I would like to find the clearest, most obvious case for a composer whose work at one point of his life is considered to be part of "Period A" and work at another point of his life is considered "Period B".

I realize there may not be a clear-cut answer, as human lifespans are not as long as epochs (generally speaking). However, my hope is that there is a well-known composer who just so happened to feather tail two classical music periods such that his earlier work sounds like the earlier period and his later work sounds part of the more modern period.

Here are the periods as I know them (correct me if I'm wrong)

Medieval -> Renaissance -> Baroque -> Classical -> Romantic

  • Not picky about which two periods (any 2 is ok)
  • Modern and post-modern are not in consideration
  • The dates don't have to exactly fall into place
  • Would need composer's name and the two compositions alongside which style each composition is widely considered to be (should be two different styles)
  • 2
    I don't think this is on-topic here. It might be on-topic at musicfans.stackexchange.com. It also might be something you can find with a web search. Commented May 21, 2018 at 14:28
  • 3
    It's borderline, history is an important part of theory. @Arash, I recommend looking at early and late Beethoven.
    – MattPutnam
    Commented May 21, 2018 at 15:34
  • @MattPutnam Agreed. This particular case seems like an identification question, though. Commented May 21, 2018 at 15:46
  • @ArashHowida: perhaps a little clarification here: do you really mean historical periods or do you really mean styles? There are many examples of composers whose styles evolved from one style to another, especially late-C19 thru C20 where the historical periods become less relevant to style. Commented May 22, 2018 at 2:47
  • It's an interesting question. Don't look for reasons to reject it!
    – Laurence
    Commented Jun 21, 2018 at 10:55

2 Answers 2


Ludwig van Beethoven

Was widely held as a transitional figure between the classical and romantic eras. Where he had his 'heroic' phase during his middle period where he focussed on his grandest works, while his later works where more in line with previous styles, which included his well-document revival of study of the music of Handel and Bach.

  • 6
    "while his later works where more in line with previous styles" is a highly controversial suggestion. Are you really saying that the ninth symphony, C# minor quartet and Op111 are closer to the style of Mozart and Haydn than the Eroica, Razumovsky quartets, and Waldstein sonata are?
    – user48353
    Commented May 22, 2018 at 8:33
  • Absolutely, @replete, triple fugue does not a reversion to JS Bach make. Commented May 23, 2018 at 5:00

I proffer 2 composers whose music spans the gigantism of late Romanticism through the period of flux that was C20 in Wester Art music. In fact both of them were major influencers of the subsequent styles.

Arnold Schönberg

(In)famous for his 12-tone serial technique, Schönberg's early works are paeans to the aesthetics of German Romanticism: dense, lush, complex, emotive, emotional & all of the other clichés of Romanticism. Illustrative works: Verklärte Nacht & Gurre-Lieder.

Before WWI Schönberg sought a way to progress his musical style & experimented with explicit atonality. Although works like the 5 Orchestral Pieces, Op 16, don't diverge radically from the late romantic style (one could argue that the lushly orchestrated work is a highly compressed Gurre-Lieder with added dissonance), works like Pierrot Lunaire begin to create a new textural as well as harmonic vocabulary.

Post WWI we see Schönberg's "method of composing with twelve tones which are related only one with another" come to fruition. Exemplary work is this style are the Suite, Op 25, & Variations for Orchestra, Op 31. Interestingly, for all of the novelty of the compositional method & harmonic language, these two works are both exemplars of backward-looking forms: the Suite evoking (more or less) the forms of the Baroque keyboard suite; the Variations a massive set of orchestral variations on a original theme in the Romantic style; both relying heavily on contrapuntal techniques to provide an aural compass. It's perhaps the small-scale music from this period that is most divergent stylistically: e.g. the Op 33 Piano Pieces.

Igor Stravinsky

Brahms was still writing when Stravinsky was born & the Beatles had broken up by the time Stravinsky died! Few would disagree that Igor Stravinsky was a giant of European Art Music through C20. Early works were in a Romantic style showing the influence of his teacher, Rimsky-Korsakov, & other Romantic influences. e.g. The Firebird

After WWI Stravinsky's style evolved into a less indulgent (in terms of forces & gesture), post-Romantic neoclassicism. Illustrative examples from this period in his writing are Apollon musagète & Symphony of Psalms. While neoclassicism isn't a musical period per se, it is an aesthetic movement that was very influential on inter-war Western Art music.

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