Classical Music on Wikipedia

Classical music is a genre of music that typically dates back to the Medieval or Renaissance periods. It is characterized by complex harmonies, intricate melodies, and often a formal or grandiose style.

If you’re a fan of classical music, you’ll want to check out our list of the best classical music on Wikipedia. From Bach to Beethoven, we’ve got you covered.


In the Western classical tradition, art music is music written by composers for concert performance as part of a musical ensemble of one or more singers or instrumentalists, and often distinguished from popular and traditional music. The performers generally include the composer as a performer. The range of possible combinations of performers is vast, and recent performances have included anything from a string quartet to an orchestra of 100 musicians or more.


The history of classical music can be traced back to the late 18th century. It was during this time that the first true orchestra was formed and that the first opera was composed. The classical period saw the rise of the great composers such as Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart.


The earliest reference to “classical music” recorded by the Oxford English Dictionary is from about 1836.

Classical music is art music produced or rooted in the traditions of Western culture, including both liturgical (religious) and secular music. While a more precise term is also used to refer to the period from 1750 to 1820 (the Classical period), this article is about the broad span of time from before the 6th century AD to the present day, which includes the Classical period and various other periods. The central norms of this tradition became codified between 1550 and 1900, which is known as the common-practice period.


During the Classical period, the major metropolitan centers for music were in Vienna, Lisbon, London and Berlin. Concerts were often given in smaller towns and cities, and incorporated a mix of well-known established works and new compositions. The standard repertoire for orchestras and choirs tended to be different in different locales.

Modern era

With the rediscovery of works by early composers such as Guillaume de Machaut and John Dunstable in the early 19th century, the focus of music history once again began to shift back in time, although the emphasis on contemporary music continued. The 19th century also saw a revival of interest in medieval music, which had been largely ignored since the Renaissance period. The 20th century brought an even greater focus on music of the recent past, as well as that of far away cultures whose traditions had only recently come to light.

During the 20th century, a great many new musical styles and genres emerged, including ragtime, blues, jazz, flamenco, tango,Pythagorean tuning and serialism. In addition to traditional Western art music there was a tremendous growth in interests in world music. Popular genres included film scores, folk music, electronic music and rock music.


There are many different styles of classical music, from the medieval period to the present day. Each style has its own characteristics, and there are often different interpretations of each style. Here are some of the most popular styles of classical music.

Art music

Art music is “intended for performance by professional musicians, in contrast to many popular and folk genres of music which are performed by amateurs”.[1] It typically implies structured and written music played on a Western classical instrument or ensemble. Although most art music is not intended for the general public, it is still performed in concert halls and operas, sometimes on a very large scale with professional orchestras and soloists.

Art music sometimes includes a range of musical styles, from Western classical to popular forms such as film scores. Many art music composers are also passionate about teaching their students; some of the greats have even become university professors.

Popular music is music with wide appeal that is typically distributed to large audiences through the music industry. These forms and styles can be enjoyed by people with little or no musical training. It stands in contrast to both art music and traditional or “folk” music. Art music was historically disseminated through the performances of written music, although since the beginning of the recording industry, it is also disseminated on recordings. Traditional music forms such as early blues songs or hymns were passed along orally, or to smaller, local audiences.

The original application of the term is to music of the 1880s Tin Pan Alley period in the United States. Although popular music sometimes is known as “pop music”, the two terms are not interchangeable. Popular music songs and pieces typically have easily singable melodies and a basic structure of verse-chorus-verse, like in Rock around the Clock by Bill Haley & His Comets, Mamma Mia by ABBA, and Get Back by The Beatles.Popularmusic often borrows elements from other styles such as country, folk, rock, urban and dance.


There are three main types of classical music, which are opera, choral, and instrumental. Opera is a type of classical music that is sung, while choral is a type of classical music that is sung by a choir. Instrumental classical music is classical music that is played on instruments.


Opera is a form of theatre in which music has a leading role and the parts are taken by singers, but is distinct from musical theatre. The normal operatic voice is classified as a voice type, although many singers, known as “blending”, mix vocal types. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery and costumes and sometimes includes dance. The performance is typically given in an opera house, accompanied by an orchestra or smaller musical ensemble.

Opera is a key part of the Western classical music tradition. In contrast to Orpheus and Euridice, opera often deals with dramatic subjects and includes dialogue between characters, rather than being entirely sung throughout by the chorus (as in ancient Greek tragedy). Opera originated in Italy at the end of the 16th century (with Jacopo Peri’s mostly lost Dafne) and soon spread through the rest of Europe: George Frideric Handel produced operas in Hamburg (Almira), London (Rinaldo) and Italy (Agrippina).


A symphony is an extended musical composition in Western classical music, most often written by composers for orchestra. Although the term has had many meanings from its origins in the ancient Greek era, by the late 18th century the word had taken on the meaning common today: a work usually consisting of multiple distinct sections or movements, often four, with the first movement in sonata form. Symphonies are almost always scored for an orchestra consisting of a string section, brass, woodwind, and percussion instruments which altogether number about 30 to 100 musicians. String symphonies have been written since the 1750s.

The word symphony is derived from Greek συμφωνία (symphōnia), meaning concord or harmony,[1][2] but later came to mean “an agreeable sound”,[2] “conspiracy” or “agreement”.[1][3] Since 1581 symphony was used in Italian as symphonia, and later in French as symphonie,[3] German Sinfonie,[4] Spanish sinfonía and Portuguese sinfonia.[5] By late 18th century Germans used Symphony (Sinfonie) to define a long-lasting instrumental piece played by an orchestra.[4][6] Definitions of a single work able to be played by multiple instruments became more precise from early 19th century on;[7][8]:21 but today’s meaning referring to a long musical composition implies some kind of developmental structure only after c. 1870:[9]:20–21.”


A concerto (from the Italian: concerto, plural concerti or, often, the anglicised form concertos) is a musical composition generally composed of three movements, in which, usually, one solo instrument (for instance, a piano, violin, cello or flute) is accompanied by an orchestra. It is accepted that its characteristics and definition have changed over time. In the 17th century the term generally referred to a sacred vocal composition. The word consecutive arises from two Latin words conseguentes which means moving together and ultimately means agree or concur. In the early 17th century a new sense of the word “concerto” (literally meaning “agreement”) developed in which two or more independent melodic lines were combined in structural harmony with each other to produce an improvised counterpoint; similar to what would become known as the Baroque concerto grosso form.[1][2]

The genre was further developed during the Classical and Romantic eras when composers began to use orchestras more frequently than in Baroque music. As such orchestras grew in size and as instruments became more prominent within them (e.g., strings vs. winds), so did the need for works composed specifically for them.[citation needed] This gave rise to what was called “symphonic form”.

The Concerto Grosso may be Symphony Orchestra-sized but there can be only one Concerto Grosso per work i.e., only one large group of instruments playing independently with everyone else in the general background.[1][3] This can sometimes be seen in English as “concerto grosso with soloists” but this is incorrect as it would be more accurate to refer to it as a “concerto with Symphonic Orchestra-sized Concertino”.[3] The word Concerto has been used since at least 1745 when it appeared as a title used by Alessandro Stradella; however its use decreased after Stradella’s death up until Johann Sebastian Bach revived it early in the 18th century.[4][5] It should not be confused with his contemporary Heinrich Schütz’s Musikalische Exequien where musically separate choirs are used i.e., not multiple parts within one body of music.

Notable composers

During the medieval period, plainchant was the most popular form of music. This type of music was mostly used for religious purposes and was passed down orally from one generation to the next. In the Baroque period, which lasted from 1600 to 1750, the most popular form of music was the concerto.

Johann Sebastian Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach (31 March [O.S. 21 March] 1685 – 28 July 1750) was a German composer and musician of the Baroque period. He is known for instrumental compositions such as the Brandenburg Concertos and the Goldberg Variations, and for vocal music such as the St Matthew Passion and the Mass in B minor. Bach’s abilities as an organist were highly respected during his lifetime, although he was not widely recognized as a great composer until a few decades after his death. His religious background, views on mortality, and belief in predestination meant that after his death he was largely forgotten by the wider world.

Bach was born in Eisenach, in the duchy of Saxe-Eisenach, into a Lutheran family. He was the son of Johann Ambrosius Bach, the director of town musicians, and Maria Elisabeth Lämmerhirt. He was the eighth and youngest child of Ambrosius,[1] who probably taught him violin and basic music theory.[2] His uncles were all professional musicians,[3] whose posts included church organists, court chamber musicians, composers. One uncle, Johann Christoph Bach (1645–93), introduced him to the organ,[4] and may have taught him to play it.[5] Bach’s mother died in 1694,[6][7][8] and his father died eight months later.[7][8] The 10-year-old Bach moved in with his eldest brother, Johann Christoph Bach (the son of Christoph Bach),[9] as a boarder at Eisenach Germany

Ludwig van Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven (baptised 17 December 1770 – 26 March 1827) was a German composer and pianist, who is arguably the defining figure in the history of Western music.

Beethoven was born in Bonn, then the capital of Electorate of Cologne and part of the Holy Roman Empire in present-day Germany, to a family of Flemish origin. He was raised as a Catholic and baptised the day after his birth.Of his seven siblings, only two younger brothers survived infancy. The mother of the brothers was Maria Magdalena Keverich (1746–1811), native of Ehrenbreitstein. Beethoven’s grandfather Keverich had served as electoral bass player in Bonn; his grandmother, Margaretha Josepha née Hagenauer (1726–1781), had been a singer in the court chapel. His grandfather died when he was only ten years old, and his grandmother taught him to play piano.[5][6]

Beethoven was heard by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and was greatly influenced by his work.At about age 13 he began piano lessons with Ludwig van Beethoven, who later taught him music theory and composition; Van den Eeden also gave him some informal instruction on the violin. Beethoven always wanted to study with Mozart but never had the opportunity because by the time he was ready to study composition seriously Mozart had already died (1791).

Ludwig van Beethoven is one of history’s most important composers and musicians. He created some of the most popular pieces of classical music ever written, including his Symphony No 5 in C minor, which contains one of the most famous motifs ever known: da-da-da-DUM!

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) was a prolific and influential composer of the classical era. He composed over 600 works, including symphonies, concertos, operas, chamber music, and solo piano pieces. His compositions are characterized by clarity, elegance, and balance. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest composers of all time.

See also

In addition to the articles listed above, classical music is also discussed in the following major articles:
-Music genre
-List of classical music composers by era
-Canon (music)
-Golden Age of Radio
-History of music
-Outline of music


-^ “Classical music”. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2016. Web. 07 Apr. 2016

-^ “What is Classical Music?”. Royalty Free Music Royalty Free Music for YouTube Videos & Commercial Use. Web. 07 Apr. 2016.

-Wike, Patricia. “List of Musical Terms.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 01 Apr. 2016. Web. 07 Apr. 2016

This is a list of external links that you may find helpful when exploring the topic of classical music on Wikipedia.

-The Classical Music Portal:
-The List of Composers:
– Schmidt, Michael (2010). “A Composer’s Life”. Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 11 March 2013.
– Sitsky, Larry (2011). “Biography”. Classical Composers Database. Naxos Records. Retrieved 11 March 2013.
– Randel, Don Michael, ed. (1986). The Harvard Concise Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Harvard University Press p. 208

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