A descending fifths sequence is a common compositional technique used by composers from the eighteenth century to expand a simple melodic or harmonic idea. A typical descending fifths sequence is executed when a short melodic phrase is played over a note (or a collection of notes with emphasis on one in particular) in the bass. The next phrase will virtually be an exact copy of the previous phrase and accompanying bassline, except that it will have been transposed an interval of a diatonic fifth downward or a diatonic fourth upward (either direction will result in the same pitches). In other words, the second phrase will begin at the pitches that would result from moving the first phrase down four notes (or up three notes) within the diatonic scale that the music is in. This process often is repeated multiple times in a single section of the music.
In terms of texture, eighteenth century music often will often incorporate a single melodic line that is accompanied by a more rhythmically simple harmony. This could be described as melody-dominated homophony. With this effect, the listener is drawn solely to the melodic line, with accompaniment only serving to enhance and support the melody. In this example, taken from the beginning of the third movement, “Vivace,” of Johan Helmich Roman’s Symphony No. 3 in B-flat Major, the violin I section carries the active melody, while the rest of the strings and the harpsichord play very simple lines that are often in rhythmic unison with each other and only outline the harmony of the music. This texture helps bring attention to the melody of the violin I section while while emphasizing the harmony of the piece.
The Meyer schema, coined by Robert Gjerdingen, is a three-stage schema (musical patterns born from partimento practices) that moves from the tonic chord to the dominant chord, and then from the dominant chord back to the tonic chord, that was popular during the eighteenth century. The first measure of this excerpt from Franz Danzi's Sinfonia Concertante in Eb major, highlights the 3rd and 1st scale degrees in the melody and 1st scale degree in the bass. When the music changes chords during the next measure, the music highlights the 7th scale degree in the bass and highlights the 4th and 7th scale degrees in the melody. The music the moves back to the tonic chord with the 1st scale degree in the bass, and the 1st and 5th scale degrees in the melody. From there the music remains in the tonic key.
A secondary theme typically occurs during the exposition of a sonata form movement in a different key from the primary theme. It typically starts after a brief pause, is often highly lyrical, and beings at the dynamic piano. This excerpt, from Franz Danzi's Sinfonia Concertante in Eb major, highlights many of these key features of an eighteenth-century secondary theme. It starts in the key of the dominant, Bb major, has a dynamic marking of piano, is quite lyrical, and occurs after a pause in the music. All of these aspects mentioned, are common of the secondary themes that occur during the eighteenth century.
These nine measures from Franz Danzi's Sinfonia Concertante in Eb major contain a typical harmonic progression found in the Galant period. This excerpt is split into two equal phrase. Each starting on a tonic chord, that is prolonged with a dominant chord, that lands on the tonic again, this time in first inversion. From there, there is a quick predominant chord, followed by a cadential motion to close each phrase. This type of progression was a very common way to start and end phrases during the eighteenth century.
An anacrusis is an introductory note or group of notes that is played before the downbeat of a phrase or section of music. The first note heard in the provided recording is the anacrusis.
A half cadence is a type of cadence that ends on the dominant chord of a given tonic. Using Eduoard Du Puy's Ouverture Til Syngestykket Ungdom og Galskab (Overture to the Singspiel Youth and Folly) as an example, the half cadence at the end of this excerpt forms a E7 chord, the dominant of its home key, A major. Half cadences were often used in eighteenth century galant music to create a dramatic hault in the work and to separate section to section.
A sudden dynamic change occurs in music when the volume drastically changes from soft to loud, or from loud to soft, without any gradation between the two. Eighteenth century composers often employed this effect in their music.
When the articulation “staccato” is applied to a musical note, the note in question is shortened and detached. A staccato is indicated by a small dot placed above or below a note. In the provided recording, staccatos are first heard in the horns and then the flutes. While this form of articulation is not a product of the eighteenth century, it was used by composers of the period as a means of adding character to a piece or advancing a musical line.
The galant triplet (three-note division of a beat) is common rhythmic device used in eighteenth century galant music. Triplets are used in this excerpt of Edouard Du Puy's Ungdom og Galskab (Youth and Folly) to separate sections, from a duple to triple meter, as well as adding rhythmic interest in this overture.