Lecture Seven

The Viennese Classical Style: Homophony and Cadence & Classical-Era Forms: Theme and Variations Minuet and Trio

This lecture seeks to further build listening skills and a descriptive vocabulary regarding cadence, or musical punctuation. The tremendous difference between Baroque-era musical process and Classical-era musical narrative is demonstrated and discussed, as is the subsequent recognition, during the early Classical era, of the expressive and rhetorical power of cadence. The four essential cadence types— open/half cadences, closed/authentic/standard cadences, deceptive/false cadences, and plagal cadences—are defined, demonstrated, and discussed. Finally, we examine the geographical and social importance of the city of Vienna for the origin of the Classical style. Then we turn to a discussion of Classical-era instrumental musical forms. First, we examine theme and variations form, which represented an adaptation of Baroque-era variations procedure to the expressive and musical needs of the Classical era. While maintaining much of the compositional rigor of the Baroque models, Classical-era theme and variations form utilizes a “tune” as its theme rather than a bassline and/or harmonic progression. Wolfgang Mozart’s Variations on ‘Ah, vous dirai-je, Maman is used as an example of Classical-era theme and variations form. Second, we continue the examination of Classical-era instrumental musical form, with an investigation of Baroque-era minuet and trio form, the antecedent of Classical-era minuet and trio form. To this end, the importance of courtly dance in seventeenth-century France is discussed, as is Baroque-era binary dance form and the advent and development of stylized dances. The most important and popular dance types to come out of seventeenth-century France, among which the minuet and trio was preeminent. Seventeenth-century French minuet and trio form is demonstrated and examined using a movement by Jean-Baptiste Lully.

 Please refer to the class handouts for the next four lectures when listening to the music.

Outline: We begin with a stylistic comparison of the instrumental music of the Classical and Baroque eras.

 Musical Comparison:

Bach, Brandenburg Concerto no. 2, third movement (c. 1721)

Mozart, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, second movement (1786)

A.   The rhythm of Classical-era music is generally more flexible and less predictable and motoric than that of Baroque-era music.

B.    The dynamics of Classical-era music are more varied and graded.

C.   Classical-era orchestras were larger than Baroque-era ensembles.

D.    Classical-era work was more vocal and tuneful in its melodic conception.

E.     The instrumental texture is clear and unambiguous homophony, while Baroque-era work is typically polyphonic.

II.     Baroque polyphonic process music is contrasted with Classical homophonic narrative music.

A.    Much Baroque instrumental music is non-narrative; i.e., it is melodically the same from beginning to end. 

Musical Example: Pachelbel, Kanon, c. 1700 (edited). 

B.    Most Baroque instrumental music features a sameness and consistency that defies easy differentiation. This sameness is due to:

1.     The speed at which Baroque-era composers had to produce new music.

2.     The harmonic and melodic formulas that defined Baroque styles.

3.   The formal processes, which guaranteed musical sameness throughout a given piece.

C.     The following Classical-era piece, by contrast, has a clear sense of narrative—a beginning, middle, and end. 

Musical Example: Beethoven, Symphony no. 5, first movement coda (1808) 

III.    The perception of cadences in homophonic music helps to account for this sense of action or narrative.

A.    A cadence is a musical punctuation mark.

B.     Cadences were more clearly perceived in Classical than in Baroque-era music because:

1.     The melodic extravangance of Baroque-era music did not lend itself to cadential formulas and pauses at the end of melodic phrases.

2.     Instrumental polyphony obscures cadences through elision and overlapping.

C.     There are various types of cadences:

1.     Open or half cadence (equivalent to a comma)

 Musical Example: Beethoven, Symphony no. 5, first movement 

2.     Closed, authentic, or standard cadence (a period or exclamation mark)

Musical Examples:

Haydn, Symphony no. 88, first movement, first theme (1788)

Beethoven, Symphony no. 5, fourth movement, final cadence

3.     Deceptive or false cadence (a colon or semicolon)

Musical Examples:

Beethoven, Symphony no. 5, third movement, conclusion and transition

Mozart, C Minor Symphony, fourth movement, development part 4 (1788)

4.     Plagal (“ amen”) cadence

D.    Musical Comparison:

G. F. Handel, Fugue, from Concerto Grosso Op. 6, No. 7—hard to perceive clear and unambiguous cadences

Mozart, G Minor Symphony, third movement—cadences are clearly perceived. 

IV.  We turn now to early Classical style.

A.   During its early development (c. late l740s to early 1760s), this style emphasized light, decorative homophony.

B.     The high “Viennese” Classical style had appeared by the 1780s. This style was centered on Vienna for several reasons:

1.     Vienna stood at the crossroads of Germany (both Protestant north and Catholic south), Italy, Bohemia, and Hungary.

2.     Vienna stood at the midpoint of the musical traditions of Italy and northern Germany.

3.     As the capital of the Habsburg empire, Vienna was exposed to leading cultural and intellectual currents.

4.     It was home to Joseph II of Austria, enlightened Habsburg emperor  from 1780—90.

5.    It was the adopted home of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven.


Classical-Era Forms: Theme and Variations 

Outline: We begin by reviewing instrumental musical forms/processes in the Baroque era. 

A.    Instrumental music and the forms/processes that gave it coherence began to evolve during the Baroque era. 

B.    The possibilities offered by the new homophonic style of the Classical era necessitated the creation of new instrumental forms/processes.

C.    Classical-era forms/processes grew directly or indirectly out of Baroque-era models.

    1.     Baroque opera gave rise to minuet and trio form and sonata-allegro form.

    2.     Other Classical-era forms were adaptation of Baroque-era polyphonic forms.

        a. Theme and variations form was an adaptation of passacaglia.

        b. Rondo form was an adaptation of ritornello form.


II.     Sections of thematic music as defined by cadences will generally relate to each other in one of three ways:

A.    As repetitions of each other: A A

B.    As variations of each other: A A’

C.  As contrasts of each other: A B

III.    Classical-era theme and variations form.

A.   The model for this form was Baroque passacaglia (ground bass/chaconne). Passacaglia features a ground bass theme of fixed length and cadence structure, and successive sections (cycles or variations) of equal length.

B.    Classical-era theme and variations form differs from passacaglia in that the theme will be a tune rather than a bass line, and a surface element rather than a structural element. 

IV.  Mozart, Twelve Variations on “Ah, vous dirai-je, Maman,” K. 265 (1781)

A.   The theme of this piece is typical of a Classical-era theme and variations form movement.

1.   The theme is memorable; it is presented simply; it has a clear, even phrase structure and easily perceived cadences; and the final cadence of each variation is unambiguously closed.

2.     The mode is major.

3.     The meter is duple.

4.     The texture is homophonic.

5.   The harmonic underpinning is extremely simple, as befits a thematic statement.

B.   The theme itself will often be transformed to some degree during the variations, but the variations (cycles) retain the phrase and cadential structure of the theme. 

C.   The coda is a section of music added after the last variation to expand the final cadence in order to terminate the variational process and create a convincing sense of conclusion. 

Featured Music: Mozart, Twelve Variations on “Ah, vous dirai-je, Maman,” K. 265 

V.    We can draw the following conclusions about theme and variations form.

A.   It tends to be highly sectional.

B.    It is relatively nondramatic.

C.   Adjacent sections are related as variations of one another.

D.    Its generic schematic is: A (Theme) Al A2 A3 etc. . . coda. 

Classical-Era Form: Minuet and Trio I - Baroque Antecedents 


During the Age of Enlightenment, a new musical style evolved that resonated with the era’s emphasis on individuality, naturalness, and common sense. 

A.   This style reached its height in Vienna between 1770 and 1800.

B.   The narrative power of cadences, combined with the predilection for singing melody, led to the development of new homophonic procedures and forms.

C.   Next will examine minuet and trio form. 

II.     Baroque dance music provided the antecedents of minuet and trio form.

A. Balletic episodes from Baroque French operas were condensed into suites—collections of dances, typically drawn from larger productions.

B.  Stylized dances were meant to be listened to, not danced to.

C.    By the High Baroque, stylized dance suites for solo instruments (suite, partita), chamber ensembles (sonata de camera), and orchestra (orchestral suite) had become an important type of instrumental music.

D.    Baroque dance music was almost invariably homophonic. Featured Music:

Bach, Orchestral Suite no. 3 in D, Gavotte (173 1)—due to its intertwining voices and characteristic lack of clear downbeats and clear cadential and sectional articulation, polyphonic music such as this is not suitable for dancing.

E.     Baroque dance types reached their peak of sophistication in seventeenth-century France. These types included:

              1. Allemande: 4/4, moderate

              2. Courante: 3/2, moderate

 3. Sarabande: 3/4, slow

 4. Minuet: 3/2, slow

  5. Gavotte: 4/4, moderate

 6. Bourree: 2/2, on the fast side

 7. Gigue: 6/8, fast

 8. Siciliana: 12/8, moderate 

F.   Almost all Baroque dances were binary (two-part) in form: //: a://:b:// 

Featured Example: Corelli, Trio Sonata op. 3, no. 2, fourth movement (1689) 

G.    Shorter dances like the minuet were often paired with another dance of like type; this second dance, typically scored for three instruments, was called a trio.

H.    Due largely to Louis XIV, the minuet became the most popular social dance of the Baroque. 

III.    The Baroque minuet with a second contrasting internal minuet was called “minuet and trio.”

          II: a ://: b ://    //: c ://: d :// //a / b //

     Minuet                         Trio                Minuet                  (da capo)


A.    Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687).was the most famous and influential composer in Europe during the latter half of the seventeenth century.

1.     Lully was court composer to Louis XIV.

2.     He invented the French overture, popularized dances, and dominated French opera and ballet. 

B.   Featured Music: Lully, Minuet and Trio from the opera-ballet The Temple of Peace (1685) 

C.      Due largely to its homophonic texture, minuet and trio was the only Baroque dance to survive into the multi-movement genres of the Classical era. 


Cadence: a harmonic or melodic formula that occurs at the end of a phrase, section, or composition, which conveys a momentary or permanent conclusion; in other words, a musical punctuation mark. 

Chord: the simultaneous sounding of three or more different pitches. 

Closed Cadence: equivalent to a period or exclamation mark; such a cadence ends on the tonic and gives a sense of rest and resolution. 

Deceptive/False Cadence: equivalent to a colon or semicolon; such a cadence does bring resolution but not to the expected tonic harmony. 

Dominant: the note and chord five notes above a given tonic note/chord; the dominant harmony is the chord most closely related to the tonic chord in a given key; the dominant chord will almost always immediately precede an appearance of the tonic chord. 

Open Cadence: equivalent to a comma; such a cadence pauses on the dominant harmony without resolving the tonic harmony, creating tension and the need to continue. 

Plagal Cadence: so-called “Amen” cadence; when used, a plagal cadence will generally occur as a musical postscript following a closed cadence. 

Tonal/Tonality: the sense that one pitch is central to a section of music, as opposed to atonal/atonality. 

Tonic: the home note and chord of a piece of tonal music. Think of the term as being derived from TONAL center (tonic). For example, if a movement is in “C,” the note “C” is the tonic note, and the harmony built on “C” is the tonic chord. 

Homophonic Forms 

The homophonic forms of the Classical era; these three forms were all developed from Baroque models. 

Theme and Variations Form: 

A theme (“A”) is stated: in all likelihood it will be a memorable melody or tune. Each subsequent section—each variation—will alter some aspect or aspects of the theme.


      A                   A1                          A2                            A3                  etc. coda

  (Theme)       (Variation 1)        (Variation 2)           (Variation 3)

 Minuet and Trio Form: An expansion of the Baroque-era dance form, this form features the large-scale contrast between two minuets; the middle, or contrasting, minuet is called the trio (“B’). 

           Minuet                                  Trio                         Minuet (da capo)

                A                                       B                                           A

   Il:a:II:ba:lI                 II:c:II:dc:II                     IlalIball


Rondo:  Rondo form is based on the concept of periodic thematic return of a central theme after different contrasting episodes. 

      A                        B                                  A                        C                                              A              coda

(Theme)         (Contrasting Material)        (Theme)     (New Contrasting Material)         (Theme)

   “Ah, vous dirai-je, Maman,” K. 265 (1781) Twelve Variations —Wolfgang A.  Mozart                                    

   Theme       II: a: II: b al:II    Also known as “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” the theme is presented simply with minimal accompaniment and simple harmonies. Note closed cadences after ta”                          and “al.’

Variation I    II: a: II a: bal:II  The theme is embedded in an elaborate melody.

Variation 2    II:a: II: b al :II The theme is supported by more complex harmonies and a fast, boogie-woogie-like accompaniment.

Variation 3     II:a: II: b al :II The theme is embedded in an elaborate melody heard in fast groups of three, which effectively changes the meter to compound duple.

Variation 4     II: a : II: b al :II The fast groups of three move into the left hand accompaniment.

Variation 5     II: a : II: b a1:II Spare, hocket-like variation in duple meter. 

Variation 6     II: a : II: b al : II Percussive chords in the right hand and a fast, left hand accompaniment; in b, chords  move into the left hand, fast accompaniment into the right hand.

Variation 7     II: a : II: b al:II Fast, scalar variation; note the increasingly complex harmonies at the end of “a.”

Variation 8     II: a :II: b al:II Minor mode, imitative polyphony.                

Variation 9     II: a : II: b a1:II Major mode, “a” in imitative polyphony.     

Variation 10   II: a :II: b a!: II Exciting, virtuosic variation, the most harmonically complex of the set.

Variation I 1   II: a :II:b al:II Adagio, ornate, quite operatic. This variation features the only significant change of tempo in the entire piece.

Variation 12    II: a: II: b al: II Allegro, triple meter, fast left-hand accompaniment reminiscent of Variation 2.

     Coda           After repeating the last phrase of Variation 1 2, the coda proceeds to reinforce the tonic and dominant harmonies.


The Temple o Peace (1685) Minuet and Trio —Jean Battiste Lully 


II: a : II: b : II

Strings and harpsichord continuo

A TRIO II:c:II:d:II two oboes and one bassoon and harpsichord continuo

B MINUET (DA CAPO) II a II b II fine  

Strings and harpsichord