Baroque Era - AMHS Music Home

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Baroque Era
Approx. 1600 – 1750
Baroque Era Composers
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750
- born in Eisenach, NW Germany
- had 20 children with two wives (four of whom were to become noted composers
and performers in the Classical Era)
- most of his career was spent as music director at St. Thomas Church, Leipzig,
where he ran a school, directed an orchestra, trained choirs, gave music lessons and
composed music for the church
Major compositions: Brandenburg Concertos, Goldberg Variations, Mass in B minor
Antonia Vivaldi (1678 – 1741)
- born in Venice
- learned the violin as a child and performed with his father, a musical barbersurgeon, which gained him fame
- taken on by the director of music in St. Marks’ Cathedral, who taught him theory,
counterpoint and composition
- became a priest
- worked as music director for a girls’ orphanage (the orphaned girls were the
daughters of wealthy Venetian merchants who were born illegitimately from their
illicit affairs)
- received many commissions from European nobles and royalty
Major Compositions: Gloria, Four Seasons, many operas and concertos
Baroque Era Composers
George Frederick Handel (1685 - 1759)
- born in Halle, Saxony, Germany
- studied in Italy from age 17 to 25, when he moved to England as the new Director of
music at the Royal Chapel of King George I
- Handel busied himself with opera and theatre management in London, as well as
continuous composition of operas, concerti and oratorios
- became a naturalized British subject in 1727
- died a millionaire of complications from surgery to relieve his failing eyesight and
was buried in Westminster Abbey
Major Compositions: The Messiah, Music for the Royal Fireworks, Water Music Suite
Arcangelo Corelli (1653 – 1713)
- born in Fusignano, near Ravenna, Italy
- studied violin and composition from noted professionals
- began his career in Paris where he gained international fame
- directed music in the court of the Prince of Bavaria, Germany
- died rich and is buried in the Pantheon in Rome
Major Compositions: Christmas Concerto
Baroque Era
Shared with the Renaissance:
• use of polyphony (the texture of combining two or more independent melodic voices) and counterpoint
(the interdependent relationship in rhythm and harmony between two or more independent voices in a
piece of music)
• although these tools were used differently in Baroque music
• development of the fugue as a defining art form
• uses much more ornamentation, sometimes at the performers whim
• musicians were trained in the art of improvisation (making up decorative embellishments based on an
established music structure)
• music written for virtuosic vocal soloists and instrumentalists featured as stars
• harder to perform than Renaissance music
• development of major and minor scales
• regulation of the keyboard (Tempering or Tempered)
• New Expressions of Music: Opera (a large scale piece of music written to tell a non-religious story),
Oratorio (a large scale piece of music written to tell a religious story) , Concerti Grossi (Concerto Grosso)
and Sonati (Sonata)(compositions written to feature a specific instrument or group of instruments with
full orchestra demonstrating unique features)
• contrasting volume and tempo (terraced)
Clockwise from top: zither, alto &
sopranino recorders; lute, viola; bass
viol, lute, baroque guitar; two
members of the viol family; viola da
Instruments were constructed for
more intimate performances, though
groups of them were collected in
orchestras for large venues &
celebrations (i.e. Coronations, Royal
Fireworks, state funerals, operas,
Baroque Instruments
A baroque composer conducting a performance
featuring an organist and players of various sizes
of viols.
Harpsichord: An early keyboard instrument.
Strings were stretched across a harp in a wooden
cabinet. Keys were connected to moving goose
quills which pluck each string when pressed.
Players were unable to vary the volume to any
great degree. Used as a foundation “continuo”
(rhythm & harmonic structure) of much Baroque
Baroque Instruments
Pipe Organ
- Origins in ancient Rome’s Collosseum
(like modern hockey arenas)
- Small pipe organs were used in late
Medieval and Renaissance cathedrals
to augment the human voice during
the chanting of mass
- Martin Luther (1483 – 1546) was a
German monk who questioned the
practices of the R.C.Church and started
a “protestant” revolution in which the
congregation (people) became more
important than the priest in church
- started the “Protestant Reformation”
Baroque Instruments
Pipe Organ (II)
Congregational singing (rather than the chanting of monks) became accepted practice in Protestant
Churches. Pipe organs were used to lead and support this practice of worship
Pipe organs became so popular that wealthy aristocrats and monarchs had them built for their large
palaces. An example in Toronto is the great pipe organ built for Sir Henry Pellatt in Casa Loma
Baroque Instruments
Pipe Organ (III)
Pipe organs consist of a series of hollow metal or wood tubes through which air is pushed (like a recorder).
Many ranks or series of different shaped pipes provide variations of sounds a pipe organ can make.
A keyboard opens the pipes of whichever note(s) in the chosen rank(s) the player wishes to play.
The air is provided by a bellows, (a pump providing sufficient air pressure to the pipes) operated either by
human or later, electrical power.
Pipes vary in size from a few centimetres to 64 feet in some of the largest instruments.
From the time of the Baroque era, keyboards specifically designed for the feet had been developed. These
played the deeper bass notes and required extreme coordination on the part of the organist.
Baroque Instruments
Pipe Organ (IV)
The use of pipe organs became popular in music composition and were originally available only in
churches and castles of the rich and royal (sponsors of most musical performance & composition in the
Baroque Era).
Later, pipe organs were built in all 19th century civic concert halls during the Romantic period.
• dates from about 1660
• double reed, made of wood
• lower pitched than oboe
-Origins in middle east but migrated to
medieval Europe with the shawm
-rich, mellow tone, perfect for
accompanying or harmonizing with
human voice
Baroque Woodwinds
Ancient instrument evolved from a recorder
originally made of wood, like the recorder
Two different models of playing featured either:
a) blowing across the round mouth hole
type (transverse), like the pan flute or,
b) blowing into a whistle mouthpiece like
the recorder
The modern flute comes from the German
transverse flute
Early flutes featured one thumb hole and from 4
to 8 finger holes
1st key added in 1688, followed by 2nd in 1762 by
Quantz, flute teacher to King Frederick the
Great of Prussia (Germany)
Baroque Woodwinds
- in existence since the 12th century
-- name “recorder” first appeared in a document in 1388
-- eight sizes; from sopranino to great bass
-- common in the Renaissance
-- often used by Baroque composers, like J.S. Bach in his
Brandenburg Concerto #2
Baroque Brass
Alto and Renaissance sackbuts (trans. “pull
tube” in Spanish.)
- immediate predecessor to the modern
- noted for its soft, muted sound
- trombones introduced in c.1400s
featured thicker metal and narrower bells
Horn (evolved from hunting horns)
- could produce twelve tones of natural
- introduced into orchestras in early
- hand-stooping technique allowed for
greater range of notes around 1750
- ancient instrument from many cultures
- used in China as a signaling tool 2000
BCE; Egypt 1500 BCE
- early European versions were coiled in
an “S” shape (1400s)
- by 1500 coiled into a elongated loop
- valves added late 1700s and early 1800s