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As is usual with information on the history of Western music, this site has been organized according to the eras of history: The Middle Ages The Renaissance The Baroque Age The Classical Period The Romantic Era The Twentieth Century
The Middle Ages
After the collapse of the Roman Empire in the 5th century AD, Western Europe entered a time known as "The Dark Ages" — a period when invading hordes of Vandals, Huns, and Visigoths overran Europe. These years were marked by constant warfare, the absence of a Holy Roman Emperor, and the virtual disappearance of urban life. Over the next next nine centuries, the newly emerging Christian Church came to dominate Europe, administering justice, instigating "Holy" Crusades against the East, establishing Universities, and generally dictating the destiny of music, art, and literature. It was during this time that Pope Gregory I is generally believed to have collected and codified the music known as Gregorian Chant, which was the approved music of the Church. Much later, the University at Notre Dame in Paris saw the creation of a new kind of music called organum. Secular music was performed throughout Europe by the troubadours and trouvères of France. And it was during these "Middle Ages" that Western culture saw the appearance of the first great name in music, Guillaume de Machaut.
Generally considered to be from ca.1420 to 1600, the Renaissance (which literally means "rebirth") was a time of great cultural awakening and a flowering of the arts, letters, and sciences throughout Europe. With the rise of humanism, sacred music began for the first time to break free of the confines of the Church, and a
school of composers trained in the Netherlands mastered the art of polyphony in their settings of sacred music. One of the early masters of the Flemish style was Josquin des Prez. These polyphonic traditions reached their culmination in the unsurpassed works of Giovanni da Palestrina. Of course, secular music thrived during this period, and instrumental and dance music was performed in abundance, if not always written down. It was left for others to collect and notate the wide variety of irrepressible instrumental music of the period. The late Renaissance also saw in England the flourishing of the English madrigal, the best known of which were composed by such masters as John Dowland, William Byrd, Thomas Morley and others.
The Baroque Age
Named after the popular ornate architectural style of the time, the Baroque period (ca.1600 to 1750)saw composers beginning to rebel against the styles that were prevalent during the High Renaissance. This was a time when the many monarchies of Europe vied in outdoing each other in pride, pomp and pageantry. Many monarchs employed composers at their courts, where they were little more than servants expected to churn out music for any desired occasions. The greatest composer of the period, Johann Sebastian Bach, was such a servant. Yet the best composers of the time were able to break new musical ground, and in so doing succeeded in creating an entirely new style of music.
It was during the early part of the seventeenth century that the genre of opera was first created by a group of composers in Florence, Italy, and the earliest operatic masterpieces were composed byClaudio Monteverdi. The instrumental concerto became a staple of the Baroque era, and found its strongest exponent in the works of the Venetian composer Antonio Vivaldi. Harpsichord music achieved new heights, due to the works of such masters as Domenico Scarlatti and others. Dances became formalized into instrumental suites and were composed by virtually all composers of the era. But vocal and choral music still reigned supreme during this age, and culminated in the operas and oratoriosof German-born composer George Frideric Handel.
During the same period. the first voice of the burgeoning Romantic musical ethic can be found in the music of Viennese composer Franz Schubert. The romantic artists are the first in history to give to themselves the name by which they are identified. architechts. The Romantic Era As the many socio-political revolutions of the late eighteenth-century established new social orders and new ways of life and thought. and Ludwig van Beethoven. "Romanticism" derives its name from the romances of medieval times -. but tuneful and elegant music. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.The Classical Period From roughly 1750 to 1820. so composers of the period broke new musical ground by adding a new emotional depth to the prevailing classical forms. 1820 to 1900). A reform of the extravagance of Baroque opera was undertaken by Christoph von Gluck. The earliest Romantic composers were all born within a few years of each other in the early years of the nineteenth century. of distant lands and far away places. and works of the period are often referred to as being in the Viennese style. personal emotions. Johann Stamitz contributed greatly to the growth of the orchestra and developed the idea of the orchestral symphony. uncluttered style they thought reminiscent of Classical Greece. artists. and musicians moved away from the heavily ornamented styles of the Baroque and the Rococo. and gradually they developed and formalized the standard musical forms that were to predominate European musical culture for the next several decades. and string quartets by the three great composers of the Viennese school: Franz Joseph Haydn. and often of unattainable love. the . sonatas.long poems telling stories of heroes and chivalry. and instead embraced a clean. Dances such as the minuet and the gavotte were provided in the forms of entertainingserenades and divertimenti. The Classical period reached its majestic culmination with the masterful symphonies. Throughout the remainder of the nineteenth-century (from ca. The newly established aristocracies were replacing monarchs and the church as patrons of the arts. Composers came from all over Europe to train in and around Vienna. At this time the Austrian capital of Vienna became the musical center of Europe. artists of all kinds became intent in expressing their subjective. and were demanding an impersonal. These include the great German masters Felix Mendelssohn and Robert Schumann .
while the Italians looked to the literature of the time and created what is known as Bel canto opera (literally "beautiful singing"). the Hungarian composer Franz Liszt. and concertos. During the early nineteenth century. plus the invention of new ones.Polish poet of the piano Frédéric Chopin. Later in the century. Taking advantage of these new sounds and new instrumental combinations. and created a style of music named after the movement in French painting . led to the further expansion of the symphony orchestra throughout the century. while German opera was virtually monopolized by Richard Wagner. and to the popular folk melodies and dance rhythms of their homelands as inspiration for their symphonies and instrumental music. Two of the giants of this period are the German-bornJohannes Brahms and the great Russian melodist Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. composers from non-Germanic countries began looking for ways in which they might express the musical soul of their homelands. opera composers such as Carl Maria von Weber turned to German folk stories for the stories of their operas. During the nineteenth century. The Twentieth-Century By the turn of the century and for the next few decades. the French genius Hector Berlioz . French composerClaude Debussy was fascinated by Eastern music and the whole-tone scale. ballets. Composers such as Arnold Schoenberg explored unusual and unorthodox harmonies and tonal schemes. the late Romantic composers of the second half of the nineteenth-century created richer and ever larger symphonies. the field of Italian opera was dominated by Giuseppe Verdi. Many of these Nationalist composers turned to indigenous history and legends as plots for their operas. Others developed a highly personal harmonic language and melodic style which distinguishes their music from that of the AustroGermanic traditions. artists of all nationalities were searching for exciting and different modes of expression. and the greatest pianistic showman in history. The continued modification and enhancement of existing instruments.
Avantgarde composers such as Edgard Varèse explored the manipulation of rhythms rather than the usual melodic/harmonic schemes. the years roughly spanning from about 500 to 1400 A. albeit somewhat modified by this time. With the slow emergence of European society from the dark ages between the fall of the Roman empire and the predominance of the Catholic Church. Guillaume de Machaut. Music had been a part of the world's civilizations for hundreds of years before the Middle Ages. At this time.called Impressionism. sacred music was the most prevalent. dozens of "mini-kingdoms" were established all over Europe. In addition to new and eclectic styles of musical trends.C. While many composers throughout the twentieth-century experimented in new ways with traditional instruments (such as the "prepared piano" used by American composer John Cage). western music was almost the sole property of the Catholic Church. until the period culminated with the sacred and secular compositions of the first true genius of Western music. The Church was able to dictate the progress of arts and letters according to its own strictures and employed all the scribes. too. Beginning with Gregorian Chant. many of the twentiethcentury’s greatest composers. when Pythagoras experimented with acoustics and the mathematical relationships of tones.D. stories from the Bible.. the twentieth century boasts numerous composers whose harmonic and melodic styles an average listener can still easily appreciate and enjoy. In so doing. such as Italian opera composer Giacomo Puccini and the Russian pianist/composer Sergei Rachmaninoff. sacred music slowly developed into a polyphonic music called organum performed at Notre Dame in Paris by the twelfth century. and Egyptian heiroglyphs all attest to the fact that people had created instruments and had been making music for centuries. in the hands of the French trouvères and troubadours. Primitive cave drawings. Because of the domination of the early Catholic Church during this period. early Catholic leaders were able to claim absolute power over these feudal lords. remained true to the traditional forms of music history. whileIgor Stravinsky gave full rein to his manipulation of kaleidoscopic rhythms and instrumental colors throughout his extremely long and varied career. The tried-and-true genre of the symphony. musicians and artists. Pythagoras and others established the Greek modes: scales comprised of whole tones and half steps. the nine goddesses of art and science. . Secular music flourished. Mostly through superstitious fear. each presided over by a lord who had fought for and won the land. The word music derives from the ancient Greek muses. Hungarian composer Béla Bartók continued in the traditions of the still strong Nationalist movement and fused the music of Hungarian peasants with twentieth century forms. The first study of music as an art form dates from around 500 B. attracted such masters as Gustav Mahler and Dmitri Shostakovich. The Middle Ages The traditions of Western music can be traced back to the social and religious developments that took place in Europe during the Middle Ages.
Like all music in the Western world up to this time. and his successor Pérotin (fl. it comprised a single melody without any harmonic support or accompaniment. early13th century). Notre Dame and the Ars Antiqua Sometime during the ninth century. usually at the fourth. By the eleventh century. dictated by the Latin liturgical texts to which they are set. Pérotin's music is an excellent example of this very early form of polyphony (music for two or more simultaneously sounding voices).Gregorian Chant The early Christian church derived their music from existing Jewish and Byzantine religious chant. The resulting hollow-sounding music was called organum and very slowly developed over the next hundred years. but contrary to each other. This music was slowly supplanted by the smoother contours of the polyphonic music of the fourteenth century. fifth. This music thrived at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. whose organa included three and even four voices. or octave. meaning to hold) and the added melodies wove about and embellished the resulting drone. The melodies are free in tempo and seem to wander melodically. ca." The two composers at Notre Dame especially known for composing in this style are Léonin (fl. It was believed that Pope Gregory I (reigned 590-604) codified them during the sixth-century. Many years later. and much later became known as the Ars Antiqua. plainchant was monophonic: that is. An idea of its pure. Although his actual contribution to this enormous body of music remains unknown. which became known as the Ars Nova. sometimes even crossing. even three) added melodic lines were no longer moving in parallel motion. composers of Renaissance polyphony very often used plainchant melodies as the basis for their sacred works. music theorists in the Church began experimenting with the idea of singing two melodic lines simultaneously at parallel intervals. two (and much later. . who composed organa for two voices. 1163-1190). they were embellished and developed along many different lines in various regions and according to various sects. one. and it is known asGregorian Chant. As these chants spread throughout Europe . or the "old art. establishing uniform usage throughout the Western Catholic Church. The many hundreds of melodies are defined by one of the eight Greek modes. Gregorian chant remains among the most spiritually moving and profound music in Western culture. as can be heard in his setting of Sederunt principes. some of which sound very different from the major/minor scales our ears are used to today. his name has been applied to this music. floating melody can be heard in the Easter hymn Victimae paschali laudes. The original chant melody was then sung very slowly on long held notes called the tenor (from the Latin tenere.
in all its permutations of joy and pain. The monophonic melodies of these itinerant musicians. This music was not bound by the traditions of the Church. instrumental dance music didn't come into its own until the later Renaissance.Le Jeu de Robin et Marion. Hundreds of these songs were created and performed (and later notated) by bands of musicians flourishing across Europe during the 12th and 13th centuries. a piece in which two or more different verses (usually of greatly contrasted content and meter) are fit together simultaneously. Although secular music was undoubtedly played on instruments during the Middle Ages. 1237-ca. existed during the Middle Ages. were often rhythmically lively. He has also been identified as the writer of a good many songs and verses. usually in the form of secular songs. Adam is the composer of one of the oldest secular music theater pieces known in the West. some of which take the form of the motet. . without regard to what we now consider conventional harmonies. Such a piece is De ma dame vient! by this famous trouvère.The Trouvères and the Troubadours Popular music. One of the most famous of these trouvères known to us (the great bulk of these melodies are by the ubiquitous "Anonymous") is Adam de la Halle (ca. to which may have been added improvised accompaniments. the most famous of which were the French trouvères and troubadours. nor was it even written down for the first time until sometime after the tenth century. 1286). The subject of the overwhelming majority of these songs is love.
The rediscovery of the writings of ancient Greece and Rome led to a renewed interest in learning in general. The invention of the compass permitted the navigation of the world's oceans and the subsequent discovery of lands far removed from the European continent. can be heard in the "Gloria" from Machaut's Messe de Notre Dame. ca. science. including the future Charles V of France. and capture all the joy.Guillaume de Machaut and the Ars Nova Born: Champagne region of France. Machaut saw to it that his work was painstakingly copied and artfully illustrated. Although today the Mass is probably his best-known work. Machaut's career as a poet and composer took flight when he joined the court of John. His poetry was known throughout Europe and his admirers included Geoffrey Chaucer. His services as a composer were sought out by important patrons. dubbed the Ars Nova by composers of the period. Sometime before this. and the arts throughout Europe. Sanctus. Guillaume de Machaut is the first composer in Western music history who seemed to be conscious of his artistic achievements and of his place in history. Machaut had settled in Rheims where he remained until his death. 1300 Died: Rheims. This spirit manifested itself in the painting and sculpture of Michelangelo. serving as canon in the cathedral there. also in the style of the polyphonic "new art. The invention of the printing press allowed the disbursement of this knowledge in an unprecedented manner. This new polyphonic style caught on with composers and paved the way for the flowering of choral music in the Renaissance. and in both the sacred and secular dance and vocal music of the greatest composers of the era. The Renaissance The Renaissance was a time of rebirth in learning. 1377 Having had a clerical education and taken Holy orders." These songs epitomize the courtly love found in the previous century's vocal art. Credo. serving as the king's secretary until that monarch's death in battle at Crécy in 1346. With Copernicus' discovery of the actual position of the earth in the solar system and Martin Luther's Protestant Reformation. . including theKyrie. the Catholic Church lost its grip on society and a humanist spirit was born. and Agnus Dei). To assure that place. pain and heartbreak of courtly romance. hope. Machaut is probably best remembered for being the first composer to create a polyphonic setting of the Ordinary of the Catholic Mass (the Ordinary being those parts of the liturgy that do not change. The secular motets of the Middle Ages eventually evolved into the great outpouring of lovesick lyricism embodied in the music of the great Renaissance Madrigalists. The new style of the fourteenth century. Machaut also composed dozens of secular love songs. Duke of Luxembourg and King of Bohemia around 1323. the plays of Shakespeare. Gloria. the first known example of a composer thus preserving his own work for posterity.
A piece such as La Spagna. TheTerpsichore of Michael Praetorius (c. Musicians whose names have come down to us collected much of this existing music and had it published in various volumes over the years. a hundred motets. August 27. There are references to Josquin's having served at several courts in Italy and France. alto.1571-1621) and the dance music of Tielman Susato (c. often obscuring the words and the meaning of the text which had been set. 1521 Not much is known about the life Josquin des Prez. c. the Golden Age of Polyphony Josquin des Prez Born: Hainault or Henegouwen (Burgundy). by many people. Flemish composers of the time often based the cantus firmus on a popular melody of the day. 1440 Died: Condé-sur-Escaut. and at the Sistine Chapel in Rome. composing new music for the other voices in counterpoint to the tune. (attributed to Josquin des Prez) is an excellent example of the buoyant rhythms and sounds of the Renaissance dance. tenor. He died while serving as canon of the collegiate church at Condé. or more likely improvised.1420-1495). and a good deal of secular music. Polyphonic music of the Renaissance could be very complex and intricate. who was the first great master of the Flemish school of Renaissance composers. and was composed.Dance music of the Renaissance Throughout the Renaissance instrumental dance music flowered and thrived. but it is generally agreed that he studied under the earlier Renaissance masterJohannes Ockeghem (c. . almost otherworldly choral sound of the Flemish school's style can be heard in the Gloria from Josquin's Missa L'homme armé. The serene. Among his surviving works are more than a dozen masses. Many of these dance forms were modified and developed by later composers and found their way into the Baroque dance suite.1500-1561) represent some of the outstanding examples of dance music from the late Renaissance. bass) in a musical composition is known as polyphony. The simultaneous interweaving of several melodic lines (usually four: soprano.
1525 Died: Rome. Instead. he wrote over a hundred mass settings and over two hundred motets.1570-1638). near Rome. and Brahms) spent their early years studying counterpoint in the "Palestrina style" as set down in a famous textbook by J. In the opening Kyrie from Palestrina's most famous work. also wrote madrigals. although concentrating mostly on melancholy ayres for solo voice with lute accompaniment. In keeping with the strictures of the Council of Trent (1545-1563) to rid the music of the Catholic rite of the "worldly excesses" of the Protestant Reformation. one can at once hear the classic. each voice part resembles a chant melody. each with its own profile and crystalline line. The English Madrigalists Around 1600 in England. The composer and lutenist John Dowland (1563-1626). J.Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina Born: Palestrina. ca. composers and poets were collaborating on a body of music known as the English madrigal. he managed a very successful furrier business. February 2. Francis Pilkington (ca. Gone are the vocal lines based on popular melodies. more restrained style.Beethoven. Peter's. Fux in 1725. the Pope Marcellus Mass. Palestrina composed in a purer. At the same time. from which he died a very wealthy man. serving as organist and choir master at both the Sistine Chapel and at St. 1594 Palestrina spent much of his career in Rome. pure lines of the text set clearly amidst the various voices of the choir. A productive composer. Some of the best known of the English madrigalists include Thomas Morley (1558-1602). Palestrina's polyphonic writing is of such quality that many later composers (including Mozart. William .
in literature it was the time of Molière. and are often sad. Rubens. Queen Elizabeth I herself was an accomplished lute player. In music. November 29. deal with spurned or unrequited love.modern science came into its own during this period with the work of Galileo and Newton. Claudio Monteverdi Born: Cremona. Their intent was that this new music should prove more direct and communicative to an audience. continued with the phenomenally popular music of Antonio Vivaldi and the keyboard works of such composers as Fran&cced. Cervantes. modeling their ideas after the precepts of ancient Greek theater. and the genre in which many composers throughout history first tried out new ideas and new techniques of composition. Rembrandt. The Florentine Camerata called this new form of musical-dramatic entertainment opera. 1567) Died: Venice. and Thomas Weelkes (1576-1623). and came to a close with the masterworks of two of the veritable giants of music history. opera became a commercial industry. But when in 1637 the first public opera house opened in Venice. Italy experimented with a new method of composing dramatic vocal music. The beginnings of Opera In the last years of the sixteenth century. The texts of many of these madrigals. a group of musicians and literati in Florence. and supposedly delighted in the songs and ayres of the madrigalists. and Racine -. The first operas were private affairs. (baptized May 15. however. and El Greco -. Weelkes' madrigalCome.Byrd (1543-1623). Orlando Gibbons(1583-1625). and with this notion of homophony.ois Couperin and Domenico Scarlatti. as the complex polyphony of the Renaissance could very often obscure the text being sung. composed for the Italian courts. let's begin to revel't out is a prime example of this cheerful and sprightly part-song. the age began with the trail-blazing works of Claudio Monteverdi. a new era of music began. They instead set a single melodic line against a basic chordal accompaniment. Italy. Milton. but very beautiful. 1643 . Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel. The Baroque Age The Baroque was a time of a great intensification of past forms in all the arts: painting saw the works of Vermeer.
Mark in Venice. Monteverdi studied music at the town cathedral in Cremona. culminating in the stage works of George Frideric Handel. and Zefiro torna is an excellent example of his art in that secular form. His first was L'Orfeo. one after the other. Internationally famous through the publication of his madrigals. when he was relieved of his duties by the new duke. composed in 1610. Monteverdi composed and published dozens of madrigals throughout his life. over a repeated bass figure. Although the manuscripts that have survived consist only of the bass line and vocal parts. The composer remained a widower for the rest of his life. with the sound of instruments added to the choir. In 1599 he married a singer at the court. The power and fervor of the writing can be heard in the"Lauda Jerusalem" from the Vespers of 1610. remains one of the landmarks of the new genre and his undisputed masterwork. The couple had three children before her untimely death in 1607. Monteverdi remained there until the death of Vincenzo in 1612. and attained his first position as composer and instrumentalist at the court of the Duke Vincenzo Gonzaga of Mantua in 1591." and was composed for the court of Duke Vincenzo in 1607. The frankly erotic moments between Nero (originally a part for a castrato) and Poppea (soprano) contain music that can still move and amaze modern audiences. Claudio Monteverdi has at last been recognized as one of the true masters of Western music. an extremely prestigious post. but the music to them is unfortunately lost.) With the early music movements of the twentieth century and the rediscovery of his madrigals and sacred music. as it was the nature of the times to perform only the very newest music. Monteverdi seemed most happy (and his art in greatest evidence) with secular music. Monteverdi uses the common technique of spinning out the melodic lines. written in 1642 when he was in his seventies. In this madrigal. Although unhappy and grossly underpaid in Mantua. Soon after however. as can be heard in the final duet. With his death in 1643. Opera remained popular throughout the Baroque age. One of Monteverdi's undoubted sacred masterpieces are the Vespers of the Blessed Virgin. comprising mostly dramatic recitativo (melodic declamations over the bass. called by the composer a "fable in music.The son of a doctor. Monteverdi's settings here vary between Renaissance polyphony and the newer homophonic sound of the Baroque. he was invited to serve as maestro di cappella at the Basilica of St. Although required by his employers to compose much sacred music throughout his career. Claudia de Cattaneis. Monteverdi scaled new artistic heights with the composition of his operas. He was a master of both forms. Many operas followed. to which the instrumentalists fill in appropriate harmonies). Monteverdi remained in Venice until his death in 1643. the ensemble passages are of exceptional beauty. "Pur ti miro" from L'Incoronazione di Poppea. Monteverdi's final opera. Monteverdi's music fell into oblivion. . (Public concerts as we know them did not generally come about until the musical scholarship of the nineteenth century.
including cantatas. La Cetra. trio sonatas and others. He became a teacher in Venice at the Ospedale della Pietà (a school for foundling girls) in 1703. in which the principle element of contrast between two independent groups of instruments is brought into play. Vivaldi's most famous compositions are the concertos for one or more solo violins and string orchestra. Vivaldi's instrumental works lay the foundation for the development of the concerto into the Classical Period. spreading his fame as a violinist and composer. However. there also arose a flowering of instrumental forms and virtuoso performers to play them. Op. his popularity began to abate and in 1738 he was dismissed from the Ospedale. Indeed. Antonio Vivaldi is remembered today for the enormous number of concertos he composed throughout his lifetime. 1741) Another Italian composer and virtuoso violinist. hoping to reclaim his fame. operas.The Baroque Concerto With the rise of purely instrumental music in the Baroque Age. himself a violinist at St. Of his more than 500 concertos. the third movement of the Concerto in F "Autumn" imitates the sounds of a hunt. while a smaller group or concertino consisted of two to four solo instruments. Mark's in Venice. and he died there the next year. however. He most likely learned the violin from his father. Corelli pioneered the form of the concerto grosso. and he traveled a great deal over Europe. Vivaldi followed the usual pattern of the era in his concertos by framing a melodious or dramatic slow second movement with fast and lively first and third movements. He didn't. One . and the ever-popular The Four Seasons. in which the solo instrument is of equal importance as the string orchestra. or for string orchestra alone. Later composers of the period such as Johann Sebastian Bach and Antonio Vivaldi transformed this genre into the solo concerto. His music was extremely popular. and became known as "The Red Priest" due to the color of his hair. he eventually settled in Vienna in 1740. (buried July 28. each depicting aspects of the seasons of the year. Among his published collections of string concertos are included La Stravanganza. 1678 Died: Vienna. 9. Antonio took holy orders to enter the Catholic Priesthood. March 4. Antonio Vivaldi Born: Venice. Op. to be buried in a pauper's grave. some 290 are for violin solo and strings. or movements. The larger group is called the ripieno and usually consisted of a body of strings with harpsichord continuo. The various sections of the concerto would alternate between fast and slow tempos. comprised of four concertos. although he composed a great deal of music in other genres. One of the earliest masters of the soon-to-be predominant form of the concerto was the Italian composer and violinist Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713). Desperate. Vivaldi also composed a great number of concertos for other instruments and various instrumental combinations. For instance. 4. During the 1730s. and later became the director of concerts there.
and witty. Having spent a great many years wandering about Europe evading the dominance and influence of his father. This is a charming and graceful music. K. . where he found employment as teacher to the Infanta. These sonatas are by turns capricious. Portugal. charming." "Goat-footed Satyrs. quick arpeggios. 1685 Died: Madrid.such work is the sprightly Concerto in G major for two mandolins. Rameau successfully embarked on a new career composing the type of lavish operas and ballets so popular at the time in France. Scarlatti was taken to Madrid where he spent the rest of his life. At the age of fifty. Scarlatti eventually settled in Lisbon. 1757 Domenico Scarlatti was the son of Alessandro Scarlatti (1660-1725). 491 point the way to the keyboard figurations of the Classical Period. When the Infanta wedded the heir to the Spanish throne in 1729. Regarded as one of the founders of modern keyboard technique. The solo concerto reached its culmination during the later Classical Period in the concertos of Mozart and Beethoven. and such works as the Sonata in D major. Scarlatti'ssonatas employed such new devices as hand-crossing. Domenico Scarlatti Born: Naples. October 26. melodic. The later French composer Jean Philip Rameau (1683-1764) also composed some fine keyboard and chamber music in the newgallant style. He composed a great manysuites (or ordres in French) consisting of dance movements and character pieces with such titles as "Butterflies. Baroque music for the harpsichord With a vast amount of choral and chamber music to his credit. beguilingly ornamented. François Couperin (1668-1733) was recognized in his day as the leading French composer. Domenico is known for being a harpsichord virtuoso and for the 555 or so sonatas he composed for that instrument. But Rameau is best known today as the music theoretician who first rationalized chords and chordal relationships into the harmonic system still studied by today's music students." pieces for harpsichord that he called sonatas." "Darkness. It was during this period that be began composing the little "exercises." and "The mysterious barricades". July 23. Princess Maria Barbara. But it is for his harpsichord music that Couperin is best remembered today. and rapidly repeated notes. himself a composer of a great many operas and cantatas. and it opened a new direction for composers of keyboard music.
Bach's expressive keyboardsonatas came to influence the piano sonatas of later composers Franz Joseph Haydn and Ludwig van Beethoven. in which artists' creative impulses began to find a freer rein of imagination and felt less constrained to abide by the established "rules" of the preceding ages. the writings of thinkers like Voltaire. and Jefferson served to fuel a sense of mankind's being in charge of its own destiny -. thus equating the Classical style with the Viennese style. Fragonard. This refined but ornamented style could already be heard in the music of French composers Couperin and Rameau. C. The results of these events brought to the artistic world an expanded freedom of thought. E. J. especially in France. It is evident as well in the music of the two sons of Johann Sebastian Bach. Johann Christian's many keyboard concertos had a profound influence on the eight year old Mozart when the two met in London in 1764. Such prevailing philosphy and thought likely triggered such events as the French and American Revolutions.that through science and democracy. Earlist among these thinkers in the realm of music was the "great reformer" of opera. Diderot. P. The paintings of Boucher. C. after the same movement in the visual arts. Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-1788) and Johann Christian Bach (17351782). With the increasing emphasis of the age on reason and enlightenment. Likewise. people could choose their own fate. Christoph von Gluck . Bach eventually made his home in London and became known as the "London" Bach in order to distinguish him from his older brother. and pervades the music of Italian composer Giovanni Pergolesi (1710-1736).The Classical or Viennese Period The Rococo The contrapuntal practices of the German Baroque began to give way in the first half of the eighteenth century to a highly ornamented style of melodic instrumental music. and Watteau are prime examples of the visual style of the time. Each of these masters made the Austrian city of Vienna their home. This style has come to be called Rococo.
July 2. such as the contrasts of dynamics and tempo within movements. no. . operating as he was under the shadow of the great Beethoven. basing their music on the Baroque homophonic style. near Weidenwang. Here he became acquainted with the styles of Baroque opera and composed several operas in the prevailing style. mistaken identities. he travelled over Europe during which time he was able to make a survey of the state of opera at the time. But he did compose a great deal of chamber music and concertos of great charm and melodiousness. Eventully he acquired enough money to travel and study music in Vienna and in Italy. This kind music became the basis for the Classical instrumental sonata. Known during his lifetime as an exceptional cellist. and reached its apex in the works of Franz Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. but now with chords played in unison rather than contrapuntally. Boccherini is not considered a composer of any real import today. not the ridiculous intrigues. Gluck left home at the age of fourteen and spent several years in Prague. 4 by the Italian composer. Gluck intended to reform the opera of the late eighteenth-century by abolishing vocal virtuosity for its own sake and causing the music to serve the needs of the drama. other elements were introduced. November 15. Christoph Willibald von Gluck Born: Erasbach. by 1761 Gluck had come to the conclusion that the important elements in ballet and opera should be the story and the feelings of the characters. and orchestral symphony. 1787 Born in Bavaria. 13. Viennese composer Franz Schubert further developed the symphony and string quartet in his own style. rather than being left to the discretion of the players. 1714 Died: Vienna. composer and conductor Johann Stamitz (17171757) and his followers began to develop the orchestra and the art of orchestration. and myriad sub-plots that had become the stock-in-trade of the Baroque opera. Between 1745 and 1760. Basing these larger works on the Baroque three-part sinfonia (overtures to operas). The elegance and courtly grace of the early Classical period may well be best exemplified by the familiar strains of the Minuet from the String quintet op. Luigi Boccherini (17431805). A musical theorist as well as a composer. Schubert also transformed the German Lied (song) into an art form. string quartet. The Baroquefigured bass was now fully written out in specific parts for all of the instruments.The rise of the Symphony About the middle of the century in Mannheim. Later in the period and spanning the turn of the century. Germany.
the young man somehow survived by singing. The operatic public. did not immediately take to Gluck's reforms or his music. The Viennese public. affecting the stage works ofMozart. the immense popularity of his music set the standard of the musical tastes and techniques of the next half century. His first symphony led to his being engaged in 1761 as orchestra conductor to the Hungarian Prince Paul Anton Esterházy. the greatest musician of legendary antiquity. 1809 Born second of twelve children to a poor but music-loving family. having moved to Paris at the behest of Marie Antoinette. all the time practicing and continuing to study music. and was given his first professional position leading the orchestra of a Count Morzin of Bohemia. Gluck retired to Vienna where he had been invited to become court composer to Emperor Joseph II. In 1749. whose works were extremely popular in Paris at the time. It was not until the 1770s. 1732 Died: Vienna. His fame spread across Europe due to the publication of his music and. lower Austria. were antagonistically divided between the merits of Gluck's reforms and the traditional Italian operas ofNiccolò Piccini (1728-1800). Although his style of music was coming to an end and his ideals were just gaining a foothold at the time of his death. playing the harpsichord where he could. The lament of Orpheus (castrato) upon losing his beloved wife to the Underworld a second time remains one of the most moving arias from early Classical opera "Che farò senza Euridice" from Orfeo ed Euridice. . almost unknown to him. he was turned out when his voice broke. as well as the critics. and teaching. caused a sensation. but nevertheless composing some 90 symphonies. however. at the age of eight Franz Joseph was accepted in the choir of St. (baptized April 1). and Wagner. Berlioz." Iphigénie en Tauride in 1779. He met the young Mozart in 1781 and the two became close friends and admirers of the other's music. His settings of the Greek legends of Iphigénie en Aulide in 1774 and its "sequel. He also began composing and making connections. Gluck's operatic reforms did have a far-reaching impact on future composers. after enduring nine years at the cathedral. it was based (perhaps not surprisingly) on the classic Greek subject of Orpheus. virtually as a servant. a job. and vast amounts of chamber music. or a home. that Gluck experienced any popular success with his reform operas. With the composition of his last operas in 1779. a number of masses. He died there in 1787. May 31. Premiered in Vienna in 1762.Gluck's first work to incorporate these new practices remains his most popular opera. two dozen operas. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna. Haydn spent thirty years in the employ of the Esterházys. Without money. Franz Joseph Haydn Born: Rohrau.
P. He spent his last years enjoying the adulation that came his way from all over Europe. 82 . but did develop them into the forms that eventually swept throughout Europe. Haydn's modernization of the Rococo string quartet turned it into the intimate form we know. Known today as the "The father of the Symphony and the String quartet". 76 no. but there are always flights of fancy and pure jokes amidst the classical veneer. During this visit and a second trip to England. Haydn. Haydn actually invented neither. When in the spring of 1809. operas and concertos during his career. Haydn suffered a quick decline and died on May 31. now an old man. The most famous example is the "surprise" in the second movement of his Symphony no. Haydn moved to Vienna.When Prince Nicolaus Esterházy died in 1790 (he had succeeded Prince Paul in 1762 and had retained Haydn's services). but his humor can also be heard in the finale of the Symphony no. quartets. He composed two. He was invited to London by impressario J. op. Haydn composed his last twelve "London" symphonies. . His music is always extremely well-crafted and seemingly simple and charming. felt himself played out. 94 in G major. He was also asked to compose an oratorio in the style of Handel. the French under Napoleon began their destruction of Vienna. symphonies. and his music transforms the majesty of the Baroque into that of the early nineteenth century with such choruses as "The Heavens are Telling" fromThe Creation. By 1802. nicknamed "the Bear" as the bass drone and chortling bassoons in the finale conjured images of a dancing bear in the minds of the symphony's first audiences. in which all four instruments are treated with equal importance. Joseph Haydn was evidently an unassuming man who seemingly without effort turned out literally hundreds of sonatas. his crowning achievements in the genre. Salomon for a series of concerts. premiered in 1798. The lateString Quartet. Haydn was dismissed by his successor. With a generous pension and income from publications and pupils.3 gives an idea of the melodic elegance found in the 83 quartets composed by this master of the genre.
Delacroix. 1797 Died: Vienna. In his tragically short life. the concert overture. January 31. In music. and short. and these .Franz Schubert Born: Himmelpfortgrund (Vienna). the strange. and over 600 songs. the strange and fanciful literature of Edgar Allan Poe. Outstanding examples of his gift for melody can be found in the popular Piano Quintet in A major . "The Trout". which includes a set ofvariations on the tune of one of his popular songs. the nineteenth century saw the creation and evolution of new genres such as the program symphony. "Wohin?" from the song cycle. masses. piano music. pioneered by Beethoven and now developed by Hector Berlioz. composers turned their attention to the expression of intense feelings in their music. and Goya. its off-shoot. Although left unfinished for unknown reasons. or the adventure and myths of the great collections of fairy tales and folk poetry. Die schöne Müllerin (The Fair Maid of the Mill) is an outstanding example of the almost limitless artistry of this composer. Through his choice of beautiful poetry by some of the best writers of the day. His two song cycles (groups of poems by a single or various authors selected because of thematic content. and usually published together). Johannes Brahms. symphonies. But regardless of the genre. and Hugo Wolf (1860-1903). the depiction in art of the beautiful. Whether in the nature imagery or passionate violence found in the paintings of Friederich. or German Lieder. 8 in B minor remains one of his most often heard and best-loved works. and his sometimes elaborate treatment of the piano part. This expression of emotion was the focus of all the arts of the self-described "Romantic" movement. the symphonic poem was developed by Franz Liszt. chamber music. sometimes even dark. Italian operas were composed in the Bel canto traditions. and the morbid was the ruling credo of the period. Schubert composed operas. including Robert Schumann. Schubert's stirring and beautiful Symphony no. many of Schubert's songs are miniature masterpieces of poetic and dramatic beauty. Schubert's music is also passionate. his inspired melodies. The Romantic Era After Beethoven. for which Schubert is best known. his gift for creating beautiful melodies remains almost unsurpassed in music history. and nature imagery. expressive piano pieces written for the bourgeois salons of Europe by Robert Schumann and Frédéric Chopin. with an emphasis on major/minor key shifts and adventurous harmonic writing. examples of which were composed by Felix Mendelssohn and virtually every composer thereafter. inventive scoring. Schubert's Lieder would come to influence the song-writing of many later composers. the sublime. November 19. 1828 Schubert's music neatly bridges the Classical and Romantic periods through its use of lovely melodies. sonatas. But it is his songs. yield some of the finest examples of Schubert's Lieder. wedded to the traditional classical forms while at the same time expanding them. and from which it gets its nickname.
have been put to various commercial uses in recent years. or comic opera of the day -. Later composers of the nineteenth century would further build on the forms and ideas developed by the Romantic composers. 1868 Producing his first opera at the age of eighteen. to poetry. The overtures to Rossini's operas are extremely popular concert pieces and some. February 29. and to nature itself. 1792 Died: Paris. rather than concerning themselves with the structural discipline of Classical forms. Using the classical forms of sonata and symphony as a starting point. while the idea of the German music drama was established by Richard Wagner.led directly to the masterworks of Giuseppe Verdi. For inspiration. This opera. Rossini never composed another opera. many Romantic composers turned to the visual arts. and ever more dissonance. his vocal style reflected the highly embellished. This style is apparent in the aria "Una voce poco fa" from The Barber of Seville. November 13. the music he wrote for these comic works has been described as "the perfect distillation of comedy into music. ." Whether in comic or serious opera. composers began focusing more on new melodic styles.indeed. in the pursuit of moving their audiences. virtuosic melodic line again in favor at the time. such as theWilliam Tell Overture. Rossini composed dozens. while others are being once again explored. Italian Bel CantoOpera Gioacchino Rossini Born: Pesaro. widely regarded as Rossini's masterpiece in the opera buffa genre. many of which are still in the repertoire today. Rossini's last. was written in 1829. and although he lived for almost another forty years. Rossini excelled in the opera buffa. drama and literature. richer harmonies.
in order to marry the girl he loves. 1848 Inheriting the bel canto tradition from Rossini. only a handful have remained in the general repertory. to tell the story. becomes a pawn in a bargain with the devil so that he may win a marksman's shooting contest. November 29. 1826 Weber figures prominently in history as the composer who established a German opera in his native land and successfully broke the chains of Italian traditions. Oldenburg. Lucia's lover makes an unexpected entrance. Lucia then goes mad. 1797 Died: Bergamo. the use of German myths and folklore. but those are generally regarded as outstanding examples of the Italian Bel Canto period. The opera is about a hunter who. He accomplished this in a variety of ways: the use of spoken dialogue in place of the Italian recitative. Carl Maria von Weber Born: Eutin. rather than just the voices. . The overtures to Weber's operas are dramatic renderings through music of the stories that are about to unfold. with an emphasis on nature. as in the overture to his most famous opera. The Italian operatic tradition was continued and taken to sublime heights later in the nineteenth century in the works of Giuseppe Verdi. Der Freischütz. for the subjects of his operas. April 8. 1786 Died: London. As was popular in Italian opera of the time. and his remarkable use of the instruments of the orchestra. June 5. based on a novel by Sir Walter Scott. November 18. Donizetti's operas are today mostly admired for their many attractive melodies and fine ensembles. Taking Weber's ideas and musical idioms. composer Richard Wagner later evolved his ideas of a German Music Drama into the art from that would forever change the course of music. Although he composed over seventy operas.Gaetano Donizetti Born: Bergamo. and all the protagonists give vent to their varied emotions in the celebrated Sextet from Lucia di Lammermoor. During the wedding scene. The plot concerns a young girl who is tricked by her brother into thinking her lover has been unfaithful to her and forces her into a marriage of political convenience. giving the prima donna an opportunity to display great acting and vocal skill in an extendedscena. Donizetti's most famous opera is surely Lucia di Lammermoor.
known as the "Scotch" Symphony. also known as The Hebrides. . 4 in A major. At the age of seventeen. which depicts the rocky. resulting in a suite of pieces to be used in conjunction with productions of the play. Mendelssohn was encouraged by his family to study music and to make it his career. Mendelssohn responded to nature as did most composers of the period One of the results of nature's influence was theFingal's Cave Overture. 1847 Having shown exceptional musical talent at an early age. and the fleet and airy Scherzo from "A Midsummer Night's Dream" is typical of the seemingly effortless and beguiling style of this composer. February 3.Felix Mendelssohn Born: Hamburg. and his popularSymphony no. he composed anoverture based on Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" which was so successful that some years later he composed more music on the subject. 1809 Died: Leipzig. Such a collection of pieces is known asincidental music. known as the "Italian" symphony. wind-swept coast and ancient caverns of Scotland. which incorporates melodies and dances that Mendelssohn heard while traveling in that country. Mendelssohn's many travels also influenced two of his five symphonies. November 4. the third in A minor.
The first number from his song cycleDichterliebe. July 31. In 1840. created the cult of the modern instrumental virtuoso. near Bonn. as can be heard in the fifth movement from the piano suite entitled Carnaval. near Ödenburg. 1886 Hungarian composer Franz Liszt began his career as the outstanding concert pianist of the century. who. Schumann is unique in music history as being one of the great composers who concentrated on one musical genre at a time. 1810 Died: Endenich. Schumann felt himself divided by two contrasting natures: the gentle. 1856 A master of the more intimate forms of musical compostitions. Aside from three piano sonatas. poetic pieces. Schumann was finally able to marry Clara Wieck. June 8. Apollonian side. who was to become a very close friend of Schumann. with the bulk of his earliest compositions being for the piano. Schumann's happiness found an outlet in the great number of Lieder he wrote during that year. each expressing a different mood. "Im wunderschönen Monat mai" (A Poet's Love: "In the beautiful month of May" ) is another example of the composer's harmonic and melodic style. and the more forthright. resulting in a vast amount of piano literature laden with . and who had opposed their union. To show off his phenomenal and unprecedented technique. In order to publicize his own music and to stimulate and improve the musical tastes of the burgeoning concert-going public. and especially Johannes Brahms. In the pages of this publication. Franz Liszt Born: Raiding. he feared insanity for much of his life.Robert Schumann Born: Zwickau. and remained active as its editor for ten years. the daughter of his first music teacher. Because of this rift in his personality. Schumann founded Die Neue Zeitschrift für Musik (The New Journal for Music) in 1834. poetic. dramatic and stormy side he named "Florestan". July 29. Schumann considerably raised the standards of music criticism and did much to promote the careers of young composers such as Frédéric Chopin. and eventually did spend his last years in an asylum. Hector Berlioz. Schumann's piano music (and later his songs) remain supreme examples of the Romantic style of the second quarter of the nineteenth-century. most of his work for the instrument is in the form of suites comprising short. along with the prodigious violinist Niccoló Paganini (1782-1840). Throughout his life. Immensely influenced by literature and poetry. which he called "Eusebius". Liszt composed a great deal of music designed specifically for this purpose. 1811 Died: Bayreuth. it is the dreamy nature of his music which most affects the listener. October 22.
Sergei Prokofiev. Twentieth-century music has seen a great coming and going of various movements. or the operas of Giacomo Puccini). as well as a dramatic reaction to. More recently. poetic music of pianist-composer Frédéric Chopin. as well as its cousin theconcert overture. Experimentation and new systems of writing music were attempted by avant-garde composers like Edgard Varèse and although none gained a foothold with the public. among thempostromanticism. or experimental styles. Possibly in reaction to such influences. expression became either overt (as in the early symphonic poems of Richard Strauss (1864-1949). Sibelius. Many of the greatest and best-known composers of this century. and mysteries. the general populace has largely dismissed much of the music produced using bold. have been those who have written music directly descended from the approved models of the past. . 2. passions. . The Twentieth Century The years spanning the end of the nineteenth century and the earliest part of the twentieth were a time of great expansion and development of. and Richard Strauss (1864-1949). and other technical marvels. new. the prevailing late Romanticism of previous years. arpeggios. leaps. these techniques had a profound influence on many of the composers who were to follow. while investing these forms with a style and modernistic tone of their own. and attempting to convey the ideas expressed in those media through music.aleatory or "chance" music. serialism and neo-classicism in the earlier years of the century. became very attractive to many later composers. including Russian composers Sergei Rachmaninoff. all serving as a mere prelude to . including Saint-Saëns. plays. preferring to turn to the forms and genres (and often the composers) with which it is most familiar. The previous century's tide of Nationalism found a twentieth century advocate in the Hungarian Béla Bartók. as in all the arts. Liszt is often credited with the creation of the symphonic poem: extended. In this vein. and Dmitri Shostakovich. the best-known being the all too familiar Hungarian Rhapsody no. trills. Dvorák. Liszt composed a series of virtuosic rhapsodies on Hungarian gypsy melodies. the expressionistic music of Arnold Schoenberg and his disciples germinated and flourished for a time. It was a time of deepening psychological awareness.Tchaikovsky. Such a work is Les Préludes. all of which were practiced at one time or another by Russian composer Igor Stravinsky. In music. poems or other literary or visual works. single-movement works for orchestra. . and British composer Benjamin Britten. With the commercial dissemination of music through the various media providing music as a constant background. This kind of music is worlds apart from the generally more introspective. based on a poem in which life is expressed as a series of struggles. and minimalism have been in vogue by a handful ofAmerican composers. inspired by paintings. and the horrors of the First World War brought death and destruction to the very doorsteps of many people living in Europe. or was merely suggested (as in the so-called "impressionist" music of Claude Debussy.what? The Romantic genre of the symphonic poem. neoromanticism. the huge symphonies of Gustav Mahler. with the works of both Nietzsche and Freud in circulation.dazzling scales.
The works for which he is best known are those in which he completely rejects traditional melody and harmony. The love duet from Act I of La Bohéme is a fine example of Puccini's rich melodic style. A pioneer of the avant-garde movement in music. . 1885 Died: New York. December 22. and dramatic. plots. and sirens. 1924 Continuing in the Italian operatic tradition of Verdi. His works are noted for their gorgeous melodies. and La Bohéme.Giacomo Puccini Born: Lucca. love and suffer amidst contemporary settings. 1965 Although born in France. duets and ensembles developing naturally out of the musical flow. even sentimental. texture and rhythm. His works largely fall into the realm ofverismo.musique concré. 1858 Died: Brussels. Varèse lived and worked most of his life in the United States. and some highly original experimentation in the uses and organization of rhythm. in which everyday characters live. Tosca. instead building these compositions from blocks of sounds. December 22. Puccini treats the orchestra as a continuous means of conveying the drama. November 29. or "realistic" opera. Edgard Varèse Born: Paris. Some of Puccini's best-loved operas include Madama Butterfly. witharias. relying on tone color. Varèse experimented with electronic music. Puccini is remembered for having composed several of the most popular operas in the standard repertoire. November 6. piano. Varèse's most original work exemplifying this technique is probably Ionisation. which is scored for a huge percussion ensemble. creative orchestration.
brings about his own tragic downfall. The opera tells the story of a social outcast. November 22. 1913 Died: Aldeburgh. Britten's musical idiom is largely in a post-romantic style. who.Peter Grimes. with liberal doses of pungent dissonances. and although his earliest works are mostly for instrumental forces. 1976 Britten began his musical studies at an early age. Much of his vocal music was composed for his life-long partner. December 4. . and their artistic collaboration is one of the greatest in music history. the fisherman Grimes.Benjamin Britten Born: Lowestoft. especially his operas. Britten's greatest work is most likely his first opera. Suffolk. the tenor Peter Pears. he is perhaps best known for his choral and vocal music. The theme of the individual against society is one that recurs in many of Britten's operatic works. and the Four Sea Interludes are wellknown. it was with this work that Britten scored his first international triumph. Premiered in 1945. suffering at the hands of an unsympathetic society and in attempting to find acceptance by that society.
The Requiem is scored for chorus. and three vocal soloists. a soldier killed during the last days of World War I.org . Britten's intention was to have a Russian soprano singing the sections of the Latin Mass. while the English poems were to be sung by a British tenor and a German baritone. juxtaposed with nine poems by the English poet Wilfred Owen.ipl.A pacifist. chamber orchestra. orchestra. Source: http://www. Britten composed the War Requiem to express his hope that the world can lay war to rest. children's chorus. The work is comprised of a setting of the Catholic Mass.
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