Do you love classical music? Many of the noted classical composers that remain famous today emerged during the baroque music period. This lasted roughly from 1600 to 1750 and significantly impacted the periods that followed.
The baroque period started just as the renaissance era was drawing to a close and was followed by the classical era. In addition to music, the baroque period inspired painting, sculpture, and architecture. So, let’s take a closer look at baroque music and its various elements.
A Brief History of Baroque Music
Baroque music was born in Italy around the turn of the 17th century. It quickly became popular throughout Europe due to the passion of a few certain prolific composers. By the beginning of the next classical period, baroque music was clearly defined and an easily identified style.
The Italian Origin
The early baroque music era emerged in Italy. Italian composers based in Rome and the surrounding areas composed music drawing on the traditions of the Renaissance era. However, they also expanded the harmonic and ornamental boundaries of the music to create a new genre.
The German Influence
Prominent musicians traveled throughout Europe, sharing and popularizing the baroque style. As they became inspired by baroque music, other composers started to add new elements to the music. While it was popular in France and England, the German school of baroque music was especially influential.
The End of an Era
The end of the baroque era roughly coincides with the death of Bach in 1750. After this period, composers were searching for, and ultimately discovering, a new sound. Composers such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Franz Joseph Haydn built on the baroque foundations during the following classical period.
Baroque Period Musical Forms
There are several popular baroque musical forms, such as the cantata, the concerto, the sonata, the prelude, and the fugue. Baroque composers were typically aligned with the Catholic Church and the Protestant Reformation. As a result, many baroque compositions feature strong religious themes.
Baroque Music Characteristics
Compared to the renaissance music period that preceded it, baroque music made many notable advances. Many of the characteristics of the baroque period are still utilized by contemporary composers. It can be defined by the following characteristics:
Emphasis on dynamics
The pianoforte, which was an early version of the piano, replaced the harpsichord as the main keyboard instrument. The pianoforte strikes strings with felted hammers to form the notes. This allowed musicians to play both loud and soft on the same instrument.
As a result, the pianoforte opened up a range of new dynamic possibilities. Other new instruments such as the violin and valve trumpet also introduced dynamic potential. Although renaissance instruments like the lyre were still being played, these more dynamic instruments quickly became very popular among musicians and composers.
Embrace of instrumental music
Up until the baroque period, vocal music forms had been very popular. While types of singing like opera and chorales were used in the baroque period, instrumental pieces became increasingly more popular. In fact, famous compositions that were created in the baroque period, like Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, are entirely instrumental pieces.
Like other art forms of the period, baroque music is created on a grand scale and embraces flair. Even the simplest melodies were usually embellished to make them large and stirring. Types of baroque ornamentation includes turns, trills, acciaccaturas, appoggiaturas, and mordents.
The baroque period also ignited the popularity of the basso continuo notation. This type of music notation features a complete bass line played by a cello in an ensemble. The chords are then improvised by pianoforte players using figured bass notation to create a unique sound.
Notable Baroque Composers
A large number of world-famous and renowned composers emerged during the baroque period. It is mainly due to the prominence of these composers that baroque music remains well-known to this day. Let’s take a good look at three of the most notable composers from the Baroque period…
Johann Sebastian Bach
Bach was a master organ player and composer who is best known for his secular and liturgical music. Part of the brilliance of Bach was his harmonic transformations and mastery of counterpoint. Some of Bach’s most famous compositions include the Brandenburg Concertos, The Art of the Fugue, and The Well-Tempered Klavier.
George Frideric Handel
While Handel was born in Germany, he spent the most significant years of his life in London. Handel rose to fame when he was commissioned to compose Music for the Royal Fireworks by King George II. This composition remains an integral part of British music history and is always played at prominent fireworks displays.
It is impossible to talk about the baroque music period without mentioning this famous Venetian composer and master violinist. Vivaldi is perhaps best known for the Four Seasons, which is a series of stirring violin concertos. Vivaldi mainly worked as an opera composer and was intent on pushing thematic boundaries in his works.
Where to Find Baroque Period Music
By now, you are probably in the mood to listen to some baroque period music. Many of the period’s legendary composers remain popular and revered to this day. So, here is some tremendous baroque music that you buy right now…
Best of Baroque Music – Best Chamber Orchestra Baroque Compositions
This collection features eighteen compositions played by the Cologne Chamber Orchestra. It is available as a CD, MP3, and unlimited streaming. These stirring instrumental pieces make sophisticated background music and are perfect to study to.
Baroque Gold 100 Great Tracks – Best Comprehensive Baroque Collection
You will have hours of baroque period music right at your fingertips when you choose this collection. It comes as a total of six CDs, an MP3, or unlimited streaming. The CDs are perfectly presented in a beautiful cap box with gold foil and are accompanied by a 24-page booklet.
The Art of the Baroque Trumpet – Best Baroque Trumpet Collection
The trumpet was a popular instrument during the baroque period, and a number of pieces were composed for it. Anyone who has a love for the trumpet is sure to appreciate this stirring music collection. It features 24 different tracks in total and is available in several different formats.
Music in the Baroque (Western Music in Context: A Norton History) – Best Baroque Music History Book
This interesting and informative book helps to bring the Baroque era and its music to life. The book has been beautifully illustrated with famous paintings from this unique period in time. In addition to the music itself, the book reveals the important impact that music had on different people at the time.
Interested in Music History?
If so, let our experts enlighten you further. Baroque music lovers won’t want to miss these Amazing Facts About JS Bach. Or read A Guide to Musical Instruments of the Medieval Period, all about The Romantic Period of Music, Amazing Facts About Mozart, What is Considered a String Instrument, What is a Metronome, and the various Types of Vocal Timbre.
Are you a musician dabbling in Baroque style or a student interested in learning? We have some useful Tips for Memorizing Music, or check out the Best Violin Strings, the Best Violin Bows, the Best Student Trumpets, and the Best Classical Guitars you can buy in 2023.
Back to Baroque period music…
The Baroque Music Period – Final Thoughts
If you play an instrument, learning to play baroque period music is a great way to unwind. Many of the classic compositions are very powerful and stirring.
It is easy to track down music sheets of classic baroque period music. While many pieces are rather complicated, there are also plenty of pieces for people who are still learning to play. Once you have mastered the pieces, hosting a performance for loved ones is sure to impress them.
Whether listening or playing, enjoy!