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Today many people have varied tastes in music, from Rap to hard core Rock and Roll. You can listen to this music by turning on the radio or tuning in to MTV, even on the computer. What about the 18th century? you may ask, what type of music did folks listen too and who where the popular musicians of the time. We will look at some 18th century composers and web sites that cover these people and their music. 

The Web sites covered here are also located in the The Arts Internet resources section of this site. Therefore, you will be able to come back and revisit these sites any time you wish. To review what 18th century music was like, I suggest that you read this article about 18th Century Society: An Overview.

In the world of the arts and music, the 18th century was one of the best times. The composers were more than writers of music, they also performed their works. Some of the major composers of this era were Mozart, Handel, Beethoven, Haydn and Bach.

The period from about 1600 to 1750 is known as the Baroque era. Music, like the architecture and painting of the time, was designed on a grand scale. Several developments brought music close to its modern forms. One was the birth of opera. The baroque age brought an increased interest in instrumental music.

Keyboard instruments including the clavichordharpsichord, and organ were in general use. Memorable works for these instruments were written by such composers as Domenico ScarlattiFrancois Couperin, and Jean-Philippe Rameau. In the second half of the 18th century music found new and important expression in the works of the Austrian composers Franz Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

In contrast to the grand works of the baroque era, the compositions of the classical period were dignified, emotionally restrained, and marked by great clarity. In place of the intricate texture of the polyphonic works, music now tended to be more homophonic having a single predominant melody, with a chordal accompaniment. All of these men composed for kings, and nobles. Most were supported financially by the European Monarchs, i.e. pensions or stipends. Others produced works for the church.

Mozart (1756-91)
A central figure of the Viennese classical school, Mozart is often considered the greatest musical genius of all time. His output especially in view of his short life was enormous, including 16 operas, 41 symphonies, 27 piano and five violin concerti, 25 string quartets, 19 masses, and other works in every form popular in his time. Perhaps his greatest single achievement is in the characterization of his operatic figures.

Handel George Frederic (1685-1759)
A musical giant of the late baroque period, George Frederic Handel was born in Germany but spent most of his adult life in England. He successfully combined German, French, Italian, and English musical styles in about 40 operas, 20 oratorios, and numerous other vocal pieces, instrumental works, and church music.

Beethoven , Ludwig van (1770-1827)
The composer of some of the most influential pieces of music ever written, Ludwig van Beethoven created a bridge between the 18th-century classical period and the new beginnings of Romanticism. His greatest breakthroughs in composition came in his instrumental work, including his symphonies. Unlike his predecessor Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, for whom writing music seemed to come easily, Beethoven always struggled to perfect his work.

Bach Johann Sebastian (1685-1750)
Although he was famous as a master of the organ and other instruments during his lifetime, Johann Sebastian Bach's music was neglected after his death until the early 1800's. His works brought to a climax the baroque period during which many new forms and styles were developed. Bach wrote literally thousands of compositions, many for use in churches or in instruction. Combining elements of the Lutheran chorale, the French and Italian orchestral styles, and baroque organ music.

Bach produced the 'Brandenburg' concertos (1721) for orchestra, 'The Well-Tempered Clavier' (1722-44) for keyboard, the 'St. John' (1723) and 'St. Matthew' (1729) passions, nearly 200 cantatas, the 'Mass in B Minor' (completed about 1738), and hundreds of others.

HAYDN, Joseph (1732-1809)
Called the father of both the symphony and the string quartet, Joseph Haydn founded what is known as the Viennese classical school consisting of Haydn, his friend Mozart, and his pupil Beethoven. He lived from the end of the baroque period to the beginning of the romantic and presided over the musical transition between them. His distinct style combined elements of the baroque, the gallant style from Italy and France, and the emotional empfindsamer Stil, or "sensitive style," of the north Germans.

Today you can listen to these master works on CD, Records and Tapes, but in the 18th century, you had to be present at a live concert to listen or at least, if you had talent, play the music yourself.

Some of the music, I believe should be heard in concert in order to really appreciate the composers and their work, especially The Messiah by Handel. However, this is my own opinion.

More Resources:

18th century composers
This is a listing of the composers of the 18th century found on Wikipedia.

A Talk with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Learn what Mozart has to say about his times in this interview in our homework help section.

Listen to some classical music on our Youtube Channel.