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Baroque Music (1600-1750)

Antonio Vivaldi
J.S. Bach
G. F. Haendel

Music baroque characteristics

Abandoned ancient modes and they started to used modern harmony (tonality). The first voice will be the important one, the voices resting will work as accompaniment (monodic accompaniment). The fixes instruments play the same melody that the accompaniment voices. All together obstinate bass or ground bass. This is the first time that instrumental music had the same importance that vocal music. The modern orchestra began. Ornamentation and virtuosity were improved and better. Opera was born. New forms appeared: CONCERT SONATA SUITE FUGA

Opera began

Eurdice is the first opera we know about. It was composed by Jacopo Peri in 1600. This composition starts the baroque period.
The first well known opera of history is Orfeo composed by Monteverdi in1607. compositor show the transition from Renaissance to Baroque. Opera started in the Camerata Bardi, a group of artists, writers, philosophers paid for the count Bardi en Florence. They try to recreated the ancient Greek theater .That combined music, theatre and poetry.

Definition and Parts

Opera is a complete vocal form written for orchestra, choirs and soloist with narrative character and scenic representation. Parts: Overture: instrumental introduction.

Singing parts: thats could be: arias expressive melodies recitatives spoken parts used to give life to the play. Interludes: instrumental sections between acts.

Opera types

Serious Opera: It was a show for nobility and aristocracy very important in Italy. It has a heroic and mythological scripts. Step by step the opera became into a big shows (decorated stage for magnificence shows of castrati during the arias). Famous compositors were: A. Scarlatti Haendel Vivaldi Comic opera (bufa): It has scripts and characters close to the common people and daily life situations. This music was easier than serious opera. castrati didnt take part I this kind of opera. Main composer was: G. B. Pergolesi.

Carlo Broschi, Farinelli. Aria Lascia chio pianga

Opera authors:

Vocal religious music (1)

They continued composing protestant coral, mass and catholic motet but three new forms appeared: CANTATA: it was a complete form with various part (composed by recitatives and arias). It was written for orchestra, choir and soloist. Main composers were: Telemann and Bach. ORATORY: it is a religious opera without scenic representation. It was written to orchestra, choir and soloist, but more complicated and longer than Cantata. We can find a narrator that tell the story. Main composers were: G. Carissimi and Haendel (The Mesiah, contain the famous Hallelujah choir)

Hallelujah, Haendel

Vocal religious music (2)

PASSION: it is a oratory about Jesus Christs passion and death. We can find: St Matthew Passion St Matthew Passion composed by Bach. The narrator is the evangelist, the gospel characters were the soloist and the disciples and common people were performed by choir.

Instrumental music had the same importance that vocal music. Instruments were improved. Appeared the important luthiers (constructors) Stradivarius. Appeared the orchestra like a fix group of musicians and instruments (during Renaissance, scores were created for all kind of instruments not for a specific one and groups of musicians used to change). Bowing string and ground bass (harpsichord, organ or lute) became very important. lute disappeared in the end of Baroque).

Instrumental Music

Baroque Harpsichord

Baroque Orchestra

Instrumental forms: fugue

Fugue: it has this name because voices appear to run together one after the other without been played at the same time. Form based on imitation: first voice sets the theme or subject that is imitated by the other voices. Fugue orders different themes and answer with free improvised parts called episodes. Very important in keyboard instruments.

Church Organ


Group of dances with different character written in the tone. Suite is an evolution of renaissance tradition. They made pairs of dances. The number of dances varied, but almost always included this four:

Zarabanda. Haendel

ALEMANDA (Germany): rhythm binary, tempo andante. COURANTE (France): rhythm ternary, tempo allegro ZARABANDA (Spain): rhythm ternary, tempo lento GIGA (Great Britain): rhythm ternary, tempo allegro.


Sonata means music to be played (with instruments). Suonare in Italian means played. Complete form written to 1, 2 o 3 instruments with or without accompaniment of ground bass, divided by 4 sections of different rhythms and character.


Allegro (Fuga)




Complete form with 3 movements: fast slow - fast We can find 2 TYPES: Concerto Grosso: composed for concertino (soloist group) and tutti (orchestra). Important composers: A. Corelli G. F. Haendel J. S. Bach A. Vivaldi Concerto a Solo: for only one soloist and orchestra. Main composer was: Vivaldi.
The four seasons. Vivaldi

The dance: Ballet de court

In the Louis XIV court from France, ballet experiment the highest splendour never seen before. The collaborations of Molire (theatre), Beauchamp (choreographies) and Lully (composer) were very important. El ballet de court was a big theatrical show introduced with an ouverture and ended with the grand ballet in which both professional artist and nobles and the king participated. They used luxury decoration, dress and mask. First professional dancer appeared.

Dance in the society

Part of the instrumental compositions were dedicated to dance. Some Renaissance dances continue. And usual pairs of dance in Baroque was: Allemande (binary, andante) Courante (ternary, fast).

Other popular dances were: Zarabanda Giga Chacona Bourr Minuet

Musical Baroque in Spain

The difficult period was reflected in the lost of empire and cultural isolation of the country. Renaissance forms developed slow evolution, in stead of following the Europeans.

La sopa boba

Vocal Music in Spain

Religious vocal music: they used Renaissance polyphonic forms: mass and motet. The religious carols (villancico) became very important during XVII century. Profane vocal music: they used Renaissance polyphonic forms: romances and carols (villancicos). In the middle of XVII century, appeared a new style of song: the Tono humano. It is a sentimental song for soloist accompanied by a musical instrument (monodic texture whit musical accompained)

Three musicians Diego Velzquez

Spanish instrumental music

The composers from Spain ignore the new Europeans styles and focused in soloist instrument forms: Organ: F. Correa de Araujo Juan Cabanillas Guitar: Gaspar Sanz The chamber music received the Italian musicians influence by Bourbon monarchy.
Canarios. Gaspar Sanz (1640-1710)

Spanish scenic Music

Corral de comedias in Almagro.

During the Baroque period, theatre became a mass phenomenon and music took a very important place in the shows. In the middle of the play and at the end, they introduced short musical numbers. Tonadilla Escnica is a Spanish typical form. It was a short musical and theatrical composition with comic and sarcastic character. These songs appeared between the play acts.

Opera in Spain

They used Italian influences which were popular among the aristocracy. The first known opera is Celos aun del aire matan (Juan Hidalgo whose booklet was written by C. de la Barca) Bourbon brought Italian singers and composers to the Court, making it difficult the development of the Spanish opera.

The zarzuela

Typically Spanish genre which reacts against Italian opera. It is named after the palace of the Zarzuela where Felipe IV amused his Court with music and theatre. The zarzuela is written in Spanish. It combines music with spoken dialogues. Authors: Sebastin Durn and Jos de Nebra.
Palace of the Zarzuela