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The word "baroque" comes from the Italian word "barocco" which means bizarre.

This word was first used to describe the style of architecture mainly in Italy during
the 17th and 18th century. Later on the word baroque was used to describe the
music styles of the 1600s to the 1700s. The Baroque period was a time when
composers experimented with form, styles and instruments. This period saw the
development of opera and instrumental music. The violin was also considered an
important musical instrument during this time.

1573 - The first known meeting of the Florentine Camerata, a group of

musicians who came together to discuss various subjects including the arts. It
is said that the members were interested in reviving the Greek dramatic
style. Both the monodies and the opera are believed to have come out from
their discussions and experimentation. Some of the known members of the
Florentine Camerata are Jacopo Peri and Claudio Monteverdi

1597 - The period of the early opera which will last until 1650. Opera is
generally defined as a stage presentation or work that combines music,
costumes, and scenery to relay a story. Most operas are sung, with no spoken
lines. During the Baroque period, operas were derived from ancient Greek
tragedy and there was often an overture at the beginning, a solo part and
both an orchestra and chorus are present. Some examples of early operas are
"Eurydice" which had two settings; one by Jacopo Peri and the other by Giulio
Caccini. Another example is "Orpheus" and "Coronation of Poppea" by Claudio

1600 - Start of monody which will last until the 1700s. Monody refers to an
accompanied solo music. Examples of early monody can be found in the book
Le Nuove Musiche by Giulio Caccini. The said book is a collection of songs for
the figured bass and solo voice, it also included madrigals. Le Nuove Musiche
is considered one of Caccini's most important work.

1650 - During this era, musicians did a lot of improvisation. The basso
continuo or figured bass is music created by combining keyboard music and
one or more bass instruments. The period from 1650 to 1750 is known as the
Age of Instrumental Music where other forms of music developed
including the suite and sonata.

1700 - Until 1750 this is known as the High Baroque period. Italian opera
became more expressive and expansive. The composer/violinist Arcangelo
Corelli became known and music for the harpsichord was also given
importance. Bach and Handel are known as the figures of the late Baroque
music. Other forms of music like the canons and fugues evolved during this

The music of the Baroque Period is even more popular today than it was four
hundred years ago. Its unique styles, textures, and forms enchant and delight
millions of listeners each year. From Bach to Sammartini, each composer on this list
greatly influenced the shape and course of classical music. And though I would love
to include the many other Baroque Period composers, because they too, had a great
impact on the music, there's just not enough room in a Top 10 list.
1. Johann Sebastian Bach
Coming in at number one is Johann Sebastian Bach. Bach was a genius keyboardist
(mastering the organ and harpsichord) and brilliant composer. Bach brought
baroque music to its culmination, writing music for nearly every type of musical
Popular Works: Air on a G String, Double Violin Concerto, Brandenburg Concerto
No. 3, B Minor Mass, and The Unaccompanied Cello Suites
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2. George Frideric Handel
Born in the same year as J.S. Bach in a town fifty miles away, George Frideric
Handel, who later became a British citizen, led a much different life than Bach.
Handel, too, composed for every musical genre of his time, even creating the
English oratorio.
Popular Works: The Messiah, Music for the Royal Fireworks, and Water Music
3. Antonio Vivaldi
Vivaldi wrote over 500 concertos and is believed to have invented ritornello form (a
theme returning throughout the piece). However, much of Vivaldis music lay
undiscovered until the early 1930s; this newly discovered music earned Vivaldi
the title The Viennese Counterpart to Bach and Handel.
Popular Works: The Four Seasons, Gloria, and Con Alla Rustica in G
4. George Philipp Telemann
A good friend of both Bach and Handel, George Philipp Telemann was also a
distinguished musician and composer of his time. Telemanns incorporation of
unusual instrumentation in his concertos is one of the things that that made him

Popular Works: Viola Concerto in G, Trio Sonata in C minor, and the Paris Quartets
5. Arcangelo Corelli
Arcangelo Corelli was an Italian teacher, violinist, and composer. Corellis mastery of
the tone of the newly invented violin earned him great reviews throughout Europe.
He is coined to have been the first person to create basic violin technique.
Popular Works: Concerto Grossi, Christmas Concerto, and Sonata de camera in D
6. Henry Purcell
With a lifetime of only thirty-five years, Purcell achieved such musical greatness as
being considered one of Englands greatest composers and the most original
composer of his time. Purcell was extremely talented in word-setting and composed
very successful works for stage.
Popular Works: Dido & Aeneas, The Fairy Queen, and Sound the Trumpet
7. Domenico Scarlatti
Domenico Scarlatti, son of Alessandro Scarlatti (another well-known baroque
composer), wrote 555 known harpsichord sonatas, of which, over half was written in
the last six years of his life. Scarlatti made use of Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish
dance rhythms throughout many of his works.
Popular Works: Essercizi per Gravicembalo (sonatas for harpsichord)
8. Jean-Philippe Rameau
A French composer, Jean-Philippe Rameaus music was known for its bold melodic
lines and harmonies. Aside from harpsichord, Rameaus greatest contribution to
music was in tragdie lyrique opera. His wide use of moods and musical colors were
beyond those of his counterparts.
Popular Works: Hippolyte et Aricie and Castor et Pollux, Trait, and Les Indes
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9. Johann Pachelbel
Johann Pachelbel taught Johann Christoph Bach (J.S. Bachs older brother) music. J.C.
Bach said that J.S. Bach greatly admired Pachelbels music. Pachelbels music is

considered by many to be stylistically related to J.S. Bachs.

Popular Works: Pachelbel Canon, Chaconne in F minor, and Toccata in C minor for
10. Giovanni Battista Sammartini
Giovanni Battista Sammartini is one of the earliest composers of the symphony
(sixty-eight of them have survived). Many believe his symphonic works and
thematic development are the precursors to Hayd and Mozart.
Popular Works: Sonata No. 3, Recorder Sonata in A minor

Venice and the Opera

In 1573, a group of musicians and intellectuals came together to discuss various
subjects, especially the desire to revive Greek drama. This group of individuals are
known as the Florentine Camerata, they wanted lines to be sung instead of simply
being spoken. From this came the opera which existed in Italy around 1600. The
composer Claduio Monteverdi was an important contributor, specifically his opera
Orfeo; the first opera to gain public acclaim.
At first the opera was only for the upper class or aristocrats but soon even the
general public patronized it. Venice became the center of musical activity; in 1637,
a public opera house was built there. Different singing styles where developed for
the opera such as

recitative - imitating the pattern and rhythm of speech

aria - when a character expresses feelings through a flowing melody

bel canto - Italian for "beautiful singing"

castrato - During the Baroque period, young boys were castrated before
they reached puberty to avoid the deepening of voice. Main roles of the opera
were written for the castrato.

St. Mark's Basilica

This basilica in Venice became an important venue for musical experiments during
the early Baroque period. The composer Giovanni Gabrielli wrote music for St.
Mark's as well as Monteverdi and Stravinsky. Gabrielli experimented with choral and
instrumental groups, positioning them in different sides of the basilica and making
them perform alternately or in unison. Gabrielli also experimented in the contrasts
of sound - fast or slow, loud or soft.
Musical Contrast

During the Baroque period, composers experimented with musical contrasts that
differed greatly from the music of the Renaissance. They used what is known as a
melodic soprano line supported by a bass line. Music became homophonic, meaning
it was based on one melody with harmonic support coming from a keyboard player.
Tonality was divided into major and minor.
Favorite Themes and Musical Instruments
Ancient myths were a favorite theme of Baroque opera composers. Instruments
used were brass, strings, especially violins (Amati and Stradivari), harpsichord,
organ and cello.
Other Music Forms
Aside from the opera, composers also wrote numerous sonatas, concerto grosso and
choral works. It is important to point out that composers at the time were employed
by the Church or the aristocrats and as such were expected to produce
compositions in large volumes, at times in a moments notice.
In Germany, organ music using the toccata form was popular. Toccata is an
instrumental piece that alternates between improvisation and contrapuntal
passages. From the toccata emerged what is known as prelude and fugue, an
instrumental music beginning with a short "free style" piece (prelude) followed by a
contrapuntal piece using imitative counterpoint (fugue).
Other music forms of the Baroque period are the chorale prelude, Mass and oratorio,
Notable Composers

Jean Baptiste-Lully - Wrote Italian opera

Domenico Scarlatti - Over 500 sonatas for the harpsichord

Antonio Vivaldi - Wrote operas and over 400 concertos

George Frideric Handel - Composed operas and oratorios, the most famous of
which is "Messiah."

Johann Sebastian Bach - Composed thousands of works in various forms,

excluding the opera.