What Are the Baroque and Classical Periods?

The Baroque and Early Classical periods saw a great divergence in musical styles. The Baroque period came before the Classical period and had great composers such as Bach, Handel, and Corelli. The Classical period sought different aims and included the music of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. Both time periods saw drastic developments in music and sought to improve and clarify the medium with which music was conveyed to the audience.

Baroque Music

The Baroque period came before the Classical period, from 1600 to 1750. The Baroque period developed music that was highly ornamented. Similar to a Christmas tree with its ornaments, the classical period dressed up and enhanced its basic musical lines with extra notes and complex rhythms. Composers started to write for specific instruments and experimented with new structures and forms. Baroque music was largely responsible for the establishment of the Opera genre and gave rise to larger forces of musicians.

Early Classical Music

The Classical period spanned from 1750 to 1830, although its roots go back to 1730. Early Classical music includes music from 1750 to 1790. Classical composers sought to reduce the complexity of the ornate Baroque period. Their focus turned to clearly identifiable melodies and chords. To do this, they reduced the number of independent music lines and used chords to support melodies; this created clarity of style. The difference between Classical and classical music is subtle. The uppercase C refers to the time period from 1750 to 1830. The lowercase c refers to all western art music.

Baroque Composers

Bach is one of the most famous composers of the Baroque period. His music is so famous, NASA launched it into space on the “Voyager Golden Record” in 1977 as an example of humanity's greatest achievements. Bach created several fugues and religious works throughout his life. Handel wrote several oratorios, operas, and concertos in his lifetime. Handel’s music contained rich polyphonic textures that used multiple melodies to create a harmonic backdrop for the music.

Classical Composers

Haydn earned the nickname “the father of the string quartet.” Haydn wrote 68 string quartets and helped to refine and polish the art of writing for strings. His symphonies received great acclaim as well, and he helped to shape the form of the symphony that Beethoven later expanded. Mozart was a celebrated child prodigy and was responsible for establishing the style of Classical music. Mozart certainly was an innovator, but more importantly, he took a style and refined it. Symphonies and operas were Mozart’s forte. Mozart wrote some of the most famous operas that still receive performances today.


"The Classical Style: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven"; Charles Rosen; 1998
"Baroque Music"; Claude Palisca; 1990


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