- of, relating to, or constituting the formally and artistically more sophisticated and enduring types of music, as distinguished from popular and folk music and jazz. Classical music includes symphonies, operas, sonatas, song cycles, and lieder.
- of, pertaining to, characterized by, or adhering to the well-ordered, chiefly homophonic musical style of the latter half of the 18th and the early 19th centuries: Haydn and Mozart are classical composers.
- noting or pertaining to the architecture of ancient Greece and Rome, especially the religious and public architecture, characterized by the employment of orders.Compare order(def 27b).
- noting or pertaining to any of several styles of architecture closely imitating the architecture of ancient Greece or Rome; neoclassic.
- noting or pertaining to architectural details or motifs adapted from ancient Greek or Roman models.
- (of an architectural design) simple, reposeful, well-proportioned, or symmetrical in a manner suggesting the architecture of ancient Greece and Rome.
Origin of classical
- not involving the quantum theory or the theory of relativityclassical mechanics
- obeying the laws of Newtonian mechanics or 19th-century physicsa classical gas
[I]n general, as now used, the term classical includes the composers active in instrumental music from somewhere about 1700 to say 1830. Hence the list includes among the great names those of Bach, his sons, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Clementi, Dussek, Pleyel, Cramer, etc. The next step beyond the term classical is "modern romantic," the composers of which school may be taken to include all the writers for pianoforte from about 1829 (when Mendelssohn published the first "Songs without Words") down to the present. The term romantic in this sense means strongly marked, extraordinary, intending to tell stories and the like. ["Music, Its Ideals and Methods," W.S.B. Mathews, 1897]
But already by 1880s it was acknowledged the term had a double sense: Music that had withstood the test of time, as well as music of a style contrasted to "romantic." Later (early 20c.) it was contrasted to jazz (in this sense more often with reference to the orchestras than to the music itself). Still later in contrast to popular music generally (mid-20c.).