Baroque (1600 – 1750)

The Baroque Period lies between the Renaissance and the Classical Period. The name is derived from the Portuguese word barroco, meaning a misshapen shell – this was actually a derogatory term applied later by historians referring to the ornamented elaborateness of Baroque architecture and music.

The most prominent composers of the Baroque Period were Bach, Handel, Alessandro Scarlatti, Rameau, Lully, Vivaldi, Monteverdi and Telemann.

The Baroque Period saw a more defined tonality, and musical notation began to resemble more closely that which we use today. The early Baroque Period in Florence saw the use of harmony directed towards tonality, rather than modality, which marked the shift from the Renaissance into the Baroque Period. This led to the idea that chords, rather than notes, could provide a sense of closure—one of the fundamental ideas that became known as tonality.

Johann Sebastian Bach

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The huge development of musical forms during this era was a huge milestone in Western music. The Baroque Period began with Jacopo Peri’s instrumental and vocal works Dafne and L’Euridice, which also marked the beginning of opera. Other major forms soon followed: the cantata, the oratorio, the concerto and the sonata all developed in this timeframe. In the mid-Baroque period, the rise of the court, such as that of Louis XIV where Lully composed his great corpus of works including operas, created a greater demand for public concerts and therefore employment opportunities for composers and musicians. The church was also a major patron of the arts and was responsible for a considerable amount of the creativity of composers such as Bach and Vivaldi. Church and court formed important fruitful oases across Europe.

Age and use do not make a style obsolete in the church as they do in secular entertainment; rather, they consecrate it.

Instrumental repertoire became more intricate and opened larger possibilities for more substantial concertos and sonatas. One of the main reasons for this increasingly impressive instrumental repertoire was improvements in instrument-making, particularly the forerunners of the piano, the violin and the flute. Vivaldi’s violin concertos and Bach’s Violin Sonatas and Partitas show heightened virtuosic abilities that would not have been possible a century earlier.