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Classical Music Periods: A Quick Flyover - Compass Classroom Blog

Classical Music Periods: A Quick Flyover

orchestra

One of the basic challenges to anyone trying to learn classical music is that there’s just so much. Considering you can go back 500 years and still keep finding great music is amazing. (Or intimidating, perhaps, depending on how you view it.)

After this post, I will be focusing on specific composers and works. But since I want you to learn to love this music, if you understand which classical music periods composers and works fit into, you can side-step from one composer you like to another. That is, if you like Mozart, you’ll probably also like Haydn and early Beethoven and C.P.E. Bach.

One more caveat: I am not a music expert. I really don’t know that much about how music works; rather, I know a lot about different works of music. For instance, I will not be able to explain the intricacies of the sonata-allegro form. For that, I recommend you track down Professor Carol (a delightfully brilliant lady) and her music history curriculum. I like Carol and her husband Hank very much. They are both musicologists who are experts in music (among other things). In the area of music listening, however, I am a generally decent guide.

So, to get started, let’s paint music history in six broad strokes. I could say a lot of words about each that would be, well, words.  You can go to Naxos’ music history page for that. Instead, if you listen (and watch), you’ll be able to tell the difference between periods pretty quickly.

Medieval

Renaissance


Composers: Byrd, Taverner, Tallis, Cornysh, et al.

Baroque


Composers: JS Bach, Handel, Scarlatti, Corelli, Telemann, et al.

Classical


Composers: Haydn, Mozart, CPE Bach, Beethoven, Schubert, et al.

Romantic


Composers: Beethoven, Schubert, Berlioz, Chopin, Schumann, Brahms, Sibelius, Mahler, et al.

Modern


Composers: Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Stravinsky, Copland, Bartok, et al.