Music History of the Western World 2: Classical, Romantic, and Modern


Authored by Dr. Tom Rudolph


Course Code: OLART-234

Next semester starts September 23

12 Weeks

Level 2

Level 2

3-Credit Tuition


Non-Credit Tuition


Just as learning the theory behind how music creation works, exploring the history of music, including important composers, performers, and the evolving influence of society on music, is key to understanding the genres of music that we perform, create, and consume today. Music History of the Western World 2: Classical, Romantic, and Modern will take you on a guided study of music in the Western World during the periods of time that encompass the classical, romantic, and twentieth century. 

Read More

Through audio, video interviews, and interactive viewing and listening activities, you will experience the historical processes through which musical styles begin, grow, mature, and decline. The course begins with the Age of Enlightenment and the rise of opera, early symphony, and keyboard music, and then explores the emergence of the classical style and the works of Haydn, Mozart, Paradis, and Beethoven. 

It delves into the Romantic period, profiling such composers as Schubert, Berlioz, Chopin, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Wagner, Rossini, Verdi, Brahms, Bruckner, Dvořák, Tchaikovsky, and Mahler, followed by an exploration of impressionism, including the works of Debussy, Fauré, and Boulanger. The course then chronicles music in the twentieth century, including such topics as Russia's Silver Age, atonality, the twelve-tone method, music in Latin America, electronic music, new textures, and minimalism, exploring the music of Ravel, Webern, Clarke, Copland, Barber, Penderecki, Cage, and others. The goal of the course is to provide you with a foundation for understanding how music has developed in the Western world through an analysis of the characteristics of musical genres from the various periods studied, in addition to the major composers, their compositions, and typical performing mediums of those genres. You will also gain an understanding of the relationship between music, art, and society through these periods.

By the end of the course you will be able to:

  • Identify the music of the major composers of the classical, romantic and twentieth century
  • Identify the elements that define each of the major style periods from the Age of Enlightenment to the present
  • Recognize the representative musical forms and genres in the classical, romantic, and twentieth century
  • Use terminology associated with each style period
  • Identify the key aspects of culture, society, history, and geography that relate to music in Western civilization over the last 250 years
Read Less


Lesson 1: The Age of Enlightenment (1730-1770)

  • Age of Enlightenment (1730-1770)
  • Opera
  • Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714-1787)
  • Age of Enlightenment and the Middle Class
  • The Early Symphony
  • Keyboard Music
  • Princess Anna Amalia of Prussia (1723-1787)
  • Assignment 1: Public Performances of the Age of Enlightenment

Lesson 2: Classical Music in Vienna

  • Classical and Neoclassical Architecture and the Classical Style
  • Characteristics of the Classical Style
  • Ternary Form
  • Sonata-Allegro Form
  • Rondo Form
  • Theme and Variations Form
  • Classical Instrumental Genres
  • Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
  • Maria Theresia von Paradis
  • Assignment 2: Compare Mozart and Haydn

Lesson 3: The Music of Beethoven

  • Ludwig Van Beethoven
  • Beethoven and His Early Piano Works
  • Beethoven's Middle Period: 1802-1814
  • Beethoven and Napoleon
  • The Opera Fidelio
  • Beethoven's Late Period: 1815-1826
  • Beethoven's Death
  • Assignment 3: Review a Classical Era Piece

Lesson 4: The Early Romantic Period

  • Romanticism
  • Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
  • Music in Paris
  • Hector Berlioz (1803-1869)
  • Fryderyk Chopin (1810-1849)
  • Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
  • Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
  • Clara Schumann (1819-1896)
  • Assignment 4: Compositions by Robert and Clara Schumann

Lesson 5: Romantic Opera and Nationalism

  • Opera in the Nineteenth Century
  • German Opera: Carl Maria Von Weber (1786-1826)
  • Richard Wagner (1813-1883)
  • Opera in Italy: Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868)
  • Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)
  • Nationalism in the Nineteenth Century
  • Assignment 5: Concept of Nationalism

Lesson 6: Vienna, Prague, and Russia

  • Music in Vienna
  • Johannes Brahms (1833–1897)
  • The War of the Romantics
  • Anton Bruckner (1824-1896)
  • Antonín Dvořák (1841–1904)
  • Russian Music: The Kutchka (The Five)
  • Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)
  • Gustav Mahler (1860-1911)
  • Alma Mahler (1879-1901)
  • Assignment 6: "War of the Romantics"

Lesson 7: End of the Romantic Era, England and Italy

  • England at the End of the Romantic Period
  • Edward Elgar (1857-1934)
  • Ralph Vaughn Williams (1872-1958)
  • Ethel Smyth (1858–1944)
  • Opera in Milan after Verdi
  • Assignment 7: Elgar’s Enigma Variations

Lesson 8: Impressionism: Debussy, Fauré, and Boulanger

  • Timeline: End of the Romantic Period
  • Impressionism
  • The Poetry of Verlaine
  • Claude Debussy: His Harmony and Music
  • Gabriel Fauré
  • Lili Boulanger
  • Assignment 8: Summation of the Romantic Era

Lesson 9: The Early Twentieth Century: Strauss, Stravinsky, The Six, and Ravel

  • Timeline: The Early Twentieth Century
  • Richard Strauss (1864–1949)
  • Music after 1900
  • Russia: "The Silver Age"
  • Maurice Ravel
  • Music after World War 1
  • Assignment 9: John Williams Movie Scores

Lesson 10: Atonality, Twelve-Tone, and Serial Music

  • Timeline: The Twentieth Century
  • Atonality
  • The Twelve Tone Method
  • Anton Webern
  • Rebecca Clarke
  • Alban Berg
  • Milton Babbitt and Serialism
  • Assignment 10: First Installment Final Project

Lesson 11: Composers in the Twentieth Century: Ives, Copeland, Seeger, Barber, and Chávez

  • Timeline: The Early Twentieth Century
  • Béla Bartók (1881–1945)
  • Charles Ives
  • Ruth Crawford Seeger
  • Aaron Copeland
  • Samuel Barber
  • Music in Latin America
  • Assignment 11: Second Installment of the Final Project

Lesson 12: Music after 1945: Chance, Electronic, Textures, and Minimalism

  • Timeline: Contemporary Music
  • Krzysztof Penderecki
  • Chance Music: John Cage
  • Electronic Music
  • New Textures
  • Steve Reich and Minimalism
  • Joan Tower
  • John Adams: Transformation of Minimalism
  • Returning to the Known: Music of the Recent Past
  • Ellen Taaffe Zwilich
  • Assignment 12: Last Installment of the Final Project


Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

Prerequisite Courses, Knowledge, and/or Skills
This course does not have any prerequisites.


Student Deals
After enrolling, be sure to check out our Student Deals page for various offers on software, hardware, and more. Please contact with any questions.

General Course Requirements

Below are the minimum requirements to access the course environment and participate in Live Classes. Please make sure to also check the Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements section above, and ensure your computer meets or exceeds the minimum system requirements for all software needed for your course. 

Mac Users

PC Users

All Users

  • Latest version of Google Chrome
  • Zoom meeting software
  • Webcam
  • Speakers or headphones
  • External or internal microphone
  • Broadband Internet connection


Dr. Tom Rudolph

Author & Instructor

Dr. Tom Rudolph is an adjunct instructor for Berklee Online, the University of the Arts, Central Connecticut State University, VanderCook MECA, and the Rutgers Mason Gross School of Music. He has authored multiple online courses in music technology and music history. His books include: The Musical iPad, The iPad in the Music Studio, Finale: An Easy Guide to Music Notation (Third Edition), Sibelius: A Comprehensive Guide to Sibelius Music Notation Software (Second Edition), Teaching Music with Technology (Second Edition), Recording in the Digital World, YouTube in Music Education and Finding Funds for Music Technology. He was one of four co-authors of the TIME publication, Technology Strategies for Music Education. Rudolph is the co-author of the Alfred Music Tech Series that includes: Playing Keyboard, Music Production and MIDI Sequencing, and Composing with Notation Software. He has published many articles on music technology that have appeared in the Music Educators Journal, The Instrumentalist, and DownBeat magazine. In addition to his work in music technology, Dr. Rudolph is a trumpet performer in the Philadelphia area and performs with a group called Gaudeamus. His compositions and arrangements have been published by Neil Kjos and Northeastern Music Publications, Inc.


Contact our Academic Advisors by phone at 1-866-BERKLEE (U.S.), 1-617-747-2146 (INT'L), or by email at

Get Info