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victoria Williams Music Theory

Victoria Williams

LmusTCL BA Mus (Hons) MISM

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5. Score Reading: Composers and Eras


Grade 8 Music Theory - Naming Composers and Eras in Scores

As in earlier grades, you may be asked to guess the composer or era of the score you are analysing. The choice of composers given at grade 8 is usually a little wider than in previous grades, but will still include well-known names.

The best way to improve your chances at this question is to listen to a wide variety of music. Tune into your local classical music radio station, or use Youtube to find some playlists by genre, for example. Look up any unfamiliar names and check which era they belong to, and the also type of composition they are best known for writing.

Here are some names that are worth learning, their eras, and in some cases the genre they are best known for.

For further details about the stylistic characteristics of each era, see the MyMusicTheory Guide to Classical Music Series of blog posts.


Bach Baroque
Bartok 20th C, atonal, string quartets
Beethoven Classical, Early romantic
Brahms Romantic
Bruckner Romantic, large orchestra
Chopin Romantic, piano
Couperin Baroque
Debussy 20th C, impressionism, whole tone
Gershwin 20th C, jazz
Handel Baroque
Haydn Classical
Liszt Romantic, showy piano
Mozart Classical
Mahler Romantic, large orchestra, 8 French horns!
Mendelssohn Romantic
Prokofiev 20th C
Puccini Romantic, opera
Rachmaninov Romantic, piano and orchestral
Rossini Classical, opera & vocal
Satie 20th C, piano, quiet
Schoenberg 20th C, atonal
Schubert Classical, Lieder (German songs with piano)
Schumann Romantic
Shostakovich 20th C, piano, sharp contrasts, atonality
Strauss Classical, orchestral waltzes
Stravinsky 20th C, non-diatonic, rhythmically diverse
Tchaikovsky Romantic, orchestral
Wagner Late Romantic, opera
Verdi Early Romantic, opera
Vivaldi Baroque, violin works


Other Clues

The harpsichord faded away by the classical era. Piano and clarinet exist from the classical era. Piano pedal was used from the Romantic era. Performance directions in French, English or German will reflect the nationality of the composer.

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