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Music of the Baroque Period. (1600-1750). Baroque Historical Highlights. Age of Absolutism; Kings and Queens are all-powerful Known for extreme decadence and extravagance of aristocracy (e.g. Louis XIV and his palace of Versailles)

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baroque historical highlights
Baroque Historical Highlights
  • Age of Absolutism; Kings and Queens are all-powerful
  • Known for extreme decadence and extravagance of aristocracy (e.g. Louis XIV and his palace of Versailles)
  • Church Splits in Two; Europe split into Catholic countries (Italy, France, Spain) and Protestant countries (England, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden)
baroque defined
“Baroque” Defined
  • Baroque means exaggerated or over-ornamented; these adjectives relate to music and visual arts
baroque artistic highlights
Baroque Artistic Highlights
  • Emphasis on DRAMA (extreme and heightened emotion) in music and visual arts
    • Paintings by Artemisia Gentilleschishow this emphasis on DRAMA
baroque musical highlights
Baroque Musical Highlights
  • Birth of OPERA - theatrical presentations with music and elaborate stage spectacle
  • New focus on instrumental music and instrumental accompaniment to voices
  • New emphasis on chords and use of BASSO CONTINUO
  • Examples:
    • Henry Purcell ”Dido’s Lament " from Dido and Aeneas
    • Claudio Monteverdi “Tu se’ morta” from Orfeo
basso continuo
Basso Continuo
  • Baroque accompaniment made up of a bass part usually played by two instruments
    • A keyboard (or other chord-generating instrument such as the lute, organ, or harpsichord)
    • Plus a low melodic instrument (such as the cello or bassoon)
baroque music genres
Vocal Music Genres




Instrumental Music Genres

Chamber Music

Concerto Grosso

Baroque Music Genres
  • Sung theatrical work with orchestral accompaniment
    • Vocal soloists and chorus
  • Staged with costumes and sets
  • Example: HENRY PURCELL"Dido's Lament" from Dido and Aeneas CD#1/69-70
  • Vocal line in a opera, oratorio, or cantata that imitates the rhythms and pitch fluctuations of speech, often serving to lead into an aria
  • Recitative often gets across mostly plot information in the opera, while the Aria communicates the character’s emotions
  • Song for solo voice with orchestral accompaniment, usually expressing an emotional state through its outpouring of melody; found in operas, oratorios, and cantatas
henry purcell dido s lament from dido and aeneas
HENRY PURCELL"Dido's Lament" from Dido and Aeneas
  • Aria vs. Recitative
  • Listen for Basso continuo in Recitative
  • Aria built on Ground bass - a repeating bass line (dark-sounding harmony, descending in pitch)
    • Listen also for affect of ground bass
  • The one basic mood that usually lasts throughout a single movement or piece of a Baroque composition
  • Emotional states expressed in music were called “affections”
  • Exceptions can be found in some vocal music where the affect may change if the character’s emotional changes within an aria or recitative


Thy hand, Belinda, darkness shades me,

On thy bosom let me rest;

More I would bet Death invades me;

Death is now a welcome guest.

Dido tells Belinda to leave her alone, so that she can commit suicide


When I am laid, am laid in earth,

may my wrongs create

No trouble, no trouble in thy breast.

Remember me! But ah! Forget my fate.

Dido tells us how she feels about committing suicide

  • Like opera - [Sung theatrical work with orchestral accompaniment for vocal soloists and chorus] , but unstaged [without acting, scenery, or costumes]
  • Uses a religious story
  • Example: GEORGE FRIDERIC HANDEL’s Messiah
    • "Hallelujah" CD#2/11-16
    • "Ev'ry Valley Shall Be Exalted" CD#2/10
george frideric handel s messiah

Listen for

Changes in texture

Hymn-like Homophony

Imitative Polyphony

Pedal Point

Emphasis of beat

george frideric handel s messiah1
"Ev'ry Valley Shall Be Exalted"

Listen for

Terraced dynamics

Emphasis of beat

Ornamented melody

Continuous affect

Word painting

terraced dynamics
Terraced Dynamics
  • Abrupt alternation between loud and soft dynamic levels; characteristic of Baroque music

Extremely ornamented melody

Ev’ry valley

Ev’ry valley shall be exalted,

And ev’ry mountainand hill made low,

The crooked straight,

And the rough places plain.

Ev’ry valley shall be exalted,

And ev’ry mountain and hill made low,

The crooked straight,

And the rough places plain.

The crooked straight,

And the rough places plain.

Word Painting

  • Like opera, but unstaged,
  • Usually with religious text & mostly performed in churches
  • The church cantata for the Lutheran service in Germany during the baroque period often includes chorales
    • Chorales are hymn tunes set to a German religious text
  • Example: J.S. BACH Cantata No. 140: Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme (Sleepers Awake) Mvt. 4 [Tenor Chorale] CD#1/71-73 & Mvt. 7 [Chorale] CD#1/74-75
j s bach cantata no 140 wachet auf ruft uns die stimme sleepers awake
Mvt. 4 [Tenor Chorale]

Listen for

Extremely ornamented melody

Continuous affect

Mvt. 7 [Chorale]

Listen for

Hymn-like homophony

Complete and incomplete cadences

J.S. BACH Cantata No. 140: Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme (Sleepers Awake)
chamber music
Chamber Music
  • Uses a small group of musicians, with one player to a part
  • Meant for smaller, more intimate performance venues
  • Includes music for solo instruments
    • J.S. Bach’s Organ Fugue in G Minor “The Little”
j s bach organ fugue in g minor the little
J.S. BACH Organ Fugue in G Minor (The "Little")
  • Fugue - polyphonic composition based on one main theme called a subject
    • Subject (Main Theme) stated in different “voices” during Exposition (imitative)
    • Exposition followed by alternating Episodes (non-imitative) and Subject Entries (imitative)
    • Countersubject - countermelody that accompanies Subject in Exposition & Subject Entries
  • Picardy Third - major chord ending pieces in minor
concerto grosso
Concerto Grosso
  • Composition for several instrumental soloists and small orchestra; common in late baroque music
  • Tutti vs. Soligroups
    • Tutti = “all,” the entire ensemble
    • Soli = a small group of featured soloists (2 or 3)
  • Ritornello form - Ritornello (a homophonic or polyphonic block of music) alternating with Episodes (contrasting melodic, softer dynamics, virtuosic scales and arpeggios)
examples of baroque concerto grosso
Examples of Baroque Concerto Grosso
  • J.S. Bach
    • Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D Major
    • Movement 1
  • Antonio Vivaldi
    • Concerto for Violin and String Orchestra, Op. 8, No. 1, La Primavera [Spring]
    • from The Four Seasons
    • Movement 1