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What is the Classical era?
The Classical period is an era in music that exhibited Alberti bass, broken chord accompaniments, and scalic patterns.
The piano initiates a change in style from the Baroque
An important note from a historical point is that the piano was invented by Cristofori. The important differences from the harpsichord were the pedals, which allowed notes to be sustained, and weighted keys, which allowed notes to be played in various degrees of touch. With the invention of the piano, it was possible to go gradually from soft to loud, or vice versa, and hence in Classical music you see more expressive markings such as diminuendo, crescendo and what are sometimes commonly called "hairpins". It was also possible to play legato (smoothly) with one hand, and staccato (detached) in the other - something that was not possible with the earlier harpsichord.
Popular piano music and genres
Popular songs of the Classical era are Beethoven's Fur Elise and Mozart's Piano Sonata KV545. (The KV in the latter stands for Von Kochel, who was responsible for cataloguing Mozart's works - sort of like his PA, or 18th-century googlebot if you like). The rise in popularity of the piano was the impetus behind the explosion of the piano sonata. The term "sonata" actually just means "sounded", and piano sonata, while simply meaning piano piece, came to indicate a piece of music with three parts or movements. The first and the last were normally fast, and in the same key, while the middle movement was slow and written in a different key to provide some form of contrast.
In the ABRSM aural exam, one of the required tests is to identify the period a piece was written in. The points given above can be used to justify why a piece belongs to the Classical era.
For more information about piano lessons in Muswell Hill, Crouch End and surrounding areas, please visit the pianoworks.co.uk site by clicking here.