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Composers & Styles

These lists are not at all complete. However, they do contain the most important names and some of unusual interest.

Eras / Styles


Folk song or music is now a style. Originally it referred to relatively simple music, passed on by aural tradition and therefore co-existing in many versions. Typically the date of composition and the author were unknown. Early (primitive) examples are often based on the pentatonic scale.

Medieval (pre 1400)

In music, this is approximately anything datable (ie non-folk) and before the renaissance.

Renaissance (1400-1600)

This period of "rebirth" applied to all arts including music. There was a rediscovery of ancient Greek and Roman ideas. Typical composers: Dunstable & Dufay.

Baroque (1600-1750)

This was originally an elaborate architectural style. In the 18th century it became a derogatory term ("weird / grotesque") for music of the post-renaissance period. It referred to the complex & abstract construction with heavy orchestration & ornamentation. The Baroque period overlaps that of the contrasting Rococo style which followed. Typical composers: Monteverdi, Purcell & J.S.Bach.

Rococo (1720-1770)

This was originally an allusion to fancy rock-work in art & architecture. The musical style was decorative & light - a deliberate rejection of the heavier Baroque. Typical composers: Couperin & Telemann.

Classical (1770-1830)

This term has been broadened by music publishers to mean anything that isn't some sort of folk, rock or pop etc. Originally the Classical period implied a contrast with the Romantic one that followed and overlapped it. The former style is aesthetic while the latter is emotional. Typical composers: Haydn, Mozart & Beethoven.

Romantic (1800-1900)

Music of this period is much more emotional in content than previous styles. It followed but overlaps the Classical period. Typical composers: Weber & Chopin.

Rag / Ragtime (1890 to 1920)

Ragtime music became popular at the end of the 19th century. It started in America with the ex-African population. Its main feature is a syncopated rhythm. Syncopation had been used in music long before, but this time it was connected with a dance style. Typical composers: Joplin.

Blues (1911+)

The Blues as a distinct style started in about 1911. Its main features are a scale with flattened 3rd and 7th and deep emotional content - largely depression! 12-bar blues use a repeated chord sequence of: I, I, I, I, IV, IV, I, I, V, IV, I, I. Most of these triads would have the minor seventh added. There is also typically a lyric sequence of: phrase, repeat, rhyming phrase (ie a 3-line stanza).

Jazz (1914+)

The derivation of the word is uncertain, but the Jazz style started about 1914. It is light-hearted & abstract, deriving more from rag-time than blues. The main feature is improvisation but this can become excessive. In the extreme, jazz loses all melody and harmony and turns into non-music. However, soft jazz is almost like the classical style in not sounding dated. In the 1940s it led to Swing music.

Latin (? 1920+)

The name refers to Latin America (ie ex-Spanish & Portuguese) not to the Romans. Latin music includes many complex dance rhythms but usually very limited harmonies. Despite its lively style, minor chords are often used.

Rock 'n' Roll (1940+)

This style started about 1940 but had spread round the world by 1950. The early forms were called Rhythm & Blues or Swing. The music usually has a strong quadruple rhythm. It derives mostly from the Blues - inheriting its 12-bar chord sequence. However, it is usually much more upbeat in tempo and emotional content, like its Jazz ancestor. There are also Country influences.

Pop (1960+)

Short for popular, pop music started around 1960. It is a descendant of Rock 'n' Roll that is much lighter, having folk influences. There are numerous sub-types.

Rock (1970+)

This is a descendant of Rock 'n' Roll that is much heavier (in style and instrumentation). There are sub-types, eg Heavy Metal.

Country & Western

These are descendants of colonial American folk music with Blues influences. Honky-Tonk is another sub-division.

Composers (Chronological)

1385-1453 Dunstable, J.
13??-1474 Dufay, G.
1543-1623 Byrd, W.
1563-1626 Dowland, J.
1565-1640 Farnaby, G.
1571-1621 Praetorius, M.
1583-1625 Gibbons, O.
1583-1643 Frescobaldi, G.
1632-1687 Lully, J-B.
1653-1706 Pachelbel, J.
1653-1713 Corelli, A.
1659-1695 Purcell, H.
1668-1733 Couperin, F.
1670-1738 O'Carolan, T.
1671-1750 Albinoni, T.
1678-1741 Vivaldi, A.
1681-1767 Telemann, G. P.
1683-1764 Rameau, J. P.
1685-1750 Bach, J. S.
1685-1757 Scarlatti, D.
1685-1759 Handel, G. F.
1692-1770 Tartini, G.
1694-1772 Daquin, L. C.
1710-1778 Arne, T.
1714-1787 Gluck, C. W.
1714-1788 Bach, C. P. E.
1732-1809 Haydn, F. J.
1735-1782 Bach, J. C.
1743-1805 Boccherini, L.
1752-1832 Clementi, M.
1756-1791 Mozart, W. A.
1770-1827 Beethoven, L.
1782-1837 Field, J.
1782-1840 Paganini, N.
1786-1826 Weber, C. M.
1792-1868 Rossini, G.
1797-1828 Schubert, F.
1803-1869 Berlioz, H.
1804-1857 Glinka, M. I.
1809-1847 Mendelssohn, F.
1810-1849 Chopin, F.
1810-1856 Schumann, R.
1811-1886 Liszt, F.
1811-1896 Thomas, A.
1813-1883 Wagner, R.
1813-1901 Verdi, G.
1819-1880 Offenbach, J.
1819-1895 Suppé F.
1822-1890 Franck, C. A.
1823-1892 Lalo, E.
1824-1884 Smetana, B.
1824-1896 Bruckner, A.
1825-1899 Strauss, J. Jr.
1829-1894 Rubinstein, A. G.
1833-1887 Borodin, A.
1833-1897 Brahms, J.
1835-1921 Saint-Saëns, C.
1836-1891 Delibes, L.
1837-1915 Waldteufel, E.
1838-1875 Bizet, G.
1839-1881 Mussorgsky, M. P.
1840-1893 Tchaikovsky, P. I.
1841-1904 Dvorak, A.
1842-1912 Massenet, J. E. F.
1843-1907 Grieg, E.
1844-1908 Rimsky-Korsakoff
1844-1908 Sarasate, P.
1845-1924 Faure, G.
1854-1932 Sousa, J. P.
1857-1934 Elgar, E.
1860-1909 Albéniz, I.
1860-1911 Mahler, G.
1861-1908 MacDowell, E.
1862-1918 Debussy, C.
1862-1934 Delius, F.
1864-1949 Strauss, R.
1865-1935 Dukas, P.
1865-1957 Sibelius, J.
1866-1925 Satie, E.
1868-1917 Joplin, S.
1872-1958 Vaughan-Williams
1873-1943 Rachmaninoff
1874-1934 Holst, G.
1875-1937 Ravel, J. M.
1875-1956 Glière, R.
1875-1962 Kreisler, F.
1879-1936 Respighi, O.
1879-1962 Ireland, J.
1880-1959 Bloch, E.
1881-1945 Bartok, B.
1882-1949 Turina, J.
1882-1961 Grainger, P.
1882-1967 Kodaly, Z.
1882-1971 Stravinsky, I.
1891-1953 Prokofieff, S.
1895-1963 Hindemith, P.
1896-1989 Thomson, V.
1898-1937 Gershwin, G.
1900-1990 Copland, A.
1902-1983 Walton, W.
1903-1978 Khachaturian
1906-1975 Shostakovich
1910-1981 Barber, S.
1913-1976 Britten, B.
1924-1994 Mancini, H.

Composers (Alphabetical)

Albéniz, Isaac 1860-1909. Spanish pianist and composer of Spanish music, including a Tango. Also piano music (eg Iberia), operas and songs.
Albinoni, Tomaso 1671-1750. Italian violinist and composer of concerto grosso works and operas.
Arne, Thomas 1710-1778. English composer of operas, stage music and songs (eg Rule Britannia).
Bach, Carl Philipp Emanuel 1714-1788. German keyboard player and composer of church music, chamber music, concertos, sonatas and symphonies. 5th child of J.S.Bach.
Bach, Johann Christian 1735-1782. German composer of church music, operas, songs and piano concertos. 18th child of J.S.Bach. Settled in England.
Bach, Johann Sebastian 1685-1750. German organist and composer of prodigious quantities of church music, cantatas, oratorios, concertos (eg 6 Brandenburg) and keyboard pieces (eg The Well-Tempered Clavier, The Art Of Fugue). Most famous of the Bach family.
Barber, Samuel 1910-1981. American singer and composer of operas and orchestral works (eg Adagio For Strings).
Barry, John 1933-?. Composer of film music.
Bartok, Béla 1881-1945. Hungarian pianist and composer of opera, concertos and piano works. Also collected Hungarian folk-music. Settled in the USA.
Beethoven, Ludwig van 1770-1827. German composer of 9 symphonies (eg Pastoral), concertos, sonatas, church music, chamber music, piano works, songs, opera, ballet and theatre music. Extended the form of the symphony and concerto.
Berlioz, Hector 1803-1869. French composer with particular interest in orchestration.
Bizet, "Georges" 1838-1875. French composer of operas (eg Carmen) and theatre music (eg L'Arlesienne).
Bloch, Ernest 1880-1959. Swiss composer who also lived in the USA. His music often has Jewish associations.
Boccherini, Luigi 1743-1805. Italian cellist and composer of symphonies, concertos, chamber music and church music.
Borodin, Alexander 1833-1887. Russian composer of orchestral music and songs.
Brahms, Johannes 1833-1897. German pianist and composer of 4 symphonies, concertos, chamber music, songs and numerous piano works.
Britten, Benjamin 1913-1976. English pianist, composer and conductor.
Bruckner, Anton 1824-1896. Austrian organist and composer of 9 symphonies and 4 masses.
Byrd, William 1543-1623. English organist and composer principally of church music.
Chopin, Frederic 1810-1849. Polish pianist and composer mostly of piano music (eg waltzes, preludes, nocturnes).
Clementi, Muzio 1752-1832. Italian pianist and composer mostly of piano music (eg sonatas, studies).
Copland, Aaron 1900-1990. American pianist and composer of American-style music and film scores.
Corelli, Arcangelo 1653-1713. Italian violinist and composer. Largely responsible for the concerto grosso form.
Couperin, Francois 1668-1733. French keyboard player and composer of keyboard, chamber and church music. Most famous member of a musical family.
Daquin, Louis Claude 1694-1772. French keyboard player and composer of church and harpsichord music (eg The Cuckoo).
Debussy, Claude 1862-1918. French composer (eg Clair De Lune) and inventor of musical impressionism.
Delibes, Léo 1836-1891. French organist and composer of ballets (eg Coppelia), operas and songs.
Delius, Frederick 1862-1934. German-English composer of operas, choral and orchestral music and songs.
Dowland, John 1563-1626. English lutenist and composer of songs and lute solos.
Dufay, Guillaume 13??-1474. Franco-Flemish singer and composer of church music.
Dukas, Paul 1865-1935. French impressionist composer (eg The Sorcerer's Apprentice).
Dunstable, John 1385-1453. English composer in contrapuntal style.
Dvorak, Antonin 1841-1904. Czech viola player and composer of 9 symphonies (eg The New World), concertos, chamber music, songs and piano pieces.
Elgar, Edward 1857-1934. English composer of songs, concertos, chamber music and other choral and orchestral works (eg The Enigma Variations, Pomp And Circumstance Marches).
Farnaby, Giles 1565-1640. English composer of songs, psalm tunes and virginal music.
Faure, Gabriel 1845-1924. French organist and composer of piano pieces, songs, chamber music, orchestral works (eg Pavane) and stage music (eg Pelleas Et Melisande).
Field, John 1782-1837. Irish pianist and composer of piano pieces, concertos and chamber music. Inventor of the nocturne.
Franck, César Auguste 1822-1890. Belgian organist and composer in chromatic style.
Frescobaldi, Girolamo 1583-1643. Italian organist and composer of keyboard music and songs.
Gershwin, George 1898-1937. American pianist and composer of songs and other music combining jazz and classical styles (eg Rhapsody In Blue, Porgy And Bess).
Gibbons, Orlando 1583-1625. English keyboard player and composer of church music, madrigals, viol and keyboard pieces.
Glière, Reinhold 1875-1956. Belgian-Russian composer of operas, ballets, 3 symphonies, chamber music, songs and piano pieces.
Glinka, Mikhail Ivanovich 1804-1857. Russian composer of operas, chamber music, piano pieces and songs.
Gluck, Christoph W. 1714-1787. German composer of operas, stage music and instrumental pieces.
Grainger, Percy 1882-1961. Australian pianist and composer who also lived in the UK and USA. Collected and re-used English folk music. Wrote choral works and short orchestral pieces.
Gray, Barry 1925-1984. All-round musician and composer of TV and film music (eg Thunderbirds).
Grieg, Edvard 1843-1907. Norwegian pianist and composer of stage music (eg Peer Gynt), songs, piano pieces and folk-music arrangements.
Handel, George Frideric 1685-1759. German musician and composer who changed his name to become English. Wrote operas, oratorios, concertos, keyboard pieces and orchestral works (eg Water Music, Fireworks Music).
Haydn, Franz Joseph 1732-1809. Austrian composer of numerous symphonies and string quartets, masses, operas, concertos and songs.
Hindemith, Paul 1895-1963. German violinist, viola-player and composer of dissonant music.
Holst, Gustav 1874-1934. English composer of choral, orchestral (eg The Planets) and band music.
Ireland, John 1879-1962. English composer of songs, piano pieces and orchestral works.
Joplin, Scott 1868-1917. American pianist and composer of rag-time pieces and operas.
Khachaturian, Aram Ilich 1903-1978. Russian composer of concertos, ballets (eg Gayaneh), piano pieces, choral and chamber music. Influenced by Armenian folk-music.
Kodaly, Zoltan 1882-1967. Hungarian composer of operas, piano pieces, chamber music, songs, choral and orchestral works. Collected Hungarian folk-songs.
Kreisler, Fritz 1875-1962. Austrian violinist, composer and plagiarist.
Lalo, Edouard 1823-1892. French viola-player and composer.
Liszt, Ferencz 1811-1886. Hungarian pianist and composer of piano pieces, songs and orchestral works. Used gipsy influences and novel harmonies.
Lully, Jean-Baptiste 1632-1687. Italian-born French composer of ballets, operas, church music and dance music.
MacDowell, Edward 1861-1908. American pianist and composer of short piano pieces, piano concertos, symphonic poems and songs.
Mahler, Gustav 1860-1911. Austrian composer of symphonies and song-cycles with chromatic tendencies.
Mancini, Henry 1924-1994. Pianist and composer of TV and film music (eg The Pink Panther).
Massenet, J. E. F. 1842-1912. French composer of operas, ballets, stage music and songs.
Mendelssohn, Felix 1809-1847. German keyboard player and composer of 5 symphonies, overtures (eg Hebrides), concertos, chamber music, piano pieces.
Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus 1756-1791. Austrian composer of operas, concertos, symphonies, sonatas, masses, chamber music (eg Eine Kleine Nachtmusik) and piano pieces.
Mussorgsky, Modest Petrovich 1839-1881. Russian composer of opera, songs and piano pieces (eg Pictures At An Exhibition).
O'Carolan, Turlough 1670-1738. Irish harpist and composer.
Offenbach, Jacques 1819-1880. German-born French cellist and composer of operettas (eg Orpheus In The Underworld).
Pachelbel, Johann 1653-1706. German organist and composer of church and keyboard music.
Paganini, Niccolo 1782-1840. Italian violinist and composer of concertos and violin pieces. One of these has been much reused by later composers.
Praetorius, Michael 1571-1621. German organist and composer who also collected dance music.
Prokofieff, Sergey 1891-1953. Russian pianist and composer of concertos, symphonies, operas, ballets (eg Romeo And Juliet), film music and other works (eg Peter And The Wolf).
Purcell, Henry 1659-1695. English organist and composer of opera (eg Dido And Aeneas, The Fairy Queen), stage music, songs, keyboard pieces, trio-sonatas and church music.
Rachmaninoff, S. V. 1873-1943. Russian pianist and composer of 4 piano concertos, 3 symphonies, 3 operas, songs and piano solos.
Rameau, Jean Philippe 1683-1764. French keyboard player and composer of operas, ballets, harpsichord pieces and chamber, dance and church music.
Ravel, J. Maurice 1875-1937. French impressionist composer and orchestrator. Wrote operas, songs, chamber music, piano pieces and orchestral works (eg Bolero).
Respighi, Ottorino 1879-1936. Italian composer of 9 operas, 2 violin concertos, songs and orchestral suites.
Rimsky-Korsakoff, N. A. 1844-1908. Russian composer of operas, 3 symphonies and other orchestral works (eg Sheherazade). Used rich orchestration.
Rossini, Gioacchino 1792-1868. Italian composer of operas (eg The Barber Of Seville, William Tell) and some other works.
Rubinstein, Anton Grigorevich 1829-1894. Russian pianist and composer of operas, 6 symphonies and 5 piano concertos.
Saint-Saëns, Camille 1835-1921. French keyboard player and composer of operas, symphonic poems, 5 symphonies, concertos, songs, church music, chamber music and orchestral works (eg Danse Macabre, The Carnival Of Animals).
Sarasate, Pablo 1844-1908. Spanish violinist and composer.
Satie, Erik 1866-1925. French pianist and composer of strangely-named piano pieces, ballets and operettas.
Scarlatti, Domenico 1685-1757. Italian harpsichord player and composer of operas, sonatas and church music.
Schubert, Franz 1797-1828. Austrian composer of songs, piano pieces, symphonies, operas, chamber music (eg Trout Quintet) and church music.
Schumann, Robert 1810-1856. German pianist and composer in the romantic style. Wrote piano pieces (eg Kinderscenen), songs, concertos, 4 symphonies and other works.
Shostakovich, Dmitri 1906-1975. Russian pianist and composer of symphonies, operas, ballets, concertos, songs, chamber music, piano pieces and film music.
Sibelius, Jean 1865-1957. Finnish composer of symphonies, stage music and other orchestral works (eg Finlandia).
Smetana, Bedrich 1824-1884. Czech pianist and composer of symphonic poems, operas (eg The Bartered Bride), choral works, piano pieces.
Sousa, John Philip 1854-1932. American composer of marches (eg Stars And Stripes Forever) and operettas.
Strauss, Johann Jr. 1825-1899. Austrian violinist and composer of waltzes (eg The Blue Danube), polkas and operettas. Most famous of a family of composers.
Strauss, Richard 1864-1949. German composer of symphonic poems, operas, songs and orchestral works. No relation to the Austrian Strauss family.
Stravinsky, Igor 1882-1971. Russian pianist and composer of ballets (eg Firebird, Rite of Spring), operas and other works incorporating chromatic and jazz styles.
Suppé, Franz 1819-1895. Belgian-Austrian composer of operettas and overtures.
Tartini, Giuseppe 1692-1770. Italian violinist and composer of concertos and sonatas. Also a theorist who discovered resultant tones (from combining frequencies).
Tchaikovsky, Pyotr Ilyich 1840-1893. Russian composer of ballets (Swan Lake, Sleepin Beauty, Nutcracker), symphonies, concertos, operas, songs, chamber music and other orchestral works (eg 1812 Overture).
Telemann, Georg Philipp 1681-1767. German composer of operas, oratorios, cantatas, concertos, chamber music and keyboard pieces.
Thomas, Ambroise 1811-1896. French pianist and composer of operas, ballets, church music and instrumental works.
Thomson, Virgil 1896-1989. American organist and composer of operas, piano pieces, orchestral works, songs, stage music and film music.
Turina, Joaquin 1882-1949. Spanish composer of orchestral pieces, piano solos and songs.
Vaughan-Williams, Ralph 1872-1958. English composer of 9 symphonies, operas, film music, hymns and many choral and orchestral works (eg The Lark Ascending). Collected and used folk-music (eg Fantasia On Greensleeves).
Verdi, Giuseppe 1813-1901. Italian organist and composer of operas (eg La Traviata, La Forza Del Destino).
Vivaldi, Antonio 1678-1741. Italian violinist and composer of concertos (eg The Four Seasons), operas and oratorios.
Wagner, Richard 1813-1883. German composer of operas (eg The Flying Dutchman, Tannhauser, Lohengrin, Tristan And Isolde, The Ring, Parsifal) and some orchestral works.
Waldteufel, Emil 1837-1915. French pianist and composer of waltzes (eg Skaters' Waltz).
Walton, William 1902-1983. English composer of symphonies, concertos, operas, film music, orchestral and choral works (eg Belshazzar's Feast).
Weber, Carl Maria 1786-1826. German pianist and composer of operas, stage music, concertos, piano solos, church music and songs.
Williams, John 1932-?. American composer of film music (eg Star Wars).

© Susan Foord ( 2010-06-24
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