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(#9) The Baroque Period

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Lori Roy

on 14 October 2014

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Transcript of (#9) The Baroque Period

The Baroque Period
From Renaissance to Baroque
"Why cause words to be sung by four or five voices so they cannot be distinguished, when the ancient Greeks aroused the strongest passions by means of a single voice supported by a lyre? We must renounce counterpoint and the use of different kinds of instruments and return to simplicity!" (a Florentine critic, 1581)
Music in Venice
Venice now became a musical hot spot. From the time of the Renaissance, composers had been dividing their choirs into low and high groups that would alternate and echo each other. Expanding this technique, Venetian composers would now alternate two or three or more choirs.
Giovanni Gabrieli (c. 1555-1612)
Giovanni Gabrieli (and his uncle, Andrea Gabrieli) were organists at St. Mark's cathedral in Venice. Both of them exploited the acoustics of the building, which still impresses tourists today.
Opera began in Florence. Early operas appeared in courts, but it 1637, an important step forward occurred with the opening of the first public opera theater.
The Rise of Instrumental Music
The Baroque period is where we see the first big rise in instrumental music. We can trace its development to three main Baroque sources. The birth of "concerto".
Toward the end of the Renaissance, madrigals were using extreme and weird kinds of word painting. With music in the service of words, previously taboo dissonances and rhythmic contrasts were explored to illustrate emotional texts in a more and more exaggerated fashion. This caused a group of
artists to react AGAINST the madrigal.
Text painting is silly!
And childish!
It's artificial!
People began to think that true emotionality could only be expressed by a single human agent, an individual who would learn from great actors how to move an
audience to laughter, anger, or tears. A new style of solo singing (recitative) was developed, that aimed to join the forces of music and speech. This led to the very first rock stars.......
(Baroque comes from the Spanish "barroco," and French
"baroque" which means "irregular pearl," or something with fine details.)
Homophony crowded out polyphony.
Instruments were added!
Sometimes whole choirs would even be made up of instruments.
Magnificence and extravagance became the new ideals, as the stately decorum of the High Renaissance style was forgotten. Freedom was the key, but to achieve Grandeur, more organization had to be imposed. Therefore Form became a more important aspect of music.

Text painting became a tool to serve music,
not the other way around.

And, as Venice became a tourist hot-spot,
the music of Venice became more popular
and was carried to other parts of Europe.
Giovanni Gabrieli's Motet "O Magnum Mysterium" was written for the Christmas season. The words marvel at the fact that lowly animals were the first living beings to see Jesus.
Gabrieli uses two choirs, each with 3 voice parts
and four instrumental parts, plus organ, though at first, all we hear is a sumptuous blend of brass instruments and voices in a mainly homophonic texture. A more polyphonic texture emerges for the first time at the word "sacramentum."

Traditionally, the higher parts are sung by boy sopranos.
At the choral "Alleluia," the music moves in quick triple meter, and the choirs echo back and forth across the sound space. For the conclusion, they join together again.
First in Venice, and then in all of Italy, opera was soon the leading source of entertainment. By the end of the 17th century, Venice (145,000 people) had seven opera houses that fulfilled the function of today's movie theaters.
With opera, we saw the arrival of recitative
and aria.
Recitative- from the Italian word for "recitation," this is the technique of declaming words musically in a heightened theatrical manner. The voice closely follows the rhythms of
speech. Accompaniment is minimal. Used for plot development, dialogue, action.
Aria- an extended piece for solo singer that has more musical elaboration and coherence than a passage of recitative. The vocal part is more melodic, the rhythm is more consistent, the meter is clearer, and the entire orchestra accompanies. Usually showcases virtuosity.
Monteverdi "L'Orfeo" (1607)
Our earliest surviving opera, tells the story of Orpheus in the Underworld.
For example of Recitative and Aria, start at 59:53.
Diana Damrau "Queen of the Night"
Mozart "The Magic Flute" (1791)
An example of aria and virtuosity!
The development of recitative
Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643)
An enormously innovative composer for his time, his music was actually attacked for being too radical. Worked in Mantua, in northern Italy, before becoming choirmaster at St. Mark's Cathedral, the most prestigious musical position in Europe.
1. Dance- this source leads all the way back to the Middle Ages.
Operas of the time featured a lot of dance, mostly in the form of ballet. It became popular for musicians to put together the dance music from the opera into "suites," so that it could be played in a concert setting.
2. Virtuosity- As long as instruments have existed, there have been virtuosos ready to show off. During the Baroque period, much of the virtuoso playing was improvised.
3. Vocal music- Instrumental music began to imitate vocal music (you can hear this in the example of L'Orfeo and also in Dido's Lament).
fugue and variations were instrumental
genres that developed (based on form).
The fugue used one figure in imitation, while the
variation used one theme and changed it.
The Castrato (and the Rise of the Diva)
Intimately (ahem) tied up with the Italian opera singer was the idea of the castrato (plural: castrati).
The starring male roles in opera were hardly ever sung by tenors or basses (Orpheus in L'Orfeo was a tenor) but by men who had submitted to castration at puberty in order to preserve their voices in the soprano or alto range.

Castrati generally had spectacular singing abilities and amazing vocal flexibility and obtained a level of respect similiar to our rock stars. The presence of such an unmanly man portrayed in what was often a romantic lead role made the opera less believable. Contributing to the sideshow aspect, it was common in opera plots for male characters to disguise themselves as females and vice versa.

Today these parts would be sung by women, or perhaps by a man down the octave. The closest thing we have to the castrati are countertenors.
Alessandro Moreschi- born in 1858, Known as the last Castrato and the only one to make solo recordings. First soprano of the Sistine Chapel.
Henry Purcell (1659-1695)
Organist at Westminster Abbey.
Wrote the greatest English Opera prior to the 20th century.
Dido and Aeneas
(1689) is about 1 hour long and contains no virtuosic singing, as it was meant to be performed at a girl’s school. The final scene is when the prince of Troy, Aeneas, leaves Dido who is deeply in love with him. Before she kills herself she sings this lament about remembering her well:

Aria is composed over a
Ground Bass (ostinato), which
is repeated 12 times throughout
the excerpt. The line is chromatic and descending.
String instruments are imitating the
vocal character in their playing.
Bach, Branderburg Concerto
No. 5 in D major
Full transcript