Baroque is a type of western music that was first composed from 1600 to 1750. The word baroque is derived from a Portuguese word “barroco” which means misshapen pearl. The Middle Baroque, until the late 17th century, and finally the Late Baroque, which ends with the deaths of both J.S.Bach and G.F. Handel in 1759.
From the outset, it was the music of the spirit, and of the emotions. Intended to express some of the most profound states of human experience.
Baroque music has a number of particular characteristics which underpin its performance. A strong projection of emotion, and a sense of underlying spirituality. It is a style which makes deliberate use of strong contrast to heighten dramatic effect, for example contrasting different sections of a piece against each other. With slow and fast sections, perhaps a simple theme set against a complex elaboration and development. All to achieve the maximum dramatic effect. Indeed the whole idea of linking melody and bass dates from this period, with a strong bass part providing a solid foundation and structure on which to build and elaborate the different themes and contrasting elements.
For the novice to classical music, there are many notable composers of the Baroque period that are well worth taking the time to listen to. One of the joys of this music lies in personally discovering the many treasures to be experienced, as you explore this music of four hundred years ago. Yet which is still so accessible to us today. It is generally accepted, however, that three composers, in particular, symbolize the main achievements of the baroque. Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), George Frideric Handel (1685- 1759) and Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741). While many others such as Corelli, Purcell, and Scarlatti were also important in the development of this new music.
Baroque music was the music of the Enlightenment, of new developments in science, philosophy, and literature. Of hope and optimism, a belief in humanity and its great potential for progress. A celebration of profound feeling and inspired vision that still has the power to entrance us in its magic today. Learn more in our next article on what does performing arts mean.