Aspects of the orchestra and symphony, 1700–1830
This resource examines Classical and early Romantic developments in orchestral instruments and the symphony.
Vocal music was central to the western classical tradition in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. During the Baroque period, instrumental music occupied composers’ attention much more, until in the late 18th century there was a truly remarkable flowering – well over 10,000 symphonies have been identified, for example. This was made possible partly by developments in instrument-building, which in its turn prompted further improvements and refinements. The rise of instrumental music was partly connected with the church’s decline as patron, but composers seem to have enjoyed emancipation from word-setting for its own sake.