The Spirit of the Classical Era :
The Classical Era saw the convergence of two opposing schools of thought in society. The first was the leftover from the Baroque Era, which said that the nobility had absolute power of society. The second was from the middle class, who said that the nobility had gone too far with their power and should give some of their power over to the middle class.
The result of this was many opportunities for composers. Not only could they have theirtraditional occupations as servents to various noblemen who served as their patrons, but they could also make a fair living performing their work at public concerts, an innovation of the time.
This uprising from the bourgeousie was happening all around the world. The American and French Revolution showed that the little people of the world were not going to stand for being trampled underfoot and the Industrial Revolution allowed for a power transfer from the nobility to the middle class, who controlled the mines and factories.
Thinkers of the Classical Era despised complexity and detail. They preferred beauty in simplicity and form. The Classical Era represented a throwback to ancient Rome and Greece.
The String Quartet:
The string quartet represents one of the first musical forms that could be described as chamber music. In this style of music, the composer deals with a small group of instruments and the emphasis is on the blend and interplay between the players. A string quartet usually consists of first and second violins, viola and cello. When writing for the string quartet, the composer had to overcome the lack of contrasting tone colours through the use of beautiful melodic and harmonic lines. Most string quartets included two allegro movements in sonata-allegro form, an andante and a dance movement.
The symphony had its roots in opera overtures. It was the first monumental form written exclusively for instrumentalists. In their symphonies, usually longer, more involved works, composers displayed their talent for development. In the Classical era, symphonic composers usually stayed within the same four-movement structure as the string quartet, with two allegro or presto movements flanking a lyrical andante movement and a dance movement such as a minuet or a scherzo. It is in the symphonic works of composers such as Beethoven and Mozart that we see them using their talents to the fullest.
The classical sonata consisted of a series of contrasting movements (usually three or four) for one or two instruments. The form of these movements mirrored the form used in the aforementioned string quartet and symphony. In the Classical era, the sonata was frequently used by amateur musicians...