The classical music we listen to today would not be understood without its history, nor would it be understood without the history of the composers who have shaped styles and marked generations with their compositions.
Let’s start with The Renaissance
The 15th and 16th centuries saw an unprecedented cultural movement in Western Europe. A transition between the Middle Ages and the Modern Age in which the printing press made it possible for composers to print their works, thus contributing to the dissemination of music.
At this time, sharps, flats and flats appear. boxes. Claudio Monteverdi is key in this transition. From his works have transcended musical pieces of three to six voices that tell a secular story, called madrigals. And what can we say about
The fable of
Orpheuswhich is considered the first opera in history.
We continue with the Baroque
This era is characterized by strong religious disputes between Catholic and Protestant countries, as well as sharp political differences between absolutist and parliamentary states. Classical music at this time seeks opposition in rhythm, in nuances, in sonority or in instruments. In addition, the orchestra arises with instruments grouped by families: strings, wind and sometimes percussion.
The German Friedrich Händel devoted his career to instrumental and vocal works in English, setting music to the great events of the court, such as the Water Music, composed for King George I’s boat trips on the Thames, or the
Music for the real fireworks
is one of the fundamental pieces of sacred music of all times.
In the Baroque period, we must also highlight Antonio Vivaldi, author of the immortal
The Four Seasons.
Vivaldi composed more than 700 works, including 46 operas and more than 400 concertos.
Arriving at the end of the baroque period we find Johann Sebastian Bach, considered by many as the greatest composer of all times. The Art of the Fugue, The Well-Tempered Clavier and The Passion According to St. Matthew are some of his most notable works.
The importance that the German musician represented for his time was such that after his death in 1750 the baroque era in music was considered to be over.
The Classicism of the Enlightenment
The Enlightenment was characterized by its declared purpose of dispelling the darkness of mankind’s ignorance through the lights of knowledge and reason. The ideals of equality, liberty and fraternity also came to music through Classicism.
In this period the flourishes and artifices of the baroque period are left behind, moving on to the search for pleasantness. Joseph Haydn was one of the most influential musicians of classicism. The Austrian became famous with his string quartets, making great contributions to the development of the symphony, which from then on began to be structured in four movements.
Even the talented Haydn surrendered to one of the greatest musical geniuses of mankind, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Mozart composed an original and powerful oeuvre that spanned genres as diverse as opera buffa, sacred music and symphonies. Mozart prefigured the Romantic sensibility and was, along with Handel, one of the first composers who tried to live outside the patronage of nobles and clerics.
Within this movement that gives priority to feelings, classical music stood as a defender of the creative freedom of the artist. Musical Romanticism begins with the 1st Symphony of Ludwig van Beethoven, considered the first independent artist. After a period of success, known as the ‘heroic decade’, Beethoven suffered a profound deafness, relegating his music to a small number of experts.
With Romanticism already advanced, Fredéric Chopin was the best interpreter of the romantic instrument par excellence, the piano. The Polish composer explored an intrinsically poetic style, of a lyricism as refined as it is subtle, which has yet to be equalled.
When Romanticism was coming to an end, Richard Wagner gave his contemporaries works endowed with great expressiveness. In his operas, each character had a different tonality. The music was at the service of dramatic expression.
With the composers searching for a unique language, Wagner sought to ensure that the different arts in an opera had the same importance. He himself wrote the libretto and designed the scenery for, among others, The Ring of the Nibelungs and Tristan and Isolde, laying the foundations for contemporary theatre.
Classical music of the 20th century
With the dispersion and variety of musical movements, together with the use of unconventional melodies and rhythms, there was a consequent rejection of classical tonality.
But nowadays, if classical music is more alive than ever, it is thanks to composers like Claude Debussy (Prelude to a faun’s nap), Igor Stravinsky (The Consecration of Spring), Sergei Prokofiev (ballet Romeo and Juliet) or Dmitri Shostakovich (his Symphony No. 1 is considered a masterpiece for its stylistic avant-garde).