Music in History

Go to content

Main menu


Classical Period

18th century: 1750- 1800

It is the Era of the Enlightenment (ca. 1700-1800) and the era of the industrial revolution (ca. 1760-1820). Important social changes took place following   the  American Revolution and the Declaration of Independence (1776)  on one hand and the French Revolution (1789) on the other.
What we now call "public opinion" has already been emerged. Because of  the publication of the press  the lower social Groups  can read the news frequently .They discuss about  politics. They are interested in art, they seek social and economic changes.
18th century  is the era of travel writers. A lot of young men from the upper social groups were motivated by the ideals of the ancient world  and began travelling  abroad  ( mainly in Greece and Italy).

Galant style
This term defines a musical stream that dominated Western Europe during the mid-18th century.  Galant style coexisted and it had affinity with the artistic movement "Rococo". This new style was to release  music, aesthetically, from the strict counterpoint . More free structures were to be used , with emphasis on the contrast between melody and accompaniment. This artistic movement  coincides with the late Baroque technique. It is expressed primarily in numerous works of Georg Philipp Telemann, Johann Christian Bach and Jean-Philippe Rameau.

Rococo and Neoclassicism
The term «rococo» refers to the art movement and style that was developed in the 18th century, influencing almost all the arts: painting, sculpture, literature, music, theater, etc.
This period is also called  'late Baroque'.  Rococo  emerged as a reaction to the previous strict symmetry of the Baroque style.  it was developed firstly in France, mainly in the palace of Versailles during the reign of King Louis XV, in the early 18th century. Shortly after it spread to the rest of Europe (mainly in Germany, Italy and Austria). During the 1760s it was displaced by Neoclassicism, the new dominant trend in art. An important  boost in power and influence of neoclassicism  was given by the very important finds of the excavations at Pompeii. Excavations had begun in 1748. It was the first systematic excavations in the history of the science of archeology. Classical period of music (18th century)

                                        Wall-painting from Pompei

Classical Period of music (18th century)

Regarding music as an entertainment, it was no longer a privilege of the nobles . The orchestral music was spread widely and became popular even in lower social groups.
Professional musicians have started to create a fortune . Music composers become independent  from the church and court, for first time in history. Some  historians  believe that W.A. Mozart was  one of the first who tried this, to be an independent professional.

Sonata and  opera  have been shaped in their forms. Piano takes the place of the harpsichord. The structure  of modern (for its time) symphony orchestra has been stabilized.
During 1742, one  of the first modern (for its time) symphony orchestras was established  by Johann Stamitz at the court of Duke Karl Theodor in Manheim.  The orchestra consisted of 50 musicians and virtuosos.
Nowadays, W A Mozart and J. Haydn are  considered to be the great representatives of the Enlightenment, in the field of music. The Mozart's opera "The Magic Flute"  is a  "perfect representation of enlightenment."

1.Max Wade-Matthews ,Wendy Thompson: The encyclopedia of music, Hermes House publications
2. Howard Goodall's Great Dates...1791. Mozart. Documentary film
3. BBC history

                           Giovanni Battista Sammartini: Sinfonia in G Major

Back to content | Back to main menu