Classical Music Timeline

Classical Music History

Instruments Through the Ages

Composers and Masterworks
The Middle Ages and the Renaissance
The Baroque Era
The Classical Era
The Romantic Era
The Romantic Legacy
The Modern Age

The Middle Ages and the Renaissance
  Adam De La Halle
Agricola Alexander
Agricola Martin
Amati Andrea
Ammerbach Elias

Arbeau Thoinot

Arcadelt Jacques
Beaujoyeulx Balthasar
Binchois Gilles
Busnois Antoine
Byrd William
Cabezon Antonio
Calvisius Sethus
Cavalieri Emilio
Ciconia Johannes
Costeley Guillaume
Desprez Josquin
Dowland John
Festa Costanzo
Firenze Giovanni
Forster Georg

Gabrieli Andrea
Gabrieli Giovanni
Gaffurius Franchinus
Galilei Vincenzo
Gesualdo Carlo
Gibbons Orlando
Hildegard von Bingen
Hofhaimer Paul
Infantas Fernando
Isaac Heinrich
Janequin Clement
Judenkunig Hans
Landini Francesco
Lassus Orlande
Machaut Guillaume
Marenzio Luca
Morley Thomas
Negri Cesare
Obrecht Jakob
Ockeghem Johannes

Padova Marchetto
Paumann Conrad
Penalosa Francisco
the Great
Perugia Matteo
Reuenthal Neidhart
Rore Cipriano
Schlick Arnolt
Senfl Ludwig
Tallis Thomas
Taverner John
Tomkins Thomas
Vecchi Orazio
Ventadorn Bernart
Verdelot Philippe
Victoria Tomás
Walter Johann
Wert Giaches
Willaert Adrian

see also:

Orff  "Carmina Burana"



Jan Van Eyck
The Ghent Altarpiece


In the Middle Ages western Europe was divided into a patchwork of kingdoms but shared a common religion and a rigidly hierarchical society. During the twelfth and thirteenth centuries the increasing power of the Church brought conflict between popes and secular rulers, and papal authority was seriously weakened. The later Middle Ages was a time of unrest, marked by an exhausting war between England and France, the ravages of the Black Death, and the rebellion of peasants against their lords. The sixteenth century marked a turning point, as the Protestant Reformation ended the dominance of the Catholic Church and began an era of religious wars. The new nation-states began the acquisition of vast empires, extending European influence throughout the globe.

The soaring spires of the Romanesque and Gothic cathedrals were the supreme architectural achievements of the age, and it was the cathedral schools that gave birth to the universities. Although learning and the arts were devoted to the glorification of God, there was also a strong current of non-religious literature, including the Arthurian romances and masterpieces such as Dante's Divine Comedy and Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. The invention of printing in the mid-fifteenth century ensured the rapid spread of ideas from the dawning Renaissance, during which artists such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo looked back to ancient Greece for inspiration and brought the human figure into their work.

During the eleventh and twelfth centuries music became increasingly elaborate. At Notre Dame in Paris, church composers created harmony by adding new melodic lines to Gregorian plainchant. Secular music also flourished as troubadours sang of the joys and sorrows of love. Spurred on by the work of Ockeghem and Josquin Desprez the musical evolution gathered pace until by the sixteenth century it had reached new heights, exemplified by the vocal music of Lassus in Italy and Byrd in England.

For people living during the period from 1100 to 1600, and even earlier, life contained a great deal to tear. Shortages of food and money, constant fighting, illness and disease, and political instability posed ever-present threats. The one constant factor was religion. The Church stood at the centre of people's lives, and of their everyday rituals of existence: it was powerful, rich, and the provider to many. A close association between religion, music, and all other significant aspects of culture was therefore entirely natural.

Pre-medieval culture

Early music used regularly in religious services was committed to memory, in the oral tradition, and was passed down through the centuries in this way, until notation was devised to record it in the
ninth century. The word "mousike" comes from ancient Greece, where music played a vital role. The body of musical ideas evolved by the Greeks (among them Plato, Aristotle, and Pythagoras) formed the basis for music's development in western Europe in later times, after Greek culture was transmitted throughout the west by the Romans. Instruments used in ancient Greece included lyres and flutes, which were generally used in songs to accompany poetry. The absence of instruments in early western Christian music can be partly understood as a reaction against their perceived pagan origins. Christianity spread through the Roman Empire, and by the fourth century AD was the official religion. The Church grew in influence as it established land ownership and wealth. Many people were disillusioned with the material nature of prosperous Roman society, and this led to the development of the first monasteries, dedicated to self-denial and religious worship. Christianity in its Orthodox form was growing in the east (around present-day Greece and Turkey). Rome and the west suffered continual turmoil, but the eastern part of the Empire remained intact. This became the Byzantine Empire, with Constantinople (Istanbul) as its capital: it was to flourish for the next thousand years.

During the "Dark Ages" (the name given by Renaissance thinkers to the Middle Ages (c. 1000-1400 ad] and before), the vital classical heritage of the ancient Greeks was safeguarded in the eastern Empire. In the west, as the Roman world declined, monasteries provided the only safe haven for classical knowledge and arts. Against a general backdrop of unrest and insecurity, they were more than just secure retreats. As they accumulated gifts from devout followers, they became rich and substantial land-owning bodies, who could commission work from the best architects, artists, sculptors and composers. They became the main patrons of the arts. Except in Italy, they were virtually the only providers of schools and education. Altogether, it is not surprising that culture was strongly flavoured by religion.

Jan Van Eyck
The Ghent Altarpiece (detail)


Early Christian music

Early Christian music was characterized by various types of chant, with different places developing their own styles. Ambrosian chant grew up in Milan, named after the fourth-century Bishop Ambrose who first recorded them; Spain and France evolved separate bodies of liturgical (church-service) music. It was the church music of the city of Rome, however, that laid the substantial foundations on which later western music was built. The many traditional chants (called PLAINCHANT or PLAINSONG) were gathered into an ordered system by Pope Gregory I in the sixth century, and hence are often referred to as Gregorian chant. This collection became the standard music of the Roman Catholic Church. In the ninth century the repertory began to develop and expand, with extra material - both words and music - being incorporated into the chants to give a richer, more complex sound. A radical new concept was also gradually introduced into music at this time, which would further enrich it as well as take it in a dramatic new direction that would last for centuries. The new style was known as polyphony, and was distinguished by its use of several separate musical lines (contrasting with the single line of plainchant). The main form of early POLYPHONY was ORGANUM.

PLAINCHANT or PLAINSONG Sung chant that accompanied the services and Offices of the Christian Church from earliest times. It consisted of a single line of text and melody, sung by a single voice (the priest) or by several voices in unison (the choir).

POLYPHONY Greek, "many-sounded." The style of music that developed from increasing the number of independent melodic lines from one (as with chant) to two, three or even four, giving greater depth and complexity. The style evolved over many centuries, flourishing from the 13th to the 16th.

ORGANUM Form of early polyphony, mainly choral but sometimes accompanied by the organ. Initially, the separate musical lines moved in parallel and in the same rhythm. As the style evolved, the lower voice (tenor) retained the basic, stable plainchant melody while the other parts moved more freely above it, allowing room for some rhythmic inventiveness. Later still, the upper parts even used non-religious texts, which the Church appears to have accepted provided that the sacred music of the tenor line was not obscured. Organum reached its most developed state with Perotin in the 12th century.


Jan Van Eyck
The Ghent Altarpiece (detail)


The Holy Roman Empire

On Christmas Day in the year 800, Charlemagne, King of the Franks, was crowned Emperor of the Romans by Pope Leo III. This revival of the Roman imperial title, which had not been used in western Europe since the fifth century, heralded the birth of what would come to be known, much later, as the Holy Roman Empire. This vast, shifting, political and military empire would stretch for a thousand years across what are now, broadly, modern-day Germany, northern Italy, and part of France. Its chief lands were mostly German, and its ruler was usually the German king. Throughout the Middle Ages the ruling dynasty was closely allied with the Roman papacy in its leadership of Christian Europe; a political and religious alliance that accentuated the increasing gap between the western and eastern (Byzantine) sides of the Roman Empire. Not long into the eleventh century, there was a fatal deterioration in the relationship between the western Church of Rome and the eastern Orthodox (Byzantine) Church. In 1054 a state of schism was declared and the two increasingly went their separate ways. In the ninth and tenth centuries a revival occurred in the classical arts, encouraged by the Emperor Charlemagne at the Frankish court and subsequently by the Ottoman German Emperors (whose dynasty followed that of Charlemagne). In the late eleventh century a new style in architecture and manuscript illumination reached its pinnacle in western Europe. Known as Romanesque (because of its indebtedness to the classical Roman past), this movement fused local traditions with Roman, Germanic, and Byzantine influences. Resulting from a widespread religious revival at this time and seen most dearly in the building of monasteries and churches, the style touched on all the decorative arts of the period, and was characterized by a confidence and grandeur in buildings, and exuberant freedom in monumental sculpture.

Jan Van Eyck
The Ghent Altarpiece (detail)


Medieval Europe: the expansion of culture

By the twelfth century, society in western Europe was becoming more complex and more cultured. As teachers set up schools separate from the monasteries (for example, those attached to new cathedrals such as Chartres in northern France), they created new opportunities for education. Opportunities outside the Church also increased; art, architecture, music and literature began to expand to meet wider needs. An era was dawning that would see universities appear and courts become influential patrons. Yet, for music and all the arts, the patronage of the Church remained vital.

Romanesque was superseded towards the mid-twelfth century by Gothic, the second major European art movement of the Middle Ages, lasting several hundred years. Gothic architecture used the principle of converging arches, with ornate stone ceilings and vast decorated windows. After the heavy Romanesque style, the Gothic constructions, with their slim columns and tremendous sense of height, were truly buildings of celebration. Their proportions and their very fabric amplified sound — a special inspiration to composers, who developed techniques to fill the space with glorious, soaring music.

The Notre Dame school of music

The church of Notre Dame in Pans now became the main centre of musical influence m western Europe. The great Gothic cathedral was commissioned in 1160 to replace the old Romanesque building; it took 80 years to build, during which time much sacred polyphonic music was composed. The French poet and musician Leoninus, a canon of the cathedral, wrote his Magnus liber organi (Great Book of Organum), a major collection of material for the church year. His successor, Perotin, took the work further, expanding the organum form (adding, for example, aspects of rhythm taken from secular — non-religious — music), as well as creating new forms. It was at the Notre Dame school that the MOTET (essentially a composition for more than one voice) developed, encouraged in large part by Perotin's innovations.

MOTET A polyphonic composition, initially based on plainchant, classically in three parts. Each part was sung at a different speed and using different words, not always Latin (the language of the Church). At first religious, by the 13th century it had adapted to secular functions too. In later medieval times the motet was the main form of musical composition, often accompanied by the organ.


Jan Van Eyck
The Ghent Altarpiece (detail)


Secular music: the troubadour tradition

The development through the Middle Ages of liturgical, as opposed to secular, music was relatively well documented. Secular music, though not chronicled in the same way, had certainly been evolving alongside sacred music: the twelfth century saw a fully formed tradition emerge in France. The Church was a wealthy patron, but the aristocracy was even wealthier; the difference lay in the fact that the aristocracy placed less emphasis on learning. The standards and beliefs of secular culture were seldom set down in writing until the twelfth century, when the use of vernacular (native language) literature began to increase, and members of the upper classes became more typically able to read. This was the era of the Crusades, of chivalric ideals, of courtly life. The world of chivalry was one where knightly valour, gallantry, loyalty, and courtesy were of the utmost importance. The new royal and princely courts of the age required noblemen to show as much prowess on the dance floor as on the hunting field, in courtly love as in battle; to express themselves as ably through poetry, languages, and music as through the arts of war and sport.

It was against this background that the secular music of medieval France developed. The early performers were minstrels (jongleurs or menestrels) who went from village to village eking out a living by providing very basic entertainment. From these emerged troubadours (trouveres in northern France), poet-composers who belonged to the nobility and performed songs about courtly love and the political and moral issues of the day. In Germany, musicians known as Minnesinger flourished, performing a similar function (these were superseded by the more widely known Meistersinger). Doubtless there were corresponding movements in England, Spain, and Italy, but little documentation survives. The music of the troubadours was MONOPHONIC (as opposed to the more sophisticated polyphony of the new religious music) and relatively limited in scope, but innovations included the evolution of many formal, structured patterns. Such forms included the BALLADE and RONDEAU; both influenced composers of sacred polyphony.

MONOPHONY Greek, "single-sounded." The use of a single melody in a piece of music, a style dominant before, but not totally supplanted by, the development of polyphony.

BALLADE and RONDEAU Forms of medieval polyphonic song (poetry set to music), the rondeau using sections of words and music that recurred. (These are not the same as the later piano ballade or the 17th-century rondo.)


Jan Van Eyck
The Ghent Altarpiece (detail)


Social and musical developments

Towns now developed rapidly across Europe, with a corresponding growth in agriculture. Fine buildings housed universities at centres of learning such as Bologna, Oxford, Cambridge, and Paris in the early thirteenth century, and Prague and Heidelberg in the fourteenth. While papal power remained strong, the power of the monasteries was being steadily usurped by the new city centrepieces - the cathedrals — which were in turn creating their own schools of learning, such as at Lyons and Chartres.

Musically, by about 1250 the importance of organum and its related forms was declining, and for the next 50 years the medieval motet dominated both secular and liturgical worlds. From 1150 until as late as 1300, new and old liturgical music stood side by side, and historians have christened the period Ars Antiqua (old art) - as distinct from the important Ars Nova (new art) movement that followed. A remarkably rich anthology of music covering this period survives to this day in a manuscript of the satirical poem Le roman de Vauvd (The story of Fauvel). The collection contains some of the earliest known examples of Ars Nova, five songs by the French composer Philippe de Vitry on courtly love.

The Ars Nova movement, which exerted an influence on music over several centuries to come, derived its name from a tract written by Vitryin the early fourteenth century. His treatise set out the theories of music notation and harmony that were the innovative developments of his day. It was Guillaume de Machaut, however, who was the most important Ars Nova composer. He dominated both in sheer volume of work and in the further development of the motet and polyphonic songs that characterized the movement, replacing the restrictive plainchant and organum ot Ars Antiqua with greater freedom of rhythm and a new complexity in multi-part songs.


Jan Van Eyck
The Ghent Altarpiece (detail)


Religious and political upheaval

Following a period of tending with the Italian nobility and cardinals, in 1309 the papal court moved from Rome to the Provencal city of Avignon. There it remained until 1377, increasingly subject to French influences. On the court's return to Rome, such unrest was generated that in 1378 dissenting cardinals established a rival pope. For the next 30 years, in a period of church history known as the Great Schism, two popes contested the leadership of Christendom, and the papal reputation suffered severe damage. In England, early religious discontent was sown by the reformer John Wyclif, who - a century ahead of his time - rejected papal power and circulated extracts of the Bible translated from Latin into English so ordinary people could understand.

In northern Europe, a series of conflicts known as the Hundred Years War raged between France and England from about 1337 to 1453. Оn top of continual warring and religious unrest, fourteenth-century Europe also suffered a crisis brought on by famine and disease. Populations, weakened by a succession of bad harvests, were decimated by waves of plagues like the Black Death, which recurred throughout the century and, indeed, the centuries to come. Survivors were gripped by a deep-seated tear of having in some way offended God: this led to witch-hunts against any suspect groups. The spectre of heresy became a dark and lasting undercurrent of the age. Artistically, although this was a period of revival, a strong stream of pessimism persisted, shown in such specific themes as the Dance of Death.

However, such dramatic depopulation did have some positive results, eventually including better wages, improved diets and, not least, a rapid end to serfdom.

Humanism and the Renaissance

In Italy, where the musical centre of the time was Florence, the poet Petrarch was developing his Humanist ideals. These he based on an enthusiasm for the classical civilization of ancient Rome, which he considered the high point of human creativity. It was Petrarch who first suggested that the entire thousand-year period preceding his own was an age of darkness. His own time, he believed, was barbarous; a revival of classical learning was essential to produce any improvement in society. His views corresponded with a tremendous surge of energy in the creative arts. The Humanist convictions, together with the rise of a new style of painting and sculpture, marked the start of the powerful Renaissance movement that predominated in Italy. This movement

exerted a dramatic influence across Europe in the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries and beyond. Renaissance art looked back to the classical age for its inspiration, embracing both secular and religious themes. It celebrated individual human potential, and used innovative techniques like perspective in painting. Many of the great Renaissance artists, such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, were also skilled scientists, architects, engineers, and poets.

From 1384 to 1477 the state of Burgundy was dominated by four powerful and politically astute dukes, and became the most prosperous area of northern Europe, assuming a position of great prominence. It is generally accepted that the Renaissance in music began here. The Burgundian dynasty was the focus of northern Europe's intellectual, artistic, and musical activity throughout the first half of the fifteenth century. The court provided patronage for the cream of Europe's creative talent, including artists like Jan van Eyck, and composers such as Guillaume Dufay, who, though French, had strong links to Italy. John Dunstable and others brought new musical techniques from England that strongly influenced the Burgundian style. The Mass became increasingly important as a sacred musical form in its own right. Meanwhile secular music saw the evolution of CHANSONS (three-part songs) and freer forms than had been usual in Ars Nova. These songs - typically secular but also religious - were often accompanied by instruments such as the medieval harp, the lute, the flute, and the organ.

Influences from the court of Burgundy extended much wider afield m the second half of the fifteenth century. Musical emphasis became concentrated on what is known as the Franco-Flemish school. The name reflects the dominance of musicians from the affluent and relatively stable Low Countries, rather than the geographical position of the school, which was not tied to one location. These musicians travelled through Europe, both absorbing and spreading stylistic innovations, and were greatly in demand at aristocratic courts. Three composers stand out particularly: Johannes Ockeghem, Jacob Obrecht , and Josquin Desprez. They and their peers developed the techniques that formed the basis for much sixteenth-century music and continued to influence later developments. The Franco-Flemish were not restricted by the three-voice writing common in Burgundian music: they wrote for four voices (what we would now call soprano, alto, tenor, and bass), allowing for more variety of rhythm and a wide range of expression.

CHANSON Generally a secular song in three parts, one sung, the others instrumental. Flourished in the 15th and 16th centuries.


Religious dissent and the Reformation

The new musical techniques spread swiftly as a result not only of the peripatetic nature of the Netherlands musicians, but also of the invention of printing in the mid-fifteenth century. It is almost impossible now to conceive of the power of this invention; its impact must have been akin to the sudden advent of television in the twentieth century. The first printing press appeared in the German town of Mainz in 1450, and printing proliferated rapidly across Europe; in 1501 publication of printed music commenced. For the first time, information could be easily, cheaply, and widely dispersed among a public increasingly hungry for knowledge.

The newfound power to inform catered well to the upper classes, as they absorbed themselves in the classical concepts of the Renaissance. It also fed the rising discontent within the Catholic Church, and ultimately influenced the start of the Protestant Reformation. In 1517 the German Augustinian monk and theologian, Martin Luther, published his dissatisfaction with many of the Church's ways. This dramatic move led three years later to his excommunication, after which he rejected the authority of the Pope altogether. Luther's protest was spread by preachers and also, significantly, by the newly powerful printed word. In a similar movement in Geneva, John Calvin succeeded in his attempts at reforming both the Church and the government. Calvinists went on to lead the reform movement later in the sixteenth century (although being against the Catholic Church did not necessarily mean being in sympathy with other reformers).

In 1534, the Tudor monarch Henry VIII broke with the Church of Rome, thus heralding the start of the English Reformation. In 1558, following the brief reigns of Edward and Mary, Elizabeth I came to the throne, and a year later she formally established the Church of England, with the monarch at its head. Under her reign the arts flourished. Many-European artists and musicians were attracted to the English court by its religious tolerance and independence from Rome. In this way important cultural influences arrived from the continent, adding to the glories of the Elizabethan golden age.


Italy: the High Renaissance

The Renaissance was now at its peak. Italy, the preeminent cultural centre of Europe at this time, consisted of separate city-states. Of these, Mantua and Ferrara maintained independent, flourishing princely courts; Naples and Milan fell into invaders' hands. Venice flourished spectacularly, and developed a reputation for the splendour of its ceremonies. Florence was held in the grip of the powerful Medici family, who exerted considerable influence in Italy and were patrons of such extraordinary talents as Michelangelo, Botticelli, and Leonardo da Vinci. Feast days and celebrations were great events, often based on classical myth, with music incorporated to complement the visual presentations and pageants. Italy was especially important in musical terms during the sixteenth century. Music was an indispensable social art, and composers relished the freedom of the secular forms in which they could experiment. New techniques developed with almost astonishing swiftness, aided by the ease (via printing) with which they could now be dispersed, as well as by the general mood of excitement and adventure across all the arts. A new harmonic system began to evolve in secular music, which would supplant the system used until then. The madrigal (a refined expression of poetry set to music) flowered in this period, especially at the end of the century, when the form grew more complex with five or six voice parts. It was enthusiastically embraced in Elizabethan England, which also saw the emergence of the ayre, a solo-voice song with an instrumental (often lute) accompaniment. Madrigals caught on less in France: in their place emerged the polyphonic chanson, a form in which the music was essentially fitted to the rhythm of the poetic text. Religious music experienced fewer radical developments, but was nonetheless affected by the changes taking place in secular music. The Mass and the motet remained the principal forms of sacred vocal music, but variants evolved with the influence of the new secular techniques. Sacred polyphony reached its height with the great composers Palestrina and Lassus. The Reformation also had an effect on church music, leading to new forms of music for Protestant worship, including the anthem in England and psalm tunes in Calvinist areas.



Madrigal, form of vocal chamber music that originated in northern Italy during the 14th century, declined and all but disappeared in the 15th, flourished anew in the 16th, and ultimately achieved international status in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. The origin of the term madrigal is uncertain, but it probably comes from the Latin matricale (meaning “in the mother tongue”; i.e., Italian, not Latin). The 14th-century madrigal is based on a relatively constant poetic form of two or three stanzas of three lines each, with 7 or 11 syllables per line. Musically, it is most often set polyphonically (i.e., more than one voice part) in two parts, with the musical form reflecting the structure of the poem. A typical two-stanza madrigal has an AAB form with both stanzas (AA) being sung to the same music, followed by a one- or two-line coda (B), or concluding phrase, the text of which sums up the sense of the poem.

Florence, where a new style of lyric poetry influenced the madrigalists, produced the greatest madrigal composer of the 14th century, Francesco Landini. His madrigals, along with those of his contemporaries Giovanni da Cascia, Jacopo da Bologna, and others are found in the Squarcialupi Codex, a famous illuminated manuscript.

During most of the 15th century, Italian music was dominated by foreign masters mainly from northern France and the Netherlands. In the late 15th century, however, the native tradition of music and poetry was revived by noble patronage in Florence and Mantua. The Florentine carnival song and the Mantuan frottola (a type of secular song) were important forerunners of the 16th-century madrigal.

The 16th-century madrigal is based on a different poetic form from its precursor and was characteristically of higher literary quality. It included not only settings of poems called madrigals but also settings of other poetic forms (e.g., canzone, sonnet, sestina, ballata). The poetic form of the madrigal proper is generally free but quite similar to that of a one-stanza canzone: typically, it consists of a 5- to 14-line stanza of 7 or 11 syllables per line, with the last two lines forming a rhyming couplet. The favourite poets of the madrigal composers were Petrarch, Giovanni Boccaccio, Jacopo Sannazzaro, Pietro Bembo, Ludovico Ariosto, Torquato Tasso, and Battista Guarini.

Unlike the 14th-century madrigal, the musical style of the new madrigal was increasingly dictated by the poem. Early in the century the madrigal more closely resembled the simple, homophonic or chordal style of the frottola. But under the influence of the polyphonic style of Franco-Flemish composers working in Italy, it became more contrapuntal, using interwoven melodies; accordingly, the text was less syllabically declaimed. Both of these early styles are represented among the works of the first generation of 16th-century madrigal composers: Costanza Festa, Philippe Verdelot, Jacques Arcadelt, and Adrian Willaert. Important works by Festa and Verdelot appear in the first printed book of madrigals (Rome, 1530).

Willaert and his pupil Cipriano de Rore (d. 1565) brought the madrigal to a new height of expression through their sensitive handling of text declamation and the introduction of word painting. Emotional words such as “joy,” “anger,” “laugh,” and “cry” were given special musical treatment but not at the expense of continuity. Another Willaert pupil, Andrea Gabrieli, was one of the creators of the Venetian style, in which polychoral effects and brilliant contrasts of musical texture are characteristic. Perhaps the greatest madrigal composer of the 16th century was Luca Marenzio, who brought the madrigal to perfection by achieving a perfect equilibrium between word and music. Later in the century, composers like Don Carlo Gesualdo, prince of Venosa, subjugated the music entirely to the text, leading to excesses that eventually exhausted the genre.

Although the madrigal was popular outside Italy, the only country to develop a strong native tradition was England. In 1588 Nicholas Yonge published Musica Transalpina, a large collection of Italian madrigals in English translation. Thomas Thomas Morley, the most popular and Italianate of the Elizabethan madrigalists, assimilated the Italian style and adapted it to English taste, which preferred a lighter mood of poetry and of music. Other English madrigalists include John Wilbye, Thomas Weelkes, Thomas Tomkins, and Orlando Gibbons.


The Counter-Reformation

As the Reformation gained influence over religious thought, the Catholic Church reacted by convening; the Council of Trent with the intention of reforming from within. The Council met in three sessions between I54I and 1563; but the results merely further polarized the factions and enshrined the differences between Catholic and Protestant doctrines. An era of artistic repression ensued, when the Council condemned what it saw as creeping corruption within the arts, music included. It banned the depiction of sensuality and anything that could be considered blasphemous. Under its decree, music was expected to be pious and to celebrate religion: the purity of works such as those by Palestrina was encouraged.

Discoveries and changes

Sixteenth-century Europe had seen kings establishing themselves firmly as absolute sovereigns over their lands, commanding vast armies and resources. Nations embarked on ambitious expeditions, fuelled by a lust for conquest that was epitomized by the Spanish discovery of the New World and the riches that poured from it. King Charles I of Spam ruled over an immense empire, but much of the wealth he gained from the Americas was lost in continual wars against France, Germany, the Turks, and Barbary pirates in the Mediterranean. Despite the various wars, this was a century of unprecedented growth in Europe, as populations increased and cities flourished. Maritime expansion had encouraged trade, and new methods of production were starting to transform agriculture. Access to printing accelerated cultural and political changes, and fostered the great rise in strength of social groups other than the traditionally powerful hereditary aristocracy — the middle classes.

By the end of the sixteenth century, the divisions within organized religion were accentuated by a combination of the strong secular movement linked to Humanism and the Renaissance, and the rapid social changes that were taking place across Europe and beyond. Through the efforts of its Counter-Reformation, the Catholic Church was recovering some of the power and impetus that had been drained away by the spread of Protestantism; yet several forms of Protestant religion had by now firmly established themselves, particularly the Calvinists, Lutherans, and the Church of England. In common with all aspects of cultural life, music continued to evolve. The preceding centuries had seen the dramatic developments of the Ars Nova movement and the almost incredibly rapid evolution of new musical techniques. The turn of the century would prove to be another remarkable turning point in the history of music.

Jan Van Eyck
Last Judgment

Additional Composers

Although the church was the chief sponsor of music in ancient times, the "Carmina Burana"a thirteenth-century collection of songs about gambling and drinking — shows that other concerns were given voice. Carl Orff 's famous tipdated version of the songs was first performed in 1937.

Also outside the direct influence of the church in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries was the work of the troubadours, a scattered company of singers and poets ranging from serfs and tradesmen to royalty (including Richard the Lionhcart), who sang of courtly love, chivalry and adventure. Prolific composers such as southern French Bernart de Ventadorn (c.1130—c. 1190) and Andjaufre Rudel (mid-twelfth century) provided a somewhat more sophisticated entertainment than the minstrels who frequented sumptuous medieval banquets and jousts.

Germany too had its courtly singers in the shape of the Minnesinger, a tradition that Wagner later drew on in Die Meistersinger von Niimberg. In Italy the first flowering of secular music came in the fourteenth century when composers such as Francesco Landini (c. 1325-1397) and the Belgian Johannes Ciconia (r. 1336 —1412) composed madrigals, chansons, and dancing-songs, often to texts by great writers such as Dante Alighien, Petrarch, and Boccaccio.

Medieval music from the British Isles abounds m splendours, including the Worcester fragments and carols such as Sinner is icumen iu. At the end of the fifteenth century it reached a peak with the collection of sacred works called the Uton Choirbook, containing music whose soaring lines are the aural equivalent of the Perpendicular style of architecture in cathedrals such as Canterbury, Winchester and York Minster.

Although Victoria would sum up the robustness, richness, and earthiness of Spanish Catholicism later in the sixteenth century, the country's earlier musical heritage — both sacred and theatrical — was boldly painted by the composers Juan del Encina (1468-1529), with songs such as Mas vale que trocar and Fata la parte, and Francisco de Penalosa (c. 1470-1528), with liturgical music such as the Mass Niunica fue репа mayor.

Throughout western Europe, music-making was always at the forefront of society's concerns: only today are we learning of similar achievements in Latin America, Scandinavia, and eastern Europe.


see below:

Padova Marchetto
Paumann Conrad
Gaffurius Franchinus
Agricola Martin
Amati Andrea
Forster Georg
Ammerbach Elias Nikolaus
Beaujoyeulx Balthasar

Limburg Paul, Jean and Herman

Léonin (also Leoninus, Leonius, Leo) (1151 — d. ? 1201) is the first known significant composer of polyphonic organum.
He was probably French, probably lived and worked in Paris at the Notre Dame Cathedral and was the earliest member of the Notre Dame school of polyphony and the ars antiqua style who is known by name.
The name Léonin is derived from "Leoninus," which is the Latin diminutive of the name Leo; therefore it is likely that Léonin's given French name was Léo.

All that is known about him comes from the writings of a later student at the cathedral known as Anonymous IV, an Englishman who left a treatise on theory and who mentions Léonin as the composer of the Magnus Liber, the "great book" of organum. Much of the Magnus Liber is devoted to clausulae—melismatic portions of Gregorian chant which were extracted into separate pieces where the original note values of the chant were greatly slowed down and a fast-moving upper part is superimposed. Léonin might have been the first composer to use the rhythmic modes, and maybe he invented a notation for them. According to W.G. Waite, writing in 1954: "It was Léonin's incomparable achievement to introduce a rational system of rhythm into polyphonic music for the first time, and, equally important, to create a method of notation expressive of this rhythm."

The Magnus Liber was intended for liturgical use. According to Anonymous IV, "Magister Leoninus (Léonin) was the finest composer of organum; he wrote the great book (Magnus Liber) for the gradual and antiphoner for the sacred service." All of the Magnus Liber is for two voices, although little is known about actual performance practice: the two voices were not necessarily soloists. According to Anonymous IV, Léonin's work was improved and expanded by the later composer Pérotin. See also Medieval music. The musicologist Craig Wright believes that Léonin may have been the same person as a contemporaneous Parisian poet, Leonius, after whom Leonine verse may have been named. This could make Léonin's use of meter even more significant.

Leoninus. Alleluya. Paraclitus Spiritus Sanctus

Jan Van Eyck
The Ghent Altarpiece (detail)
Marchetto da Padova

Marchetto da Padova (Marchettus of Padua; b. 1274?; fl. 1305 – 1319) was an Italian music theorist and composer of the late medieval era. His innovations in notation of time-values were fundamental to the music of the Italian ars nova, as was his work on defining the modes and refining tuning. In addition, he was the first music theorist to discuss chromaticism.

Most likely he was born in Padua. Little is known about his life, but he is recorded as being music teacher for the choirboys at the cathedral in Padua in 1305 and 1306, and he left Padua in 1308 to work in other cities in the Veneto and the Romagna. His two major treatises seem to have been written between 1317 and 1319, shortly before Philippe de Vitry produced his Ars nova (c. 1322), which gave its name to the music of the age. Marchetto indicated in the treatises themselves that he wrote them at Cesena and Verona. There are no other reliable records of his life, although his fame was evidently widespread, and his work became hugely influential later in the 14th century.

Only three motets have been reliably attributed to Marchetto, one of them due to his name appearing as an acrostic in the text for one of the parts (Ave regina celorum/Mater innocencie). Based on another acrostic in the same motet, it seems it was composed for the dedication of the Scrovegni Chapel (also known as the Arena Chapel) in Padua on March 25, 1305.

  Writings and influence
Marchetto published two major treatises, the Lucidarium in arte musice plane (probably in 1317–1318), and the Pomerium in arte musice mensurate (probably 1318).

He also published an abridged version of the Pomerium as the Brevis compilatio, though the date of this is not known. He stated in the Pomerium that he wrote it while staying at the house of Raynaldus de Cintis in Cesena, who was lord of the city from 1321 to 1326, however most scholars believe that the Pomerium was written in 1318.

The meanings of the two titles are; Lucidarium - an encyclopaedic clarification and Pomerium, the verge or enclosure around the orchard of Rome.

Precise dating of his work has been important to musicology because of the controversy over whether he was influenced by the innovations of the French ars nova, as written by Philippe de Vitry and Jean de Muris in the 1320s, or whether the influence went the other way.

Most likely Marchetto's work was first, although he was well aware of the French practice – which, like most innovations in music before the 20th century, was only discussed in writing years after the actual musical innovation took place. All of the treatises except for the abridged version are in a heavily scholastic framework, and were almost certainly collections of oral teachings.
Marchetto's innovations are in three areas: tuning, chromaticism, and notation of time-values. He was the first medieval writer to propose dividing the whole tone into more than two parts. A semitone could consist of one, two, three, or four of these parts, depending on whether it was, respectively, a diesis, an enharmonic semitone, a diatonic semitone, or a chromatic semitone.

In the area of time values, Marchetto improved on the old Franconian system of notation; music notation was by this time evolving into the method known today where an individual symbol represented a specific time-value, and Marchetto contributed to this trend by developing a method of compound time division, and by assigning specific note shapes to specific time values. Additionally, Marchetto discussed the rhythmic modes, an old rhythmic notation method from the 13th-century ars antiqua, and added four "imperfect" modes to the existing five "perfect" modes, thus allowing for the contemporary Italian practice of mixed, flexible and expressive rhythmic performance.

  The Lucidarium also included one of the earliest texts addressing the relationship between composer – Marchetto used the word musician, borrowing from Boethius's definition in De institutione musica libri quinque – and performer. He set a distinct hierarchy, defining the "musician" or composer as the artist making judgements in accordance with his learned knowledge, while describing the singer as the instrument on which the musician performs, and likening their relationship to that of the judge and the crier.

Marchetto's treatises were hugely influential in the 14th and early 15th centuries, and were widely copied and disseminated. The Rossi Codex, which is the earliest surviving source of secular Italian polyphony and which contains music written between 1325 and 1355, shows obvious influence of Marchetto, especially in its use of his notational improvements.

Without the innovations of Marchetto, the music of the Italian Trecento – for example the secular music of Landini – would not have been possible.

Marchetto da Padova - Ave corpus sanctum
Paumann Conrad

Conrad Paumann (c. 1410 – January 24, 1473) was a German organist, lutenist and composer of the early Renaissance. Even though he was born blind, he was one of the most talented musicians of the 15th century, and his performances created a sensation wherever he went. He is grouped among the composers known as the Colorists.

He was born in Nuremberg to a family of craftsmen. His musical ability must have become apparent early, for he received an excellent training with the support of aristocratic patrons. In 1447 he became the official town organist of Nuremberg, and the councilors even issued orders for him not to leave without their permission.

Being as rebellious as he was talented, he left what was probably a stifling environment, and went secretly to Munich in 1450, where he was immediately employed by Duke Albrecht III as court organist, who also gave him a house. Munich was officially his home for the remainder of his life, although he began to travel extensively.

While exact records of his travels do not remain, they were clearly extensive, and everywhere he went he was greeted with astonishment; his renown as a performer and composer grew. Milan and Naples both made him attractive job offers.

His travels in Italy were probably around 1470, when the Milanese Sforza family was beginning to build their chapel into the most impressive singing and composition establishment in Europe: Josquin des Prez, Loyset Compère, Alexander Agricola and others were all there; some of them may have heard him play, and may have exchanged musical ideas with him.

In Mantua he was knighted; in Landshut he performed for the Burgundian duke Philip the Good; in Ratisbon he performed for Emperor Frederick III. During this time he also had numerous students. Unquestionably his influence had much to do with the subsequent development of a culture of organ-playing and
  composition in Germany, a tradition which culminated in the 18th century with the work of J.S. Bach.

Paumann's epitaph in the Munich Frauenkirche reads:

"Anno 1473, on the evening of St. Paul's conversion died and was here buried the most ingenious master of all instruments and music, Cunrad Pauman [sic], knight, born blind at Nuremberg, God have mercy upon him."

Conrad Paumann's gift, his disability, his instrument, and his influence are all reminiscent of Francesco Landini, the great Italian composer of a hundred years before.

Music and influence
Paumann, being blind, never wrote down his music, and may have been an improvisor above all. He has been credited with inventing the system of tablature for the lute in Germany; while it cannot be proven, it seems reasonable both because of Paumann's influence, and because of the ease with which music can be dictated using tablature.

Most of his music is instrumental, and some of it considerably virtuosic. Only one vocal composition survives, a tenorlied Wiplich figur for three voices; stylistically it is so close to the contemporary Franco-Flemish idiom that it follows that Paumann knew the music of the Franco-Flemish composers. Most likely he encountered it on his travels, for instance when he went to Milan.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Conrad Paumann - Mit ganczem willen wünsch ich dir - Spinetta - Virginal
Paumann - "Mit ganczem Willen"

Gaffurius Franchinus (1451-1522)

Franchinus Gaffurius (Franchino Gaffurio; January 14, 1451 – June 25, 1522) was an Italian music theorist and composer of the Renaissance. He was an almost exact contemporary of Josquin des Prez and Leonardo da Vinci, both of whom were his personal friends. He was one of the most famous musicians in Italy in the late 15th and early 16th centuries.

Portrait of a Musician by Leonardo Da Vinci, possibly Franchinus Gaffurius.
He was born in Lodi to an aristocratic family. Early in life he entered a Benedictine monastery, where he acquired his early musical training; later he became a priest. Later he lived in Mantua and Verona before settling in Milan as the maestro di cappella at the cathedral there, a position which he accepted in January 1484.

During the previous decade the Sforza family, using the composer Gaspar van Weerbeke as a recruiter, had built the choir at their chapel in Milan into one of the largest and most distinguished musical ensembles in Europe: composer-singers such as Alexander Agricola, Loyset Compère and Johannes Martini had all been employed there. While the membership of the choir at the Milan cathedral was mostly Italian, the cross-influence between his choir and the group at the Sforza chapel was significant. Gaffurius retained the post at the cathedral for the rest of his life, and it was in Milan that he knew both Josquin des Prez and Leonardo da Vinci.

Gaffurius was widely read, and showed a strong humanist bent. In addition to having a thorough understanding of contemporary musical practice, he met composers from all over Europe, since he had the good fortune to be living and working at one of the centers of activity for the incoming Netherlanders. His books have a pedagogical intent, and provide a young composer with all the techniques necessary to learn his art.

The major treatises of his years in Milan are three: Theorica musicae (1492), Practica musicae (1496), and De harmonia musicorum instrumentorum opus (1518)

The second of these, the Practica musicae, is the most thorough, proceeding through subjects as diverse as ancient Greek notation, plainchant, mensuration, counterpoint, and tempo. One of his most famous comments is that the tactus, the tempo of a semibreve, is equal to the pulse of a man who is breathing quietly—presumably about 72 beats per minute.

Gaffurius wrote masses, motets, settings of the Magnificat, and hymns, mainly during his Milan years. Some of the motets were written for ceremonial occasions for his ducal employer; many of the masses show the influence of Josquin, and all are in flowing Netherlandish polyphony, though with an admixture of Italian lightness and melody. His music was collected in four codices under his own direction.

A page from Theorica musicae.
Franchino Gaffurio - Kyrie
Jan Lundgren piano, keyboards
Lars Danielsson bass, cello
The Gustaf Sjökvist Chamber Choir
from Magnum Mysterium, 2007
Agricola Martin (1486-1556)
Martin Agricola, original name Martin Sore, Sore also spelled Sohr (born Jan. 6, 1486, Schwiebus, Silesia [now in Poland]—died June 10, 1556, Magdeburg, Archbishopric of Magdeburg [Germany]), composer, teacher, and writer on music, one of the first musicians to concern himself with the needs of the Reformed churches and to publish musical treatises in the vernacular.
  Agricola was self-taught, called to music “from the plough,” as his chosen surname suggests. He worked at Magdeburg from roughly 1519 and by 1527 became choirmaster at the first Protestant school there, a position he held for the remainder of his life. He published several treatises on music theory, most notably his Musica instrumentalis deudsch (1529).

Much of the German musical vocabulary that he invented is still in use. His books give a valuable picture of the musical life of his time, particularly his descriptions of early 16th-century musical instruments.

His printed volumes include sacred music and many instrumental pieces that are transcriptions of vocal part-songs. Unfortunately, most of his unpublished compositions are lost.
Amati Andrea (ca. 1505-1578)

Andrea Amati was a luthier, from Cremona, Italy. Amati is credited with making the first instruments of the violin family that are in the form we use today.
Several of his instruments survive to the present day, and some of them can still be played. Many of the surviving instruments were among a consignment of 38 instruments delivered to Charles IX of France in 1534.

According to a biography by Robert Hargrave Amati was one of the top candidates scholars have advanced for the "inventor of the violin." The two other candidates he named were Fussen born in a region now part of present day Germany. The other candidate he named was Gasparo' da Salo from Brescia.

The violin-like instruments that existed when Amati began his career only had three strings. Amati is credited with creating the first four stringed violin-like instrument.

Laurence Witten also lists Amati and Gasparo' da Salo, as well as Pellegrino de' Micheli, also from Brescia; as well and Ventura di Francesco de' Machetti Linarol, of Venice.

Andrea Amati's two sons, Antonio Amati and Girolamo Amati were also highly skilled violin makers, as was his grandson Nicolò Amati, who had over a dozen highly regarded apprentices, including Antonio Stradivari and Andrea Guarneri.

Violin, Andrea Amati (ca. 1505-1578), Cremona, ca. 1559 Ex. 1
Forster Georg

Georg Forster (ca. 1510 – 12 November 1568) was a German editor, composer and physician.

Forster was born at Amberg, in the Upper Palatinate. While a chorister at Elector Ludwig V’s court in Heidelberg around 1521, he was a colleague of Caspar Othmayr who would also become a composer of renown. Forster received his first instruction in composition from the Kapellmeister Lorenz Lemlin. He died at Nuremberg.
Georg Forster - Frische teutsche Liedlein
Ammerbach Elias Nikolaus (1530 – 1597)
Elias Nikolaus Ammerbach (c. 1530 – January 29, 1597) was a German organist and arranger of organ music of the Renaissance. He published the earliest printed book of organ music in Germany and is grouped among the composers known as the Colorists.
He was born in Naumburg, educated at the University of Leipzig (1548–49), and was afterwards employed as organist at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, probably for the rest of his life. He was married three times (his first two wives died). According to the preface of his 1571 publication of organ tablature he traveled to foreign lands to study, but he gave no specifics.

Ammerbach developed a method of music notation for keyboard playing, known as tablature, which was specifically adapted for organ. His method became known as the "new German organ tablature" and involved letter notation for the pitches with rhythmic symbols placed above.
  It is not known if Ammerbach was himself a composer; if he was, he did not sign his music. His publications of music in tablature include arrangements of numerous composers popular in the mid-16th century, including Ludwig Senfl, Heinrich Isaac, Josquin des Prez, Clemens non Papa, Orlande de Lassus, and others; Lassus is particularly well represented, as can be expected both because of his extraordinary fame and his presence in Germany (he was in Munich between 1563 and 1594). Most of the secular music in Ammerbach's collections is printed with German titles, while sacred music retains Latin. In his last publication (1583) he includes a considerable quantity of Italian madrigals arranged for keyboard.
Passamezzo Nova by Elias Ammerbach on the Hautptwerk Krewerd organ
Beaujoyeulx Balthasar

Balthazar de Beaujoyeulx, also spelled Balthasar De Beaujoyeux, Italian Baltazarini Di Belgioioso (born 16th century, Piedmont region, Italy—died 1587, Paris, France), composer and choreographer who influenced the development of theatrical dance and opera.

In 1555 the Duke de Brissac brought Beaujoyeulx to the French court of Queen Catherine de Médicis as a violinist. He became valet de chambre to the royal family and unofficially arranged court festivals.

For the marriage of the Queen’s sister, Marguerite de Lorraine, to the Duke de Joyeuse, Beaujoyeulx staged the Ballet comique de la reine, a 5 1/2-hour spectacle costing 3,600,000 gold francs. Presented on Oct. 15, 1581, the ballet portrayed the vanquishing of Circe by the King of France. Considered the first ballet of which there is a complete printed account, it included poetry, spoken dialogue, singing, and orchestral music as well as dance. Beaujoyeulx’s choreography, performed by members of the court, incorporated overall structural patterns and a geometric arrangement of the dancers; these innovations contributed to the development of theatrical dance. As a precursor of opera, which developed about 20 years later in Italy, the work was unique among court entertainments in that it was unified by a plot. It also contained passages of sung recitative accompanied by simple chords, a style fully developed (with more emotional power) in the early Italian operas.

Although its tremendous cost prohibited repeat performances of the Ballet comique de la reine, imitative and similar ballets were later produced, particularly after the publication of the ballet’s libretto in 1582. Its impact was diplomatic as well as aesthetic, and monarchs of other lands hastened to emulate it with lavish court ballets of their own that, a century later, would metamorphose into the beginnings of professional ballet.

Encyclopædia Britannica
Engraving of the first scene of the Ballet Comique de la Reine
Beaujoyeulx: Ballet comique de la reine, La petite entree


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