On Air Now
Early Breakfast with Lucy Coward 4am - 6am
Symphonies! Computers! Riots! Take a look at all 50 of the moments that rocked the classical music world in our beautiful gallery of facts and pictures, inspired by Classic FM's brand new book: 50 Moments That Rocked The Classical Music World, by Sam Jackson and Darren Henley.
Neanderthal flutes made of bone? From the dawn of humanity, it's clear we've been obsessed with music and instruments for thousands of years. They quickly evolved from primitive percussion sticks to the classical instruments we know and love today.
The word 'carol' actually means 'to dance around something' - could these traditional Christmas songs have existed before the birth of Jesus?
You couldn't have the great works of literature without the invention of words. It's much the same with classical music - without the various ways of writing down the music we know and love, some of the greatest works in the classical canon might not ever have come to light.
Polyphony? It's as simple as two or more lines of music playing at the same time, weaving together to create a piece. It's the opposite of 'monophony', where there's just one line of music, or 'homophony', which is usually one tune accompanied by chords.
Another key moment in the world of classical music is one of the most painful. In a world where women weren't allowed to sing in church, there's only one option: male singers were castrated to keep their pure treble voice, and many made a name for themselves as famous singers with unusually high voices.
What would classical music be without the symphony? It literally translates as 'sounding together', but anyone who's heard some of the most mind-blowing works in history will know the birth of the symphony split classical music at the seams. Give Beethoven's 'Choral' Symphony No. 9 a blast and you might see what we mean.
Even now, men dominate the world of classical music. But an unassuming nun did her bit for the feminist cause back in the 12th century. Female composer, theologian, and mystic, Hildegard of Bingen shook up the musical world with her religious works, and they're still popular today.
It's a pretty laborious task to copy out entire symphonies note by note, part by part. So the invention of the printing press enabled composers to share their music with more people than ever before.
'An honour conferred on a musician of great distinction'. Just think how much music the world would be missing without this important role, supporting classical music in the UK. Elgar, Bax and Bliss all held the role before the current Master of the Queen's Music, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies.
As well as being an art form in its own right, the birth of ballet marks a key moment in the history of classical music. From Tchaikovksy's Sleeping Beauty to Delibes' Coppelia, ballet has given rise to some of the world's most famous pieces.
New instruments, new musical styles, new performance spaces, new art, new inspiration! While pinpointing the start of the Baroque period is tricky, these new developments transformed music from a purely sacred art form to an every day entertainment to be enjoyed by all.
Handel. He may be German-born, but this compositional mastermind has shaken up the world of classical music in the UK - can you imagine a coronation without hearing the epic Zadok the Priest?
Simple hymns and choral tunes replaced complex Latin mass settings in religious services - and European music was need the same again. It's all down to the Reformation, where the Protestant religion was born.
What would the world be like without the big operatic hits? It can all be traced to a lesser-known composer, Jacopo Peri, who invented the genre back in 1597.
Since 1778, La Scala in Milan has housed hundreds of premieres from some of the world's greatest composers - and it's still going strong today. Verdi's three most famous operas, Nabucco, Otello and Falstaff were all premiered there, and if that's not reason enough to choose La Scala as a moment that rocked the classical music world, we don't know what is.
The Classical period built on the order and efficiency of the Baroque period, transforming music into something a little simpler. It's also the heyday of the hummable tune - just listen to any piece by Mozart and you'll see what we mean.
They're now some of the most valuable instruments in the world. Violins, violas, cellos, and even guitars (!) created by the master luthier Antonio Stradivari are renowned for their unique sound and their unparalleled quality.
If there's one composer who rocked the musical world more than most, it's maverick Hector Berlioz. He pushed the boundaries of what orchestral music could do by adding new instruments, sounds, and textures - and told some pretty epic stories at the same time.
Something of a rock star in the world of music, piano genius Franz Liszt had a remarkable effect on his audiences. With blisteringly fast recitals and incredible compositions, audiences would jump up and down with delight as they watched him play.
With most symphonies in the 1800s lasting around 25 minutes, Beethoven blew them out of the water with his incredible Symphony No. 3, known as the 'Eroica'. Just give it a listen to see why we think it rocked the world of classical music.
Just over 200 years ago, a group of music lovers gathered to form a society to 'encourage an appreciation by the public in the art of music'. Cue new symphonies, concertos, and a wealth of instrumental music, including (perhaps most famously!) Beethoven's seismic Symphony No. 9. (Credit: Royal Philharmonic Society / British Library).
Conductors have always used a stick to keep time, right? Not at all! While Baroque composers like Lully hit the ground with a big wooden stick (which ultimately lead to his death after a nasty accident), the 'baton' as we know it first came into use around 1820… and changed the classical concert for the better.
It's as simple as four notes piled on top of each other, known as the 'Tristan' chord because it's about a character called, well, Tristan. But this unassuming F, B, D sharp and G sharp played together was so unusual at the time that it's been causing debates ever since.
Classical music has always taken inspiration from the world of art. Impressionist painters, renowned for their dreamy paintings, gave rise to similarly beautiful music from composers like Debussy and Ravel. Listen to Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune for a taster.
Imagine a world without recorded music. (There'd be no Classic FM, for a start.) The rise of the Gramophone allowed a wider audience to sample the delights of classical music for a fraction of the price of a concert ticket.
Composing by numbers might not sound like the most exciting method to make music, but when a Viennese group of composers began to leave things to chance, randomness and strict numerical patterns, the effect was controversial to say the least.
One of the most infamous and legendary moments in the whole of classical music history, the riot at the Paris premiere of Igor Stravinsky's The Rite Of Spring has gone down in legend. But how much do we really know about the incredible event?
Camille Saint-Saens has a lot more in common with John Williams than you might think… discover how the Frenchman's first ever film soundtrack may not have been the most box office-friendly, but it's still one of the most important moments in the history of film music.
What exactly is furniture music? And what was Erik Satie happy to let his gentle, placid music be an example of it?
George Gershwin was good with a tune. That much is indisputable. But perhaps his greatest trick was to make himself an absolute fortune while he was at it. How much money? What did he spend it on?
How and why did Vivaldi's Violin Concerto suddenly return to the forefront of the classical world, after years of neglect? And what effect did that have on the classical music world?
It's become the punchline to dozens of muso jokes over the years, but it's easy to forget what an incredible composition John Cage's infamously silent 4'33" was and still is today.
With Leonard Bernstein's TV career came a new era of communication about classical music. His easy style and impeccable grounding made him the perfect person to introduce the world to classical music - importantly, on a scale like never before.
What do Karl Jenkins and Leo Delibes have in common? We'll give you a clue, right after this advert break…
The death of Stalin was a world-changing event, but how did it change the lives of the classical composers who had been bound by his regime? What creative freedoms could they now enjoy?
He became one of the most recognisable classical music faces on the planet, thanks to what went down in the Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition…
Disney's Fantasia was not a huge commercial success on its initial release, but it's come to be recognised as one of the most innovative uses of classical music in the 20th century. But how did it come into being, and what classics were the catalyst?
One of the most controversial genres in classical music has some of the most gorgeous sounds to represent it - with Philip Glass at the forefront.
Controversy surrounded the results of the 1980 Chopin International Piano Competition - but why did half the judging panel resign (including Martha Argerich, pictured) over the result? Photo: Adriano Heitman
It seems almost quaint to think of CDs as cutting-edge technology these days, but for classical music it's been a huge force to be reckoned with - the superior sound quality meant that we could experience the music in a detail we'd only dreamt of before.
Naxos is one of the most recognisable record labels in the world, and they're seemingly on a quest to record every classical work in existence and sell it for cheap. How did this pioneering and exhaustive label come to be?
Any image of The Three Tenors has become iconic, but especially after the events of July 7th, 1990, when the trio performed a monumental concert in Rome. Simply, classical music was never the same again.
This one might be a little shameless… but who cares? Discover how Classic FM came into being after a radio station playing only songs from the musicals failed to get itself in order, and how we're continuing to give the music we love to our audience over the airwaves and the internet.
A whole industry has sprung out of the term 'crossover', for some a sticky and sentimental grey area between classical music and full-on pop music, for others a gateway to the wider classical music world. It's a fascinating story that dates back to the case of Mario Lanza…
Is it simply a reflection of the way composers now work, or is it a dangerous tool that will remove inspiration from the composition process? The effect of computers on the world of composition, through programs like Finale, Sibelius and several others, cannot be underestimated.
Daniel Barenboim's dream of uniting the disparate ideologies of Israel and Palestine through a pioneering orchestra finally came true, with the help of scholar Edward Said, in 1999.
Without doubt one of the most exciting things to come out of the classical music world in recent years is the wild hair of conductor Gustavo Dudamel. But his origins are far more humble than the glitz of his international conducting lifestyle - El Sistema, which encourages real social change through music.
No-one can predict what will happen to the recording industry at the moment, because we're in the middle of a technology revolution. How did it come to be this way, and what might the future hold for the world of downloads? Will they replace physical products altogether?
He's got the looks, he's got the talent… but how did Eric Whitacre hit upon the idea of his Virtual Choir? And how did he harness the power of online communities to make something truly, musically special?
Bringing us bang up to date, we explore exactly how the music of video games has revolutionised the classical music world - with all the stress and controversy that that entails. Is it here to stay? Only time will tell…