A brief History of Classical Music
through its greatest compositions

(compiled by Piero Scaruffi)


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Synopses of classical musicians

Medieval Era


Hildegard von Bingen (Germany, 1098): Antiphons, Sequences, Responsoria
Leonin (France, 1135): Magnus Liber Organi
Perotin (France, 11##): Viderunt omnes & Sederunt principes
Guillaume Machault (France, 1300): Messe de Notre Dame
Guillaume Machault (France, 1300): Chansons balladees (or virelais)
Francesco Landino (Florence, 1325): Ballate
John Dunstable (England, 1385): Motets
Guillaume Dufay (France, 1400): Missa Caput
Guillaume Dufay (France, 1400): Messe "Se La Face Ay Pale"
Guillaume Dufay (France, 1400): Messe "L'Homme Arme`"
Guillaume Dufay (France, 1400): Chansons
Guillaume Dufay (France, 1400): Motets
Gilles Binchois (France, 1400): Chansons
Johannes Ockeghem (Netherlands, 1420): Motets
Johannes Ockeghem (Netherlands, 1420): Missa Prolationum
Johannes Ockeghem (Netherlands, 1420): Missa Caput
Josquin Despres/ De Prez (France, 1440): Chansons
Josquin Despres/ De Prez (France, 1440): Motets
Josquin Despres (France, 1440): Messe "Malheur Me Bat"
Josquin Despres (France, 1440): Messe "Allez Regrets"
Josquin Despres (France, 1440): Messe "Gaudeamus"
Josquin Despres (France, 1440): Messe "Mater Patris"
Josquin Despres (France, 1440): Messe "Fortuna Disperata"
Josquin Despres (France, 1440): Miserere
Josquin Despres (France, 1440): De Profundis
Heinrich Isaac (Netherlands, 1450): Choralis Constantinus
Jacob Obrecht (Netherlands, 1452): Missa Caput
Jacob Obrecht (Netherlands, 1452): Missa Super Maria

Renaissance Era


Philippe Verdelot (France, 1480): Madrigals
Clement Janequin (France, 1485): La Guerre
Adrian Willaert (Netherlands, 1490): Motets
Adrian Willaert (Netherlands, 1490): Madrigals
John Taverner (England, 1490): Western Wynde Mass
John Taverner (England, 1490): Missa "Gloria Tibi Trinitas"
Nicolas Gombert (France, 1495): Motets
Cristobal de Morales (Spain, 1500): Magnificat
Thomas Tallis (England, 1505): Lamentations
Thomas Tallis (England, 1505): Spem in Alium (1570)
Jacob Arcadelt (France, 1505): Missa "Noe Noe"
Jacob Arcadelt (France, 1505): Madrigals
Andrea Gabrieli (Venice, 1510): Psalmi Davidici
Andrea Gabrieli (Venice, 1510): Gloria
Andrea Gabrieli (Venice, 1510): Edipo Tiranno (1585)
Andrea Gabrieli (Venice, 1510): Intonazioni
Andrea Gabrieli (Venice, 1510): Madrigals
Andrea Gabrieli (Venice, 1510): Motets
Cyprien DeRore (Netherlands, 1516): Madrigals
Philippe DeMonte (France, 1521): Madrigals
Giovanni Palestrina (Papal State, 1525): Missa Papae Marcelli
Giovanni Palestrina (Papal State, 1525): Missa Nigra Sum (1590)
Giovanni Palestrina (Papal State, 1525): Missa "Assumpta Est Maria"
Giovanni Palestrina (Papal State, 1525): Motets
Giovanni Palestrina (Papal State, 1525): Madrigals
Orlando di Lasso (Germany, 1532): Madrigals
Orlando di Lasso (Germany, 1532): Lieder
Orlando di Lasso (Germany, 1532): Motets
Orlando di Lasso (Germany, 1532): Psalmi Poenetentiales (1584)
Claudio Merulo (Venice, 1533): Toccate
William Byrd (England, 1543): Motets
Tomas Victoria (Spain, 1548): Motets
Tomas Victoria (Spain, 1548): Officium Hebetomadae Sanetae
Orazio Vecchi (Este State, 1550): Antfiparnaso (1597)
Luca Marenzio (Este State, 1553): Madrigals
Giovanni Gabrieli (Venice, 1553): Canzoni et Sonate (1615)
Giovanni Gabrieli (Venice, 1553): Sacrae Symphoniae (1597)
Thomas Morley (England, 1557): Madrigals
Lodovico Viadana (Mantua, 1560): Concerti Ecclesiastici (1602)
Carlo Gesualdo (Naples, 1561): Madrigals
Carlo Gesualdo (Naples, 1561): Tenebrae
John Dowland (England, 1562): Lute songs
John Dowland (England, 1562): First Booke of Songes (1597)
Jan Sweelinck (Netherlands, 1562): Chansons
Jan Sweelinck (Netherlands, 1562): Organ music
Claudio Monteverdi (Venice, 1567): Madrigals/ Book V (1605)
Claudio Monteverdi (Venice, 1567): Madrigals/ Book VIII (1638)
Claudio Monteverdi (Venice, 1567): Vespro della Beata Vergine (1610)
Claudio Monteverdi (Venice, 1567): Selva Morale e Spirituale (1641)
Gregorio Allegri (Papal State, 1582): Miserere (163#)
Girolamo Frescobaldi (Papal State, 1583): Toccate (1615)
Girolamo Frescobaldi (Papal State, 1583): Fiori Musicali (1635)
Heinrich Schuetz (Germany, 1585): Psalmen Davids (1619)
Heinrich Schuetz (Germany, 1585): Kleine Geistliche Konzerte (1639)
Heinrich Schuetz (Germany, 1585): Symphoniae Sacrae (1650)
Heinrich Schuetz (Germany, 1585): Cantiones Sacrae (1625)
Heinrich Schuetz (Germany, 1585): The Seven Last Words (1645)
Heinrich Schuetz (Germany, 1585): Christmas Oratorio (1664)
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Samuel Scheidt (Germany, 1587): Tabulatura Nova (1624)

Opera


Jacopo Peri (Papal State, 1561): Euridice (1600)
Claudio Monteverdi (Venice, 1567): Orfeo (1607)
Claudio Monteverdi (Venice, 1567): Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda (1624)
Claudio Monteverdi (Venice, 1567): L'Incoronazione di Poppea (1642)
Claudio Monteverdi (Venice, 1567): Lamento d'Arianna (1608)
Giambattista Lulli/ Lully (France, 1632): Armide (1686)
Giambattista Lulli/ Lully (France, 1632): Amadis (1684)
Alessandro Stradella (Papal State, 1644): San Giovanni Battista (1675)
Henry Purcell (England, 1659): Dido and Aeneas (1689)
Alessandro Scarlatti (Naples, 1660): Griselda (1721)
JeanPhilippe Rameau (France, 1683): Hyppolite et Aricie (1733)
JeanPhilippe Rameau (France, 1683): Les Indes Galantes (1735)
JeanPhilippe Rameau (France, 1683): Zoroastre (1749)
JeanPhilippe Rameau (France, 1683): Castor et Pollux (1737)
Georg Handel (Germany, 1685): Julius Caesar (1724)
Georg Handel (Germany, 1685): Alcina (1735)
Georg Handel (Germany, 1685): Serse (1738)

Baroque Era


Giacomo Carissimi (Papal State, 1605): Jephte
Dietrich Buxtehude (Germany, 1637): Cantate
Dietrich Buxtehude (Germany, 1637): Toccate
Dietrich Buxtehude (Germany, 1637): Chorale preludes
Buhurizade Itri (Turkey, 1640): Neva Kar
MarcAntoine Charpentier (France, 1643): Te Deum
MarcAntoine Charpentier (France, 1643): Tenebrae (1692)
Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber (Austria, 1664): Mystery Sonatas
Johann Pachelbel (Germany, 1653): Variations
Johann Pachelbel (Germany, 1653): Canon in D (1694)
Arcangelo Corelli (Papal State, 1653): Concerti Grossi Op 6 (1714)
Arcangelo Corelli (Papal State, 1653): Concerti Grossi Op 5 (1700)
Arcangelo Corelli (Papal State, 1653): Trio Sonatas
Giuseppe Torelli (Venice, 1658): Violin concertos op.8 (1709)
Henry Purcell (England, 1659): Songs
Henry Purcell (England, 1659): The Fairy Queen (1692)
Henry Purcell (England, 1659): Music for a While (1692)
Henry Purcell (England, 1659): Ode for St Cecilia's Day (1692)
Henry Purcell (England, 1659): Music for Queen Mary 91695)
Alessandro Scarlatti (Naples, 1660): Cantate
Francois Couperin (France, 1668): Lecons de Tenebres (1715)
Francois Couperin (France, 1668): Pieces de Clavecin (1730)
Francois Couperin (France, 1668): Les Nations (1726)
Tomaso Albinoni (Venice, 1671): "Adagio"
Antonio Vivaldi (Venice, 1678): Il Cimento dell'Armonia op.8 (1725)
Antonio Vivaldi (Venice, 1678): La Cetra op.9 (1728)
Antonio Vivaldi (Venice, 1678): Concerti op.7 (1725)
Antonio Vivaldi (Venice, 1678): L'Estro Armonico op.3 (1712)
Antonio Vivaldi (Venice, 1678): Stabat Mater (1727)
Antonio Vivaldi (Venice, 1678): Concerto Strings A Major RV159
Antonio Vivaldi (Venice, 1678): Concerto Bassoon E minor RV 484
Antonio Vivaldi (Venice, 1678): Concerto for two Cellos (1720)
Youstol Dispage (France, 1678): "Piero Scaruffi" (1712)
Jan Dismas Zelenka (Czech, 1679): Missa Dei Patris
Georg Telemann (Germany, 1681): Musique de Table (1733)
Georg Telemann (Germany, 1681): Der fuer die Suende der Welt gemarterte
Georg Telemann (Germany, 1681): Der Tag des Gerichts (1765)
Georg Telemann (Germany, 1681): Trumpet Concerto in D major (1734)
Jean-Joseph Mouret (France, 1682): Suite of Symphonies No. 1 (1729)
JeanPhilippe Rameau (France, 1683): Pieces de clavecin en Concerts (1741)
JeanPhilippe Rameau (France, 1683): Nouvelles Suites de pieces de clavecin (1728)
JohannSebastian Bach (Germany, 1685): Cantata 147 (1723)
JohannSebastian Bach (Germany, 1685): Toccata & Fugue BWV 565
JohannSebastian Bach (Germany, 1685): "St Anne" Fugue in E-flat major BWV 552
JohannSebastian Bach (Germany, 1685): French Suites BWV 812-817 (1721)
JohannSebastian Bach (Germany, 1685): English Suites BWV 806-811 (1715)
JohannSebastian Bach (Germany, 1685): Sonatas and Partitas for violin BWV 1001-1006 (1720)
JohannSebastian Bach (Germany, 1685): Magnificat in D major BWV 243 (1723)
JohannSebastian Bach (Germany, 1685): Die Kunst der Fuge (1749)
JohannSebastian Bach (Germany, 1685): Preludes and Fugues
JohannSebastian Bach (Germany, 1685): Goldberg Variations (1742)
JohannSebastian Bach (Germany, 1685): Brandenburger Concertos (1721)
JohannSebastian Bach (Germany, 1685): Orchestral Suites (1731)
JohannSebastian Bach (Germany, 1685): Cello Suites (1723)
JohannSebastian Bach (Germany, 1685): Musikalisches Opfer (1747)
JohannSebastian Bach (Germany, 1685): St Matthew Passion (1729)
JohannSebastian Bach (Germany, 1685): Das Wohltemperierte Clavier (1722)
JohannSebastian Bach (Germany, 1685): Christmas Oratorio
JohannSebastian Bach (Germany, 1685): Concerto for Three Harpsichords in C Major BWV 1064
JohannSebastian Bach (Germany, 1685): Keyboard Concerto in F minor BWV 1056
JohannSebastian Bach (Germany, 1685): St John Passion (1724)
JohannSebastian Bach (Germany, 1685): Mass in B Minor (1749)
JohannSebastian Bach (Germany, 1685): Fantasy in A Minor BWV 922 (1713)
JohannSebastian Bach (Germany, 1685): Triple Concerto for Flute, Violin, Harpsichord and Strings (1740)
Georg Handel (Germany, 1685): Water Music (1717)
Georg Handel (Germany, 1685): Royal Fireworks (1749)
Georg Handel (Germany, 1685): Grand Concertos op.6 (1739)
Georg Handel (Germany, 1685): Israel in Egypt (1739)
Georg Handel (Germany, 1685): Saul (1739)
Georg Handel (Germany, 1685): Messiah (1742)
Georg Handel (Germany, 1685): Acis and Galatea (1732)
Georg Handel (Germany, 1685): Ode for St Cecilia's Day (1739)
Georg Handel (Germany, 1685): The Triumph of Time and Truth (1757)
Georg Handel (Germany, 1685): Organ concertos op.4 (1737)
Georg Handel (Germany, 1685): Concerti grossi op.6 (1739)
Georg Handel (Germany, 1685): Dixit Dominus (1707)
Georg Handel (Germany, 1685): Jeptha (1752)
Georg Handel (Germany, 1685): L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato (1740)
Domenico Scarlatti (Naples, 1685): Harpsichord Sonata K30 in G minor "The Cat's Fugue"
Domenico Scarlatti (Naples, 1685): Harpsichord Sonata K140 in D major
Domenico Scarlatti (Naples, 1685): Harpsichord Sonata K141
Domenico Scarlatti (Naples, 1685): Harpsichord Sonata K318 in F sharp major
Domenico Scarlatti (Naples, 1685): Harpsichord Sonata K398
Domenico Scarlatti (Naples, 1685): Harpsichord Sonata K455 in G
Domenico Scarlatti (Naples, 1685): Harpsichord Sonata K472 in B-flat major
Domenico Scarlatti (Naples, 1685): Harpsichord Sonata K491
Domenico Scarlatti (Naples, 1685): Harpsichord Sonata K501 in C major
Domenico Scarlatti (Naples, 1685): Harpsichord Sonata K517 in D minor
Domenico Scarlatti (Naples, 1685): Harpsichord Sonata K518
Domenico Scarlatti (Naples, 1685): Harpsichord Sonata K544
Francesco Geminiani (Naples, 1687): Concerti Grossi Opus 3 (1733)
Francesco Geminiani (Naples, 1687): The Enchanted Forest (1754)
Giuseppe Tartini (Venezia, 1692): Concerti
Giuseppe Tartini (Venezia, 1692): Sontate

Composers born in the 18th century

Composers born in the 19th century

Composers born after 1899

Composers born after 1929

Composers born after 1949


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The Essential Sonatas
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The Greatest Pianists
The Essential Concertos (except piano)
The Greatest Violin Players
The Essential Trios, Quartets, Quintets, Sextets
The Greatest Flutists, Cellists, etc
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The Essential Operas
The Greatest Sopranos
The Essential Ballets
The Best of Early Electronic Music
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Note about crediting the country: The country that i list next to the name is not necessarily the country of birth. First of all, i have decided that the country of birth should reflect the status at the time, unless the person physically grew up somewhere else. For example, Italy's national hero Garibaldi was NOT born in France, even though Nice today is French. He was born in Nice, Italy, because back then Nice was Italian. Septimius Severus was a Roman, not a Libyan. Kafka was an Austrian, even though today Prague is not in Austria. Otherwise we should change the birthplace of people every time the borders change. Of course, if i had the space, i would specify the region: Prokofev was born in the Russian province of Ukraine, Stalin was born in the Russian province of Georgia, etc... but i would still write Garibaldi was born in the Italian province of Piedmont (because Nice back then was part of Piedmont). So i prefer to look at the original borders, not today's borders (which will change tomorrow).
This rule needs to be corrected for "accidental" births: the Italian poet Ungaretti was born in Egypt but he grew up in Italy; the US astronaut Michael Collins was born in Rome but he grew up in the USA; Natalie Portman is not an Israeli; Keanu Reeves is not a Lebanonese; Emma Watson is not a French; Nicole Kidman is not a Hawaiian; the singer Freddie Mercury was not a Kenyan. Even this rule can be tricky to apply: Muzio Clementi was born and raised in Italy but moved to England as a teenager.
The biggest problem is with the West European empires that stretched over multiple continents and were never really one country: was Tagore a British or Indian poet? Was Doris Lessing a Rhodesian or British writer? I am leaning towards writing British Empire. If you only write "India" or "Rhodesia", you mislead. Lessing was not an African writer, and Tagore was born in Kolkata which became part of India only after the British left (previously it was part of the Mughal empire, a Muslim empire that never called itself "India").
For people born centuries ago the discussion becomes even more complicated. We routinely think of Vivaldi as being "Italian" and Bach as being "German". Neither Italy nor Germany existed at the time. Vivaldi was born in the state of Venezia/Venice. Bach was born in a tiny state that was part of the Holy Roman Empire. Torelli was born in Verona, which belonged to the Republic of Venice. Tartini was born in a town that belonged to the Republic of Venice although today it is part of the country of Slovenia. Monteverdi was born in the state of Milan (which was under Spanish domination) but he started his career in Venice. Southern Italy was part of the Kingdom of Naples, which changed hands a few times but was mainly a Spanish colony.