Every half term at St. Urban's, we focus on a separate period of musical history- all the way back from the 12th Century up to the modern day! Take a look at our timetable of musical history below:
As part of each period of musical history, we will learn about and listen to the music of three key composers of the era. These are also listed on the above document.
The period called 'Baroque' in music history extends roughly from 1600 to 1750. Baroque music is tuneful and very organized and melodies tend to be highly decorated and elaborate. Conflict and contrast between sections in a piece and between instruments are common, and the music can be quite dramatic.
Johann Sebastian Bach was born in Eisenach, Germany in 1685. As a child, Bach's father taught
him to play violin and harpsichord. Johann Sebastian Bach died in 1750. Bach was not appreciated during his own lifetime and was considered an "old-fashioned" composer. Today, Bach is considered to be one of the most influential composers of all time. In fact, he is now such an important composer that the year of his death is a
defining point in music history. It marks the end of the Baroque Era.
Antonio Vivaldi was born on March 4, 1678 in Venice, Italy. Antonio's father, Giovanni Battista, a barber before becoming a violinist, taught young Antonio to play the violin and then toured Venice playing the violin with him.
Vivaldi's music is joyful, almost playful, revealing his own joy of composing. In addition, Vivaldi was able
to compose non-academic music which means it would be enjoyed by many people rather than just college professors. It was these qualities that made Vivaldi's music very popular.
Vivaldi's The Four Seasons, composed in 1723, is a set of four concertos for violin. It is his most popular work and is among the most popular works of the Baroque Era. For this composition he wrote sonnets to match each season.
George Frideric Handel was born on February 23, 1685 in the North German province of Saxony in the
same year as Baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach. George's father wanted him to be a lawyer even
though music captivated his attention. His mother, however, supported his interest in music and he was
allowed to take keyboard and music composition lessons. His aunt gave him a harpsichord for his
seventh birthday which Handel played whenever he had the chance.
In the summer of 1717, Handel premiered one of his greatest works, Water Music, in a concert on the
River Thames. The concert was performed by 50 musicians playing from a barge positioned closely to the royal barge from which the King listened. It was said that King George I enjoyed it so much that he requested the musicians to play the suite three times during the trip!
By 1740, Handel completed his most memorable work- the Messiah. It is said that when the king first heard the "Hallelujah Chorus" he rose to his feet. This tradition continues today.
'Renaissance' is the French word for 'rebirth'. The period of music history from around 1400 to the early 1600s that coincided with a revival of interest in art, architecture, literature, and learning throughout Europe. With this period, a new, more complicated type of music was born. This music featured a far broader range of harmonies and structures.
Although music in the Renaissance period was still mainly written for use in churches, towards the later end of this era, music was no longer just written with a religious focus but dramatic works and the very first operas.
Thomas Tallis was one of the greatest early English composers who was born in Kent in 1505.He was a Catholic, and remained so, even though this was not allowed by some Tudor kings, such as Henry VIII. Most of his music was, for this reason, written for the church. Almost all of his music was written for singing voices- with no instruments playing at all. In fact, one of his most famous pieces, 'Spem alium' is written in 40 parts, meaning you need at least 40 voices to sing it!
For the last ten years of his life, Thomas and another key composer of this period, William Byrd, were the only composers who were allowed to print music in England!
William Byrd was a famous English Renaissance composer who studied music with Thomas Tallis. He had seven children and was organist and choirmaster of Lincoln Cathedral. William became the favourite composer of Queen Elizabeth 1 and was, for this reason, allowed to be the only composer, along with Thomas Tallis, to publish music in England.
Byrd was a hard-working composer who worked tirelessly on songs and organ pieces for the church. He later composed works for violin groups and dances. In his later years, William was still working hard, making sure his collection of compositions were preserved and published in new editions.
Claudio Monteverdi was born in Cremona in Italy and he was composer of some of the very first operas. Claudio Monteverdi began his musical life as a choir boy. He studied music and published several books of his compositions when he was very young- some of his most famous books
of music were published when he was only 20! At age 23, Monteverdi was hired by the Duke of Mantua, Italy to serve as a string player in his court. Soon, he took a very prestigious job as the music director at St. Mark's Cathedral in Venice, Italy. He worked at St. Mark's Cathedral for the rest of his life.