Western classical music is an ancient art form that dates back to the time before 500 AD. It has constantly been developed and adapted over the centuries and passed important eras such as the Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic, Modern, and Contemporary. Classical music has been performed in Operas which have popularized music. Operas inadvertently make you think of Italian Operas. Operas originated in Italy around 1600 and are popular even today! Italian Opera plays a very important part in the history of western classical music and the contribution of Italian music composers to this art form is noteworthy. Apart from Operas, other musical forms also influenced the present-day music. The contribution of Italian composers to European classical music, and its development over the years, is immense. Let us look at the most famous Italian classical music composers of all times.
Giovanni Palestrina (1526 – 1594)
Palestrina was a Renaissance composer and wrote more than 105 masses, over 300 motets, 72 hymns, etc. He was the most renowned representative of the Roman school of music composition of the 16th century. He laid down strict guidelines for compositions and abided by them both in his sacred and secular works. Even after his death, conservative music was written in his style which came to be known as the ‘Palestrina style’. The MissaPapaeMarcelli (Pope Marcellus Mass) remains his most important work having historical significance.
Claudio Monteverdi (1567 – 1643)
Monteverdi has a prominent presence in musical history, especially in the transition of music from the Renaissance to the Baroque. He worked majorly in the early Renaissance polyphony, but later achieved great developments in melody and form, characteristic of the Baroque. His contribution to Opera Music is significant with his L’Orfeobeing the oldest opera that is still performed today. His other notable works include L’Arianna and Vespers. He also wrote sacred music.
Arcangelo Corelli (1653 – 1713)
Corelli was a famous Italian classical music composer and violinist. He greatly influenced the development of the violin style instrumental music. His compositions were crucial in the evolution of the sonata and concerto music. He was instrumental in the founding of the modern orchestral playing. He wrote several sonatas during the course of his career.
Antonio Vivaldi (1678 – 1741)
Vivaldi was acknowledged as one of the greatest Baroque composers. He was also a celebrated violinist, with his works titled ‘The Four Seasons’ being his most prestigious. He is also known for writing over 40 operas, and several scared and choral works. His compositions were fresh, innovative, and lively with vibrant melodies. His compositions also include sacred and chamber music.
Domenico Scarlatti (1685 – 1757)
Scarlatti’s work played a major role in the advancement of instrumental music. Though today he is known majorly for his 555 keyboard sonatas, he composed in many other forms too. He is a well-known Baroque composer, but his works had a notable impact on the development of the Classical style of music. A very small part of his work was published during his lifetime. Over the two and a half centuries after his death, many of his sonatas have been published. The influence of Iberian folk music is prominent in his compositions. Apart from the sonatas, he also wrote several operas, liturgical pieces, and cantatas. The Stabat Mater and the Salve Regina are among his more popular works.
Gioachino Rossini (1792 – 1868)
Although Rossini worked centuries ago, his popularity surpassed many others for years! He wrote 39 operas, and also some chamber music, sacred music and songs. He also created several delightful piano pieces. He was a versatile composer having written comedies, serious operas, and semi-serious operas. His noteworthy works include the operas Il barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville), Otello, La Gazza Ladra (The Thieving Magpie), etc. He was known for his creativity and was known to quickly come up with compositions. He came to be known as ‘The Italian Mozart’ due to the song-like melodies that he composed. His last composition was epic Guillaume Tell (WilliamTell) had his laudable overture (opening music).
Vincenzo Bellini (1801-1835)
Bellini was well-known for his long-flowing melodic lines which earned him the nickname ‘The Swan of Catania’. His long melodies were first of their kind with no one else having made such compositions before. His work was loved and appreciated not only by the public but also by other composers. He wrote over thirty operas. His most notable works include Il pirata, Capuleti, La sonnambula, Norma, and I puritani that are performed even today. Apart from his well-known operas, he also created symphonies, piano works, sacred works, songs and an Organ Sonata.
Gaetano Donizetti (1797 – 1848)
A contemporary of Rossini and Bellini, he was a leading composer of the bel cantoopera style. He wrote his first one-act opera, the comedy Il Pigmalione, at the age of 19 and went on to write almost 70 operas. He also wrote serious operas in which he developed the emotional content poignantly. Apart from operas, which were his major contributions, he also wrote church music, string quartets, symphonies and chamber music. His major compositions includeZoraida di Granata and Anna Bolena. Enrico di Borgognawas his first opera that was staged.
Giuseppe Verdi (1813 – 1901)
Verdi’s works were largely influenced by Rossini, Bellini, and Donizetti. He entered the world of classical music just at the time when bel canto tradition of music was on the verge of ending. His success and popularity came at a time when there was a lot of experimentation and refinement at work on the classical music front. His operas are immensely popular, especially, Rigoletto, Il trovatore and La Traviata. His operas often showed an inclination towards the Risorgimento movement that called for the unification of Italy. Though Verdi, as admitted by himself, had limited education in music, his success, popularity, and legacy are extraordinary.
Giacomo Puccini (1858 – 1924)
Puccini is lauded as one of the greatest composers of Italian opera music, second only to Verdi. His compositions conformed to the late-Romantic classical music style. It is said by the critics that he tried to change his style in order to adapt to the changing trends. His popularity and prowess in classical music were outstanding. His orchestral pieces were quite successful. He also wrote sacred music, chamber music, and songs. His well-known works include Madama Butterfly and Tosca.