Essay on Baroque Music and Johann Sebastian Bach

Submitted By superduke
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Chapter 10 Music of the Baroque Period (1600–1750)

New instrumental and choral genres: fugue, dance suite ,concerto grosso, cantata, oratorio, and opera - and the music of Bach and Handel

In the Baroque period, courts as well as churches were employers of musicians. City governments were becoming centers of music and culture and employers of musicians. The Protestant church not only employed musicians, but added significantly to the repertoire of classical music. The Baroque period saw the beginnings of opera and the establishment of the major-minor tonal system. Composers for the first time wrote with specific tonal colors and instruments in mind, and technical skill and virtuoso performance were valued attributes. Homophonic texture became an essential ingredient in musical composition, particularly in opera, in which words could be more easily understood and dramatic action more easily advanced. With polyphonic music, words were less easily understood. Polyphonic techniques remained and were applied to instrumental and keyboard music as well as to choral composition. Much homophonic and polyphonic music was created during the Baroque. Concepts of tonality, modulation, and chord progressions as we know them today became important through the compositional technique of continuo and figured bass (basso continuo). These concepts are frequently compared with modern jazz, particularly the bass line (walking bass), chord symbols and progressions, and harmonic improvisation by the keyboard player The principle composers discussed are, of course, Bach and Handel, although a number of other important composers, both men and women, are also mentioned.

Goals for Listening Monophonic, polyphonic, and homophonic texture Relationship of text and music Melismatic and syllabic settings of text Phrase structure Ornamentation Antecedent and consequent phrases Motives
Points of imitation
Basso continuo
Musical Characteristics
Composers used homophonic and polyphonic textures; in late Baroque, polyphony was used in instrumental and keyboard works as well as in choral works
Major-minor tonal system became established - shift from the church modes
Continuo - a technique used to provide a harmonic basis to the new homophonic, tonal music Involved two players: a cellist (or other bass instrument) and a keyboard player, usually a harpsichordist, to improvise on the chords suggested by the bass line A musical shorthand (chord symbols) known as figured bass was devised to assist with the improvisation
Word painting - mirroring the text in the music
Other musical characteristics Music of contrasts Rhythm was regular, metric, and often energetic Melody is often perceived as a continuous expansion of an idea Dynamics are contrasting and abrupt, achieved through the adding or taking away of instruments or voices
Instrumental music as important as vocal music
Baroque orchestra was smaller and less varied than today’s orchestra
Primary instruments were those of the violin family, trumpets, oboes, and flutes
The lute was still popular
Popular keyboard instruments were the harpsichord and the pipe organ
Pianoforte was invented and refined during this period

Musical Forms and Genres
Orchestral works Concerto—solo instrument with orchestra Concerto grosso—involved two or three soloists Overture French—slow, fast, slow Italian—fast, slow, fast Dance suites were multimovement works written for orchestra, chamber ensembles, and keyboards—movements usually included the following stylized dances with other dances frequently interspersed Allemande Courante Sarabande Gigue
Chamber music Church sonata—usually a four-movement work that, typically, included one solo instrument with continuo (three performers) or two solo instruments with continuo (four performers), the latter commonly known as the trio sonata Chamber sonata—ensemble form of the…