The world of lessons and exercises studied by young musicians in past centuries was often quite different from what is studied today in high school or college classes. In the 1700s and 1800s, students who successfully completed their musical education were not only able to perform concertos, quartets, and sonatas but also able to compose them. In other words, they could read and write music in much the same way that they could read and write their native language. Today, typical students graduating from a program in classical music can read this music but not write or improvise it. In a sense they are unable to "speak" classical music.
This website presents collections of the types of lessons once studied in the past. The lessons are drawn, for the most part, from the Naples conservatories of the eighteenth century and the Paris conservatory of the nineteenth century. They cover the period from Bach and Handel to Debussy and Ravel.