Robert Estrin - piano expert

What is Classical Music?

Learn what Classical Music means in its generic meaning

In this video, Robert talks about Classical Music and what it exactly means in its generic term.

Released on December 7, 2016

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hi, and welcome to and I'm Robert Estrin with a great question today, what is meant by the term classical music? Not a simple a question as you might think surprisingly.

Well, we all think about classical music going to the symphony or recitals and all of that, but there are actually two distinct meanings of the word. One is the literal period style which was from around the middle of the 18th century to the early 19th century. Composers such as Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven are examples of strictly classical composers compared to the previous era of the Baroque with Bach, Handel, Telemann and after Schumann and Chopin and Liszt, and the symphonic composers Tchaikovsky and Mahler, the romantic composers. So it's a period style of not just music, but of art, of architecture, and all the rest of it.

But the term is also used very generally to denote essentially Western concert music. Because after all, music has many different functions. There's music for dance, there's music for entertainment, there's background music. But music that is made to actually listen to, that's sometimes referred to as serious music, which is actually a term that's really inaccurate. Because if you've ever listened to some Beethoven or some of the French composers, it could be very humorous at times. It can have a very wide range of emotions but the bottom line is that it's music that warrants listening to again and again. It's art essentially compared to music that's used for other functions. So that's essentially what classical music is.

Now, the question comes in, if music is completely written down but it's not what you think of as classical, for example, some jazz composers write out their scores and there are minimal numbers of improvised elements. Is that classical music? Well, in some sense, it is. Think of George Gershwin, for example. His Rhapsody in Blue is certainly jazz-oriented yet it is a classical piece. So it really comes down to music that is made to be listened to and in a concert setting generally. That is what is classical music in the global sense, and the period style from around 1752 to 1820 approximately. Of course, some composers broke all the rules because the rules came later and always keep that in mind when you talk about music history.

Thanks so much. Again, this is Robert Estrin here at and
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Douglas Baker Adelaide South Australia on January 2, 2019 @10:09 pm PST
Thank you Robert that was a helpful explanation. I saw a Vidio on Beethoven this week. His music reflected all sorts of life experiences and he had a tough life but rose above these with his music. Keep up the good work for 2019. Doug.
Robert Estrin - host, on January 3, 2019 @11:51 am PST
It's interesting how the success of composers personally and professionally doesn't always match up with the legacy they leave behind. Mozart died broke and was buried in an unmarked grave. Bach's sons were more successful and popular at the end of his life than he was!
Michael Prozonic * VSM MEMBER * on January 2, 2019 @6:02 am PST
I love how conductor Benjamin Zander explains classical music in this TED talk.
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on January 2, 2019 @8:57 am PST
That's a fantastic talk, thank you Michael for sharing this. Happy New Year to you!
Robert Estrin - host, on January 2, 2019 @3:14 pm PST
I look forward to checking this out - Enjoy the New Year!
Panna Siyag on December 9, 2016 @8:51 am PST
Well explained, thank you! In India we speak of western classical music and Indian classical music I don't know of any other types, such as Chinese classical music etc., but maybe there are!. Indian classical music is living music and is not pre-composed. Let's say, the music is enshrined in ragas, music schools gharanas and performers. No composers, no orchestras, no conductors! And yet it is sublime, profound and beautiful. I mean, I am talking about Ravi Shankar or Mallikarjun Mansur.
Robert Estrin - host, on December 9, 2016 @11:30 am PST
Yes, there are some stunning ragas of the great Indian musicians. This is a completely different type of musical expression which is certainly concert music to be appreciated on a deep level.
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