Music from the 17th Or 18th Century





Music from the 17th Or 18th Century


Music and other forms of related art that emerged during the period 1600 to 1700 are typically referred to as classical music. European music is mainly differentiated from other popular forms of music by its staff notation that was in existence from the 16th century. Within classical music, there is a wide range of styles and this makes it relatively difficult to describe the exact characteristics. However, two features are unique for classical music: the prominent usage of printed scores and the presentation of highly complicated instrumental pieces. This essay seeks to analyze the prominent composers in 17th and 18th century Europe.

Vivaldi’s Style of Music

Antonio Vivaldi’s background was based mostly in the Catholic Church in Venice. Vivaldi’s placement in the Italian city was beneficial as it exposed him to one of the established musical hubs within Europe. The standing of baroque Venice as a musical axis was very high since it was home to the four music conservatories. These units started as charitable establishments and increasingly expanded as locations of musical learning. By the early 1700s, they had become centers of excellence. It is against this background that Vivaldi developed his early musical skills, which initially comprised of exercises with students. His excellence in music allowed him to teach violin and eventually stage his debut opera. His theatrical activities reached their peak in 1716 when he performed his first oratorio with Ospedale della Pietà.

Performance Style

Most of Vivaldi’s concertos are composed in the standard outline that is three movements. The first is an allegro, a leisurely movement in the similar or directly related key, and a concluding allegro. Although a few movements were based off the previous fugal method, the feel avoided the contrapuntal style and adopted a homophonic structure. The texture of his concertos can be best described as continuo homophony. This implied that the melody was the polish on the essential chord progressions. Vivaldi’s main concern was with the chord progressions located in the primary bass line. The official scheme of the separate movements of Vivaldi’s pieces is similar to Torelli’s concertos: the whole orchestra comprised of ritornellos, changing with incidents for the soloist. In a manner different to Torelli’s concertos, Vivaldi’s ritornellos were transposed to different keys across the movement, modulations restricted to the vocalist’s episodes. Monotony was eliminated by reorganizing or cutting down ritornellos in future uses within the movement. He created between the solo and tutti, a specific dramatic strain; the vocalist transformed into a controlling musical personality against the band. His theatrical formation of the function of the soloist was embraced and built upon in the Classical piece of music. Artistic features that were characteristic of Vivaldi include succinct themes, clear forms, rhythmic liveliness, thrusting logical connection in the flow of musical notions. He perceived music wise and preferred recurring patterns comprising of broken chords and slow harmonic variations. Therefore, his musical perceptions were different from Corelli’s poetic melodies and Torelli’s lanky lyrics. Vivaldi was the initial composer to present the dawdling movement of a work of art with equal significance to the double allegros. He also used a basic triple metre occasionally in a manner similar to the Corellian bel canto method. Vivaldi also applied the Siciliano rhythm (12/8). The gracious minimalism of Vivaldi’s slow movements inspired subsequent composers for example, Bach. Most of Bach’s earlier works were closely similar to Vivaldi in terms of structure and instruments. Bach translated approximately six of Vivaldi’s pieces of music most of which were solo keyboards, organs, and strings. A style that was unique to Vivaldi involved the habit to create ritornello restatements increasingly shorter and less whole, while the duration of episodes augmented. This style was frowned upon by his peers who preferred highly symmetrical sizes in their concertos. This idiosyncrasy was aggravated by Vivaldi’s spontaneous way of writing music: specific ideas in the opening ritornello attracted his creativity and reappeared almost involuntarily, while others ideas, equally filled with potential, were overlooked, morphing the ritornello into a whittled section in a process that could only be defined as natural selection.

Collection of Musical Experience across Europe

From 1718, Vivaldi relocated his newly composed opera from Venice to Mantua for approximately two years. During this period, he composed three operas that were performed in the 1719 and 1720 during the carnivals. The Mantua city lord at the time was Prince Philip, a renowned music enthusiast. Vivaldi took up work as the city’s director of music. In this capacity, he composed more cantatas for the Mantuan square. After making a brief visit to Venice, Vivaldi traveled to Rome in time for a series of carnival seasons. He was even invited to play for the pope on two occasions. These operas were performed in 1723 and 1724. Previously, he had presented an act to a pastiche, Tito Manlio. Still in Rome, he exchanged ideas with Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni and worked with him on several concertos and an impressive volume of violin performances in London whose evidence was stored in Ottoboni’s library. In 1723, he was allocated the job of supplying the municipality with two pieces of orchestra music every month. Furthermore, he was also in charge of directing several rehearsals of his own concertos while in Venice. His composing skills made Vivaldi a valuable asset to the school mainly because they were unable to recruit him as a permanent teacher because of his regular journeys. During this period, Vivaldi’s relationship with the contralto Anna Girò started. Ann started as his singing student who featured prominently in the 1748 operas art in Venice. At this stage, Vivaldi toyed wit the idea of including acting as a dominant part of his stage performances. This was evident in the changes made by Goldoni after Vivaldi maintained that his pupil was unable to deliver the Griselda libretto because of her limitations. Therefore, from 1718 to 1728, Vivaldi toured within Europe as a music composer, impresario, and artists. These concertos and collaborations with other instrumentalists increased his status greatly.


Vivaldi presented a myriad of eccentric behaviors as man and an artist that triggered adversity and controversy in his lifetime. His pride was infamous: he bragged about his fame and his confidence in composition, going as far as saying that he was able to write all the parts of the concerto faster than it could be duplicated. This crated a large number of artistic enemies. However, he was readily acknowledged by his peers because of his violin skills rather than for his ability to compose music. One of his admirers, Goldoni, categorized him as an “excellent violinist but a mediocre composer”. These sentiments were also echoed by Uffenbach’s who noted that Vivaldi’s ending to an operatic aria displayed his expertise on the violin. These industrial-wide comments discouraged Vivaldi and eventually, he abandoned song composition. Most of his original compositions were defective particularly in harmony and authenticity. In conclusion, Antonio Vivaldi was a famous artist who originated from Italy during the early 18th century. His main area of specialty was in the creation and performance of instrumental concertos that incorporated percussion, strings, and wind instruments.

George Frederic Handel

George Frederic Handel was a classical musical set composer originated from Germany and based in England during the period between 1600 and 1750. Handel worked closely with his German peer, Johann Sebastian Bach although Bach will be addressed in the next section. His music was a reflection of the peak of musical genres during the Baroque Era. Handel’s mainstay was operas and oratorios that were written for theatrical purposes. The most popular of his work is Messiah, although he also contributed greatly towards the development of instrumental music. Messiah is divided in three sections. In all these three sections, Handel displayed a broad range of feelings through his composition. Regardless of the expression of happiness, grief, or terror and enthusiasm that originated from a staged situation, Handel held the capacity to compose music that could understand those feelings. The composer’s overwhelming comfort with oratorios has a tendency of outshining his capacity in other genres of music. His main area of interest was Italian-style operas. He also composed melodious scores that had solo instruments. The common approach across all of Handel’s music is his capacity to merge a rich diversity of sounds that are still popular in the current generation. This eclectic aspect in Handel allowed him to combine aspects of German, English, French, and Italian musical culture to enrich his own music. This habit of borrowing different genres was planted by his first instructor, Zachau.

Handel’s Music Style

The most common style used by Handel was a concerto grosso that comprised of a song written for soloists and the orchestra. The vocalists and the ripieno were occasionally played together, but more frequently, they were played in a manner that opposed each other. In 1720, Handel composed a series of six pieces of music based entirely on string instruments. The most popular one in this cluster was Concerto Grosso in B flat major, Op.3, and No.2. In this concerto, the free form is comprised of two oboes and a single bassoon that ushered in the melody or theme. All through the piece, this tune is transferred onto the layered instruments and morphed into diverse variants. Although Handel did contribute towards the creation of this style, he reinforced it by adding a level of complexity. One of Handel’s arguably creative masterpieces for organ and orchestra, “The Cuckoo and the Nightingale” consisted of a second movement that was similar to a bird’s call. This concerto sheds light on Handel’s creativity that involved the usage of previously composed music in newer compositions. Significant aspects of Handel’s Concerto Grosso Op. 6, No.9, and Trio Sonatas Nos. 5were evident in many other concertos by the same artist.

Collection of Musical Experience across Europe

Handel began studying music alongside Friedrich Wilhelm while in church and then relocated to Hamburg in 1703. Here, he started playing his first instrument, the violin, at an opera orchestra but after a year, he had progressed into music composition and even released Almira, his debut opera. The move into song composition turned Handle towards a genre that take up the biggest chunk of his creative life. In 1706, Handel relocated to Italy, the origin of opera, and from there, visited the rest of Europe including Venice, Naples, and Florence. In this transition period, he wrote numerous volumes of cantatas that contained a combination of voice and ambiences in intimate contexts, and oratorios that were mostly random, dramatic creations for vocalists such as The Resurrection. He also wrote his foremost unquestionably spectacular Italian composition, Agrippina. Handel returned to his hometown in 1710 and was appointed court composer in Hannover. In the 1720s, Handel was dismissed as a court composer. Consequently, he had gone to London to work as an opera director and part-time composer. This represented his most productive stage in his musical career, an achievement marked by the launching of the Royal Academy of Music in England. The academy was sponsored by the royal family and the political elite strictly for Italian opera production. This new vocation exposed Handel to the greater Europe where he was sent on assignment to employ talented singers. Apart from writing and directing opera productions for the Royal Academy of Music, Handel also established his own school in 1720 alongside Giovanni Porta. However, due to mismanagement and financial issues, it was closed in 1728. A notable period in Handel’s existence as an opera composer is his time in England. Handel composed a wide variety of English oratorios in 1732, after a successful restoration of Esther in the same year. By 1740, he was writing an average of two operas annually. There was a massive difference between Handel’s operas and oratorios. One, his oratorios were presented in concert, devoid of costumes, backdrops, or props, and were significantly cheaper to produce. While his Italian operas were ordinarily inspired by ancient history, folklore, or heroic poems for their schemes, Handel’s English manuscripts for the oratorios were mostly based on Hebrew text. Two, oratorio incorporated repetitive singing of text with slight instrumentals and aria. However, the arias in Handel’s concertos were straightforward and less ornate compared to those in the operas.


Handel’s principal contribution to classical music unquestionably was his spectacular oratorios. Even though the music type was already established in the 17th century, Handel’s English oratorio emerged as a new invention of a genre that was characteristically identified by its alluring choruses. His effect on subsequent generations is most evident in the oratorio’s history: Handel’s Messiah represents one of the remaining 18th-century works that is still circulating with performance circles and the public in the current era. Subsequent oratorios done by composers such as Felix Mendelssohn and Josef Haydn would be unachievable without Handel’s contribution. He was similarly a pacesetter in the field of instrumental music. His organ concertos alongside Bach’s concertos are some of the initial pieces of music that included keyboard as the main instrument. Even though Handel’s concertos and opera seria were absent for the greater part of the early 18th-century, successful restorations ensured that the musical and theatrical success of Handel’s compositions remain celebrated. During the 18th century, people were submissive, industrious, and staunch followers of Christianity. Making decisions based on individual preferences was a habit that was frowned upon. This helps in explaining the lack of support from Handel’s family members concerning his musical career. With the experience and age, Handel increasingly became a skillful composer and sought to use music as a channel for social change. In particular, his music addressed the regressive cultural elements in 18th century Europe. This type of classical music was not readily accepted by society since most of them failed to comprehend the connection between secular activities and sacred ones. The biggest single source of opposition for Handel’s work originated from the Catholic clergy. This phenomenon may assist in explaining why Handel’s music failed to grasp a strong footing in Rome. Despite his long residence in Italy, he only composed two operas over a period of nearly three years. During this period, it was illegal to play opera in Rome, a decree that was issued by the Pope. The 18th century artists including Handel managed to circumvent this obstacle by composing their music in an operatic genre, but referring to their works as either cantatas or oratorios. After concerted pressure across several European countries, Handel settled for religious topics in many of his compositions, and this increased the number of opera patrons since his oratorios held an acceptable theme. This genre change contributed to a renewed liking for Handel’s religious music as well as other forms of artistic expression and music. Messiah done in 1741 is a classical example of Handel’s artistic worship.

Johann Sebastian Bach

Bach’s Style of Music

Bach’s musical style emerged from his expertise in contrapuntal innovation and motivic manipulation, his finesse for creativeness, and his contact with art from North Germany, France an Italy, and his dedication to the Christian religion. Throughout his travels, Bach interacted with different musicians, created diverse scores, and played almost all the instruments during his childhood. This combination of experiences and activities allowed him to build an assorted, lively musical style that borrowed many foreign elements and a strengthened form of the German musical language. The year bewteen1713 and 1714, Bach learned the fundamentals of Italian style of music. In the Baroque period, many writers composed the framework, and left the job of decorating the music with instruments and other actors to performers. This habit was absent in Bach’s work who chose to notate the greater part of his melodic lines and this made his work popular among performers since they had an easier task of interpolation. This is the reason why Bach had greater control over the tight contrapuntal textures. It also reduced the freedom for spontaneous variation of Bach’s melodies. Simultaneously, Bach was flexible enough to leave the melodic tunes of primary works such as The Art of Fugue open. Bach’s stanch connection with the Christianity in the Lutheran belief was responsible for setting sacred music as the main genre in his repertory. Most of Bach’s sacred works contained an expansive structure that exhibited the delicate, complicated planning. For example, the St Matthew Passion contained a several recitatives, chorales, choruses, and arias. Bach’s inspiration to demonstrate his musical accomplishments came out in his keyboard sets. Bach compositions were focused on exploring the scope of technical and creative boundaries that existed in diverse genres. The most renowned manifestation of Bach pushing the limits of a genre is The Well-Tempered Clavier, in which every fugue exhibited a diversity of fugal and contrapuntal methods.

Collection of Musical Experience across Europe

Much of Bach’s musical experiences were collected with Germany and this greatly explains the lack of variety in his compositions. After school, Bach became the court musician in Weimar and made regular trips to visit Dietrich Buxtehude, a renowned organist and songwriter. He took up a similar job at Mühlhausen in 1708 but later on relocated to Köthen from 1717 to 1723. In Köthen, he was given more leeway to compose his own songs including secular ones such as Die Zeit. AT this stage, he fully embraced the genre that was dance music. In Leipzig, Bach was in charge of teaching music to students and composing a cantata for the Sunday church services. His experiences at Weimar, Köthen, and Leipzig were influential in polishing his skills as a music teacher, opera director, and composer.

Reputation and Character

Bach’s works were popular for their intellectual profundity, technical dominion, and creative splendor. Common examples of his work include Brandenburg concertos, The Well-Tempered Clavier, the St Matthew Passion, the Magnificat, the Sonatas, and Partitas. Bach’s capabilities as an instrumentalist were highly valued across Europe during his existence, even though he was not extensively acknowledged as a talented composer until music lovers in the 19th century made deliberate effort to revive classical music.

Ludwig van Beethoven

Beethoven’s Style of Music

Beethoven is generally categorized as a significant contributor to the consolidation of classical music in Europe. In his time, Beethoven was universally acknowledged as a talented composer. In summary, his innovative style combined the Romantic and Classical eras. His contribution during the early period elevated the Classical form to its utmost expressive height. He achieved this feat by expanding the harmonic, structural, and formal aspects of his precursors Bach and Haydn. During his middle and late periods, Beethoven became more polished in his composing and performance skills.

Collection of Musical Experience across Europe

On his tours across Europe, Beethoven was in the company of Prince Lichnowsky. His artistic travels took him across Leipzig, Dresden, Prague, and Berlin and in all these cities, he wrote new songs and performed them with much acclamation. The greater part of his lifetime was in Prague, where he had a massive following facilitated by his companion, Lichnowsky. He also spent a significant period in Berlin, the city where two cello sonatas were composed. Beethoven was notorious for merging virtuoso cello and piano elements successfully, a difficult undertaking given that the two instruments are designed and played differently. In 1796, Beethoven’s journey brought him back to Vienna, after which she went on another trip to Bratislava and Pest. Beethoven’s initial compositions illustrated his efforts to grasp the current classical style particularly the structure. Two works done by Beethoven after the Vienna tour displayed the change in style. In the later periods of Beethoven’s artistic development, he perpetuated a trend of preferring large orchestras. This change in outlay had the effect of lowering the sound downwards in the building. His music style also changed in that the lower notes in the violins and cellos felt heavy and gloomy compared to other contemporaries. In particular, his pieces separate themselves from others developed by earlier composers through developing enormous, extensive architectonic structures, a feat that was achieved using modulation. Beethoven’s novelty lay in the ability to create solidity in layering different keys and unanticipated notes to join them quickly.

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