Curious about the history of classical piano music? Take a journey through history and learn about the four distinct musical periods in this lesson from Brooklyn, NY music teacher Julie P...
Musical styles are always shifting and developing. Throughout history, as musicians and famous piano composers experimented with sounds and instrument design, the music world expanded and more possibilities became evident.
Early musicians started with simple melodies, sung in unison. But slowly, composers started adding other parts, the instruments we know today were developed, and people around the world shared their ideas with each other.
Within the classical piano music genre, there are four main time periods we refer to in order to categorize musical development throughout history. Those four time periods are:
The transitions between these eras are not clear-cut, and often composers at the end of one era were already writing music with characteristics of the next era. Likewise, some composers were slow to accept change and wrote pieces at the beginning of one era that sound like music from the previous time period.
While it can be difficult to classify some composers and pieces into a single time period, the four time periods are very helpful to know. They show the trends in music over time and help us understand the thought process of musicians as they were developing new ideas.
In this article (and infographic!), you’ll get an introduction to piano music in the four musical time periods. There is, of course, much more to be said about classical piano music than can fit below, but the key information will give you an idea of each time period. Take a listen to the pieces highlighted to hear how piano music changed throughout history.
Baroque — 1600-1750
Baroque Composers to Know
- Johann Sebastian Bach
- Georg Philipp Telemann
- George Frideric Handel
- Domenico Scarlatti
- Francois Couperin
Popular Baroque Pieces to Check Out
- J.S. Bach – The Well Tempered Clavier
- G.F. Handel – Fugue No. 1 in G Minor
Editor’s Note: Did you know Bach was the father to 20 children? Learn more interesting facts about Bach in this post from the Take Note Blog!
Classical — 1750-1825
Classical Composers to Know
- Joseph Haydn
- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
- Ludwig van Beethoven
- Franz Schubert
- Muzio Clementi
Popular Classical Piano Songs to Check Out
- Clementi – Sonata in C Major, Op. 36 No. 1
- Beethoven – Appasionata Sonata
Romantic — 1825-1900
Romantic Composers to Know
- Johannes Brahms
- Peter Illyich Tchaikovsky
- Frederic Chopin
- Robert Schumann
- Claude Debussy
Romantic Piano Pieces to Check Out
- Chopin – Nocturn Op. 9 No. 2
- Brahms – Rhapsody Op. 79 No. 2
Modern — 1900-present
Modern Composers to Know
- Arnold Schoenberg
- Igor Stravinsky
- Charles Ives
- Aaron Copland
- Sergei Prokofiev
Modern Piano Music to Know
- Copland – The Young Pioneers
- Stravinsky Piano Sonata
Got it? Here’s a helpful infographic, if you’re more of a visual learner!
Share this Image On Your Site