The word “baroque” was originally a derogatory term used by later historians to describe a style in the arts they found to be excessive
The word “baroque” originally meant bizarre, flamboyant, elaborately ornamented, overdone
Today, the word “baroque” simply describes an artistic style of the 17th and early 18th centuries that is dramatic, emotional, and elaborate.
Absolutism and the Arts
Baroque art, architecture, and music was often meant to glorify monarchs whose power was "absolute." Rulers such as Louis XIV of France considered their absolute power ordained by God.
In the visual arts, emotionalism and dramatic action is emphasized, along with grandeur. Artists tried to capture dramatic scenes on their canvases (see Caravaggio’s Conversion of St. Paul); Louis XIV’s palace at Versailles (in France) is often used to represent the elaborateness of baroque architecture
Late Baroque composers we will study
George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)-famous for his Italian operas
and English oratorios, the most well known of which is The
Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)-famous for his many concertos for various instruments and string orchestra
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)-a court composer, church musician, and keyboard teacher, one of the most highly respected composers
How did Baroque composers make a living?
Court musicians/composers (best pay)
Writing operas for commercial opera houses (especially in Italy where opera originated)
Late Baroque style
Rhythm-the beat is much more strongly emphasized than in Renaissance style; pieces often contain a few patterns of short note values (16th notes and 8th notes)
Dynamics-terraced dynamics are often used-this means there are sudden shifts from loud to soft and back again to create drama
Timbre-instrumental music becomes increasingly important, especially music written for the string family (violins, etc.). The “concertato principle” is often in effect; this means competing/contrasting groups of instruments and sometimes voices are used, rather than all voices as in the Renaissance; the Baroque orchestra used a small group of strings, sometimes a few winds, such as oboes, bassoon, and trumpets for a more brilliant effect, and basso continuo (the keyboard and low instruments that played the bass notes and filled in the chords)
Melody-melodies are elaborate, ornamented, contain long phrases of rapid, running notes, and are often difficult to sing; sequences are frequently used
Texture-early Baroque preferred homophonic texture; in the later Baroque polyphony (several melodies at once) returns to favor with some composers
Ch. 9 Baroque Instrumental Music
There are many genres (types) of Baroque instrumental music; we will only have time to study concerto grosso, solo concertos, and fugues
Fugues are pieces usually written for the keyboard in which the main feature is imitative polyphony
Baroque concertos are pieces written for featured soloists, a string orchestra, and basso continuo; concerto grosso (great concerto) feature a group of soloists; solo concertos only feature one soloist
Baroque concertos contain three movements, each with its own theme and emotion (affect)-happiness, sadness, humorous, etc.
A movement is a piece of music that sounds complete in itself, has a definite beginning and ending, but which is actually part of a larger piece of music
In a Baroque concerto, the pattern of movements is fast-slow-fast
The fast movements (first and third) in Baroque concertos often use something called “ritornello form.” In ritornello form a main theme is heard at the beginning and keeps returning (at least in part) throughout the movement. Other material occurs in between.
The main theme and its returns is usually played by the full orchestra (called the “tutti”) while the other material is played by the soloists (called the “concertino”)
What will we hear as examples?
Violin Concerto in E Major, Op. 8, No. 1, "La primavera"
(Spring), 1st movement only. Op. means "Opus," Latin
for "work of art"
Bach, Brandenburg Concerto No. 5, first movement-a concerto grosso
Bach, "Little" Fugue in G minor, BWV 578
Ch. 10 Baroque Vocal Music
The main genres (types) are operas, oratorios, and cantatas
Operas are dramas set to continuous music, oratorios are the same except they tell Bible stories (so they are sacred) and do not use scenery, costumes, or acting; cantatas are similar to oratorios but are presented in church rather than in a theater
Baroque operas, oratorios, and cantatas contain arias, occasional duets, recitatives, and choruses (choruses are mainly found in oratorios and cantatas because they are sacred and choirs are usually found in church)
Vocal music of the Baroque mixes instruments and voices together (concertato principle) rather than all voices like the Renaissance
Arias are solo songs with instrumental accompaniment
Duets use two singers with instrumental accompaniment
Recitatives are a sung speech used to convey dramatic action; used for monologues and dialogues between characters
Choruses are pieces for chorus with instrumental accompaniment (unlike the Renaissance which only uses voices for choruses)
What will we hear as examples?
Handel, Messiah, Recitative "Comfort ye" and Aria, "Ev'ry Valley"
Messiah by Handel is the most famous oratorio
Handel, Messiah, Hallelujah Chorus
"Wachet Auf, ruft uns die stimme," BWV 140, movement 4,
section from a cantata, which is like a musical sermon/Bible
lesson on Sunday morning