Baroque period (1580–1750) saw the relative standardization of common-practice tonality, as well as the increasing importance of musical instruments, which grew into ensembles of considerable size. Italy remained dominant, being the birthplace of opera, the soloist centered concerto genre, the organized sonata form as well as the large scale vocal-centered genres of oratorio and cantata. The fugue technique championed by Johann Sebastian Bach exemplified the Baroque tendency for complexity, and as a reaction the simpler and song-like galant music and empfindsamkeit styles were developed. In the shorter but pivotal classical period (1730–1820) composers such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Joseph Haydn, and Ludwig van Beethoven created widely admired representatives of absolute music, including symphonies, string quartets and concertos. The subsequent Romantic music (1800–1910) focused instead on programmatic music, which the art song, symphonic poem and various piano genres were important vessels for. During this time virtuosity was celebrated, immensity was encouraged, while philosophy and nationalism were embedded—all aspects that converged in the operas of Richard Wagner. By the 20th-century, stylistic unification gradually dissipated while the prominence of popular music increased exponentially. Many composers actively avoided past techniques and genres in the lens of modernism, with some abandoning tonality in place of serialism, while others found new inspiration in folk melodies or impressionist sentiments. After World War II, for the first time audience members valued older music over contemporary works, a preference which has been catered to by the emergence and widespread availability of commercial recordings. Increasingly global, practitioners from the Americas, Africa and Asia have obtained crucial roles, while symphony orchestras and opera houses now appear across the world. (Full article...)

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Sylvia, originally Sylvia ou La Nymphe de Diane, is a full-length ballet in two or three acts, first choreographed by Louis Mérante to music by Léo Delibes in 1876. Sylvia is a typical classical ballet in many respects, yet it has many interesting features which make it unique. Sylvia is notable for its mythological Arcadian setting, creative choreographies, expansive sets and, above all, its remarkable score. The ballet's origins are in Torquato Tasso's 1573 verse drama Aminta, which describes the basic plot of Delibes' work. Jules Barbier and Baron de Reinach adapted this for the Paris Opera. The piano arrangement was composed in 1876 and the orchestral suite was done in 1880. When Sylvia premiered on 14 June 1876 at the Palais Garnier, it went largely unnoticed. In fact, the first seven productions of Sylvia were not successful.
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Wilhelm Richard Wagner (/ˈrɪ.ərd ˈvɑːɡ.nər/; German pronunciation: [ˈʁi.çaʁt ˈvaɡ.nɐ]; 22 May 1813, Leipzig, Germany – 13 February 1883, Venice, Italy) was a German composer, conductor, theatre director and essayist, primarily known for his operas (or "music dramas", as they were later called). Unlike most other great opera composers, Wagner wrote both the scenario and libretto for his works.

Richard Wagner was born at no. 3 ('the House of the Red and White Lions'), the Brühl, in Leipzig, on 22 May 1813, the ninth child of Carl Friedrich Wagner, who was a clerk in the Leipzig police service. Wagner's father died of typhus six months after Richard's birth, following which Wagner's mother, Johanna Rosine Wagner, began living with the actor and playwright Ludwig Geyer, who had been a friend of Richard's father. In August 1814 Johanna Rosine married Geyer, and moved with her family to his residence in Dresden. For the first 14 years of his life, Wagner was known as Wilhelm Richard Geyer. Wagner may later have suspected that Geyer was in fact his biological father, and furthermore speculated incorrectly that Geyer was Jewish.

Geyer's love of the theatre was shared by his stepson, and Wagner took part in his performances. In his autobiography, Wagner recalled once playing the part of an angel. The boy Wagner was also hugely impressed by the Gothic elements of Weber's Der Freischütz. In late 1820, Wagner was enrolled at Pastor Wetzel's school at Possendorf, near Dresden, where he received some piano instruction from his Latin teacher. He could not manage a proper scale but preferred playing theatre overtures by ear. Geyer died in 1821, when Richard was eight. Consequently, Wagner was sent to the Kreuz Grammar School in Dresden, paid for by Geyer's brother. The young Wagner entertained ambitions as a playwright, his first creative effort (listed as 'WWV 1') being a tragedy, Leubald begun at school in 1826, which was strongly influenced by Shakespeare and Goethe. Wagner was determined to set it to music; he persuaded his family to allow him music lessons.

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Book 1 – Fugue in D major (1:32) Performed on a Flemish harpsichord by Martha Goldstein Problems playing this file? See media help.

The Well-Tempered Clavier (Das Wohltemperirte Clavier in the original old German spelling), BWV 846–893, is a collection of solo keyboard music composed by Johann Sebastian Bach. He first gave the title to a book of preludes and fugues in all 24 major and minor keys, dated 1722, composed "for the profit and use of musical youth desirous of learning, and especially for the pastime of those already skilled in this study".

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The Royal Opera House is an opera house and major performing arts venue in the London district of Covent Garden. The large building, often referred to as simply "Covent Garden", is the home of The Royal Opera, The Royal Ballet and the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House.
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Did you know...

... that Johann Sebastian Bach is only one of 53 "musical Bachs" in several generations?

... that the longest non-repetitive piano piece is The Road, composed by Frederic Rzewski, and it lasts about 10 hours?

... that Gioachino Rossini wrote his comic opera The Italian Girl in Algiers in less than three weeks?

... that Stockhausen's Helikopter-Streichquartett is played by a string quartet and four helicopters?

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