What is Baroque Music?

The Baroque period in music spans roughly 1600 to 1750 and encompasses the majority of European compositions of the time. It was a departure from the previous Renaissance Period, when Masses and Madrigals were popular. Though some Baroque composers continued to write masses, the emphasis was on developing counterpoint, with stronger rhythmic elements and a greater emphasis on emotional content than previous periods’ music. This period is best known for the fugue, which is based on a central theme with gradual additions.

Bach is the most well-known of the Baroque composers. Bach’s works are mathematical masterworks of point and counterpoint, and their sound mathematical principles are frequently studied. Bach was one of the period’s later artists, having been nearly a century after the early composers.

Claudio Monteverdi, Jacopo Peri, and Gregorio Allegri were among the first Baroque composers. Jean-Baptiste Lully, Johan Pachelbell, and Henry Purcell are three composers from the middle period. Other late composers include Handel, Telemann, and Vivaldi, in addition to Bach.

The solo voice was also introduced in Baroque music, which would be continued in later forms. Most vocal music would have been performed in choral arrangements prior to this time. Despite the fact that choral arrangements were still available, music was written specifically for soloists for the first time. For example, Handel’s Messiah combines choral arrangements and solo pieces, greatly increasing the variety of the music.

At this time, instrumental solos were also more common. This is especially noticeable in Bach and Vivaldi’s works. Vivaldi, in particular, favored solo violin concertos, and he composed some of the best and most popular string music ever written. The Four Seasons, which is actually four concertos combined into one concert, is probably Vivaldi’s most well-known work.

The harpsichord, which would soon be replaced the piano, is also featured prominently during the Baroque period. Playing harpsichord pieces on the piano is likely to offend musical purists, as it gives a performance a very different tone. However, because harpsichords are not widely available, many of the compositions from this period are performed on a piano, especially at the student level.

There are a few key pieces that can aid in the study and comprehension of the Baroque period. With the first operas composed Monteverdi and Cavelieri, this period is credited with the invention of opera. The most famous opera of this period is probably Monteverdi’s Orfeo, a retelling of Orpheus’ story.

The Pachelbell Canon is a must-have for anyone who enjoys Baroque music. It is well-known to modern listeners, as it was popularized in the 1980s following the release of Robert Redford’s film Ordinary People. It is frequently used in place of Wagner’s Wedding March. Most musicians despise this piece because they have had to play it so many times, but it is an excellent representation of the period.

Any of Bach’s works, especially his fugues, are excellent places to begin. The Brandenburg Concertos are highly recommended. Bach was one of the few composers in Germany who wrote almost entirely for the church. There are so many great Bach pieces that it’s difficult to pick just one. However, this author has to go with Bach’s variation of Johann Schop’s 1642 hymn “Werde Munter,” which results in “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring,” a lovely counterpoint study.

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and Handel’s Messiah are both important examples of Baroque music. They are also some of the best orchestral and choral music ever written, regardless of period. Handel’s Water Music is also a significant and well-loved work.

The pun “If it ain’t baroque, don’t fix it” is used in an old orchestra joke. After this era, orchestral music clearly demonstrates the Baroque’s modernizing influence. It is even responsible for pop musicians’ solo vocal performances. To put it another way, there isn’t much to “fix” because the forms are inventive, holistic, and utterly delightful to listeners.