Giorgio Pestelli examines one of the crucial periods of musical history, from the middle of the eighteenth century to the era of Beethoven. This was a time of great cultural, technical and social changes. The free professional composer, in direct contact with the wide musical public, replaced the dependent court musician. Instrumental music became the centre of new developments, and sonata form, the cornerstone of nineteenth-century musical architecture, dominated its language. With the decrease in private patronage came the birth of the public concert; there was a vast increase in music publishing, and important developments were made in instrumental techniques, the dominant feature being the rise of the piano. Standing out from this common background are three major figures; Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, whose specific characteristics are discussed in detail, along with their links with many other musicians. Dr Pestelli also emphasizes general lines of development: the galant style, the passion for antiquity and curiosity for the exotic, the debate over 'literary' opera, the Sturm und Drang movement, the influence of the French Revolution and the Restoration, and the origins of romanticism. The originality of the book arises from the fact that it views the music against the background of social, political, philosophical and cultural trends of the time, rather than relying on detailed analyses of specific works.