ABRSM aural: Style and period

  • Created by: hgrout
  • Created on: 10-03-19 11:00


  • Energetic, lively rhythms, often with an 18th-century dance character
  • Strong, spirited melodic ideas in both upper and lower parts, sometimes with imitation between parts
  • Melodic decoration and ornamentation, especially at the end of phrases
  • Crisp, light articulation and limited pitch range, reflecting origional use of the harpsichord
  • Clear, contrapuntal textures
  • Clear-cut cadences usually occurring only at the ends of main sections, owing to independence of parts
  • Limited dynamic shaping and only rare use of crescendo and diminuendo
  • Sections often falling into two main halves, giving AB (binary) structure
  • Composers include: J.S. Bach, Corelli, Handel, Purcell, Rameau, D. Scarlatti, Telemann, Vivaldi
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  • Regular, clear-cut and generally predictable phrase lengths
  • Phrases are clearly punctuated with cadences
  • Graceful and elegant melodic lines, often involving repetition and mostly using notes from the key-chord or scale
  • Accompaniments clearly outline the harmony, either with chords or broken-chord patterns (e.g. Alberti bass)
  • Dynamic shaping, with use of crescendo and diminuendo
  • Straightforward tonic-dominant-oriented functional harmony, with harmonic movement tending to speed up towards cadence points
  • Frequent use of melody-dominated (homophony) texture, usually with the tune at the top
  • Phrase structure usually involving repetition of ideas, often with variants of the same material, as well as the use of contrasting ideas
  • Composers include: Beethoven (early period), Boccherini, Clementi, Dussek, Haydn, Hummel, Mozart, Stamitz
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  • Flexibility of tempo, including use of rubato
  • Lyrical and song-like (cantabile) melodies which are not necessarily in the top part
  • Extended phrases and less obvious cadential punctuation
  • Rich harmonies and expressive use of chromatic notes
  • Thicker sonorities, with significant use of the sustaining pedal in piano music
  • Emphasis on a wide dynamic range
  • Greater range of textural possibilities, and potential for fundamental variation in texture during a piece; equally, texture remaining the same throughout the piece, but possibly more dense, with thicker chords
  • Phrases tending to be less regular and predictable in length
  • Structures often involving melodically unrelated sections, such as seperate introduction or coda
  • Composers include: Brahms, Chopin, Dvorak, Elgar, Grieg, Liszt, Schumann, Tchaikovsky
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20th century

  • Vigorous rhythms, perhaps with abrupt changes between ideas and use of spiky accents
  • Melodic phrasing tending to be freer and less clearly defined, with asymmetric phrase lengths
  • Harmony likely to be more adventurous and dissonant, with a variety of chord types including note clusters and unrelated chords used for their colouristic impact or effect
  • Wide dynamic possibilities, sometimes featuring sudden changes
  • Exploration of the extremes of note range and dynamic level
  • Tonal centres that may be less obvious, or complete lack of tonal centre (atonal)
  • Use of modes
  • Pieces showing the influence of jazz or blues, such as syncopation, swung rhythms, 7th chords or 'walking' bass lines
  • Pieces in national styles often showing the influence of folk music
  • Textures likely to be varied, sometimes with dramatic contrasts; equally, a particular texture sometimes a main focus (e.g. minimalistic music)
  • Composers include: Bartok, Britten, Debussy, Gershwin, Hindemith, Prokofiev, Ravel, Steve Reich (Minimalism), Stravinsky, Mark-Anthony Turnage
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