Far too many people are quick to say “oh, I don’t like classical music”. Really, that’s a bit like saying “oh, I don’t like food”. There are so many different kinds of “classical” music that you probably just haven’t yet found the sort that appeals to your ears.
Most people use the phrase “classical music” as a general catch-all for any formal music composed in Europe before the 1900s, plus modern works for orchestras. That covers over 100o years worth of musical styles and development. One label is hardly appropriate.
The music aficionados have already broken things down into periods, based on what was in style at the time.
Medieval – 400 to 1100 – It’s hard to imagine how different the world was then. Science didn’t even exist. The primary music of the day, at least that which was recorded in history, was Gregorian chant.
Renaissance – 1400 to 1600 – The most notable part of this period was that the music was in transition. This Palestrina motet (listen below) may seem pretty close to the Gregorian chant above, but the introduction of multiple parts, rather than everybody singing the exact same notes, marks the beginning of musical complexity that is a signature of the “classical” sound.
With the invention of the printing press, music began to spread far and wide making for the first famous composers. Also during the Renaissance, instruments were introduced into the mix as music became popular for social dances.
Baroque – 1600 to 1760 – The Baroque period was a flourish of music to match the general “enlightenment” going on in Europe. Many genres were invented including the concerto, sonata, and the opera. This period also brings us our first musical superstar; Johann Sebastian Bach.
In my mind, Baroque music always stands out for its stiffness. The notes are very punctuated. This may primarily be a result of composers writing for the harpsichord, which wasn’t very good at holding notes.
Classical – 1730 to 1820 – I know I started by saying that “classical music” was a pretty wide-ranging term, but it’s also been given to this specific period, which is conveniently home to the most famous names of classical music. Beethoven, Haydn, Schubert, and of course the rebel rock-star himself, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
This piece combines elements from the old Baroque style with the new, more elegant, smoother style of melodies that mark this transition.
Romantic – 1815 to 1910 – Completing the move to the softer side of compositions the Romantic period is known for it’s beautiful music. The defining element of the period was composers working to put more emotion into the musical structures that had been laid out in the two previous periods. My personal favourite is Chopin.
Other big names of the period are Liszt, Mendelssohn, Schumann, and boy-oh-boy the Russians are coming! Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, and Rimsky-Korsakov make a name for the Russian music scene.
Beyond that we get into the 20th Century and Contemporary periods which, like most other things in this globalized world, lack any particular defining characteristics as a group.
Coming back to my original intent, I hope that this might inspire you to dip your toe into classical music a little. (particularly the Romantic and newer stuff) The OnClassical music label will gladly have you listen to their entire catalog for free online, perhaps enticing you to buy a high-quality CD of something you particularly like.
Do you have a favourite piece of classical music? Share by making a comment.
- Source: Classical Music – Wikipedia