The Dominant Style of the 18th Century
The eighteenth century is characterized by the period of Enlightenment. It was during this period that music and culture flourished across Europe as people everywhere promoted universal education, individual faith, practical morality, and social equality. Amidst the cultural and musical shift that took place during this time, two styles, known as galant and empfindsam, stood out as two of the dominant musical styles of the Classical Period. This paper will use Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s Sonata in A Major and the first movement of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Sonata in F Major, K.332 to explain the galant and empfindsam style as well as discuss the ideals of the Enlightenment and the social developments of the period as they relate to music making.
Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach was one of the most influential musicians of the Enlightenment. Trained by his father, J. S. Bach, he served on the Court of Frederick the Great, became musical director of five churches in Hamburg, and composed numerous oratorios, songs, symphonies, concertos and chamber music. It is in the second movement of the fourth of his Sechs Clavier-Sonaten fur Kenner und Liehaber (Six Clavier Sonatas for Connoisseurs and Amateurs) where the main characteristics of the empfindsam style are present. The empfindsam style, or sentimental style, is most closely associated with C. P. E. Bach. It is characterized by surprising turns of harmony, chromaticism, nervous rhythms, and free, speech like melody. The empfindsam style aimed to touch the heart and move the soul.
In the opening of the second movement, the line in the treble clef opens with an appoggiatura, leaps up and gradually descends (mm. 1-3). Already present, are the surprising turns of harmony that are indicative of the empfindsam style. From the moment the piece begins, the music seems to linger on each note as if the composer didn’t want the listener to miss a single detail. It gives a sense of...