Are you ready to travel through time and witness the history of music?

You will notice Baroque composers were keen on using strongly contrasting effects. By adjusting music between loud and soft, and through the use of the direction of melody, the colour of musical instruments and their contrasts, Baroque composers created an exciting and interesting style for their times.

There are plenty of places worth visiting in the 150-year-long Baroque period. Here are some of the recommendations:

Germany: Whether you are in the south or north of the country, you have a lot of opportunities to listen to excellent organ and chorus music in churches. Composers such as J.S.Bach (1685-1750) and Georg Telemann (1681-1767) worked for many years in churches.

Italy: Where else can you find remarkable violinists such as Antonio Vivaldi (1675-1741) and Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1717)? Italy is also the birthplace of opera, with such exemplary composers as Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643) and Alessandro Scarlatti (1660-1725).

France: This was the place for extravagant performances. Apart from the opera, the orchestra also played for the ballet. Composers such as Francois Couperin (1668-1733) and Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764) were famous for their keyboard performances.

If you want to have a tourist guide, these two German musicians, who were both born in 1685, might be good choices.

J.S. Bach in Germany
Bach was appointed organist and chamber musician to Duke Wilhelm Ernest in the court of Weimar in 1708. Over the next nine years, he composed many of his best instrumental and organ compositions, and came to be regarded as a fine organist.
Major works: Toccata and Fugue in D Minor

Coethen: In 1717, Bach became music director (Kapellmeister) to Prince Leopold of Coethen, who was a music zealot. However, the Prince lost interest in music when he got married, and Bach left Coethen soon after.
Major works: Brandenburg Concertos, The Well-Tempered Clavier

Leipzig: Bach next became music director of St. Thomas Church, in 1723, where he spent the rest of his life. In this position, he needed to supply newly composed music regularly, and this kept him very busy.
Major works: St. John Passion, St. Matthew Passion

Handel around Europe
Hamburg, Germany:
Young Handel was a violinist and harpsichordist. Italy: He spent three years here, mostly composing operas and cantatas. Hanover, Germany: He became the music director to the Elector of Hanover. London, England: The English were impressed by his talent, and Handel later made his home in England.
Major works: Royal Fireworks, Oratorio Messiah


Is something 'classical' old?

Nostalgia was the mood of Europe's mid-18th century arts scene. The multifarious style of music that was becoming trendy was discouraged; instead, composers were urged to return to a more balanced, natural, pure and logical fashion of music.

Modeling upon the exemplary music of the past is what we regard as the style of Classical Period. What do we mean by a balanced, natural and logical style? In different pieces of Classical music you can discover:

  • Neat and structural composition of long and short sentences, in which you can tell, without difficulty, the melody and its accompaniment;
  • Expected procession and development of the form; despite the variations; the harmony and the theme can be deduced by rules and theories;
  • Rich variations of volume, but the rhythm and pace are relatively more stable.

To know more about music of the Classical period, meet a Prodigy, a Father, and a Gladiator!

Mozart the Prodigy (1756-1791)
Probably the most famous child prodigy in music history, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was trained by his father Leopold Mozart (who was also a famous musician), to become an excellent pianist and composer. At an early age, Mozart the younger started touring Europe.

In his short life of only 35 years, Mozart wrote 41 symphonies, 27 piano concertos, not to mention numerous operas, string quartets and piano sonatas – altogether, more than 600 pieces.
Major works: Piano Sonata in A, K331, Clarinet Quintet in A, K581

Haydn the Father (1732-1809)
Haydn is named the 'Father of the Symphony' and the 'Father of the String Quartet', for his tremendous contributions to these two musical forms. Also, owing to his warm and friendly character, people liked to call him 'Daddy Haydn' during his 30 years of services as royal musician to the Eszterhazy family of Hungary.

Haydn wrote 104 symphonies, including Farewell, Miracle and Surprise, all of which tell a story. He and the young Mozart were close acquaintances despite their age differences, and Haydn used to instruct Beethoven in composition, too.
Major works: Symphony No. 94 in G, Surprise, String Quartet in C, Op. 20 No. 3, Emperor

Beethoven the Gladiator
The messy hair of Beethoven and the strong will expressed in his eyes are unforgettable! He never bowed to authorities or Fate; he was never disappointed by his deafness. As a gladiator against Destiny, Beethoven articulated his determination in his music. He wrote 9 symphonies, 32 piano sonatas, and many other concertos and string quartets, bringing the Classical into a new phase of the Romantic Style.
Major works: Fur Elise, Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Fate

Musicians in the Romantic period concentrated on their individuality while creating music, something very different from their Classical period predecessors. They believed that composers have different upbringings, preferences and beliefs, and so develop their own musical goals and styles. Let's hear what some Romantic composers have to say, in their own words.

Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
German composer; his poetic and romantic style led him to be called 'Music Poet'. "People compose for many reasons: to become immortal; because the pianoforte happens to be open; because they want to become a millionaire ...... for no reason whatsoever."

Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)
Italian composer; he brought Italian opera to its zenith. "Success is impossible if I cannot write as my heart dictates."

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
German composer; a very discreet musician who was said to be a Classical composer born in the Romantic era. "I am only experimenting and feeling my way"

Frederick Chopin (1810-1849)
Polish; he never wrote an opera or a symphony. What made him famous was his piano music.
"I'm a revolutionary, money means nothing to me."

During the late 19th century, many European composers were interested in writing music to represent their own countries.

Russia composer: Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881)
A member of 'The Mighty Handful', Mussorgsky was a civil servant and had no professional music training. Maybe this allowed him to compose more freely.
Major works: Pictures at an Exhibition and A Night on Bald Mountain.

Norway composer: Edvard Grieg (1843-1907)
Grieg returned from Leipzig after his music training, and composed Norwegian folk music. 
Major works: Peer Gynt and piano concertos.

Spain composer: Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909)
A piano prodigy who started performing at the age of four, Albeniz wrote the famous Spanish-style Iberia, a piano composition; many of his works were later adapted into guitar music.

Finland composer: Jean Sibelius (1865-1957)
Sibelius was the national hero of the Finns. He wrote Finlandia and is remembered for his symphonies.

Czechoslovakia composer: Antonin Dvorák (1841-1904)
Dvorak wrote beautifully in his compositions, and was invited to teach in America, where he finished his New World Symphony.

Hungary composer: Zoltan Kodály (1882-1967)
Music educator and composer, Kodaly researched Hungarian folk music and brought this into his compositions.
Major works: Háry János Suite.

England composer: Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)
A collector of English folk music. Major works: nine symphonies, The Lark Ascending, Fantasia on Greensleeves and many more.

There were many adventurers in modern times who were keen on exploring the boundaries in the music world. Writing music had entered a completely different stage full of experiments and trials, starting from the first twenty years of the 20th century.

French composer Claude Debussy (1862-1918) brought about richer, freer and more varying chords and harmonic progression. Together with a wider choice of colour of instruments, he invited the audience to enter a new world. His work is poetic and less narrative, inspired by the then popular Impressionism. Later, Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) invented a twelve tone technique, breaking completely with the traditional rules of composition.

Stravinsky used thumping rhythm and dissonance in The Rite of Spring, to portray violence and convey uneasiness to the audience. Its 1913 debut in Paris was controversial!

There was a group of Futurist composers in the early 20th century who were fascinated by mechanic noises and wanted to write music for factories, railways and automobiles! Painter-composer Luigi Rossolo (1885-1947) even invented "Intonarumori", the first electronic musical instrument, and conducted "noise concerts" in Europe!