In the history of music, each period has its specific characteristics — its style by which it is recognized. A brilliant creators — composers, writing in the style of the time, gave their personal mark to it with their works, ie. they achieved their personal style. Therefore, it is said that the style of the music is the way of music opinion of some period or an individual in it.

     We will start a brief overview of characteristics of music periods with the Baroque music period.

  The Baroque period (17th century and the beginning of the 18th) saw a flourishing of instrumental music for the first time.

      In fine arts and architecture the Baroque art is characterized by brightness and greatness, lots of decorations and restless, intertwined lines, contrasts of light and dark. Similar characteristics can be noticed in the music of that period: it is full of ornaments (decorations), independent melodic voices sound simultaneously (polyphony), contrasts f and p are sharp (without crescendo and decrescendo), and a  rhythm is in constant motion. The most important Baroque composers are Bach and Handel.

       Since the clarinet had been constructed around 1700 there was no any literature for it in the Baroque period. However, the appropriate adaptation of compositions from this period can be found. (see the collection of R. Lazić: Great masters of the clarinet I–VI).

   In the Classicism (second half of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century) intellect prevails over sensibility. The heavy and ornate Baroque gives way to classic lightness, clarity and regularity in melody, rhythm and form. Leading melody is distinguished from the chord accompaniment. At this time the first concerts for the clarinet were created. The most important representatives of the Classicism are Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, but the last one largely indicates Romanticism.

     Classical music is played extremely precise, smooth and stylish, with narrower — more humble tone. The Classicism does not allow any exaggeration — dynamic,  agogic, or emotional.

  In the Romantic period (19th century) fantasy and sensibility prevail, opposite to classical restraint. Creators perceive themselves, retreat into a world of imagination, turn to the legendary past, describe the beauty of nature. Melody becomes wider, more melodious, colored with chromatics and dynamic contrasts.

    Instrumental virtuosity is flourishing, and many concerts are written for the clarinet. Representatives of the early Romanticism of the first half of the 19th century are Weber, Schubert, Rossini, Spohr, Schumann, Chopin, Mendelssohn.

      In the late Romantic period composers are inspired for their works by the contents of the  literature, visual art or nature (so-called program music). In the melody and harmony, there is more cromatics and dissonances, as expression of emphasized emotion. German composers Liszt, Wagner, Brahms, Bruckner, Mahler, Reger and Strauss, French Berlioz and Frank, and Italian (opera!) Verdi and Puccini belong to this period.

    So-called national schools, primarily Russian (Glinka, Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, Rimsky—Korsakov) and Czech (Smetana, Dvořák) also belong to the Romanticism. These composers like to use colorful elements of musical folklore of their people.

    Romantic music allows a perfomer far greater freedom of expression, greater personal empathy in interpreting the work. It is played with a “fuller” tone and more emotions, scale of performer’s feelings enables a far wider range of dynamic shading and agogic.

  The Impressionism (late 19th and the beginning of the 20th century) got its name from the word impression, meaning the effect produced by impressing. Music follows the painting (art): impressions from nature are described, and are experienced in a special, new way, with a new understanding of sound colors. A melody is neglected — it is often in fragments, with a preference for tonal color, harmony and usually complex rhythm. The most important representatives are French: Debussy and Ravel.

      This style requires a vivid imagination of a performer, the ultimate sophistication, the tendency towards the feeling of color and its finest nuances. The performer with his interpretation and good taste paints and evokes a certain mood — an atmosphere (impression) suggested by the title of a composition. For all this it is necessary that the performer has good technique and plays with ease.

   20th—century music reflects the spirit and tempo of life of our time as well as its contradictions. Although its general characteristics may be indicated as stressed role of rhythm, free and jumpy melodies, dissonant harmony —  there are also various parallel musical styles  in the 20th century.

        The Expressionism (Schoenberg, Berg) gives priority to extreme excitement and sharpest dissonances, denying tradition (leaving the tonality). The Neo-classicism (Stravinsky, Hindemith, Prokofiev) returns to the classical ideals of harmony and balance, but in a new, modern sound attire, while Bartók is inspired with folklore of his (Hungarian) people.

        The compositions of the 20th century place new demands on the perfomer: Different effects and new opportunities of playing the clarinet are often used. (glissando — ie. Sliding from tone to tone; frulato — ie. Flickering with the tongue when pronouncing the voice “rrr …”; rough accents, polyphonic playing — which is achieved by a combination of special grifoes, etc..). All this requires technically well-trained musicians.

Taken from my book
I Am Studying Clarinet IV


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