“Early music is commonly defined as European classical music from the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and the Baroque.
The Early Music Movement as a trend in history is the study and performance of music from composers before our own era and began in 1829 when Felix Mendelssohn conducted Bach’s St Matthew Passion.
The early music movement of the 20th century has been closely associated with the concept of performance practice. With the renewed interest in early music came an interest in using period instruments and historically aware playing techniques. According to Margaret Bent (1998), Early music notation, is under-prescriptive by our standards; when translated into modern form it acquires a prescriptive weight that overspecifies and distorts its original openness. In the early music revival of the 20th century, the concept of historically informed performance–that is, using available documentation and other contextual evidence to recreate as closely as possible the original ways of playing the instruments used in early music–became an important facet of the performance of early music.”
For more information on this subject we would recommend Bruce Haynes recently (2007) published book:
« The End of Early Music: A Period Performer’s History of Music for the Twenty-First Century »
Here at early-music.com:
While agreeing with most of the above (making allowances for the European focus), in practice we concentrate on the riches of the Baroque period in Europe : (sometimes defined as 1600 – 1760 or 1600 – 1800).
Click here for a brief history of early music in Europe.
Click here for some notes on the instruments.
Below are some of the composers that we feature in recordings or consider to be important, together with links to more information about many of them:
Arcangelo Corelli (1653 – 1713)
Henry Purcell (1659 – 1695)
Alessandro Scarlatti (1660 – 1725)
Johann Joseph Fux (1660 – 1741)
Jean-Féry Rebel (1666 – 1747)
Francois Couperin (1668 – 1733)
Giovanni Battista Bononcini (1671 – 1751)
Tomaso Albinoni (1671 – 1751)
Antonio Vivaldi (1678 – 1741)
Jan Dismas Zelenca (1679 – 1745)
Francesco Geminiani (1680 – 1762)
Georg Philipp Telemann (1681 – 1767)
Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683 – 1764)
George Frideric Handel (1685 – 1759)
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750)
Joseph Bodin de Boismortier (1685 – 1755)
Domenico Scarlatti (1685 – 1757)
Unico Willem van Wassenaer (1692 – 1766)
Jean-Marie Leclair (1697 – 1764)
Michel Blavet (1700 – 1755)
We choose to extend our definition of early music to include several composers in the second half of the 18th Century who contributed significantly to the evolution and development of Baroque music and may be considered to provide the transition to what is now known as Modern Classical Music:
Sorry if we miss your favourite but any list of this type is bound to have gaps. However, we will seriously consider adding your nomination if you send us your reasons and a biography that we can use on the site.
We also apologise for any possible breach of copy-right. This is not intentional or systematic. The sources used have often been re-written several times from the original material. If you feel that your copy-right may have been infringed please contact us. We will investigate the matter and make any appropriate attributions.