Viennese Classicism, style of music dominating in Vienna from 1770 until 1830. Around 1720, first signs of specific changes in musical tastes and styles became visible; this era, called Pre-Classical or Early Classical Period, comprises various developments between late Baroque, style galant, Rococo and sentimental style. Composers of this transitional period include G. C. Wagenseil, J. Starzer and J. Bonno, to a certain extent also J. Haydn, W. A. Mozart and A. Salieri. Thus, the end of the classical period (around 1830) should be seen as smooth transition. L. v. Beethoven, for example, is considered to be both classicist and romanticist.
Seen from the socio-historical point of view, Viennese Classicism and its main representatives J. Haydn, W. A. Mozart and L. v. Beethoven ("Classical Triad") are based upon a feudal society which saw itself as a champion of the Enlightenment. Vienna, capital city and residence of the imperial family, became the rallying point for this aristocratic society. All major composers of Viennese Classicism were born in places other than Vienna but were attracted by Vienna as a centre that offered numerous cultural and social possibilities. From around 1740, the Court´s function as a patron of the arts had been emulated by wider circles of the aristocracy, which made it possible for musical life to expand and open up. Public musical life was supported by these aristocrats ("amateur concerts") and several, often short-lived, "nobility bands" were founded.
Typical of the music of Viennese Classicism, which had absorbed elements of regional Italian, French and German styles from the age of High Baroque and had become common international property, is the development of new genres or the reinterpretation of existing ones as well as formal and harmonic broadening and a concentration on instrumental music. The formal basis of sonata, symphony, string quartet and concert is the sonata form (exposition - development - recapitulation - coda); the elaboration of the theme, which is continuously enlarged and expanded, is an important innovation. The minuet, the last remnant of the Baroque suite, was increasingly alienated from the original dance form and ultimately gave way to the "scherzo" towards the end of Viennese Classicism. While older genres such as sonata, symphony (sinfonia) and concert (concerto) were given a new interpretation, the string quartet, with its equality of all four instruments is an innovation of Viennese Classicism closely associated with Joseph Haydn. Subsequent generations of composers (F. Schubert, A. Bruckner, J. Brahms, G. Mahler) thought that the guidelines developed by Viennese Classicism were almost unattainable ideals and standards; thus Brahms once said that he felt the menacing steps of the "giant" (Beethoven) following behind his back.
Literature#E. Buecken, Die Musik des Rokoko und der Klassik, 1927; H. Engel, Das Instrumentalkonzert, 1971; K. Haller, Partituranordnung und musikalischer Satz, 1970; R. Klober, Handbuch des Instrumentalkonzerts, 1972; R. Barrett-Ayres, J. Haydn and the string quartett, 1974; W. Konold, Das Streichquartett, 1980; C. Rosen, Der klassische Stil, 1983; U. Hoell, Studien zum Sonatensatz in den Klaviersonaten J. Haydns, 1984; K. Dahlhaus, L. v. Beethoven und seine Zeit, 1987; K. Dahlhaus (ed.), 18. Jahrhundert (= Neues Handbuch zur Musikwissenschaft, vol. 5), 1989; P. G. Downs, Classical Music, The Era of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, 1992.