What does "classical" mean? Is Dvořák classical?

  • Would Antonín Dvořák be considered a 'classical composer', specifically thinking about the very American "New World Symphony".

    I have never studied music, so not sure of the different categories. E.g.: 'classical', 'romantic'.

    Sadly, the word "classical" has a wide variety of meanings. He's not "classical period" but he's classical in the sense of using standard symphonic instruments and pre-Schonbergian music theory. (Folks - please don't start a flame war over "who's first to break the rules" -- pick a starting date for post-classical composers to suit yourself :-) )

    Endorsing Carl's comment. As 'Classical' ended around 1820-ish and 'Romantic' started 1815-ish, and New World saw light in 1893 ('Romantic' going on till 1920-ish) It would be deemed 'Romantic', at least in a timescale. That's how we often categorise pieces - when they were written, more so than how they were constructed. Why does everything have to be pigeonholed?

    Expansion on Tim's comment here: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romantic_music A challenge with this question is that there's no requirement in general to pick one classification system for music, and even if there were one, genre picking is often difficult and partly opinion based. You might as well ask, "Is Green Day pop-punk or just pop or just punk?" There's no objective way to answer that.

    It's very American, 'cos at the time he was in New York, head of National Conservatory.

    @ToddWilcox The answer to your last question is "no" :-)

    @CarlWitthoft Any thoughts of turning that into a full-fledged answer? I see people have labeled this as primarily opinion-based, but I don't think that's true; it's really an issue of OP not fully understanding the terminology, which you helped them clarify!

    @Richard maybe -- plus plagiarizing Tim and Todd's comments :-) . I'll wait to see if someone more literate than I chimes in.

    I just voted to re-open this question. This is a central question encountered by many uninformed listeners. While there are different answers and the choice a person makes is somewhat subjective, the answers themselves are in no way opinion-based.

    @guidot even with that argument , it still doesn't belong here. I can see something somewhere being asked on music fans SE, but the audience is still far from being able to handle this question.

    For some people "classical" means "boring stuff that I don't like because it doesn't sound as good as Country and Western" ;) "Uninformed listeners" might not like the answer that the term is basically meaningless, but that's their problem not mine. Arguing about the number of angels that can dance on a pin head is WAY more fun...

    @Dom: I also had some doubts whether this is the right place, but the given reason for closing does not reflect this. I prepared an answer I could supply at Music Fans.

  • The term Classical in terms of music has two main distinct meanings that have been mentioned in the comments. In the broadest sense Classical refers to music that is related mostly to the history of Western music composition. This is mainly a popular definition which can be seen in how music stores organize music to sell.

    The other main definition of Classical refers to a period in Western music history that very roughly corresponds to the 18th century. The main figure associated with the Classical period would be Mozart.

    Using these two definitions I would say that Dvorak is a classical composer and the New World symphony is a classical piece, in the first, broad sense of the word, but neither the composer or the music is of the Classical period.

    As mentioned already, this would be categorized as late Romantic music. The Romantic period follows the Classical periods during is associated with a large group of composers that begins with Beethoven.

    I would have put Beethoven to core classic period (see Wikipedia, First Viennese School, but English wikipedia at least puts him at the border to Romantic period. He surely is not a typical Romantic composer, where I would put Brahms instead.

    I believe Beethoven is viewed by many as the popular father of the Romantic music period. His early period was definitely rooted in the Classical period but his style changed into something that inspired many artists to try new approaches.

    Beethoven acted as a transition figure.

    So, in the common (broad) sense, have composers like Alban Berg, Webern, Britten, György Ligeti etc. written "classical music"?

    @MichaelWürthner Yes in the common broad sense those composers and their music would be classified as classical.

  • The Oxford Dictionary of Music (2nd ed. 1994), a one-volume reference, offers these definitions for Classical:

    1. music composed between 1750 and 1830, i. e. post-baroque and pre-romantic
    2. music of an orderly nature with qualities of clarity and balance and emphasizing formal beauty rather than emotional expression (which is not so say that emotion is lacking)
    3. music generally regarded as having permanent rather than ephemeral value
    4. classical music is considered as a generic term meaning the opposite of light or popular music

    Obviously Dvořáks is missing the first but matching all other criteria, and his symphony „From the new world“ is not exceptional compared to his other works (except regarding popularity). Note that (1) is the narrow term, (4) the wide definition probably causing your confusion and (3) fitting phrases like classical Jazz. I admit, that I can't get much out of (2).

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM