Renaissance Music Timeline

Handwritten score for
Original score: Guillaume Dufay/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 3.0

Renaissance or "rebirth," a period of significant changes in history, including music.

1400 - 1474 - Guillaume Dufay, known as the transitional figure to the Renaissance.

1450 - 1550 - During this period composers experimented with cantus firmus. Cantus firmus was commonly used in the Middle Ages which was strongly based on the Gregorian Chant. Known composers during this period were Johannes Ockeghem, Jacob Obrecht, and Josquin Desprez.

1517 - Protestant Reformation sparked by Martin Luther. Significant changes occurred to church music such as the chorale, hymns that were meant to be sung by a congregation. Its earliest form was monophonic and then evolved to four part harmony. It was also the period when psalms of the Bible were translated into French and then set to music.

1550 - Catholic Counter-Reformation. The Council of Trent met from 1545 to 1563 to discuss complaints against the church including its music.

1500 - 1550 - The French Chanson, a polyphonic French song that was originally for 2 to 4 voices. During the Renaissance, composers were less restricted to the formes fixes (fixed form) of chansons and experimented on new styles that were similar to contemporary motets and liturgical music. Known composers during this period were Clément Janequin and Claudin de Sermisy.

1500 - 1620 - Italian Madrigal, polyphonic secular music that was performed in groups of 4 to 6 singers who sang mostly love songs.

There were three periods of the Italian Madrigal

  • 1540 - 1570 - Known composers were again Adrian Willaert and Orlando Lassus.
  • 1570 - 1610 - Known composers were Luca Marenzio, Carlo Gesualdo, and Claudio Monteverdi. Monteverdi is also known as the transitional figure to the Baroque music era.

    1570 -1605 - John Farmer, English madrigal composer.

    1525 - 1594 - Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, known as the High Renaissance composer of Counter-Reformation sacred music. During this period Renaissance polyphony reached its height.

    1548 - 1611 - Tomas Luis de Victoria, known Spanish composer during the Renaissance who composed mainly sacred music.

    1554 - 1612 - Giovanni Gabrielli, known composer in Venetian High Renaissance music who wrote instrumental and church music.

    1543 - 1623 - William Byrd, leading English composer of the late Renaissance who composed church, secular, consort and keyboard music.

    1563 - 1626 - John Dowland, known for his lute music in Europe and composed beautiful melancholic music.