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Mozart’s “Clarinet Quintet” and Mahler’s Symphony no.1 in D major “Titan” Essay

The Music of the classical and Romantic era is a period of time where it shows the development and different styles of music. This can be shown through the manipulation of musical elements, (dynamics, pitch, tempo, rhythm, texture, meter, tonality, structure, melody, harmony, instrument) while contrasting them, but it can also be shown through the composers of the music, the size of the orchestra, musical directions, emotional content, and non-musical developments through that period of time.

After the Renaissance and the Baroque era, the Classical era soon followed at around the 1720-1820’s. During these times in Europe, there were many non musical developments, ideas of the enlightenment, political issues, scientific discoveries and the reexamination of established ideas, including the existence of God. Many of these ideas and has got huge impact on the heavy Monumental baroque style and later developed with a more intimate rococo style, with its light colors, curved lines, and graceful ornaments, which greatly resembles the classical period. Shortly after the Classical period, the Romantic era appeared during the 1820-1900’s. At these times, non-musical developments such as cultural movements strongly expressed emotion, imagination, and individuality. People such as Romantic painters and writer often emphasized the freedom of expression; they often saw political revolution as a reflection of their own struggles for artistic freedom. This had made a huge impact on Romantic music, because the emotional subjectivity turned into a basic quality of Romanticism.

Comparing the musical elements of Classical era and Romantic era, we would notice the many differences, and hence we can identify and recognize the music of both periods. The first musical element that I will discuss is rhythm. As we can see, the rhythm of the Classical era tends to be less complex and quite repetitive. Classical style usually includes unexpected pauses, syncopations, and frequent changes from long notes to shorter notes, and the change from one pattern of note lengths to another may be either sudden or gradual. As we can see in the Finale of Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet, we can see that during each of those variations, the rhythms are not very complex and quite repetitive, for example, the first 3 – 8 bars of the introduction in Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet show a somewhat consistent rhythm consisted 4 of crotchets each bar, the 2nd variation show a consistent rhythm of 4 sets of triplets between the 2nd violin and viola, the 3rd variation shows a consistent rhythm of 4 sets of semi-quavers in each bar, with the clarinet normally.

Through what I have described just now, one could see that the pattern of note lengths have gradually changed to shorter and shorter, in this case, from 4 crotchets to 4 triplets to 4 semi-quavers. Also, in variations like Mozart’s clarinet quintet, triplets and syncopations can be found frequently. In contrast, romantic music tends to not emphasize that much on simple and consistent rhythms. There are often changes in the number of beats in a measure, cross-rhythms, syncopations, etc. For example in Mahler’s Symphony no.1 in D major “Titan”, consistent notes goes against syncopations, there are accompaniments with skips and staccatos etc. (p.116)

Both Classical and Romantic eras have written musical directions, unlike Renaissance and Baroque which does not have any. Moreover, I have noticed that the musical directions of both pieces have extreme differences. As we see in Mahler’s symphony no.1 in D major “titan” 3rd movement, there are many written musical directions: dynamic, emotional, tempo directions. For example, in the first 20 bars, there are already 7 written musical directions, whereas in Mozart’s clarinet quintet, there are extremely small amounts of written musical directions, only 2 written musical directions in the first 20 bars. This significantly shows that there are differences in the use of written musical directions in the Classical and Romantic era.

Classical and Romantic music has differences in melodies and structures too. In classical music, the structures emphasize more the grace of proportion and balance, moderation and control; polished and elegance in character with expressiveness and formal structure held in perfect balance. Furthermore, the forms do not vary as much as the Romantic era, they had forms like sonatas, symphonies etc. The melodic phrases are usually balanced and symmetrical made up of two phrases of the same length. For an example, in Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet, the music is very symmetrical and well balanced, in a variation form.

However, in Romantic music, they rather emphasize on the emotional content than trying to sound balanced and symmetrical, and expanded their use of forms and created new forms, like impromptu, ballade, etude, nocturnes etc,. Moreover, the melodies normally have either really long or short phrases, increased in range, but also increased in chromaticism. For example in Mahler’s symphony no.1 in D major “Titan”, we can see that except it is in a ABA form, the whole movement was not as symmetrical and well balanced as the Mozart, although it is in a variation form, the melodic phrases have increased in range, are either really long, for example in the first 18 bars, or really short, where the melody can be hardly seen in bar 134-137.

Classical and Romantic era are very different in the use of harmonies too. In Classical music, harmonies were formed from the chords. If the chords in a music composition are all major chords, then the harmonies would create emotions that express bright, happy and positive feelings, in contrast, if the chords are all minor chords, then the harmony would express the emotion which is sad and depressed, negative feelings. However, in Romantic music, harmonies are more complex due to the development of the complex chords. For example, a diminished chord that is usually found in Romantic music would create a harmony that is rarely found in Classical music. In general, the use of harmonies is very different in both Classical and Romantic music.

Another difference I have noticed between Classical and Romantic music is the range of dynamics used. In the Classical era, the dynamic range normally used was between pp – ff. This range was expanded in the Romantic period, ranging from pppp – ffff. This difference can be evidently proven in Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet, where the range was kept within the range of p – f, a small range of pitch in each part of instruments. However, in Mahler’s symphony no. 1 in D major “titan”, the range of dynamics increased to pppp – f, with a big range of dynamics in each of the instrumental parts. In general, the range of pitch of Classical and Romantic era varies when the classical as small range of dynamics, whilst the Romantic as a larger range of dynamics.

The range of pitch of the Classical and Romantic era is used very differently too. In the classical era, the range pitch is not as big as the Romanic era, as he range of pitch in the Romantic era was expanded, as the composers seek for more extreme high and low sounds. For example in Finale of Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet as a Classical song, the range of pitch of the whole song was only D2 – C6 with little range of pitch in every instrumental part, but the range of pitch in Mahler’s symphony no. 1 in D major, as a Romantic song, is B1- D6, with a very broad range in every instrumental part. In general, the range of pitch of Classical and Romantic era varies when the classical as small range of pitch, whilst the Romantic as a larger range of pitch.

The tempo of classical era and Romantic Era is used very differently too. In the Classical era, the tempo only changed when there are written musical directions to change the mood, but tempo of Romantic music changed the mood constantly with not only the written musical directions, which is often underlined by Accelerando, Ritardando, and subtle variations of pace: but there are many more fluctuations in tempo than there are in Classical music, which they also intensify their emotions by using effect of Rubato. As we can see in Mozart’s clarinet quintet, there are only 3 written musical directions: “Allegretto con Variationi”, which means a little lively, moderately fast, with variation, “Adagio” which means at ease: slow, and allegro, which means cheerful or brisk; but commonly interpreted as fast, lively, and there are no written musical directions which guide the tempo within the scores.

However, in Mahler’s symphony no. 1 in D major, there are not only main musical directions to guide the tempo, like “Feierlich und gemessen, ohne zu schleppen”, which means dignified but not too slow, but there are small ones in between the scores which appears constantly, like Zurluckhaltend which means holding back tempo, creating Rubato effect and Poco. Rit etc. These two pieces, Mozart’s clarinet quintet as a Classical music, Mahler’s titan as a Romantic music, clearly shows that there are significant differences in the tempo of the Classical and Romantic era, Classical with a less frequent change of tempo, Romantic with a frequent change of tempo.

The texture of Classical and Romantic music can be contrasted. Classical music is basically homophonic; for example in Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet, we can see that the texture is basically homophonic, with a few that is polyphonic, and the pieces shifted smoothly from one texture to another, like in the changes from variation 1 to variation 3, there is a gradual change from thin texture to thicker texture. In contrast, even though romantic music can be homophonic and polyphonic and most of the time between the two, the texture turns thicker, it has lots of changes in texture, more drastic and frequent, and they use a lot more instruments to exaggerate this thick and emotional content. As we can see in Mahler’s symphony no.1 “Titan”, the texture is pretty thick in general, due to the size of the orchestra which creates density, and during the bars of 134-137, the whole orchestra is used, which creates the intense and climax moment. In general, although both Classical and Romantic music are mainly homophonic, the thickness of the texture is contrasted significantly.

Chromaticism was also used differently in the Classical and Romantic era. In the classical era, melodic chromaticism was used frequently (especially by Mozart) to balance the harmonic plainness. In its simplest form of chromatic scales, it occurs a lot in unaccented passing notes. Melodic chromaticism does not usually affect the harmony; it is mainly used for color-modification of diatonic notes, to add tone color by composers. However, Romantic music generally uses chromaticism to form the music’s harmonies and create chords. This helps the composer to expand the emotional contents and express a few different emotions of the musical piece. In general, chromaticism was used very differently in the Classical and Romantic era.

Cadenza chords of Classical and Romantic music is similar, but you can say that cadenza chords of Romantic music are built on top of the cadenza chords structures of Classical music. In Classical music, they generally have a cadenza chord structure of I – V – I. In Mozart’s clarinet quintet, the cadenza chords can easily be recognized as chords I – V – I, as we can see in the first 16 bars. In Mahler’s symphony no.1 in D major “titan” however, the cadenza consist of only chord I from bar 158 to the end, 11 bars all written in chord I. This type of chord structure is seldom found in Classical music, because Classical music usually ends a piece of music in an authentic cadence, plagal cadence, or deceptive cadence. In Romantic music, these cadences are still used, but composers like to end their music in their own unique way, just like Mahler’s symphony no. 1 in D major.

Another difference that I have noticed between Classical and Romantic music is the size of their orchestra. In a Classical orchestra, there are normally only 20-60 players, which involve strings: 1st & 2nd violins, violas, cellos, double basses. Woodwinds: 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons. Brass: 2 French horns, 2 trumpets. Percussion: 2 timpani. However, towards this end of the Romantic era, the orchestra might have included around 100 musicians.

The constant expansion of the orchestra reflected composes changing needs as well as the growing size of concert halls and opera houses, due to technological advances. The brass, woodwind and percussion sections of the orchestra took on a more active role, calling for trombones, tubas, and more horns and trumpets. The woodwind took on new tone colors such as contrabassoon, bass clarinet, English horn and piccolo. Orchestral sounds became more brilliant and sensuously appealing through increase uses of cymbals the triangle and the harp.

One of the most evident differences between Classical and Romantic music is how composers express their emotion and creating emotional intensity. Composers from the Classical Period tend to focus more on the structure of music, creating music that is structural and compact in form, and captures our attention by the beauty and structure of the music, which usually just expresses one emotion. However, composers from the Romantic Period focused more on depicting their emotions in their music, emphasizing on expression rather then structure, expressing several different emotions.

When we compare Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet to Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 in D major “Titan”, Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet tends to be more focused on perfecting the harmony between the different melodies and also the structure and forms, while Mahler’s Titan emphasized much more on the emotional content. In short, Classical music tends emphasize on the beauty of balanced structures, expressing one emotion, while Romantic music tends to express more emotional contents, expressing several different emotions.

In general, the music of Classical and Romantic era are very different in many ways, in all aspects of the elements, dynamics, pitch, tempo, rhythm, texture, meter, tonality, structure, melody, harmony, instrument, and especially how they express their emotional contents. However, the Classical and Romantic eras are both historical developments of western music, which significantly contributes to the music that we listen to today.


Classical music. (2007, April 11). Retrieved April 15, 2007, from wikipedia Web site: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classical_musicClassical period (music). (2007, April 13). Retrieved April 14, 2007, from wikipedia Web site: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classical_music_eraLogan, J., & Swann, J. (n.d.). Classical Music and Romantic Music – Part 1. Retrieved April 7, 2007, from http://trumpet.sdsu.edu/m345/Romantic_Music1.htmlRomantic music. (2007, April 12). Retrieved April 13, 2007, from wikipedia Web site: http://http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romantic_musicSchmidt-Jones, C. (2006, January 3). The Music of the Romantic Era. Retrieved April 7, 2007, from connexions Web site: http://cnx.org/content/m11606/latest/Sexton, T. (2007, January 17). The Classical and romantic Eras in Music History. Retrieved April 4, 2007, from associatedcontent Web site: http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/119869/the_classical_and_romantic_eras_in.html

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