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Before Late Romantic orchestral trends of length
and scope separated the trajectory of lighter orchestral
works from the Western Classical canon, classical
composers such as Mozart and Haydn won as much
fame for writing lighter pieces such as Eine Kleine
Nachtmusik as for their symphonies and operas.
Later examples of early European light music include
the operettas of composers such as Franz
von Suppé or Sir Arthur Sullivan; the Continental
salon and parlour music genres; and the waltzes and
marches of Johann Strauss II and his family.
The Straussian waltz became a common light music
composition (note for example Charles Ancliffe’s “
Nights of Gladness” or Felix Godin’s “Valse Septembre”).
These influenced the foundation of a “lighter” tradition
of classical music in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
In the UK, the light-music genre has its origin in the
seaside and theatrical orchestras that flourished in
Britain during the 19th and early 20th century.
 These played a wide repertoire of music
, from classical music to arrangements of popular
songs and ballads of the time. From this tradition
came many specially written shorter orchestral
pieces designed to appeal to a wider audience.
Composers such as Sir Edward Elgar wrote a number
of popular works in this medium, such as the
“Salut d’Amour”, the Nursery Suite, and Chanson
de Matin. The conductor Sir Thomas Beecham
became famous for concluding his otherwise serious
orchestral concerts with what he termed “lollipops”,
meaning less serious, short or amusing works chosen
as a crowd-pleasing encore. Influenced by the earlier
“promenade concerts” held in London pleasure gardens,
a similar spirit embued many of Henry Wood’s
early Queen’s Hall Proms concerts, especially the “Last Night”.
With the introduction of radio broadcasting by the BBC
in the 1920s the style found an ideal outlet.
This increased after the launch of the BBC Light
Programme in 1945, featuring programmes such as Friday
Night is Music Night and Music While You Work.