Three main periods in classical music

Like other art forms, there are different periods in music. The big three for classical music are Baroque, Classical and Romantic. In each period, certain principles, styles and textures dominate. It is easy to hear the aesthetic differences between these periods when you listen to compositions for orchestras by Vivaldi, Mozart and Schumann. Try doing this with compositions for the same instrument, such as the oboe, and you will hear even more easily the way the different periods use the same resource.

The Baroque period

The Baroque style dominated the 17th century until the mid-18th century. It is characterized by the great use of ornamentation and contrasts in music. During this period, genres like opera, oratorio, cantata, fugue, suite, sonata, symphony and prelude emerged and they remain to the present day.

Basso Continuo is one feature we notice often in Baroque music. Essentially, composers appreciated the way a single melody could be highlighted by simply having the accompaniment of another instrument, which had a deeper sound, such as the bass.

Sonata for Oboe and Basso Continuo in B flat major, RV 34 by Vivaldi, Baroque


Gloria in D major, RV 589 by Vivaldi, Baroque

The Classical period

It is important to note that many people use the term “classical music” to refer to many different periods of music. This really isn’t wrong—it's just a colloquial phrase and you can use it without any major problems. But it is worth keeping in mind that the overall concept that you are referring to is actually called "erudite music". Truly, “classical music” is only one period in music history.

The Classical period lasted from the 18th century to the 19th century and it was marked by an appreciation for simplicity, with lighter and clearer textures. The contrasts were valued even more, with varying timber, character and dynamics (forte, piano, crescendo and diminuendo). It was during this period that we gave symphonies, concertos and the sonata form more prestige and importance. In fact, the sonata became the most important structure of the Classical period.


Oboe Quartet in F Major, K. 370 I.Allegro by Mozart, Classical

Symphony No. 29 in A major, K. 201 by Mozart, Classical

The Romantic period

The Romantic period began in the early 19th century and remained until the early 20th century. It is characterized by less concern with the structural forms and rules imposed by the Classical period. With denser texture, richer harmony, and the creation and evolution of new genres, such as the symphonic poem, composers were also seeking inspiration in other art forms. They wanted more and more freedom to express and convey everything they could through his music.

Romance for Oboe #1 by Schumann, Romantic

Symphony No. 4, Op. 120 by Schumann, Romantic


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