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Classical Era


Seven Years’ War continues: Spain makes defensive pact with France against Britain • Portugal, refusing to close her ports to Britain, is invaded by Spanish and French troops • British secretary of state William Pitt (Whig), unable to persuade King George III to attack Spain, resigns; John Stuart, Earl of Bute (Tory), succeeds him • Prussia’s fortunes decline as Austrians seize Schweidnitz (now Swidnica, Pol) and Russians occupy Kolberg (now Kolobrzeg, Pol) • British physician John Hill becomes the first to suggest link between tobacco and cancer
  • Frangois Boucher (Fr) paints Girl and Bird Catcher • Jean Jacques Rousseau (Fr): The New Heloise Samuel Richardson,  English writer, dies
Seven Years’ War continues: Britain declares war on Spain, and seizes Cuba and Manila; Portugal repels Spanish invaders; a British fleet hits hard at the French West Indies, forcing the surrender of Grenada, Martinique and St Vincent • Prussians defeat Austrians at Battles of Burkersdorf and Freiburg • Tsarina Elizaveta of Russia dies; is succeeded by nephew Petr III, who makes peace with Prussia; Petr is assassinated and is succeeded by his widow, Catherine II (the Great) • France follows Portuguese example and expels Jesuits • Rousseau (Fr) publishes The Social Contract, arguing that the state is bound to guarantee the rights and liberties of the subject

Seven Years' War is ended; France loses Canada, Grenada and Senegal to Britain and cedes Louisiana to Spain; Spain cedes Florida to Britain in return for the restoration of Cuba and Manila; France is left with few possessions in India beyond Pondichery and Chandernagor • Voltaire (Fr) attacks the Old Testament in Saul

British parliament passes a Sugar Act to raise revenue from the American colonies • British East India Company takes over full control of Bengal • James Hargreaves (Eng) invents a multi-spool spinning wheel, the 'spinning jenny’ • Voltaire: Pocket Philosophical Dictionary  • Horace Walpole (Eng): The Castle of Otranto, the first gothic novel
British parliament passes Stamp Act in North American colonies; riots follow in Boston, Mass; at New York Stamp Congress, delegates from nine colonies adopt a Declaration of Rights and Liberties
  • Thomas Percy (Eng): Reliques of Ancient English Poetry

Samuel Richardson (19 August 1689 – 4 July 1761) was an 18th-century English writer and printer. He is best known for his three epistolary novels: Pamela: Or, Virtue Rewarded (1740), Clarissa: Or the History of a Young Lady (1748) and The History of Sir Charles Grandison (1753). 



Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach brings out his Seeks Sonaten furs Clavier (‘Fortsetzung’ Sonatas, Wq. 51), in Berlin.

Carl Philippe Emanuel Bach - Sonata II Sib mag Erste Fortsetzung

C.P.E. Bach - Sonata III in do min 6 Sonaten Erste Fortsetzung

C.P.E. Bach - IV Sonata in re min Sonaten Erste Fortsetzung

C.P.E. Bach - Sonata V in fa mag Sonaten Erste Fortsetzung

CPE Bach - Sonata VI in sol min Sonaten Erste Fortsetzung

Around this time Franz Joseph Haydn composes his Symphonies Nos. 6-8, commonly known as Le matin, Le midi, Le soir. Each symphony begins with a slow introduction and follows a four-movement plan.

Haydn Symphonies, nos 006 - 008
Symphony #6 In D, H 1/6, "Le Matin" 
Symphony #7 In C, H 1/7, "Le Midi"
Symphony #8 In G, H 1/8, "Le Soir"

Haydn: Symphonies nos. 1 - 5
Symphony #1 In D, H 1_1
Symphony #2 In C, H 1_2
Symphony #3 In G, H 1_3
Symphony #4 In D, H 1_4
Symphony #5 In A, H 1_5

8 September
William Boyce’s setting of the anthem The King shall rejoice is first performed for the wedding of George III and Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg.

22 September
William Boyce directs eight of his own anthems, including a double-choir setting of My heart is inditing, for the coronation of King George III. He has politely refused to reset Zadok the Priest, certain that he can not equal Handel's masterpiece.

Luigi Boccherini composes his Six String Quartets Op. 2 (published 1767 as Op. 1).

Boccherini: String Quartets Op. 2, Nos. 1-6

Egidio Romualdo Duni is appointed music director of the Comedie-ltalienne in Paris.

The five-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composes his first pieces: an Andante in C and Allegro in C for solo keyboard (K. 1a and 1b).

Mozart - Andante in C major, K.1a

W. A. Mozart - KV 1b - Allegro for keyboard in C major

17 October
Christoph Willibald Gluck’s pantomime ballet Don Juan, ou Lefestin de pierre is premiered with great success at the Burgtheater in Vienna. The composer’s Le cadi dupe (The Duped Judge), a one-act opera comique pandering to the fashionable Turkish craze, is presented at the same venue in December.

Ch. W. Gluck - Don Juan ou Le Festin de Pierre (Wq.52)
The overture is a short sonata form sinfonietta in which the recurring motif of threatening trumpets plays a prominent part. The ballet's setting is Madrid. In the first act, Don Juan serenades Donna Elvira beneath her balcony. Her father, the Commander enters with sword drawn to protect his daughter. In the ensuing duel, Don Juan wounds the Commander, who rallies, attacks, then faints and dies. In the second act, Don Juan has prepared a banquet for his friends. Dances for his guests include a gavotte, contredanse, minuet, and fandango. A terrific knocking is suddenly heard at the door. Don Juan's servant provides comic relief as he scurries back and forth to the door. Don Juan finally opens the door, and discovers the marble statue of the dead Commander. He invites the Commander to dinner, but the statue invites Juan to dine at his tomb and then departs to the strains of a noble minuet. The final act is set in a graveyard where Don Juan rushes in accompanied by orchestral shivers. Accompanied by hair-raising D minor discord from the trombones, the Commander steps from his tomb to a stately minuet and scolds Juan, accompanied by echoes of the dinner invitation. Juan confronts the Commander with frivolity, vanity, and courage, but the climax is reached when irrevocable judgment is passed upon Juan. To the strains of an ominous passacaglia over a repeating bass line, graves fly open, flames rise, and Juan sinks to Hell.

Start of year:
Following four years’ service as director of music to Count Morzin, Franz Joseph Haydn is made redundant due to financial cutbacks.

1 May
Franz Joseph Haydn is officially instated as assistant Kapellmeister at the court of Prince Paul Anton Esterhazy. His duties involve the composition and direction of secular works, for which he receives, unofficially, 600 gulden a year—200 more than the chief Kapellmeister, Gregor Joseph Werner. He has to present himself twice a day in full livery to ‘inquire whether his Highness is pleased to order a performance of the orchestra’. Based at Eisenstadt, the Esterhazy family are very accommodating employers, offering staff pensions and free medical care.

30 May
Antonio Sacchini 
begins to set his path as a leading composer of opera seria with Andromaca, introduced at the Teatro San Carlo in Naples.

Start of year:
Following four years’ service as director of music to Count Morzin, Franz Joseph Haydn is made redundant due to financial cutbacks.

Georg Philipp Telemann - Don Quixote

11 December
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart completes his earliest dated piece of music, the Allegro in F for keyboard (K. 1c).

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Allegro in F Major, K 1c



Thomas Augustine Arne introduces English language opera seria to the public with Artaxerxes. An instant hit, the opera will remain in the repertory for the next 70 years.

Thomas Arne - Overture from Artaxerxes

6 Simphonies a grand orquestre by Christian Cannabich are published in Paris. Currently Konzertmeister at the court of Mannheim, Cannabich composes in the four-movement symphonic plan established by his predecessor and former teacher, Jan Václav Antonín Stamitz.

Johann Christian Cannabich. Sinfonia in B flat major

Christian Cannabich - Sinfonia in D-major

Christian Cannabich: Symphony for 2 orchestras in C major

By this time Franz Joseph Haydn has completed his Op. 2 String Quartets, designated divertimenti and cast in five movements.

Haydn - Hob III:7 - String Quartet Op. 2 No. 1 in A major

Haydn - Hob III:8 - String Quartet Op. 2 No. 2 in E major

Haydn - Hob III:9 - String Quartet Op. 2 No. 3 in E flat major

Haydn - Hob III:10 - String Quartet Op. 2 No. 4 in F major

Haydn - Hob III:11 - String Quartet Op. 2 No. 5 in D major

Haydn - Hob III:12 - String Quartet Op. 2 No. 6 in B flat major

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, around his sixth birthday, writes his Minuet in G major for keyboard, K. 1(e).

Mozart - Minuet in G major, K 1 1e

5 March
Georg Telemann's oratorio Der Tag des Gerichts (The Day of Judgement) is introduced in Hamburg.

Georg Philipp Telemann - "The Day of Judgment"
A poem for singing in four reflections by Christian Wilhelm Alers

First Reflection
Second Reflection
Third Reflection
Fourth Reflection

10 July
Roubiliac's monument of George Frideric Handel with the score of ‘I know that my Redeemer liveth’ (from Messiah) is unveiled in Westminster Abbey.

Johann Christian Bach swaps Milan for London, where he has been invited to write Italian operas. He wall have a major impact on English musical life.

4 August
Baldassare Galuppi is promoted to maestro di coro at St Mark’s, Venice.

17 September
Italian composer, violinist and theorist Francesco Geminiani, resident in Ireland for the last three years, dies in Dublin, aged 74.

5 October
Christoph Willibald Gluck's opera Orfeo ed Euridice, with libretto by Ranieri de’ Calzabigi, premieres at the Burgtheater in Vienna. In his first real attempt to challenge the worn formulas of opera seria, Gluck avoids complicated plotlines and eliminates all spectacle and extravagance. The resulting opera of ‘noble simplicity’, performed before Emperor Francis I, meets wuth mixed reactions. It later becomes the composers most famous and popular work.

Orpheus, ancient Greek legendary hero endowed with superhuman musical skills. He became the patron of a religious movement based on sacred writings said to be his own.

Orpheus joined the expedition of the Argonauts, saving them from the music of the Sirens by playing his own, more powerful music. On his return, he married Eurydice, who was soon killed by a snakebite. Overcome with grief, Orpheus ventured himself to the land of the dead to attempt to bring Eurydice back to life. With his singing and playing he charmed the ferryman Charon and the dog Cerberus, guardians of the River Styx. His music and grief so moved Hades, king of the underworld, that Orpheus was allowed to take Eurydice with him back to the world of life and light.

Hades set one condition, however: upon leaving the land of death, both Orpheus and Eurydice were forbidden to look back. The couple climbed up toward the opening into the land of the living, and Orpheus, seeing the Sun again, turned back to share his delight with Eurydice. In that moment, she disappeared. 

13 October
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his sister, Nannerl, perform before Emperor Francis I and Empress Maria Theresa at the Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna. Following his graceful performance the six-year-old Mozart falls flat on a polished floor. The Archduchess Maria Antonia (future Queen Marie-Antoinette of France), also six, helps him up. In return she receives the offer of marriage.

Wolfgang and Nannerl Mozart, c. 1763,
by Eusebius Johann Alphen 

Maria Anna Walburga Ignatia Mozart (30 July 1751 – 29 October 1829), called Marianne and nicknamed "Nannerl", was a musician, the older sister of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and daughter of Leopold and
Anna Maria Mozart.

18 March
Prince Paul Anton Esterhazy dies and is succeeded by his brother, Nicolaus. Franz Joseph Haydn will serve his new employer for nearly three decades.



In London Johann Christian Bach publishes Six Concertos for harpsichord and strings, Op. 1, dedicated to Queen Charlotte. The sixth concerto, presenting variations on ‘God Save the King’ in its finale, becomes one of the composer’s most popular works.

J.C. Bach - W C49 - Harpsichord Concerto Op. 1 No. 1 in B flat major

J.C. Bach - W C50 - Harpsichord Concerto Op. 1 No. 2 in A major

J.C. Bach - W C51 - Harpsichord Concerto Op. 1 No. 3 in F major

J.C. Bach - W C52 - Harpsichord Concerto Op. 1 No. 4 in G major

J.C. Bach - W C53 - Harpsichord Concerto Op. 1 No. 5 in C major

J.C. Bach - W C54 - Harpsichord Concerto Op. 1 No. 6 in D major

Leopold Mozart is appointed Vice-Kapellmeister at the court of the Archbishop of Salzburg. Johann Michael Haydn (younger brother of Franz Joseph Haydn) also joins the staff as court Konzertmeister.

19 February
Johann Christian Bach enjoys resounding success with his first London opera, Orione, premiered before King George III and Queen Charlotte at the King’s Theatre. This year Bach is appointed music master to the Queen.

J.C. Bach - W G4 - Orione, ossia Diana vendicata (overture)

9 June
The Leopold Mozarts begin a three-year European tour, with Wolfgang and Nannerl performing at court or in public concerts. This year includes appearances across Germany, followed by Brussels and Paris.

14 June
German composer (Johann) Simon Mayr is born in Mendorf, Bavaria.

22 June
French composer Etienne-Nicolas Mehul is 
born in Givet, Ardennes.

9 July
Antonio Sacchini’s opera Olimpiade is introduced in Padua with great success; further performances follow throughout Italy.

4 October
Tommaso Traetta presents Ifigenia in Tauride, influenced by Christoph Willibald Gluck's ‘reform’ opera Orfeo ed Euridice (1762), at the Schonbrunn in Vienna. 

Tommaso Traetta - Ifigenia in Tauride 1-3

Tommaso Traetta - Ifigenia in Tauride 2-3

Tommaso Traetta - Ifigenia in Tauride 3-3

Simon Mayr

Simon Mayr, also spelled Giovanni Simone Mayr, (born June 14, 1763, Mendorf, Bavaria [Germany]—died Dec. 2, 1845, Bergamo, Lombardy, Austrian Empire [now in Italy]), Italian operatic and liturgical composer of German origin who was one of the first composers to use the orchestral crescendo technique made famous by Gioacchino Rossini.


As a youth Mayr entered the University of Ingolstadt to study theology, but while there he learned to play several instruments. He later studied music in Bergamo and in Venice, where he had several oratorios produced. His popularity began with his first opera, Saffo (1794), and grew with each new work. In 1802 he was made choirmaster of Santa Maria Maggiore in Bergamo and in 1805 professor of counterpoint and director of the cathedral choir school there. After 1815, partly owing to the influence of Rossini, he concentrated on religious works, including masses, psalms, motets, and cantatas. His later style merges Italian melodic writing with the harmonic richness and orchestral nuance of the German tradition.

Mayr wrote a commemorative biography of Joseph Haydn, many works on music theory, and an autobiography that was edited and published posthumously, and he founded two institutions for poor and elderly musicians. Of his more than 60 operas, the best-remembered include La Lodoiska (1796), Ginevra di Scozia (1801), Medea in Corinto (1813), and La rosa bianca e la rosa rossa (1813; “The White Rose and the Red Rose”).

Johann Simon Mayr - Atalia 1-3 (1822)

Johann Simon Mayr - Atalia 2-3 (1822)

Johann Simon Mayr - Atalia 3-3 (1822)

Giovanni Simone Mayr - Che Originali! (1798)

Giovanni Simone Mayr - Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major

Étienne-Nicolas Méhul

Étienne-Nicolas Méhul, (born June 22, 1763, Givet, Ardennes, Fr.—died Oct. 18, 1817, Paris), composer who influenced the development of French opera and who was one of the principal composers in the late 18th- and early 19th-century style.


In 1782 Méhul produced a cantata at the Concert Spirituel on a text by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Influenced by Christoph Gluck and Luigi Cherubini, he turned to dramatic music and between 1787 and 1822 composed more than 40 operas, produced mainly at the Opéra-Comique. His first performed opera was Euphrosine et Coradin, ou le tyran corrigé (1790; Euphrosine and Coradin, or the Tyrant Corrected). His most successful works were Le Jeune Henri (1797), Les Deux Aveugles de Tolède (1806; The Two Blind Men of Toledo), Uthal (1806), and Joseph (1807). He also wrote patriotic works, demanding great choral and orchestral resources, to mark festive occasions of the French Revolution, such as the Hymne à la raison (1793).

Méhul had a bold sense of harmony and original gifts as a dramatist and orchestrator, although he was poorly served by his librettists. His operas emphasized the orchestra’s role in opera; frequently he chose a theme that was developed symphonically as the dramatic action progressed. Besides writing operas he wrote piano sonatas, chamber works, and symphonic works. His influence on younger composers was considerable.

Étienne Nicolas Méhul - Joseph en Égypte (1807)

Etienne-Nicolas Méhul: L'Irato ou L'Emporté (Opéra Comique, 1800)

Étienne Nicolas Méhul: Symphonie Nr. 3 in C-Dur

Étienne-Nicolas Méhul - Symphony NO. 4 in E major

Méhul - Symphony No.1 In G Minor

Simon Mayr
Étienne-Nicolas Méhul


Various Franz Joseph Haydn symphonies are printed in Paris and become instant additions to the Concert Spirituel repertory. Haydn’s new compositions this year include his popular Symphony No. 22 in E flat major, later nicknamed The Philosopher.

Joseph Haydn - Symphony No. 22 in E-Flat Major: The Philosopher

1 January
Wolfgang and Nannerl Mozart perform before Louis XV. While in Paris, Mozart's first pieces are published—two sets of sonatas for keyboard and violin (K. 6-9).

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Violin and Piano Sonatas No.1 - 10

Violin and Piano Sonata 1 in C, K.6
Violin and Piano Sonata 2 in D, K.7
Violin and Piano Sonata 3 in Bb, K.8
Violin and Piano Sonata 4 in G, K.9
Violin and Piano Sonata 5 in Bb, K.10
Violin and Piano Sonata 6 in G, K.11
Violin and Piano Sonata 7 in A, K.12
Violin and Piano Sonata 8 in F, K.13
Violin and Piano Sonata 9 in C, K.14
Violin and Piano Sonata 10 in Bb, K.15

17 April
Johann Mattheson, composer, theorist and historian, dies in Hamburg, aged 82.

23 April
The Leopold Mozart's arrive in England. Four days later Wolfgang and Nannerl play before King George III, and Leopold pockets 24 guineas for their efforts. The following month the Leopold Mozart children make a second royal appearance, on which occasion Johann Christian Bach and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart perform a sonata together. While in England the eight-year-old composes his Symphony No. 1 in E flat (K. 16).

Mozart - Symphony No 1 in E flat, K 16

12 September
Jean-Philippe Rameau, France’s leading composer, dies in Paris, aged 80.

7 January
Christoph Willibald Gluck’s last opera comique for Vienna, La rencontre imprevue (The Unexpected Meeting), generates great excitement at the city’s Burgtheater.

30 March
Italian composer and violin maestro Pietro Antonio Locatelli dies in Amsterdam, aged 68.

22 October
Jean-Marie Leclair67-year-old composer and founder of the French violin school, is stabbed to death on the doorstep of his house, in Paris. The chief suspect is his disgruntled nephew, the violinist Guillaume-Frangois Vial.



Carl Philipp Eemanuel Bach composes his oboe concertos in B flat major (Wq. 164) and E flat major (Wq. 165), around the same time that his elder brother, Wilhelm  Friedemann Bach, completes his 12 Keyboard Polonaises.

C. P. E. Bach - Oboe Concerto Wq164 in B flat Major 

C. P. E. Bach - Oboe Concerto in E flat, Wq.165

WF Bach - Polonaise 5 & 6

Franz Joseph Haydn composes his Cello Concerto No. 1 for Joseph Weigl (Joseph Franz Weigl, 1740 - 1820, was a Bavarian and Austrian cellist), principal cellist of the Esterhazy orchestra. Quickly forgotten and lost, the work resurfaces in Prague in 1961.

Franz Joseph Haydn, Cello Concerto No. 1 In C Major

Baldassare Galuppi journeys to St Petersburg to provide operas for the court of Catherine the Great. Retaining his position as maestro di coro of St Mark’s in Venice, the composer visits Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach and meets Casanova along the way.

Giacomo Girolamo Casanova (Italian pronunciation: [ˈdʒaːkomo dʒiˈrɔːlamo kazaˈnɔːva] or [kasaˈnɔːva]; 2 April 1725 – 4 June 1798) was an Italian adventurer and author from the Republic of Venice. His autobiography, Histoire de ma vie (Story of My Life), is regarded as one of the most authentic sources of the customs and norms of European social life during the 18th century.

As was not uncommon at the time, Casanova, depending on circumstances, used more or less fictitious names, such as baron or count of Farussi (the name of his mother) or "Chevalier de Seingalt" (pronounced /sɛ̃ gɑl/ as in French). He often signed his works "Jacques Casanova de Seingalt" after he began writing in French following his second exile from Venice.

He has become so famous for his often complicated and elaborate affairs with women that his name is now synonymous with "womanizer". He associated with European royalty, popes, and cardinals, along with luminaries such as Voltaire, Goethe, and Mozart. He spent his last years in Bohemia as a librarian in Count Waldstein's household, where he also wrote the story of his life.

12 January
Composer of around 170 symphonies, Johann Melchior Molter dies in Karlsruhe, aged 69.

23 January
Composers Johann Christian Bach and Carl Friderich Abel begin a series of concerts at Carlisle House in London’s Soho Square. Possibly showcased this year are Bach’s first six symphonies (Op. 3)—all three-movement, major-key galant compositions.

J.C. Bach - W C1 - Symphony Op. 3 No. 1 in D major

J.C. Bach - W C2 - Symphony Op. 3 No. 2 in C major

J.C. Bach - W C3 - Symphony Op. 3 No. 3 in E flat major

J.C. Bach - W C4 - Symphony Op. 3 No. 4 in B flat major

J.C. Bach - W C5 - Symphony Op. 3 No. 5 in F major

J.C. Bach - W C6 - Symphony Op. 3 No. 6 in G major

The Mozart family leave England for The Hague.

The Mozart family c. 1780.
The portrait on the wall is of Mozart's mother.

Kapellmeister Gregor Werner at Eisenstadt writes an angry letter to Prince Esterhazy complaining of Franz Joseph Haydn's apathy as assistant Kapellmeister, most of all his neglect of musical instruments and failure to reprimand disorderly musicians. The prince reproaches Haydn; at the same time he requests more baryton music and a first copy of all new compositions, written neatly.

Original copy of "Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser" in Haydn's hand


Frangois Boucher - Girl and Bird Catcher

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