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 Welcome to's Guide to Musical Periods

For detailed listings of composers and their repertoire discover more  here:

Medieval Repertoire     Renaissance Repertoire   Baroque Repertoire

Classical Repertoire  Romantic Repertoire   20th Century Repertoire   Modern Repertoire

On this page you will see a musical timeline that details important events in the history of music and their artistic and politcal context. What was going on in the world at the time a composer was writing often had a huge effect on the music produced. 


Clicking on the period names will allow you to learn more about a particular stage of music    history. The Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and 20th Century periods will also give some listening suggestions and have an accompanying playlist.


MedievalRenaissanceBaroque | Classical | Romantic | 20th Century


800      Charlemagne becomes “Holy Roman Emperor”                                 

c850    Musica enchiriadis treatise on polyphony written (includes earliest surviving pitch notation)          

c1000  Winchester Tropers manuscript

1071    Williaim IX, Duke of Aquataine born. 1st known Troubadour, writes poetry and music

1095    1st crusade called for by Pope Urban II

c1163  Leonin (composer) born (writes Magnus Liber Organi to provide polyphony for full liturgical year at Notre Dame)

1170     Murder of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury

1200    Perotin (composer) flourishes at Notre Dame

1215    Magna Carta signed in England

c1291  Philippe de Vitry (composer) born

1316    Roman de Fauvel, a long satirical poem with musical inserts, is completed.

1337    Hundred Years War begins

1348    Plague appears in England

c1400   Dufay (Franco-Flemsih composer and singer) born.

c1430  Ockeghem (composer) born. Founder of 2ndNetherlands School        

c1449  Josquin Despres (composer) born

1450    Guttenberg develops the printing press

1487    Wars of the Roses end

1492    Colombus discovers the New World

1503    ‘Mona Lisa’ painted by Leonardo da Vinci

c1525  Palestrina (Italian composer) born

1542    Orlando di Lasso (Flemish composer) born.

1545    Council of Trent, a force for Counter-Reformation begins. Attempts to restrict modernity of music.

1557    Giovanni Gabrieli (Italian composer) born. Organist at St. Mark’s Venice from 1585

1558     Reign of Elizabeth I begins in England

1567    Claudio Monteverdi (Italian composer) born in Cremona.

1600    Peri’s Euridice, one of the 1st operas, performed in Florence           

1600-1 William Shakespeare writes Hamlet  

1618    Thirty Years War engulfs Western Europe

1637    1st public opera house opens in Venice

1640    English Civil War begins

1653    Arcangelo Corelli, Italian composer of Concerti Grossi, is born

1659    Henry Purcell (English composer) born.

1666     Stradivari signs the label of his 1st violin

1678    Antonio Vivaldi (Italian composer and priest) born

1683    Jean-Philippe Rameau (French composer) born

1685     J S Bach (German composer) born  

            G F Handel (German/English composer) born

1688    William of Orange ascends to English throne

1714    C P E Bach (composer and 3rd son of JS Bach) born

            Christophe Gluck (German composer) born                

1727    J S Bach writes St. Matthew Passion

1732    Joseph Haydn (German composer) born

1750    J S Bach dies                                                                                               

1756    Seven Years War between Prussia and Britain, and France, Russia and Austria begins

     Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Austrian composer) born   

1759    G F Handel dies

1770    Ludwig van Beethoven (German composer) born

1776     American Declaration of Independence signed 

1786    Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro 1st performed in Vienna

1789    French Revolution begins with storming of the ‘Bastille’

1791    Mozart dies

            Thomas Paine’s The Rights of Man published

1797     Franz Schubert (German composer) born  

1803    Hector Berlioz (French composer) born

1804    Napoleon becomes Emperor of the French

1809    Felix Mendelssohn (German composer) born

1810    Robert Schumann (German composer) born

            Frédéric Chopin (Polish composer) born

1813    Richard Wagner (German composer) born

            Giuseppe Verdi (Italian composer) born                                                       

1815     Battle of Waterloo, defeat of Napoleon and Congress of Vienna  

1824    Beethoven’s 9th Symphony 1st performed

1827    Beethoven dies

1833    Johannes Brahms (German composer) born

1837    Queen Victoria ascends to British throne

1840     Peter Tchaikovsky (Russian composer) born  

1841    Antonín Dvorak (Bohemian composer) born

1844    Turner’s Rain, Steam, and Speed painted

1848    Revolutions in Europe  

1854    Crimean War begins

1857    Edward Elgar (English composer) born

1859    Darwin’s On the Origin of Species published

1860     Gustav Mahler (Austrian composer and conductor) born 

1861    American Civil War begins

1862    Claude Debussy (French composer) born

1864    Richard Strauss (German composer) born

1865     Jean Sibelius (Finnish composer) born 

1870    Franco-Prussian War begins

1872    Ralph Vaughan Williams (English composer) born

1873    Sergei Rachmaninov (Russian composer) born

            Monet’s ‘Impression, Sunrise’ painted

1874    Arnold Schoenberg (Austrian composer) born

            Charles Ives (American composer) born

1875    Maurice Ravel (French composer) born

1876     1st complete performance of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen takes place over 4 nights 

1881    Bela Bartok (Hungarian composer) born

1882    Igor Stravinsky (Russian composer) born

1887    Emile Berliner invents the gramophone 

1889    Mahler’s 1st Symphony and Strauss’ Don Juan mark dawning of musical modernism

 Van Gogh’s Sunflowers painted

1891    Sergei Prokofiev (Russian composer) born                                         

1897    Erich Korngold (Austrian composer) born

1901    Death of Queen Victoria, accession of Edward VII

1905     1st performance of Debussy's La Mer 

1906    Dimitri Shostakovich (Russian composer) born

1908    Olivier Messiaen (French composer) born

1912    Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloe 1st performed by the Ballet Russes

            RMS Titanic sinks on her maiden voyage

1913    Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring 1st performed by the Ballet Russes

   Benjamin Britten (English composer) born 

1914    World War One begins

1917    Russian Revolution overthrows Tsar Nicholas II

1918    World War One ends. Treaty of Versailles

1922    James Joyce’s Ulysees and T.S Eliot’s The Waste Land are published

1924    Poulenc’s Les Biches 1st performed

1925    Pierre Boulez (French composer and conductor) born

1927     The Jazz Singer, the 1st film with a soundtrack, revolutionises cinema 

1928    Stravinsky’s ballet Apollo 1st performed

            Krenek’s Jonny spielt auf, the 1st opera to use Jazz, is premiered

1934    Peter Maxwell Davies (English composer) born

1936    Shostakovich’s opera The Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District is banned

1939     Hitler’s Germany invades Poland sparking World War Two

1945    Cold War begins as World War Two ends with dropping of atomic bombs on Japan

1946    Stravinsky’s Symphony in 3 movements 1st performed

1949    Messiaen’s Turangalila Symphonie 1st performed

  1953 Deaths of Stalin and Prokofiev on the same day   

            1st performance of Shostakovich’s 10th Symphony

1957    The Soviet Union launches Sputnik and starts the space race

            Stockhausen completes composition of Gruppen

1960    Krzysztof Penderecki composes his Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima

1962    Cuban Missile Crisis

            Britten’s War Requiem 1st performed in the new Coventry Cathedral

1963    John F. Kennedy assassinated

1969     Neil Armstrong walks on the Moon 

1971    Stravinsky dies

1975    Shostakovich dies

1979    Prototype Compact Disc system demonstrated in Europe and Japan

1987    John AdamsNixon in China 1st performed in Houston

1990    American composer Aaron Copland dies

1991    Dissolution of the USSR

1992     American experimental composer John Cage dies

1994    Polish composer Witold Lutoslawski dies