What the Hell is Classical Music? By Alan Blackwood


    If it means anything, Classical Music refers to the period between about 1750 and 1800, when music was part of a wider world inspired by the art and architecture of Classical Greece and Rome. With their carefully proportioned symphonies, concertos and sonatas, Haydn and Mozart were the two greatest composers of this time.

    Their immediate successor, Beethoven, had already moved on, heralding the Romantic movement of the nineteenth century. The wild Romantic excesses of some of the music of Liszt, Berlioz and Tchaikovsky could hardly be less Classical. But the term has dragged on, right up to the present day. People can even speak of a piece of music composed last year as ‘Classical’. What the word has come to mean in many people’s minds is music perceived to be ‘posh’ or ‘highbrow’, two more horrible terms.

    ‘Classic’ is a different matter, if it means music that has stood the test of time, from Bach to the Beatles. Some names or labels, such as Baroque, Romantic, Jazz, Swing, Bebop, Rock n Roll, Heavy Metal, are a useful guide to what we can expect.

    But ‘Classical Music’? Now we know.