The Baroque period is the period in which the orchestra came into being; opera became hugely successful and the concerto allowed soloists the opportunity to show off their prowess. The period started in the early 1600s and it did not start to die off until the 1700s when the Classical period started to replace Baroque.
The Baroque period was defined by some outstanding characteristics. For one, the period utilized a lot of harpsichord and modern harmonies. The harmonies combined more than one note concurrently, which led to the success of well-known composers of the period such as Handel, Vivaldi, and Bach. The baroque period was also comprised of elements from the Renaissance period such as the use of lutes, violins, flutes, and recorders.
Vital elements of baroque music
Range of possibilities
At the heart of baroque music is a regular rhythm and consistent texture. Pieces such as Antonio Vivaldi’s concertos have a constant underlying pulse and an alternation of soloists and orchestra, which is a standard and identifiable component of the style and period. However, Baroque music involved a lot more; it consisted of abstract lyricism in popular works such as Johann Sebastian Bach’s piece for unaccompanied cello. As such, there was a broad range of possibilities when it came to baroque music.
It was a period of contrasts
Baroque composers used different tones throughout. For instance, some utilized a single tone color consistently as in the various pieces for the solo keyboard while others used a rich palette of colors in many orchestral masterpieces. Some baroque works were large and grandiose such as Frederic Handel’s well known ‘Hallelujah Chorus while others were small and intimate. Despite the differences, there are vital components that tie the intimate and grandiose pieces together.
It is the texture that truly defines the movement and its style. The use of basso continuo is what set the style apart from anything that came before or after the period. At the heart of any masterpiece, baroque chamber, instrumental, orchestral or vocal piece was always the sound of the organ or the harpsichord in the background. In some, you would also hear a low melody which was created by the bass line. The combination of all these elements created a chordal texture that made the baroque sound distinct and distinguishable.
The melodies in baroque music also tended to be longer and more complex than they were in the Renaissance period. Baroque music was more about showcasing the performer’s prowess, which was particularly true for instrumental pieces known as concertos, which were mainly designed to display the performer’s skills. An example of where this concept is applied is in Vivaldi’s spring from the Four Seasons.