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C O U R S E 
Western Music History through Performance
Jonathan Coopersmith, Curtis Institute of Music
C O U R S E   L E C T U R E 
The Baroque Era (1600-1750)
Notes taken on May 21, 2016 by Edward Tanguay
the Baroque era
roughly from 1600 to 1750
it takes time and some distance to understand the boundaries of an era
the mid 18th century
so the Baroque era didn't receive its name until mid 18th century
at first it had a negative meaning
the style known as Classical music was being established
the simple, singable melodies that we associate with Haydn, Mozart, and later Beethoven
critics who preferred the newer, simpler style compared it to complex, contrapuntal style of Bach and the music of the 17th century
they call this music "Baroque"
the word itself is French and literally means "misshapen pearl"
with regard to music, it's meant to convey the idea that the music from that time was somehow exaggerated, irregular, overwrought, and overdecorated
19th century
"Baroque" took on a positive meaning
critiques and audiences came to appreciate the earlier music as ornate, dramatic and expressive
painting and sculptures now depicted people in action or in motion as opposed to simply standing or posing in one position
in literature, think of the high drama in Shakespeare's plays or the rise of operatic stories
even the new style of architecture conveyed this new idea of drama
key elements in Baroque
not just music but painting, sculpture, architecture, literature was its focus on drama
in painting
often depicted people in action or motion, as apposed to simply standing or posing
in literature
the high drama in Shakespeare's plays
the rise of operatic stories
in architecture
statues, paintings and ornamentation conveyed drama
music was valued for its ability to move the affections or emotions of the listener
sadness, joy, anger, love, fear
experiencing a range of emotions in a single piece of music brought one's soul into a more stable state which promoted better physical and mental health
unlike the Romantic era and later
Baroque composers were not expressing their personal feelings or emotions through their music
they were expressing the range of emotions found in the text or in a story, or simply a range of contrasting emotions
a time of national styles
each country developed its own sound and composition techniques
the music of the Renaissance which comes before and Classical which comes after, were international
Baroque in Italy
Florentine Camerata
a group of thinkers, scientists, poets, and musicians
hosted by the count of Florence, Giovanni de' Bardi and Vincenzo Galilei and others
purpose of group was to discuss and shape trends in literature, science and the arts which included music
researched and discussed the role of music in ancient Greek tragedies
from these discussions they created what we know today as opera, including concepts such as
aria = vocal solo
recitative = vocal passage in which singing resembles speech
first operas
1598 Daphne
by Jacopo Peri (1561-1633)
1600 L'euridice
by Jacopo Peri
aria and recitative affected all genres of music
1607 Claudio Monteverdi, "L'Orfeo"
took opera to a new level
through 17th century, opera expanded from Greek tragedies
epic stories
audiences were drawn to famous soloists singing the most popular arias
costumes and sets grew more adventurous
this made opera the most popular genre of the Baroque
Baroque in France
French developed a different style of Baroque than Italy
influenced heavily by
1. dance, specifically ballet
2. the reign of King Louis XIV
reigned for almost 72 years
known as Sun King after Apollo
god of sun, music, poetry, and science
spent money on arts
funded court ballet
established the Royal Academy of Dance and Music
used this as propaganda
large ensembles
24 Violins of the King
by 1670s became known as orchestra
Jean Baptiste Lully
actually from Florence
came to France in 1646 at the age of 14
Italian tutor for one of the king's cousins
appointed the court composer of instrumental music
charged with creating a new kind of French opera different than Italian opera
refined and elegant ornamentation
French overtures with their majestic rhythms
strict and known for instilling discipline in his orchestra
demanded uniform bowing
all bows in a string section must move up and down at the same time
his orchestras were very popular
this discipline was modeled in other orchestras
to convey his power to his orchestra
he conducted with a staff which he banged on the floor
often based on dance
4 or 5 dances of contrasting tempos, meters, and styles were often collected into a suite, e.g.
Allemande: moderate tempo in 4
followed by a Courante in 3
a slow, dignified dance in 3
followed by a fast dance in 6/8
dances were stylized
ornamentation were such that you could no longer actually dance to it
a social dance of French origin for two people, usually in 3/4 time
used as a vehicle for variation on a repeated short harmonic progression, often involving a fairly short repetitive bass-line (ground bass) which offered a compositional outline for variation, decoration, figuration and melodic invention
Baroque in England
music was supported in Italy by strong cities and churches, e.g. in Rome and Venice
in France music was supported by King Louis the XIV
in England the support for music was not as strong
weakened monarchy
relatively short periods of Henry VIII's children in the 16th century
English Civil War (1642–1651) that even ended the monarchy for a short time
a few composers attempted to develop an English style
Henry Purcell (1659-1695)
1688 Dido and Aeneas [DIGH-doh and ah-NEE-us]
an opera
prologue and three acts
George Friedrich Händel (1685-1759)
1712 moved to London
blended Italian opera with elements of French and English styles
wrote over 40 operas in London before switching his focus to oratorios, e.g. the Messiah in 1741
opera was never as popular with the London public as it was in Italy and France
England had what one calls masques, which were more collaborative performances, not unified in plot or style
also semi-operas
spoken plays with musical interludes
public concerts and publications
the only viable way that professional musicians could make a living
how music in the Baroque was funded
support for music in the Baroque
royal courts
city governments
wealthy families, e.g. Medici
Baroque marked a shift in who paid for music
began to be shaped by the public
1637 first public opera house in San Cassiano
1672 first public instrumental concert in London
the exanding middle class began to decide what was popular and what was not by the power of buying tickets
people had a high demand for new music rather than music of the past
each important church day, parties, weddings, etc.
it was expected that there would be new music composed for that occasion
very few vocal works were performed for more than a year or two
instrumental music lasted a few decades, usually as long as the composer was alive
a large amount of music was produced because of the demand
monody was the most popular singing genre
accompanied solo singing, arias
it was the easiest way to understand the text
showed off the talents of the singer
violin became the most popular instrument
composers would write specifically for soloists
example of this is the "Ciaccona" from Johann Sebastian Bach's Partita for Violin No. 2