Classical Music Timeline: Before 1770

This is the first of a series of postings of important classical music dates, from the 17th century to the present. Included are the date and location of the birth and death of composers, and the premiere date and location of the first public performance of works. When the premiere date and location is unknown, the date or year of completion of the work is given. Though reasonably comprehensive, this is a subjective list, so the choice of composers and works is mine. If you find any errors, or if you can offer a premiere date and location for a work where only the completion date or year is listed, please post a comment here.

September 10? – Henry Purcell (1659-1695) was born in London, England

March 4 – Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) was born in Venice, Italy

March 31 – Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) was born in Eisenach, Germany

Dido and Aeneas, Z. 626, opera by Henry Purcell (1659-1695) was first performed in London, England

November 21 – Henry Purcell (1659-1695) died in London, England

Giovanni Battista Sammartini (1700?-1775) was born in Milan, Italy

Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) completed Gloria, RV 589

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) completed Puer natus in Bethlehem, for children’s chorus, cello, and organ, by this date

Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) completed Credo, RV 591

June 18 – Johann Stamitz (1717-1757) was born in Havlíčkův Brod, Czech Republic

March 24 – Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) completed Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 by this date

March 24 – Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) completed Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 by this date

Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) completed Chamber Concerto for Lute and 2 Violins in D major, RV 93

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) completed Concerto for 2 Violins in D minor, BWV 1043, by this date

Giovanni Battista Sammartini (1700?-1775) completed Symphony in D minor (J-C 23), perhaps earlier

March 31 – Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) was born in Rohrau, Austria

July 28 – Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) died in Vienna, Austria

February 19 – Luigi Boccherini (1743-1805) was born in Lucca, Italy

Johann Stamitz (1717-1757) completed Symphony in A major, “Mannheim No. 2” and Symphony in B♭ major, “Mannheim No. 3”, perhaps earlier

July 28 – Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) died in Leipzig, Germany

January 27 – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) was born in Salzburg, Austria

Johann Stamitz (1717-1757) completed Trio in E major, op. 5, no. 3, perhaps earlier

March 27 – Johann Stamitz (1717-1757) died in Mannheim, Germany

Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) completed Symphony No. 6 in D major, Hob. I:6 “Le matin”

Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) completed Symphony No. 22 in E-flat Major, Hob. I:22 “The Philosopher”

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) completed Bastien and Bastienne, K. 50


Sibelius Violin Concerto

The Finnish composer Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) aspired to be a virtuoso violinist, but abandoned that career because he felt that he had begun his “training for the exacting career of a virtuoso too late.” But it must have been some consolation that his violin concerto of 1904/1905—his only concerto—is one of the most inspired works of that genre in the repertoire.

There are many fine recordings of the Sibelius Violin Concerto, but one I am especially fond of is a 1951 recording with Isaac Stern and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham.

Here’s the conclusion of the work, nicely illustrating the passion and energy of this performance by Stern and Beecham’s Royal Philharmonic despite the primitive recording technology available at the time. Just goes to show that there were some remarkable recordings made more than 70 years ago!

Conclusion of the 1951 recording of Isaac Stern playing the Sibelius Violin Concerto with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Sir Thomas Beecham, conducting

While we’re on the topic of violin concertos, here are the best I’ve heard, in chronological order of their composition. Seek them out and enjoy!

Concerto for 2 Violins in D minor, BWV 1043 – Johann Sebastian Bach (c. 1730)

Violin Concerto in D major, op. 61 – Ludwig van Beethoven (1806)

Violin Concerto in E minor, op. 64 – Felix Mendelssohn (1844)

Violin Concerto No. 8 in D major, op. 99 – Charles-Auguste de Bériot (c. 1845)

Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, op. 26 – Max Bruch (1867)

Violin Concerto in D major, op. 77 – Johannes Brahms (1878)

Violin Concerto in D major, op. 35 – Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1878)

Violin Concerto in A minor, op. 53 – Antonín Dvořák (1879)

Violin Concerto in D minor, op. 47 – Jean Sibelius (1905)

Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major, op. 19 – Sergei Prokofiev (1917)

Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor, op. 63 – Sergei Prokofiev (1935)

Violin Concerto, op. 14 – Samuel Barber (1939)

Violin Concerto in D minor – Aram Khachaturian (1940)

Violin Concerto in D major, op. 35 – Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1945)

Violin Concerto in C major, op. 48 – Dmitry Kabalevsky (1948)

And, outstanding violin concerto movements:

Intermezzo (Poco adagio) [2nd & final movement] from Violin Concerto, op. 33 – Carl Nielsen (1911)

Sicilienne (Andantino) [2nd movement] from Concierto de estío, for violin and orchestra – Joaquín Rodrigo (1943)

Curious as to why so many violin concertos are written in the key of D major? I was.

“D major is well-suited to violin music because of the structure of the instrument, which is tuned G D A E. The open strings resonate sympathetically with the D string, producing a sound that is especially brilliant. This is also the case with all other orchestral strings.” – Wikipedia entry for D major