What did the 18th Century Listen to?

Classical Music, of course! But we’re not talking about music as it pertains to the Western instrumental style typical from the sixteenth century onwards. Think the Classical Period.

Situated between the Baroque and Romantic Periods, this new style spans from 1750 to 1820 and is a reflection of a resurging interest in Classicism, ie. antiquity and in particular, all things Grecian. Opera and vocal performances still reign supreme in the early part of the century, but more increasingly, music events give witness to concertos and symphonies as interludes between vocals and later, as seperate performances altogether.

What to listen for? The piano replaces the harpsichord, woodwinds become a self-contained section, and the orchestra grows in size and range. In contrast to the heavy ornate quality of the Baroque period, the music is lighter, varied, and clear.

But that’s enough with the wiki regurgitation. Let’s imagine ourselves in the music room . . .

18th Century Music Room, Chateau de Canisy in Normandy

I like those chairs.  They look like peppermint sticks my grandmother used to buy me for Christmas. 

Oh, and look.  A harp.  Based on the plethora of musical women in paintings around this period, if we were indeed in an 18th century music room, I’m guessing we could listen to this lady, probably playing horribly.  She doesn’t look too enthusiastic. 

Maybe her capacious skirts are weighing her down?  Methinks even my strong husband wouuld struggle to walk in all that fabric!

Countess of Eglinton, 1777, Sir Joshua Reynolds

And now, for your listening pleasure, provided you are in a theater like the one here . . .

Theatre Royal, Covent Garden

You could be listening to Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven (also of the latter period, Romantic), two Bachs, Schubert, Gluck (Marie Antoinette’s favorite), Salieri, and many others.  To explore a fuller list, see here. 

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