Most people think of classical music as the music of famous composers of old, like Bach and Beethoven. The dictionary defines classical music as: “a traditional genre of music conforming to an established form and appealing to critical interest and developed musical taste.” Classical music is also sometimes referred to as “serious music.”
Serious music or classical music takes many different forms. Classical music can be a performance by a full orchestra, or it can be what’s described as chamber music (serious music played by a small group.)
An opera is a drama set to serious music. An opera consists of singing and overtures and interludes played by an orchestra. A cantata is classical music or serious music written for orchestras and vocal performers. A cantata is based on a religious theme. A concerto is also classical music. A concerto is music designed to be performed by an orchestra and a soloist.
A sonata is classical music as well. A sonata is a long music composition that usually consists of three or four “movements.” Often the last movement of a sonata is called a rondeau.
In general, classical music is not “toe-tapping” music with a distinct melody that can be hummed or sung. The rhythm of a piece of classical music is often obscure. The term “classical music” is often used simply to distinguish serious music from popular music styles like folk, country, pop, and rock.
Classical music is thought to be “highbrow,” or music for the wealthy and connected, as opposed to music played, sung, and enjoyed by common, everyday people. Some say that classical music can only be really appreciated by those with extraordinarily well-developed ears for musical nuances and excellence.
And then there are some “exclusive purists” who only recognize the Classical period of music history: about 1750-1825 or so (Mozart, Haydn, early Beethoven). They also tend to be the people who make you feel bad if you applaud between the movements of a symphony, which is something neither Mozart, Haydn nor Beethoven ever experienced! (It was the Conductor Toscanini in the 1930s who asked audiences not to applaud between movements, as it caused his live radio programs to run over time.)
Music, whether it is called classical or serious, jazz or hip hop, country, folk, or bluegrass, is, after all, still music. If you are a real music lover, you appreciate excellence in any music genre, whatever you call it.