San Antonio Symphony Music Terms, Part One

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San Antonio Symphony Music Terms, Part One

Welcome back to Austin classical music / San Antonio classical music 101! Today we’re discussing part ONE (of five) in our series of symphony terms to help the unacquainted become more familiar with this rich and treasured musical art form.

Atonality – this is a technique that originated with Arnold Schoenberg, and means having no key.

Bach, Johann Sebastian – Bach was a German composer and organist, who was born in 1685. Arguably the finest and most well-known composer of the Baroque period, Bach raised established forms like the cantata and fugue to new levels. Wagner described him as ‘the most stupendous miracle in all music’. Bach died in 1750.

Baroque – This was the period in Western history from about 1650 to 1750. Baroque literally means ‘misshapen pearl’. The art, music and architecture of the Baroque period displays immense detail and extreme gestures. Aside from Johann Sebastian Bach, another important composer of the period was George Frederick Handel.

Cantata – a composition for vocalists and/or a choir orchestra, but on a smaller scale than an oratorio. Johann Sebasian Bach wrote over 200 cantatas, which was the height of the art; but many composers have written cantatas since, including Prokofiev’s Cantata for the 20th Anniversary of the October Revolution.

Chromaticism – this form of music involves the use of the chromatic scales, intervals and chords. Chromaticism was tinkered with by composers during the 16th and 17th centuries, but Richard Wagner is credited with taking it to its peak. The intense chromaticism of Late Romantic music prompted Austrian Arnold Schoenberg to invent the twelve-note technique, which gave chromaticism a strict set of rules and techniques to adhere to.

Classical – This was the period in Western history from about 1750 to 1830. Some see it as an attempt to reel back the excesses from the previous Baroque period. Classical focuses on clarity, restraint and proportion as opposed to emotional or intellectual expression. Classical composers of note include C.P.E. Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert.

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