From roughly 1750 to 1820, artists, architechts, and musicians moved away from the heavily ornamented styles of the Baroque, and instead embraced a clean, uncluttered style they thought reminiscent of Classical Greece. The newly established aristocracies were replacing monarchs and the church as patrons of the arts, and were demanding an impersonal, but tuneful and elegant music. Dances such as the minuet and the gavotte were provided in the forms of entertaining serenades and divertimenti. At this time the Austrian capital of Vienna became the musical center of Europe, and works of the period are often referred to as being in the Viennese style. Composers came from all over Europe to train in and around Vienna, and gradually they developed and formalized the standard musical forms that were to predominate European musical culture for the next several decades. A reform of the extravagance of Baroque opera was undertaken by Christoph von Gluck. Johann Stamitz contributed greatly to the growth of the orchestra and developed the idea of the orchestral symphony. The Classical period reached its majestic culmination with the masterful symphonies, sonatas, and string quartets by the three great composers of the Viennese school: Franz Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Ludwig van Beethoven. During the same period, the first voice of the burgeoning Romantic musical ethic can be found in the music of Viennese composer Franz Schubert.
The Romantic Era
As the many socio-political revolutions of the late eighteenth-century established new social orders and new ways of life and thought, so composers of the period broke new musical ground by adding a new emotional depth to the prevailing classical forms. Throughout the remainder of the nineteenth-century (from 1820 to 1900), artists of all kinds became intent in expressing their subjective, personal emotions. The earliest Romantic composers were all born within a few years of each other in the early years of the nineteenth century. These include the great German masters Felix Mendelssohn and Robert Schumann ; the Polish poet of the piano Frédéric Chopin; the French genius Hector Berlioz ; and the greatest pianistic showman in history, the Hungarian composer Franz Liszt. During the early nineteenth century, opera composers such as Carl Maria von Weber turned to German folk stories for the stories of their operas, while the Italians looked to the literature of the time and created what is known as Bel canto opera (literally "beautiful singing"). Later in the century, the field of Italian opera was dominated by Giuseppe Verdi, while German opera was virtually monopolized by Richard Wagner.
The continued modification and enhancement of existing instruments, plus the invention of new ones, led to the further expansion of the symphony orchestra throughout the century. Taking advantage of these new sounds and new instrumental combinations, the late Romantic composers of the second half of the nineteenth-century created richer and ever larger symphonies, ballets, and concertos. Two of the giants of this period are the German-born Johannes Brahms and the great Russian melodist Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky.