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Baroque music is a style of Western art music composed from approximately 1600 to 1750. This era follows the Renaissance, and was followed in turn by the Classical era. The word "baroque" comes from the Portuguese word barroco, meaning misshapen pearl, a negative description of the ornate and heavily ornamented music of this period. Later, the name came to apply also to the architecture of the same period.
Baroque music forms a major portion of the "classical music" canon, being widely studied, performed, and listened to. Composers of the Baroque era include Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frideric Handel, Alessandro Scarlatti, Domenico Scarlatti, Antonio Vivaldi, Georg Philipp Telemann, Jean-Baptiste Lully, Arcangelo Corelli, François Couperin, Denis Gaultier, Claudio Monteverdi, Jean-Philippe Rameau, Johann Pachelbel, and Henry Purcell.
The Baroque period saw the creation of tonality. During the period, composers and performers used more elaborate musical ornamentation, made changes in musical notation, and developed new instrumental playing techniques. Baroque music expanded the size, range, and complexity of instrumental performance, and also established opera, cantata, oratorio, concerto, and sonata as musical genres. Many musical terms and concepts from this era are still in use today.
|Periods of Western classical music|
|Modern and contemporary|
History of European art music
The term "Baroque" is generally used by music historians to describe a broad range of styles from a wide geographic region, mostly in Europe, composed over a period of approximately 150 years.
Although it was long thought that the word as a critical term was first applied to architecture, in fact it appears earlier in reference to music, in an anonymous, satirical review of the première in October 1733 of Rameau’s Hippolyte et Aricie, printed in the Mercure de France in May 1734. The critic implied that the novelty in this opera was "du barocque," complaining that the music lacked coherent melody, was filled with unremitting dissonances, constantly changed key and meter, and speedily ran through every compositional device.
The systematic application by historians of the term "baroque" to music of this period is a relatively recent development. In 1919, Curt Sachs became the first to apply the five characteristics of Heinrich Wölfflin’s theory of the Baroque systematically to music. Critics were quick to question the attempt to transpose Wölfflin's categories to music, however, and in the second quarter of the 20th century independent attempts were made by Manfred Bukofzer (in Germany and, after his immigration, in America) and by Suzanne Clercx-Lejeune (in Belgium) to use autonomous, technical analysis rather than comparative abstractions, in order to avoid the adaptation of theories based on the plastic arts and literature to music. All of these efforts resulted in appreciable disagreement about time boundaries of the period, especially concerning when it began. In English the term acquired currency only in the 1940s, in the writings of Lang and Bukofzer.
As late as 1960 there was still considerable dispute in academic circles, particularly in France and Britain, whether it was meaningful to lump together music as diverse as that of Jacopo Peri, Domenico Scarlatti, and J.S. Bach under a single rubric. Nevertheless, the term has become widely used and accepted for this broad range of music. It may be helpful to distinguish the Baroque from both the preceding (Renaissance) and following (Classical) periods of musical history.
The Baroque period is divided into three major phases: early, middle, and late. Although they overlap in time, they are conventionally dated from 1580 to 1630, from 1630 to 1680, and from 1680 to 1730.
Early baroque music (1580–1630)
The Florentine Camerata was a group of humanists, musicians, poets and intellectuals in late Renaissance Florence who gathered under the patronage of Count Giovanni de' Bardi to discuss and guide trends in the arts, especially music and drama. In reference to music, they based their ideals on a perception of Classical (especially ancient Greek) musical drama that valued discourse and oration. As such, they rejected their contemporaries' use of polyphony and instrumental music, and discussed such ancient Greek music devices as monody, which consisted of a solo singing accompanied by a kithara. The early realizations of these ideas, including Jacopo Peri's Dafne and L'Euridice, marked the beginning of opera, which in turn was somewhat of a catalyst for Baroque music.
Concerning music theory, the more widespread use of figured bass (also known as thorough bass) represents the developing importance of harmony as the linear underpinnings of polyphony. Harmony is the end result of counterpoint, and figured bass is a visual representation of those harmonies commonly employed in musical performance. Composers began concerning themselves with harmonic progressions, and also employed the tritone, perceived as an unstable interval, to create dissonance. Investment in harmony had also existed among certain composers in the Renaissance, notably Carlo Gesualdo; However, the use of harmony directed towards tonality, rather than modality, marks the shift from the Renaissance into the Baroque period. This led to the idea that chords, rather than notes, could provide a sense of closure—one of the fundamental ideas that became known as tonality.
By incorporating these new aspects of composition, Claudio Monteverdi furthered the transition from the Renaissance style of music to that of the Baroque period. He developed two individual styles of composition – the heritage of Renaissance polyphony (prima pratica) and the new basso continuo technique of the Baroque (seconda pratica). With the writing of the operas L'Orfeo and L'incoronazione di Poppea among others, Monteverdi brought considerable attention to the new genre of opera.
Middle baroque music (1630–1680)
The rise of the centralized court is one of the economic and political features of what is often labelled the Age of Absolutism, personified by Louis XIV of France. The style of palace, and the court system of manners and arts he fostered became the model for the rest of Europe. The realities of rising church and state patronage created the demand for organized public music, as the increasing availability of instruments created the demand for chamber music.
The middle Baroque is separated from the early Baroque by the coming of systematic thinking to the new style and a gradual institutionalization of the forms and norms, particularly in opera. As with literature, the printing press and trade created an expanded international audience for works and greater cross-pollination between national centres of musical activity.
The middle Baroque period in Italy is defined by the emergence in the cantata, oratorio, and opera during the 1630s of the bel-canto style. This style, one of the most important contributions to the development of Baroque as well as the later Classical style, was generated by a new concept of melody and harmony that elevated the status of the music to one of equality with the words, which formerly had been regarded as pre-eminent. The florid, coloratura monody of the early Baroque gave way to a simpler, more polished melodic style, usually in a ternary rhythm. These melodies were built from short, cadentially delimited ideas often based on stylized dance patterns drawn from the sarabande or the courante. The harmonies, too, were simpler than in the early Baroque monody, and the accompanying bass lines were more integrated with the melody, producing a contrapuntal equivalence of the parts that later led to the device of an initial bass anticipation of the aria melody. This harmonic simplification also led to a new formal device of the differentiation of recitative and aria. The most important innovators of this style were the Romans Luigi Rossi and Giacomo Carissimi, who were primarily composers of cantatas and oratorios, respectively, and the Venetian Francesco Cavalli, who was principally an opera composer. Later important practitioners of this style include Antonio Cesti, Giovanni Legrenzi, and Alessandro Stradella.
The middle Baroque, in music theory, is identified by the increasingly harmonic focus of musical practice and the creation of formal systems of teaching. Music was an art, and it became seen as one that should be taught in an orderly manner. This had absolutely no bearing at all on the theoretical work of Johann Fux, who systematized the strict counterpoint characteristic of earlier ages in his Gradus ad Paranassum (1725).
One pre-eminent example of a court style composer is Jean-Baptiste Lully. His career rose dramatically when he collaborated with Molière on a series of comédie-ballets, that is, plays with dancing. He used this success to become the sole composer of operas for the king, using not just innovative musical ideas such as the tragédie lyrique, but patents from the king that prevented others from having operas staged. Lully's instinct for providing the material that his monarch desired has been pointed out by almost every biographer, including his rapid shift to church music when the mood at court became more devout. His 13 completed lyric tragedies are based on libretti that focus on the conflicts between the public and private life of the monarch.[not in citation given]
Musically, he explored contrast between stately and fully orchestrated sections, and simple recitatives and airs. In no small part, it was his skill in assembling and practicing musicians into a cohesive orchestra that was essential to his success and influence. Observers noted the precision and intonation, this in an age where there was no standard for tuning instruments. One essential element was the increased focus on the inner voices of the harmony and the relationship to the soloist. He did not, however, establish the string-dominated norm for orchestras, which was inherited from the Italian opera, and the characteristically French five-part disposition (violins, violas—in hautes-contre, tailles and quintes sizes—and bass violins) had been used in the ballet from the time of Louis XIII. He did, however, introduce this ensemble to the lyric theatre, with the upper parts often doubled by recorders, flutes, and oboes, and the bass by bassoons. Trumpets and kettledrums were frequently added for heroic scenes.
Arcangelo Corelli is remembered as influential for his achievements on the other side of musical technique— as a violinist who organized violin technique and pedagogy— and in purely instrumental music, particularly his advocacy and development of the concerto grosso. Whereas Lully was ensconced at court, Corelli was one of the first composers to publish widely and have his music performed all over Europe. As with Lully's stylization and organization of the opera, the concerto grosso is built on strong contrasts— sections alternate between those played by the full orchestra, and those played by a smaller group. Dynamics were "terraced", that is with a sharp transition from loud to soft and back again. Fast sections and slow sections were juxtaposed against each other. Numbered among his students is Antonio Vivaldi, who later composed hundreds of works based on the principles in Corelli's trio sonatas and concerti.
In England the middle Baroque produced a cometary genius in Henry Purcell, who, despite dying at age 36, produced a profusion of music and was widely recognized in his lifetime. He was familiar with the innovations of Corelli and other Italian style composers; however, his patrons were different, and his musical output was prodigious. Rather than being a painstaking craftsman, Purcell was a fluid composer who was able to shift from simple anthems and useful music such as marches, to grandly scored vocal music and music for the stage. His catalogue runs to over 800 works. He was also one of the first great keyboard composers, whose work still has influence and presence.[not in citation given]
In contrast to these composers, Dieterich Buxtehude was not a creature of court but instead was church musician, holding the posts of organist and Werkmeister at the Marienkirche at Lübeck. His duties as Werkmeister involved acting as the secretary, treasurer, and business manager of the church, while his position as organist included playing for all the main services, sometimes in collaboration with other instrumentalists or vocalists, who were also paid by the church. Entirely outside of his official church duties he organised and directed a concert series known as the Abendmusiken, which included performances of sacred dramatic works regarded by his contemporaries as the equivalent of operas. His output is not as fabulous or diverse, because he was not constantly being called upon for music to meet an occasion. Buxtehude's employment of contrast was between the free, often improvisatory sections, and more strict sections worked out contrapuntally. This procedure greatly influenced later composers, such as Bach, who took the contrast between free and strict to greater heights.[not in citation given]
Late baroque music (1680–1730)
The dividing line between middle and late Baroque is a matter of some debate. Dates for the beginning of "late" baroque style range from 1680 to 1720. In no small part this is because there was not one synchronized transition; different national styles experienced changes at different rates and at different times. Italy is generally regarded as the first country to move to the late baroque style. The important dividing line in most histories of baroque music is the full absorption of tonality as a structuring principle of music. This was particularly evident in the wake of theoretical work by Jean-Philippe Rameau, who replaced Lully as the important French opera composer. At the same time, through the work of Johann Fux, the Renaissance style of polyphony was made the basis for the study of composition. The combination of modal counterpoint with tonal logic of cadences created the sense that there were two styles of composition—the homophonic dominated by vertical considerations and the polyphonic dominated by imitation and contrapuntal considerations.
Forms that developed in the previous era flourished and became more diverse. Concerto, suite, sonata, concerto grosso, oratorio, opera, and ballet all enjoyed a proliferation of national styles and structures. The overall form of pieces was generally simple, with repeated binary forms (AABB), simple three part forms (ABC), and rondeau forms more common. These schematics in turn influenced later composers.
Antonio Vivaldi was forgotten in concert music-making for much of the 19th century, but was revived in the 20th century. Born in Venice in 1678, he began as an ordained priest of the Catholic Church but ceased to say Mass by 1703. Around the same time, he was appointed maestro di violino at a Venetian girls' orphanage that he had a professional relationship with until nearly the end of his life. Vivaldi's reputation came not from having an orchestra or court appointment, but from his published works, including trio sonatas, violin sonatas and concerti. They were published in Amsterdam and circulated widely through Europe.
It is in these instrumental genres of baroque sonata and baroque concerto, which were still evolving, that Vivaldi's most important contributions were made. He settled on certain patterns, such as a fast-slow-fast three-movement plan for works, and the use of ritornello in the fast movements, and explored the possibilities in hundreds of works—550 concerti alone. He also used programmatic titles for works, such as his famous "The Four Seasons" violin concerti. Vivaldi's career reflects a growing possibility that a composer could support himself by his publications, tour to promote his own works, and have an independent existence.
Domenico Scarlatti was one of the leading keyboard virtuosi of his day. He took the road of being a royal court musician, first in Portugal and then—starting in 1733—in Madrid, Spain, where he spent the rest of his life. His father, Alessandro Scarlatti, was a member of the Neapolitan School of opera and has been credited with being among its most skilled members. Domenico also wrote operas and church music, but it is the publication of his keyboard works, which spread more widely after his death, which have secured him a lasting place of reputation. Many of these works were written for his own playing but others for his royal patrons. As with his father, his fortunes were closely tied to his ability to secure, and keep, royal favour.
Perhaps the most famous composer associated with royal patronage was George Frideric Handel, who was born in Germany, studied for three years in Italy, and went to London in 1711, which was his base of operations for a long and profitable career that included independently produced operas and commissions for nobility. He was constantly searching for successful commercial formulas, in opera, and then in oratorios in English. A continuous worker, Handel borrowed from others and often recycled his own material. He was also known for reworking pieces such as the famous Messiah, which premiered in 1742, for available singers and musicians. Even as his economic circumstances rose and fell with his productions, his reputation, based on published keyboard works, ceremonial music, constant stagings of operas and oratorios and concerti grossi, grew tremendously.
By the time of his death, he was regarded as the leading composer in Europe and was studied by later classical-era musicians. Handel, because of his very public ambitions, rested a great deal of his output on melodic resource combined with a rich performance tradition of improvisation and counterpoint. The practice of ornamentation in the Baroque style was at a very high level of development under his direction. He travelled all over Europe to engage singers and learn the music of other composers, and thus he had among the widest acquaintance of other styles of any composer.
Johann Sebastian Bach has, over time, come to be seen as the towering figure of Baroque music, with what Béla Bartók described as "a religion" surrounding him.[this quote needs a citation] During the baroque period, he was better known as a teacher, administrator and performer than composer, being less famous than either Handel or Georg Philipp Telemann. Born in Eisenach in 1685 to a musical family, he received an extensive early education and was considered to have an excellent boy soprano voice. He held a variety of posts as an organist, rapidly gaining in fame for his virtuosity and ability. In 1723 he settled at the post he was associated with for virtually the rest of his life: cantor and director of music for Leipzig. His varied experience allowed him to become the town's leader of music both secular and sacred, teacher of its musicians, and leading musical figure. He began his term in Leipzig by composing a church cantata for every Sunday and holiday of the Liturgical year, resulting in annual cycles of cantatas, namely his second cycle of Chorale cantatas. About 200 sacred cantatas are extant.
Bach created the grand scale works St John Passion, the St Matthew Passion, the Christmas Oratorio, spanning six feast days, and the Mass in B minor. Bach's musical innovations plumbed the depths and the outer limits of the Baroque homophonic and polyphonic forms. He was a virtual catalogue of every contrapuntal device possible and every acceptable means of creating webs of harmony with the chorale. As a result, his works in the form of the fugue coupled with preludes and toccatas for organ, and the baroque concerto forms, have become fundamental in both performance and theoretical technique. Virtually every instrument and ensemble of the age— except for the theatre genres— is represented copiously in his output. Bach's teachings became prominent in the classical and romantic eras as composers rediscovered the harmonic and melodic subtleties of his works.
Georg Philipp Telemann was the most famous instrumental composer of his time, and prolific— even by the standards of an age where composers had to produce large volumes of music. His two most important positions – director of music in Frankfurt in 1712 and in 1721 director of music of the Johanneum in Hamburg – required him to compose vocal and instrumental music for secular and sacred contexts. He composed two complete cantata cycles for Sunday services, as well as sacred oratorios. Telemann also founded a periodical that published new music, much of it by Telemann. This dissemination of music made him a composer with an international audience, as evidenced by his successful trip to Paris in 1731. Some of his finest works were in the 1750s and 1760s, when the Baroque style was being replaced by simpler styles but were popular at the time and afterwards. Among these late works are Der Tod Jesu (The Death of Jesus) 1755, "Die Donner-Ode" (The Ode of Thunder) 1756, "Die Auferstehung und Himmelfahrt Jesu" (The Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus) 1760 and "Der Tag des Gerichts" (The Day of Judgement) 1762.
Influence on later music
Transition to the Classical era (1740–1780)
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The phase between the late Baroque and the early Classical era, with its broad mixture of competing ideas and attempts to unify the different demands of taste, economics and "worldview", goes by many names. It is sometimes called "Galant", "Rococo", or "pre-Classical", or at other times, "early Classical". It is a period where composers still working in the Baroque style were still successful, if sometimes thought of as being more of the past than the present—Bach, Handel and Telemann all composed well beyond the point at which the homophonic style is clearly in the ascendant. Musical culture was caught at a crossroads: the masters of the older style had the technique, but the public hungered for the new. This is one of the reasons Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach was held in such high regard: he understood the older forms quite well and knew how to present them in new garb, with an enhanced variety of form; he went far in overhauling the older forms from the Baroque.
The practice of the baroque era was the standard against which new composition was measured, and a division developed between sacred works, which held more closely to the Baroque style—and secular or "profane" works, which were in the new style.
Especially in the Catholic countries of central Europe, the baroque style continued in sacred music through the end of the 18th century, in much the way that the stile antico of the Renaissance continued to live in the sacred music of the early 17th century. The masses and oratorios of Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, while Classical in their orchestration and ornamentation, have many Baroque features in their underlying contrapuntal and harmonic structure. The decline of the baroque saw various attempts to mix old and new techniques, and many composers who continued to hew to the older forms well into the 1780s. Many cities in Germany continued to maintain performance practices from the Baroque into the 1790s, including Leipzig, where J.S. Bach worked to the end of his life.
In England, the enduring popularity of Handel ensured the success of Charles Avison, William Boyce, and Thomas Arne—among other accomplished imitators—well into the 1780s, who competed alongside Mozart and Bach. In Continental Europe, however, it was considered an old-fashioned way of writing and was a requisite for graduation from the burgeoning number of conservatories of music, and otherwise reserved only for use in sacred works.
Timeline of Baroque composers
- Violino piccolo
- Viola d'amore
- Viola pomposa
- Tenor violin
- Hurdy gurdy
- Baroque flute
- Cortol (also known as Cortholt, Curtall, Oboe family)
- Musette de cour
- Baroque oboe
Styles and forms
The Baroque suite
The Baroque suite often consists of the following movements:
- Overture – The Baroque suite often began with a French overture ("Ouverture" in French), which was followed by a succession of dances of different types, principally the following four:
- Allemande – Often the first dance of an instrumental suite, the allemande was a very popular dance that had its origins in the German Renaissance era, when it was more often called the almain. The allemande was played at a moderate tempo and could start on any beat of the bar.
- Courante – The courante is a lively, French dance in triple meter. The Italian version is called the corrente.
- Sarabande – The sarabande, a Spanish dance, is one of the slowest of the baroque dances. It is also in triple meter and can start on any beat of the bar, although there is an emphasis on the second beat, creating the characteristic 'halting', or iambic rhythm of the sarabande.
- Gigue – The gigue is an upbeat and lively baroque dance in compound meter, typically the concluding movement of an instrumental suite. The gigue can start on any beat of the bar and is easily recognized by its rhythmic feel. The gigue originated in the British Isles. Its counterpart in folk music is the jig.
These four dance types make up the majority of 17th-century suites; later suites interpolate one or more additional dances between the sarabande and gigue:
- Gavotte – The gavotte can be identified by a variety of features; it is in 4/4 time and always starts on the third beat of the bar, although this may sound like the first beat in some cases, as the first and third beats are the strong beats in quadruple time. The gavotte is played at a moderate tempo, although in some cases it may be played faster.
- Bourrée – The bourrée is similar to the gavotte as it is in 2/2 time although it starts on the second half of the last beat of the bar, creating a different feel to the dance. The bourrée is commonly played at a moderate tempo, although for some composers, such as Handel, it can be taken at a much faster tempo.
- Minuet – The minuet is perhaps the best-known of the baroque dances in triple meter. It can start on any beat of the bar. In some suites there may be a Minuet I and II, played in succession, with the Minuet I repeated.
- Passepied – The passepied is a fast dance in binary form and triple meter that originated as a court dance in Brittany. Examples can be found in later suites such as those of Bach and Handel.
- Rigaudon – The rigaudon is a lively French dance in duple meter, similar to the bourrée, but rhythmically simpler. It originated as a family of closely related southern-French folk dances, traditionally associated with the provinces of Vavarais, Languedoc, Dauphiné, and Provence.
- Basso continuo – a kind of continuous accompaniment notated with a new music notation system, figured bass, usually for a sustaining bass instrument and a keyboard instrument.
- The concerto and concerto grosso
- Monody – music for one melodic voice with accompaniment, characteristic of the early 17th century, especially in Italy[not in citation given]
- Homophony – music with one melodic voice and rhythmically similar accompaniment (this and monody are contrasted with the typical Renaissance texture, polyphony)
- Dramatic musical forms like opera, dramma per musica
- Combined instrumental-vocal forms, such as the oratorio and cantata
- New instrumental techniques, like tremolo and pizzicato
- Clear and linear melody
- Notes inégales – a technique of playing pairs of notes of equal written length (typically eighth notes) with a "swung" rhythm, alternating longer and shorter values in pairs, the degree of inequality varying according to context. Particularly characteristic of French performance practice.
- The da capo aria "enjoyed sureness".
- The ritornello aria – repeated short instrumental interruptions of vocal passages.
- The concertato style – contrast in sound between orchestra and solo-instruments or small groups of instruments.[not in citation given]
- Precise instrumental scoring (in the Renaissance, exact instrumentation for ensemble playing was rarely indicated)
- Virtuosic instrumental and vocal writing, with appreciation for virtuosity as such
- Extensive Ornamentation
- Development to modern Western tonality (major and minor scales)
- Cadenza (an extended virtuosic section for the soloist usually near the end of a movement of a concerto).
- Passion (music)
- Mass (music)
- Chorale composition
- Concerto grosso
- Chorale prelude
- Stylus fantasticus
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- Cyr, Mary. Essays on the Performance of Baroque Music Opera and Chamber Music in France and England. Variorum collected studies series, 899. Aldershot, Hants, England: Ashgate, 2008. ISBN 978-0-7546-5926-6
- Foreman, Edward. A Bel Canto Method, or, How to Sing Italian Baroque Music Correctly Based on the Primary Sources. Twentieth century masterworks on singing, v. 12. Minneapolis, Minn: Pro Musica Press, 2006. ISBN 978-1-887117-18-0
- Schubert, Peter, and Christoph Neidhöfer. Baroque Counterpoint. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2006. ISBN 978-0-13-183442-2
- Schulenberg, David. Music of the Baroque. New York: Oxford UP, 2001. ISBN 978-0-19-512232-9
- Stauffer, George B. The World of Baroque Music New Perspectives. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006. ISBN 978-0-253-34798-5
- Strunk, Oliver.Source Readings in Music History. From Classical Antiquity to the Romantic Era. London: Faber & Faber, 1952.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Baroque music|
- Barock Music (webradio)
- Pandora Radio: Baroque Period (not available outside the U.S.)
- Handel's Harpsichord Room – free recordings of harpsichord music of the Baroque era
- Renaissance & Baroque Music Chronology: Composers
- Orpheon Foundation in Vienna, Austria
- Free scores by various baroque composers at the International Music Score Library Project
- Music, Affect and Fire: Thesis on Affect Theory with Fire as the special topic
- Répertoire International des Sources Musicales (RISM), a free, searchable database of worldwide locations for music manuscripts up to c. 1800