Music Theory/Baroque

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Definition[edit]

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.

Notable Features[edit]

Baroque music can often be characterised by a number of common features:

Sonority and Instrumentation[edit]

  • 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.

Melody[edit]

  • 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.

Harmony[edit]

  • 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.

Tonality[edit]

  • 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.

Texture[edit]

  • 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.

Structure[edit]

  • 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[edit]

  • All of tempo, rhythm, and metre were very varied. Often, composers took a particular style.

Composers[edit]

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