Flute – Classical Period Wind (incl. flute) & Brass Instruments Pt 5

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Flute – Classical Period Wind (incl. flute) & Brass Instruments Pt 5


Flute – Classical Period Wind (incl. flute) & Brass Instruments Pt 5

During the classical period, the trumpet was at its height and was used by composers such as Leopold Mozart (Amadeus’ father) and Michael Haydn (Joseph’s brother). They were generally confined though to the few notes available in the middle and low registers, and the parts therefore were a little less interesting than in the Baroque period. Trumpets would either be in the key of D or C when used for courtly purposes and in the key of Eb or F when used by the military. Players, similarly to the clarinet, played specifically in different registers. Notably, in 1814, the valves were added to the trumpet to enable it to play the chromatic scale evenly. By the 18th century, the changes it underwent meant it was both louder and easier to play. Trumpets often accompanied the drum parts, marking rhythmic patterns and adding interest.

Orchestras generally featured two horns, and its use during the classical period was primarily orchestral, with solo repertoire mainly being written from the mid 19th century onwards. They originally would only play in the first and last movements, gradually making their way into the slow movements. Horns and trumpets were usually very similar in their parts and sometimes interchangeable, and they were used primarily to fill out inner harmonic structure.

The numbers of instruments in an orchestra would vary drastically, and composers who travelled around did not know what instruments would be available to them. In Mozart’s home in Salzburg, his orchestra consisted of 40 players (including flutes) , but no clarinets, and the first performance of his Paris Symphony had 59 players. In Vienna in 1778, he is reported to have said that he had 40 violins, doubled wind (including flutes) instruments, 10 violas, 10 double basses, eight violincellos and six bassoons. But in Prague in 1784 for his first performance of Don Giovanni, he is reported to have only had 26 players in total.

We can now see the role of brass and woodwind (flute) instruments changed due to the new harmonic structure that was evolving during the Classical period, their use in symphonic arrangements and the introduction of the sonata form. We see how the changes that were taking place in society also greatly influenced the way music was evolving and the changes the flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn and trumpet underwent during this time.

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