Finding Classical Music CDs by Era
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The history of classical music is as rich and diverse as that of Western civilization. As social conditions and popular tastes changed, music changed as well. Music historians usually divide the last six hundred years into six distinct eras. For each era, we have chosen the ten best pieces and recommended recordings for all of them. If you love certain pieces on our Top 10 Essential CDs list, you're bound to find other memorable works from the same era. The six eras are:
- Renaissance (1400-1600): Sacred vocal music reigns supreme. Top composers: Josquin, Palestrina, Monteverdi.
- Baroque (1600-1750): Instrumental music becomes popular; music is characterized by complex counterpoint. Top composers: Bach, Handel, Vivaldi.
- Classical (1750-1820): A lighter, more simple style than the Baroque. The symphony and string quartet become the two most popular genres. Top composers: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven.
- Romantic (1820-1880): Music tends to be highly emotional, featuring large orchestras and lush sound. The piano becomes the supreme instrument. Top composers: Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Dvorák, Tchaikovsky, Verdi, Wagner.
- Early Modern (1880-1920): Some composers take Romanticism to the extreme, while others experiment with new harmonies and forms. Top composers: Ravel, Debussy, Mahler, Rachmaninoff, Sibelius.
- Twentieth Century (1920-2000): Classical music splits into countless branches, with each composer having his own distinct style. Top composers: Stravinsky, Shostakovich, Berg, Bartók, Copland.