The Classical period of music in Europe extended between about 1750 and 1820. The music is characterized by its use of homophony, a single melodic structure supported by accompaniment, and multiple changes of key and tempo in a single piece. The best-known composers of the period include Joseph Haydn (1732–1809), Wolfgang Mozart (1756–1791), and Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827).
When the great Baroque composer Johan Sebastian Bach died in 1750, Haydn, widely recognized as the first classical composer, widely recognized as the first classical composer , was 18 years old. Many European artists had begun to embrace the ideals of Neoclassicism, a movement espousing a newfound respect for the works of the ancient Greek and Roman artists. Classical composers created music that reflected the ideals of symmetry, harmony, and balance that they found in classical art. The movement eschewed Baroque and Rococo displays of musical virtuosity and grandiose compositions for simpler, more elegant works. The classical period saw the invention of the sonata, and also a rise in the promnence of other forms, such as the concerto and symphony.
Beethoven is often credited as the last Classical composer (or the first of the Romantic era). Today, people often use the term "classical" to refer to a range of chamber music periods, but the music from the classical period of 1750 to 1820 is perhaps the most popular form. Classical era works are a staple of modern orchestras, symphony performances are rigorously studied, and the music features regularly in movies, television programs, and commercials.