Fantasia on a theme by Thomas Tallis Ralph Vaughan Williams Download 'Fantasia on a theme by Thomas Tallis' on iTunes
29 October 2015, 16:03
Music history can be a complex and daunting subject - so we've enlisted the help of a few cats to explain every detail to you.
In the beginning there was one voice, singing one line. Pope Gregory, we're told, did it first (but he probably didn't).
And then there were two lines, singing together harmoniously. It was beautiful.
The choirs just kept getting bigger. Thomas Tallis' masterpiece was written for 40 independent voices. Here's a quintet, diligently watching the conductor.
Monteverdi just wanted to be different. He thought music should have a bit more style and drama.
Great German Baroque composers like Schutz, Handel and Bach took ideas, styles and pieces from Italy, and used them as their own. Those big, musical genius bullies.
Handel's regal musical extravaganza happened on the River Thames. But don't worry, no thirsty cats were harmed.
The Baroque and Classical periods saw a massive development in instrumental styles and performance ornamentation, including staccato, illustrated here.
Child prodigy, keyboard virtuoso, genius composer, wine-lover and all-round fun guy. We're sure he was fond of cats too.
He revolutionised the symphony and chamber music, and changed the course of music forever. But he sure was grumpy.
Now for a few extraordinary virtuosos. Paganini, Schumann and Liszt. All musical geniuses. All show-offs.
There was lush orchestration, overflowing emotion, tender melodies, and heart-breaking love stories set to music.
Suddenly got very dramatic. There were now dwarves and scary giants on the opera stage.
On the peninsula, Verdi was taking opera to new heights of expression, drama and emotion.
But operatic composers from the British Isles at that time were somewhat less successful, failing to scale Verdi's heights.
New instruments, larger forces and freer expression were pushing symphonic music in new, sometimes unexpected directions.
Stravinsky's modern rhythms and harmonies sparked outrage, fights and riots at the premiere of his ballet score in Paris.
c. 1940 - The avant-garde
Composers were now doing quite individual things.
c. 1920 Music for the big (and small) screen
The last century has taken symphonic music in new directions and to new audiences - from massive cinematic scores, through to the new genre of orchestral video game music.
The late 20th Century
Things are now getting rather silly, all making Serialism seem easy-listening in comparison. Stockhausen's Helicopter Quartet anyone?
Composers like Terry Riley, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Michael Nyman and John Adams have championed a new style of music, based on motivic and rhythmic repetition and thematic loops.
And to the present day
With classical music's thriving traditions now accessible to so many through recordings, downloads, the online world and social media, all we need to do is find what makes us happy, and indulge in it.