As far as I know, in other periods they only performed the contemporary music of that time. For example, during Baroque period they only performed Baroque music, and when they reached Classical period they stopped performing Baroque music (and that caused the loss of many Baroque scores). This changed at some time, probably it was a gradual change.

I would like to know more about that change in what music was performed. More precisely I would like a function that takes a given year and returns the year or period of oldest music regularly performed at that year.

  • People still perform Baroque music today. It's not a cold stop on any style of music and there never will be as long as people want to hear it which I guarantee there will always be some audience for all music.
    – Dom
    Dec 14, 2015 at 15:57
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    @Dom I think that's what he means by "This changed at some time", i.e. now musics of all ages are performed. The presumption in the question is that at various times in the past, maybe musics from even further in the past were not performed. Not sure whether that's true or not, but at least that's my understanding of the question!
    – user16
    Dec 14, 2015 at 18:43
  • @topomorto we'll from his own words " For example, during Baroque period they only performed Baroque music, and when they reached Classical period they stopped performing Baroque music..." I read that as Baroque music stopped completely. I may be reading too much into it, but that's how it comes off to me.
    – Dom
    Dec 14, 2015 at 18:45
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    @Dom I guess stopping at some point in time doesn't preclude restarting again later! Ignacio, are we understanding you correctly?
    – user16
    Dec 14, 2015 at 18:55
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    What's not true? Do you mean that, during the Classical period, Baroque music was performed regularly? Could you share some citation? Maybe it is true for sacred music (the Church has been always conservative, also in arts), but what about the rest? Dec 16, 2015 at 13:24

1 Answer 1


This information can be had in statistical fashion -- ie., at a given date, X% of pieces on programs of this type (orchestra, salon, etc.) were by living composers and X% by dead composers -- from the work of William Weber. See The Great Transformation of Musical Taste.

I assume you are not talking about church music, either, since Gregorian chant (ca. 900) has been performed every day since the Middle Ages and continues to this day.

Leaving out church music, we'd have to start around 1600, when secular music really begins to have its own history; here's a rough guesstimate of what your function would return, based on my study of music history over the years:

1600 - 1600 (monody displaces polyphony in secular music)

1650 - 1600 (first operas do not disappear right away)

1700 - 1600 (still some Monteverdi being performed...)

1750 - 1725 (Galant style takes over)

1800 - 1750 (no canon yet; Mozart dead and buried)

1830 - 1700 (Beethoven becomes first "immortal" composer; Bach revived)

1850 - 1700 (same)

1880 - 1750 (orchestra culture dominates opera in USA; more focus on classical and romantic music)

1900 - 1750 (same)

1930 - 1800 (narrowest definitions of "great music" center on Beethoven)

1950 - 1600 (baroque revival)

1960 - 1500 (early music revival)

1980 - 1500 (height of early music movement)

2000 - 1500 (same)

2015 - 2015 (Taylor Swift displaces all previous music, becomes sole inheritor of Western Art Music tradition)

UPDATE: The following is a graph of the maximum age of performed music, throughout the times, according to Robert's data:

Graph of maximum age of performed music, throughout the times


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