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Music in the Baroque Period

An Overview of Music from the Baroque Period

John Miller

on 2 February 2017

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Transcript of Music in the Baroque Period

The Baroque Period
A.D. 1600-1750
Turbulent changes in politics, science, and art
Time of religious wars and exploration of the New World
Rise of the Middle Class
Music in home, churches, and universities
In the New World, music served religion through the singing of psalms
It was also important to both Protestants and Catholics
The term Baroque derives from the Portugese “barroco” – a pearl of irregular shape that was used in much of the jewelry at the time
Politically, the middle class acquired wealth and power
Empires also clashed for mastery of the world
Time of poverty and wasteful luxury
Magnificent idealism and savage oppression
All of this is evidenced in Baroque art
Time of Monarchy
French Versailles served as model for all rulers
Culture of the city began to rival the palace
Baroque opera was introduced telling stories of gods and heroes of antiquity
In Science...
Kepler, Galileo, and Copernicus in physics and astronomy
Descartes in mathematics
Isaac Newton in gravity/physics
In art...
Michelangelo foreshadowed the Baroque period with figures twisted in struggle – reflecting a love for the dramatic
Venetian school of painters - Titan, Tintoretto, Cravaggio – lots of color and movement
Formation of Major/ Minor Tonalities
The octave is broken into 12 half steps
Once patterns are created, tendency tones occur
A pattern of w, w, h, w, w, w, h creates a major scale
The central tone is called the tonic
Diatonic vs. Chromatic
For a scale that moves from tonic to tonic, we classify it as a diatonic scale
If a scale moves through half steps, we call it a chromatic scale
If a note is used within a diatonic key that does not coincide with the scale, it is considered chromaticism
Aspects of the Major-minor tonality system
Early music was confined to the available instruments that did not have valves
Also, a specific tone color is produced when instruments are within specific ranges
Any key may be transposed to another key
When a piece is transposed, essentially, the tonic is moved, so the distance between notes remain the same, but each note is moved the same direction within a specific ratio.
Italian Composer (1567-1638)
“The text should be the master of the music, not the servant.”
Used dissonance and instrumental color to create drama, expressiveness, atmosphere, and suspense.
Used abrupt changes in key to create contrast between characters and rhythm to drive expression
Corronation of Poppea
Monteverdi’s last opera
Still performed today
Episode from Roman history
Emperor Nero plots to kill his wife, Ottavia, in order to marry his mistress, a courtesan Poppea (educated woman who still entertains men)
One of his advisers, Seneca, advises against it, but is then sentenced to death
Poppea is then crowned as the Empress of Rome
Style in Corronation of Poppea
Aria and Recitative
Utilized aria-like shorter sections called ariosos for multiple characters
Also developed the ritornello, in which a segment of music comes back before and after a verse, and later throughout a whole piece. Precursor to the refrain (or chorus)
Also developed the ground bass, where a short phrase is played over and over again while the upper voices pursue independent lines
One last thing, developed the da capo aria in which the opening section repeats creating ABA (da capo referring to the top or the beginning)
With all of these innovations, Monteverdi became the model from which Opera would be based
French Opera
France responded to Italian Opera,
but created its own genre.
Made a combination of court ballet and classic tragedy
Called it tragedie lyrique
Major composer was Jean-Baptiste Lully
English "Opera"
Started with the Masque
Combined vocal and instrumental music
with poetry and dance.
During the commonwealth (1649-60)
stage plays were forbidden
If you set a story to music, you could get away with it.
This leads to the first English Operas.
Henry Purcell was a major composer of English Opera
His first opera he wrote to be performed at the girls'
school where he was a teacher
This opera was called "Dido and Aeneas"
An episode from Virgil's "Aeneid"
After the fall of Troy, Aeneas and Co. are
traveling to Italy so Aeneas can become Emperor of Rome.
Ship wrecks on Northern shore of Africa at a
place know as Carthage
Aeneas meets and falls in love with Carthaginian
queen, Dido
However, he is destined to be Emperor of Rome
He leaves
Dido commits suicide
2 New forms of church music
Related to the whole service, particularly the Gospel reading
One for most Sundays, but also for holidays, and special occasions, so a total of about 60 cantatas
Bach composed 4 or 5 of these cantatas, of which
about 200 still survive
Cantata became very expressive as its importance evolved.
Typically have 5 to 8 movements of which the first, last, and usually the middle are a choral work (chorales)
Chorale was associated with the Protestant movement
One of Martin Luther's reforms was that the congregation participate in the service
Chorales were originally written in unison, and later in 4 part harmony with soprano singing the melody
J.S. Bach
1685 - 1750
At age of 23, took his first important position
This was as court organist and chamber musician to the Duke Weimar, was here from 1708-1717.
During this time, he wrote most of the organ pieces for which he is famous.
In 1717, accepted an offer from the prince of Anhalt-Colthen. Was there for 5 years, and produced suites, concerts, and sonatas for various instruments in addition to continuing his keyboard instrument.
His wife died in 1720. He remarried a young singer named Anna Magdalena. Between these 2 wives he had at least 19 offspring, many of which did not survive infancy...not uncommon for the time period.
However, 4 of his sons became major composers of the next generation
When he was 38, he was appointed to a position at St. Thomas's Church in Liepzig, Germany.
While there, he supervised the city's four main churches, selected and trained choir members, and wrote music for the daily services. He also helped to found the collegium musicum, and served as director.
His keyboard works include the Well-Tempered Clavier, which includes 48 preludes and fugues and the Art of Fugue.
Italian word for place of prayer
Along the same lines as a Masque
having a play with music
Large scale musical work
- Solo voice
- Chorus
- Orchestra
Generally based on a biblical story
Could be performed either in church or
in a concert hall
Action usually depicted by a narrator
Role of the chorus was usually very important
George Frederic Handel was a major composer
of oratorios (1685-1759)
Who else was born in 1685?
He and Bach never actually met
Most important position was as founder of the
Royal Academy of Music
Its purpose was to present Opera including his
Julius Caesar and The Beggar's Opera (40 Italian operas in all)
The Beggar's Opera was actually in English and
used popular tunes, making it a big hit with the middle class
Once oratorios came into being, he realized it
was much more practical to get rid of expensive performers and scenery
The "Messiah" is included in his collection of oratorios
Composed the "Messiah" in 24 days, people say he worked on it as if consumed
That's pretty quick, but he composed Rinaldo in 14 days
The purpose of Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier and
Art of Fugue publications was to explore the possibilities of the major and minor tonalities.
How can I develop a theme?
How can I create variety?
What chord progressions make sense?
How much chromaticism can I use and still stay in the same key?
What pitches can I use to stretch myself away from tonality and still be able to return?

Here is a great example to illustrate the lengths to which he went, and what he was capable of.
This is has been labeled as the Crab Canon
He did this for other instruments too
Full transcript