baroque music

Baroque Music 1600 - 1750

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Page 1: Baroque Music

Baroque Music

1600 - 1750

Page 2: Baroque Music


• Unity of mood

• Continuity of Rhythm

• Continuity of melody

• Terraced dynamics

• Polyphonic and homophonic textures

• Basso Continuo

• Word painting

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Characteristics • Unity of Mood: What is happy will be happy throughout and what is sad continues to

the end. Composers molded the musical language to fit moods and affections.

• Rhythm: Unity of mood in baroque is conveyed by the continuity of rhythm. Rhythmic patterns heard at the beginning of the piece are reiterated many times throughout the piece. This relentless drive compelled the music to push forward.

• Melody: Baroque music creates a feeling of continuity. An opening melody will be heard over and over again in the course of the piece. Many baroque melodies are complex and elaborate. They are not easy to sing or play.

• Terraced Dynamics: The dynamics of the piece stay constant for some period of time before it shifts to another level. Gradual dynamic changes such as crescendos and decrescendos are unheard of . The harpsichord, which was the principal keyboard instrument of the period, was incapable of gradations of volume. The harpsichord can be played either loud or soft, but not in between.

• Texture: Late baroque music was predominantly polyphonic or homophonic in texture.

• Basso continuo and figure bass: It is common to see figured bass, little numbers at the bottom of the stave to indicate the chords that must be played. The basso continuo consists of the cello and an instrument that can play chords (usually the lute or harpsichord).

• Word Painting: Writing music that reflects the text.

• Tonality: Major & minor tonality evolved.

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Characteristics In Baroque music

Ornaments in take on a different meaning. Most ornaments occur on the beat, and use diatonic intervals more exclusively than ornaments in later periods do. While any table of ornaments must give a strict presentation, consideration has to be given to the tempo and note length, since at rapid tempos it would be difficult or impossible to play all of the notes that are usually required. One realization of some common Baroque ornaments is set in the following table from the Klavierbüchlein für Wilhelm Friedemann Bach written by J.S. Bach:

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The Baroque Orchestra

• Consists primarily of violins, violas, and the basso continuo (harpsichord + bass inst.)

• Woodwinds brass and percussion are optional

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• Instrumental music frequently made up of movements

Baroque Forms

• Movement: —a piece complete in itself—also part of a larger whole

• Performed with pause between movements

• Unity of mood within individual movements

• Movements often contrast with each other• Ground bass: a repeated musical idea used as

the basis of a composition• Common basic forms:

•A B A• Ternary

• Binary •A B•A A B

•A B B•A A B B

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Baroque Composers

• Johann Sebastian Bach

• Claudio Monteverdi

• Henry Purcell

• Antonio Vivaldi

• George Fridirich Handel

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Johann Sebastian Bach

• German,Lutheran master of the keyboard• Came from a long line of

musicians/composers• Most prestigious post: court conductor for

the Prince of Cothen (first position in which he was not involved in church or organ music

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J.S. Bach cont.

• Director of St Thomas Church in Leipzig for 27 years

• Very religious man (J.J. and S.D.G.)

• 2 wives- 20 children

• Two important keyboard collections: The Well Tempered Clavier and the Notebook of Anna Magdalena

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Types of Compositions• Concerto Grosso: A multi-movement

instrumental composition for a small group of soloists and orchestra.

• Usually 3 movements– Fast– Slow (usually quieter)– Fast (sometimes dance-like)

• The two groups alternate in ritornello form

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The Concerto Grosso and Ritornello Form

• Ritornello

• Frequently used in 1st & last movements of concerto grosso

• Theme repeatedly presented by the orchestra (tutti) in fragments

• Contrast between solo sections and tutti

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Brandenburg Concerto #5, Allegro

• Solo group: flute violin and harpsichord

• 3 movements: fast-slow-fast

• Allegro movement opens with the ritornello theme. Notice the contrast in dynamics, texture and timbre

• The last section has an impressive harpsichord solo

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Baroque Forms cont.

• Fugue: a polyphonic composition based on one main theme, called a subject. The texture usually includes three, four or five voices and includes a counter subject and episodes - The fugue is often introduced by a short piece called a prelude– Example: J.S. Bach’s Little Fugue in G Minor

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The fugue begins with the exposition of its subject sounding in one of the voices alone in the tonic key.

After the statement of the subject, a second voice enters with the subject transposed to the dominant, which is known as the answer. Sometimes the answer is the tonic or subdominant; to avoid disturbing the sense of key, it may also have to be altered slightly.

When the answer is an exact transposition of the subject to the dominant, it is classified as a real answer; if it has to be altered in any way it is a tonal answer.

Main SectionsExpositionDevelopmentCoda

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Baroque Forms cont.

• The Baroque Suite: a collection of stylized dances written for listening rather than for dancing– The French Overture and the air are the only

two movements of the suite that are not dances– Example: J.S. Bach’s Suite No. 3 in D Major

• Ouverture

• Air

• Gavotte I/II

• Bourrée

• Gigue

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Wachet Auf, Ruft Uns Die StimmeCantata No. 140

Johann Sebastian Bach

• Cantata: multi mvt. Composition for chorus, vocal soloists and instrumental ensemble based on a chorale

• Chorale: hymn tune with one note per syllable, religious text

• Chorale prelude: Short composition for organ, based on a chorale and used as a memory jogger

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Wachet Auf, Ruft Uns Die StimmeJ. S. Bach

• BWV 140 is a chorale cantata • Its primary melody and text are drawn from a Lutheran chorale, Wachet auf, ruft uns

die Stimme. • First movement is a chorale fantasia based on the first verse of the chorale, • Second movement is a recitative for tenor that precedes the third movement, • Third movement is a duet for soprano and bass with obbligato violin. In the duet, the

soprano represents the soul and the bass represents Jesus. • The fourth movement, based on the second verse of the chorale, is written in a trio

sonata-like texture for the tenors of the chorus, oboe da caccia, and continuo. • The fifth movement is a recitative for bass, preceding the sixth movement, • The sixth movement is another duet for soprano and bass with obbligato oboe. This

duet, like the third movement, is a love duet between the soprano soul and the bass Jesus.

• The final movement, as with many of Bach's cantatas, is based on the final verse of the chorale and is a four-part harmonization of the chorale melody.

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Sonata and Trio SonataJ.S. Bach

• Solo Sonata: multi movement work for soloist plus basso continuo

• Trio sonata: multi movement work for two solo instruments plus basso continuo (4 musicians)

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Antonio Vivaldi1678-1741

• Italian violinist-composer• AKA : “The Red Priest” (red hair and was a

priest for one year)• Most of his career he was composer,

conductor and teacher at an all girls school• Composed operas and church music but is

best known for his concerti grossi and solo concertos

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La Primavera from The Four SeasonsAntonio Vivaldi

• Composition is a solo concerto

• Program music: instrumental music associated with a story, poem, idea or scene

• Read sonnet

• Listen for ritornello, terraced dynamics, tremolo, glissando and trills

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La Primavera - Spring

• AllegroSpringtime is upon us.The birds celebrate her return with festive song,and murmuring streams are softly caressed by the breezes.Thunderstorms, those heralds of Spring, roar, casting their dark mantle over heaven,Then they die away to silence, and the birds take up their charming songs once more.

• LargoOn the flower-strewn meadow, with leafy branches rustling overhead, the goat-herd sleeps, his faithful dog beside him.

• AllegroLed by the festive sound of rustic bagpipes, nymphs and shepherds lightly dance beneah the brilliant canopy of spring.

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Claudio Monteverdi1567-1643

• Italian (Cremona) violist, singer composer

• “the last great madrigalist and the first great opera composer” bridging the Renaissance and the Baroque eras

• Mostly wrote vocal music with instrumental accompaniment

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OrfeoClaudio Monteverdi

• His 1st opera• Composed for the Mantuan court with a

healthy budget; soloists, chorus, dancers and a 40 piece orchestra

• Incorporates recitative and aria• Recitative: Sung speech without meter• Aria: Song for solo plus accompaniment


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Tu Se Mortafrom Monteverdi’s, Orfeo

• Sung by Orfeo after he hears of Eurydice’s death

• Accompanied by basso continuo: organ and bass lute

• Homophonic, no meter or beat, no apparent structure

• An example of recitative

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Tu Se' Morta

Claudio Monteverdi

This recitative is from Claudio Monteverdi's opera Orfeo.

It is an important for several reasons: • Orfeo is considered by many to be the first great Italian opera. It dates from the early 1600s and is one of

the works used to mark the beginning of the Baroque era. It builds on the ideas of the earlier Florentine Camarata concerning the use of the recitative, and the homophonic texture in preference to polyphony.

• This selection is an example of the recitative form. – The singing style is simple and designed to provide the singer with a vehicle for a dramatic delivery of

the text rather than just a chance to show off his beautiful voice. This is the opposite of the aria, in which the beautiful melodic contour takes precedence over the text.

– In the recitative there is usually one syllable or word per note with very little melodic embellishment. – Note the simple, chordal accompaniment

• Several striking examples of word painting occur in this recitative. – The words "abysses," "death," and "farewell" are sung on low notes. – The words "stars," "sky," and "sun" are sung on high notes.

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Tu se' morta, se morta, mia vita You are dead, you are dead, my dearest,

ed io respiro, tu se' da me partita, And I breathe, you have left me,

se' da me partita per mai più, You have left me forevermore,

mai più non tornare, ed io rimango- Never to return, and I remain-

no, no, che se i versi alcuna cosa ponno, No, no, if my verses have any power,

n'andrò sicuro a' più profondi abissi,I will go confidently to the deepest abysses,

e, intenerito il cor del re de l'ombre,And, having melted the heart of the king of shadows,

meco trarotti a riverder le stelle,Will bring you back to me to see the stars again,

o se ciò negherammi empio destino, Or, if pitiless fate denies me this,

rimarrò teco in compagnia di morte.I will remain with you in the company of death.

Addio terra, addio cielo, e sole, addioFarewell earth, farewell sky, and sun, farewell.

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Henry Purcell1659-1695

• Known as the greatest of English composers

• Appointed organist of Westminster Abbey and later organist of the Chapel Royal

• Wrote church music, secular choral music, instrumental chamber music, songs and theater music.

• Greatest hit: Dido and Aeneas

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Dido’s Lamentfrom Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas

• An example of recitative aria and chorus

• Written for girls boarding school

• No virtuosos singers or musicians needed

• Written in English

• Basis for aria is ground bass

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George Frideric Handel1685-1759

• Master of Italian opera and the English oratorio

• Oratorio: large composition for chorus, vocal soloists, and orchestra. Religious text (usually Biblical) that is narrative. It’s like opera without costumes and sets. It contains choruses, duets, arias, recitatives and orchestral interludes

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Handel (cont.)

• Not from a musical family but began musical training at age 9

• Age 18: he traveled to Hamburg where he became a violinist and harpsichordist in an opera house

• Age 20: produced his first opera

• Age 21:Went to Italy and wrote operas

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Handel (cont.)

• Returned to Germany in 1710, landed an impressive position and asked for leave to go to England

• In England, he became Queen Anne’s favorite composer and popularized the oratorio

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The MessiahGeorge Frideric Handel

• Oratorio is 2 1/2 hours long, composed in 24 days

• Written in 3 parts: Part I: the prophecy and Christ’s birth, Part II. Redemption by sacrifice, mankind’s defeat when trying to oppose God, and Part III: faith in eternal life after death

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Every Valley Shall Be ExaltedAria for tenor, strings and basso continuo

• Describes the creation of a desert highway on which God will lead his people back to their homeland

• Examples of text painting: exalted, every mountain and hill made low, the crooked straight and the rough places plain

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Hallelujah Chorus

• Contrast of three textures used to reflect text: monophonic- for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth, polyphonic- Hallelujahs set against for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth reflects joy and homophonic: hymn like the kingdom of this world