Baroque music loosely refers to music from around 1600-1750. Baroque music has distinct features to it such as the use of counterpoint and polyphony.
Baroque music can often be characterised by a number of common features:
Sonority and Instrumentation
- String instruments usually dominate the sonority. These were the primary instruments available at the time.
- Later in the Baroque period, more woodwind instruments were used, such as the flute, oboe, and bassoon, but strings remained the dominant section.
- Vocal parts. Vocal music was also very popular in the Baroque Era, especially that written for solo voice and SATB choirs.
- Repetition. Phrases are often repeated. Indeed, the structure of many Baroque pieces enabled for repeats of sections
- Extensive use of ornamentation. The Baroque period truly began the widespread use of ornamentation of melodies for dramatic effect.
- Diatonic harmony. Harmony is plain and simple, but can still be very effective and passionate. Chord choices are limited.
- High rate of harmonic change. Keys change frequently, and chords are changed rapidly as Baroque pieces progress.
- Unlike in previous Eras, there was a move away from modal music. Major and minor tonalities are used completely.
- The use of cadences became almost clichéd in the Baroque Era, particularly new cadences such as the Phrygian cadence.
- 4-part textures for large scale works were a composer's "rite of passage". Every major composer wrote some works for 4 part choir or strings.
- Polyphony was very developed. Fugal writing peaked during the Baroque Era.
- Recitative continued to be popular. This would be a vocal part accompanied by interspersed continuo chords.
- Aria. These would have various structures. Some would be in strophic form (verses), although new forms such as ternary (ABA) became popular.
Tempo, Rhythm, and Metre
- All of tempo, rhythm, and metre were very varied. Often, composers took a particular style.
Notable composers include:-
- Gregorio Allegri (1582-1652) Italy
- Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706) Germany Most famous work is the Canon in D
- Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713) Italy
- Henry Purcell (1659-1695) English
- Tomaso Albinoni (1671-1751) Italy
- Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) Italy
- G.P. Telemann (1681-1767) Germany
- Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764) France
- Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757) Italy
- J.S.Bach (1685-1750) Germany Very prolific composer
- G.F. Handel (1685-1759) Germany Most famous work is the Hallelujah chorus from the Messiah
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