Baroque music (US: /bəˈroʊk/ or UK: /bəˈrɒk/) is a style of
Western art music
Western art music composed from approximately 1600 to 1750. This
era followed the
Renaissance music era, and was followed in turn by
the Classical era.
Baroque music forms a major portion of the
"classical music" canon, and is now widely studied, performed, and
listened to. Key composers of the
Baroque era include Johann Sebastian
Bach, Antonio Vivaldi, George Frideric Handel, Claudio Monteverdi,
Domenico Scarlatti, Alessandro Scarlatti, Henry Purcell, Georg Philipp
Telemann, Jean-Baptiste Lully, Jean-Philippe Rameau, Marc-Antoine
Charpentier, Arcangelo Corelli, Tomaso Albinoni, François Couperin,
Giuseppe Tartini, Heinrich Schütz, Giovanni Battista Pergolesi,
Dieterich Buxtehude, and Johann Pachelbel.
Baroque period saw the creation of tonality, an approach to
writing music in which a song or piece is written in a particular key;
this kind of arrangement has continued to be used in almost all
Western popular music. During the
Baroque era, professional musicians
were expected to be accomplished improvisers of both solo melodic
lines and accompaniment parts.
Baroque concerts were typically
accompanied by a basso continuo group (comprising chord-playing
instrumentalists such as harpsichordists and lute players improvising
chords from a figured bass part) while a group of bass
instruments—viol, cello, double bass—played the bassline. A
Baroque form was the dance suite. While the pieces in a
dance suite were inspired by actual dance music, dance suites were
designed purely for listening, not for accompanying dancers.
During the period, composers and performers used more
elaborate[clarification needed] musical ornamentation (typically
improvised by performers), made changes in musical notation (the
development of figured bass as a quick way to notate the chord
progression of a song or piece), and developed new instrumental
Baroque music expanded the size, range, and
complexity of instrumental performance, and also established the mixed
vocal/instrumental forms of opera, cantata and oratorio and the
instrumental forms of the solo concerto and sonata as musical genres.
Many musical terms and concepts from this era, such as toccata, fugue
and concerto grosso are still in use in the 2010s[update]. Dense,
complex polyphonic music, in which multiple independent melody lines
were performed simultaneously (a popular example of this is the
fugue), was an important part of many
Baroque choral and instrumental
The term "baroque" comes from the Portuguese word barroco, meaning
"misshapen pearl". Negative connotations of the term first occurred
in 1734, in a criticism of an opera by Jean-Philippe Rameau, and later
(1750) in a description by
Charles de Brosses
Charles de Brosses of the ornate and
heavily ornamented architecture of the Pamphili Palace in Rome.
Although the term continued to be applied to architecture and art
criticism through the 19th century, it was not until the 20th century
that the term "baroque" was adopted from Heinrich Wölfflin's
art-history vocabulary to designate a historical period in music.
2.1 Early baroque music (1580–1630)
2.2 Middle baroque music (1630–1680)
2.3 Late baroque music (1680–1730)
3 Timeline of composers
5 Styles and forms
5.1 Dance suite
5.2 Other features
9 Further reading
10 External links
Johann Sebastian Bach, 1748
The term "Baroque" is generally used by music historians to describe a
broad range of styles from a wide geographic region, mostly in Europe,
composed over a period of approximately 150 years. Although it was
long thought that the word as a critical term was first applied to
architecture, in fact it appears earlier in reference to music, in an
anonymous, satirical review of the première in October 1733 of
Rameau's Hippolyte et Aricie, printed in the Mercure de France in May
1734. The critic implied that the novelty in this opera was "du
barocque", complaining that the music lacked coherent melody, was
filled with unremitting dissonances, constantly changed key and meter,
and speedily ran through every compositional device.
The systematic application by historians of the term "baroque" to
music of this period is a relatively recent development. In 1919, Curt
Sachs became the first to apply the five characteristics of Heinrich
Wölfflin's theory of the
Baroque systematically to music. Critics
were quick to question the attempt to transpose Wölfflin's categories
to music, however, and in the second quarter of the 20th century
independent attempts were made by
Manfred Bukofzer (in Germany and,
after his immigration, in America) and by Suzanne Clercx-Lejeune (in
Belgium) to use autonomous, technical analysis rather than comparative
abstractions, in order to avoid the adaptation of theories based on
the plastic arts and literature to music. All of these efforts
resulted in appreciable disagreement about time boundaries of the
period, especially concerning when it began. In English the term
acquired currency only in the 1940s, in the writings of Bukofzer and
Paul Henry Lang.
As late as 1960, there was still considerable dispute in academic
circles, particularly in France and Britain, whether it was meaningful
to lump together music as diverse as that of Jacopo Peri, Domenico
Johann Sebastian Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach under a single rubric.
Nevertheless, the term has become widely used and accepted for this
broad range of music. It may be helpful to distinguish the Baroque
from both the preceding (Renaissance) and following (Classical)
periods of musical history.
Baroque period is divided into three major phases: early, middle,
and late. Although they overlap in time, they are conventionally dated
from 1580 to 1630, from 1630 to 1680, and from 1680 to 1730.
Early baroque music (1580–1630)
Further information: Transition from
Claudio Monteverdi in 1640
Florentine Camerata was a group of humanists, musicians, poets and
intellectuals in late
Renaissance Florence who gathered under the
patronage of Count
Giovanni de' Bardi
Giovanni de' Bardi to discuss and guide trends in
the arts, especially music and drama. In reference to music, they
based their ideals on a perception of Classical (especially ancient
Greek) musical drama that valued discourse and oration. As such,
they rejected their contemporaries' use of polyphony (multiple,
independent melodic lines) and instrumental music, and discussed such
ancient Greek music devices as monody, which consisted of a solo
singing accompanied by a kithara (an ancient strummed string
instrument). The early realizations of these ideas, including
Dafne and L'Euridice, marked the beginning of opera,
which were a catalyst for
Concerning music theory, the more widespread use of figured bass (also
known as thorough bass) represents the developing importance of
harmony as the linear underpinnings of polyphony.
Harmony is the
end result of counterpoint, and figured bass is a visual
representation of those harmonies commonly employed in musical
performance. With figured bass, numbers, accidentals or symbols were
placed above the bassline that was read by keyboard instrument players
such as harpsichord players or pipe organists (or lutenists). The
numbers, accidentals or symbols indicated to the keyboard player what
intervals she should play above each bass note. The keyboard player
would improvise a chord voicing for each bass note. Composers
began concerning themselves with harmonic progressions, and also
employed the tritone, perceived as an unstable interval, to create
dissonance (it was used in the dominant seventh chord and the
diminished chord. An interest in harmony had also existed among
certain composers in the Renaissance, notably Carlo Gesualdo;
However, the use of harmony directed towards tonality (a focus on a
musical key that becomes the "home note" of a piece), rather than
modality, marks the shift from the
Renaissance into the Baroque
period. This led to the idea that certain sequences of chords,
rather than just notes, could provide a sense of closure at the end of
a piece—one of the fundamental ideas that became known as
By incorporating these new aspects of composition, Claudio Monteverdi
furthered the transition from the
Renaissance style of music to that
Baroque period. He developed two individual styles of
composition—the heritage of
Renaissance polyphony (prima pratica)
and the new basso continuo technique of the
Baroque (seconda pratica).
With basso continuo, a small group of musicians would play the
bassline and the chords which formed the accompaniment for a melody.
The basso continuo group would typically use one or more keyboard
players and a lute player who would play the bassline and improvise
the chords and several bass instruments (e.g., bass viol, cello,
double bass) which would play the bassline. With the writing of the
L'incoronazione di Poppea
L'incoronazione di Poppea among others, Monteverdi
brought considerable attention to this new genre.
Middle baroque music (1630–1680)
The rise of the centralized court is one of the economic and political
features of what is often labelled the Age of Absolutism, personified
Louis XIV of France. The style of palace, and the court system of
manners and arts he fostered became the model for the rest of Europe.
The realities of rising church and state patronage created the demand
for organized public music, as the increasing availability of
instruments created the demand for chamber music, which is music for a
small ensemble of instrumentalists.
Jean-Baptiste Lully by Paul Mignard
Baroque period in Italy is defined by the emergence of the
vocal styles of cantata, oratorio, and opera during the 1630s, and a
new concept of melody and harmony that elevated the status of the
music to one of equality with the words, which formerly had been
regarded as pre-eminent. The florid, coloratura monody of the early
Baroque gave way to a simpler, more polished melodic style. These
melodies were built from short, cadentially delimited ideas often
based on stylized dance patterns drawn from the sarabande or the
courante. The harmonies, too, might be simpler[clarification needed]
than in the early
Baroque monody, and the accompanying bass lines were
more integrated with the melody, producing a contrapuntal equivalence
of the parts that later led to the device of an initial bass
anticipation of the aria melody. This harmonic simplification also led
to a new formal device of the differentiation of recitative (a more
spoken part of opera) and aria (a part of opera that used sung
melodies). The most important innovators of this style were the Romans
Luigi Rossi and Giacomo Carissimi, who were primarily composers of
cantatas and oratorios, respectively, and the Venetian Francesco
Cavalli, who was principally an opera composer. Later important
practitioners of this style include Antonio Cesti, Giovanni Legrenzi,
and Alessandro Stradella.
Baroque had absolutely no bearing on the theoretical work
of Johann Fux, who systematized the strict counterpoint characteristic
of earlier ages in his
Gradus ad Parnassum (1725).[clarification
One pre-eminent example of a court style composer is Jean-Baptiste
Lully. He purchased patents from the monarchy to be the sole composer
of operas for the French king and to prevent others from having operas
staged. He completed 15 lyric tragedies and left unfinished Achille et
Polyxène. Lully was an early example of a conductor; he would
beat the time with a large staff to keep his ensembles together.
Musically, he did not establish the string-dominated norm for
orchestras, which was inherited from the Italian opera, and the
characteristically French five-part disposition (violins, violas—in
hautes-contre, tailles and quintes sizes—and bass violins) had been
used in the ballet from the time of Louis XIII. He did, however,
introduce this ensemble to the lyric theatre, with the upper parts
often doubled by recorders, flutes, and oboes, and the bass by
bassoons. Trumpets and kettledrums were frequently added for heroic
Arcangelo Corelli is remembered as influential for his achievements on
the other side of musical technique—as a violinist who organized
violin technique and pedagogy—and in purely instrumental music,
particularly his advocacy and development of the concerto grosso.
Whereas Lully was ensconced at court, Corelli was one of the first
composers to publish widely and have his music performed all over
Europe. As with Lully's stylization and organization of the opera, the
concerto grosso is built on strong contrasts—sections alternate
between those played by the full orchestra, and those played by a
smaller group. Dynamics were "terraced", that is with a sharp
transition from loud to soft and back again. Fast sections and slow
sections were juxtaposed against each other. Numbered among his
students is Antonio Vivaldi, who later composed hundreds of works
based on the principles in Corelli's trio sonatas and concerti.
In contrast to these composers,
Dieterich Buxtehude was not a creature
of court but instead was church musician, holding the posts of
organist and Werkmeister at the Marienkirche at Lübeck. His duties as
Werkmeister involved acting as the secretary, treasurer, and business
manager of the church, while his position as organist included playing
for all the main services, sometimes in collaboration with other
instrumentalists or vocalists, who were also paid by the church.
Entirely outside of his official church duties, he organised and
directed a concert series known as the Abendmusiken, which included
performances of sacred dramatic works regarded by his contemporaries
as the equivalent of operas.
Late baroque music (1680–1730)
George Frideric Handel
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (July
The work of George Frideric Handel,
Johann Sebastian Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach and their
contemporaries, including Domenico Scarlatti, Antonio Vivaldi,
Jean-Philippe Rameau, Georg Philipp Telemann, and others advanced the
Baroque era to its climax. Through the work of Johann Fux, the
Renaissance style of polyphony was made the basis for the study of
composition for future musical eras. The composers of the late baroque
had established their feats of composition long before the works of
A continuous worker, Handel borrowed from other composers and often
"recycled" his own material. He was also known for reworking pieces
such as the famous Messiah, which premiered in 1742, for available
singers and musicians.
Timeline of composers
See also: List of
List of period instruments
List of period instruments and
Baroque instruments, including a hurdy-gurdy, harpsichord, bass viol,
lute, violin, and guitar.
Cortol (also known as Cortholt, Curtall,
Musette de cour
Tromba da tirarsi (also called tromba spezzata)
Sackbut (16th- and early 17th-century English name for FR: saquebute,
saqueboute; ES: sacabuche; IT: trombone; MHG: busaun, busîne, busune
/ DE (since the early 17th century) Posaune)
Trombone (English name for the same instrument, from the early 18th
Fortepiano – an early version of the piano invented ca. 1700,
but did not become popular during
Styles and forms
Suite (music) § Dance suite
A large instrumental ensemble's performance in the lavish Teatro
Argentina, as depicted by Panini (1747)
Baroque form was the dance suite. Some dance suites
by Bach are called partitas, although this term is also used for other
collections of pieces. While the pieces in a dance suite were inspired
by actual dance music, dance suites were designed for listening, not
for accompanying dancers. Composers used a variety of different dance
movements in their dance suites. A dance suite often consists of the
Overture – The
Baroque suite often began with a French overture
("Ouverture" in French), a slow movement which was followed by a
succession of dances of different types, principally the following
Allemande – Often the first dance of an instrumental suite, the
allemande was a very popular dance that had its origins in the German
Renaissance era. The allemande was played at a moderate tempo and
could start on any beat of the bar.
Courante – The second dance is the courante, a lively, French
dance in triple meter. The Italian version is called the
Sarabande – The sarabande, a Spanish dance, is the third of the
four basic dances, and is one of the slowest of the baroque dances. It
is also in triple meter and can start on any beat of the bar, although
there is an emphasis on the second beat, creating the characteristic
'halting', or iambic rhythm of the sarabande.
Gigue – The gigue is an upbeat and lively baroque dance in
compound meter, typically the concluding movement of an instrumental
suite, and the fourth of its basic dance types. The gigue can start on
any beat of the bar and is easily recognized by its rhythmic feel. The
gigue originated in the British Isles. Its counterpart in folk music
is the jig.
These four dance types (allemande, courante, sarabande, and gigue)
make up the majority of 17th-century suites; later suites interpolate
one or more additional dances between the sarabande and gigue:
Gavotte – The gavotte can be identified by a variety of
features; it is in 4
4 time and always starts on the third beat of the bar, although this
may sound like the first beat in some cases, as the first and third
beats are the strong beats in quadruple time. The gavotte is played at
a moderate tempo, although in some cases it may be played faster.
Bourrée – The bourrée is similar to the gavotte as it is in 2
2 time, although it starts on the second half of the last beat of the
bar, creating a different feel to the dance. The bourrée is commonly
played at a moderate tempo, although for some composers, such as
Handel, it can be taken at a much faster tempo.
Minuet – The minuet is perhaps the best-known of the baroque
dances in triple meter. It can start on any beat of the bar. In some
suites there may be a
Minuet I and II, played in succession, with the
Minuet I repeated.
Passepied – The passepied is a fast dance in binary form and
triple meter that originated as a court dance in Brittany.
Examples can be found in later suites such as those of Bach and
Rigaudon – The rigaudon is a lively French dance in duple
meter, similar to the bourrée, but rhythmically simpler. It
originated as a family of closely related southern-French folk dances,
traditionally associated with the provinces of Vavarais, Languedoc,
Dauphiné, and Provence.
Prelude – a suite might be started by a prelude, a slow piece
written in an improvisatory style. Some
Baroque preludes were not
fully written out; instead, a sequence of chords were indicated, with
the expectation that the instrumentalist would be able to improvise a
melodic part using the indicated harmonic framework. The prelude was
not based on a type of dance.
Entrée – Sometimes an entrée is composed as part of a suite;
but there it is purely instrumental music and no dance is performed.
It is an introduction, a march-like piece played during the entrance
of a dancing group, or played before a ballet. Usually in 4
4 time. It is related to the Italian 'intrada'.
Basso continuo – a kind of continuous accompaniment notated
with a new music notation system, figured bass, usually for one or
more sustaining bass instruments (e.g., cello) and one or more
chord-playing instruments (e.g., keyboard instruments such as
harpsichord, pipe organ or lute)
The concerto (a solo piece with orchestral accompaniment) and concerto
Monody – an outgrowth of song
Homophony – music with one melodic voice and rhythmically
similar (and subordinate) chordal accompaniment (this and monody are
contrasted with the typical
Renaissance texture, polyphony)
Dramatic musical forms like opera, dramma per musica
Combined instrumental-vocal forms, such as the oratorio and
cantata, both of which used singers and orchestra
New instrumental techniques, like tremolo and pizzicato
The da capo aria "enjoyed sureness".
The ritornello aria – repeated short instrumental interruptions
of vocal passages.
The concertato style – contrast in sound between groups of
Extensive ornamentation, which was typically improvised by singers
and instrumentalists (e.g., trills, mordents, etc.)
Sonata da camera
Sonata da chiesa
^ a b c d e Palisca 2001.
^ a b Mackay and Romanec 2007.
^ Palisca 1989, pp. 7–8.
^ Sachs 1919, pp. 7–15.
^ Bukofzer 1947, pp. 17.
^ Nuti 2007, p. 14.
^ Wallechinsky 2007, p. 445.
^ Chua 2001, p. 26.
^ Wainwright and Holman 2005, p. 4.
^ Clarke 1898, pp. 147–48.
^ Haagmans 1916, p. vi.
^ York 1909, p. 109.
^ Donington 1974, p. 156.
^ Watkins 1991, p. 103.
^ Norton 1984, p. 24.
^ Carter and Chew 2013.
^ Sadie 2013.
^ Bukofzer 1947, pp. 118–21.
^ a b White and Hochradner 2013.
^ a b La Gorce 2001.
^ a b Talbot 2001a.
^ Snyder 2001.
^ Sadie 2002.
^ Burrows 1991, p. 22.
^ a b c d e f g h i Kenyon 1997.
^ a b c d Estrella 2012.
^ Little 2001a.
^ Little 2001b.
^ a b c Dorak 2008.
^ Hyer 2013.
^ a b c Shotwell 2002.
^ Talbot 2001b.
^ Carver 2013.
^ Roseman 1975.
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