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Classical Music Periods
Classical music is divided into periods which contain fairly distinct musical styles. Confusingly, one of these periods is called the Classical period, but this is just one portion of the whole of classical music.
Medieval Period - from about 800 to 1400 AD
Dominated by church music. Gregorian chant or plainchant is typical. Monophonic refers to the fact that only one note is sung at one time.
Renaissance Period - from 1400 to 1600
Still dominated by the church but with more sophisticated melodies and harmonies (polyphony). Different styles begin to emerge. Composers include Palestrina, Monteverdi and William Byrd.
Baroque Period - from 1600 to 1750
Music flourishes in complexity, and scope. Instrumental music becomes dominant, and most major music forms become defined. Composers include Bach, Handel and Vivaldi.
Classical Period - from 1750 to 1830
After flowering during the baroque, music now settles into several well-defined forms, following strict rules. The main forms being the sonata, the symphony and the concerto. Composers include Mozart, Haydn, Schubert and Beethoven.
Romantic period - from 1830 to WWI
Music begins to break out of the classical strictness, and becomes more expressive and emotional. Rules get broken and new ideas develop. Composers include Brahms, Schumann, Tchaikovsky and Wagner.
While some composers on the twentieth century remained in the romantic style, most composers moved on. The only rule was that there are no rules. New music, new styles, new ideas. Composers include Bartok, Stravinsky, Prokofiev and Ravel.