The Development of Instruments and Instrumental Music in the Late Renaissance and Baroque Eras

The Development of Instruments and Instrumental Music in the Late Renaissance and Baroque Eras

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Before the Baroque era, music was rarely written specifically for instruments; most often, music played on instruments was originally for voice. The Baroque Era last from 1600 to 1750. During this time, instruments were improved, and composers began to write pieces for specific instruments. Music became more popular with the middle class, and amateur musicians became to sprout up, separate from the church and the court.
Instrumental music in the late Renaissance and early Baroque eras were called sonatas, concertos, and sinfonias interchangeably. The order and shape of their movements were often very similar. Works that used between five and seven violins with contino were often called sonatas and concertos, though they were more often like canzonas. Before Corelli’s concerto grosso, concerti often designated music that used both instruments and voices. However, during the last quarter of the Seventeenth Century, the concerto signified purely instrumental music, unless the title of the piece specified otherwise.
However, by 1680, there were a few ground rules that were being set up. The first generation of the concerto grosso was typically for violins. Arthur Hutchins, about Corelli and Vivaldi, says “the violin was a wordless voice of super-human compass and range of expression, with clearer attack and greater agility than a human voice, and free from the strain of human fatigue.” This belief that violins could emulate the human voice led to a golden age for string ensembles. Concertos normally consisted of between six and twenty strings, with an organ, harpsichord and archlute. In 1686, Torelli wrote the first piece that did not include voices. It was titled Concerto da camera a due violini e basso; thi...


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Dorian, Frederick. The History of Music in Performance. New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc., 1942.
Harman, Alec. Late Renaissance and Baroque Music. Fair Lawn, New Jersey: Essential Books, 1959.
Hutchings, A.J.B. The Baroque Concerto. New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc., 1965.
Newman, William S. The Sonata in the Baroque Era. Raleigh, North Carolina: The University of North Carolina Press, 1966.
Palisca, Claude V. Baroque Music. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall Inc., 1968.
Peyser, Joan ed. The Orchestra: Origins and Transformations. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1986.
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