The Baroque Era

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Social and Cultural Background

Baroque is a term borrowed from the visual arts and one that is used in many different senses. The Baroque Era applies to the years between
1600 and 1750. The most famous composers of this time were Bach, Handel,
Vivaldi and Teleman.
Politically it was an age of magnificent absolute Monarch’s. The most magnificent of all was Louis XIV of France. Louis ruled from 1634 until 1713.
During this time the need to create a national culture or a regional style that would match or surpass the elsewhere created cultural models was pressed for.
When looking at Baroque architecture it is noticeable that the sculptures and paintings are never still: they are twisted, moving, struggling, and dramatically lighted. Paintings of the Baroque Era focused more on dramatic subjects and experimented with dramatic lighting.
The Baroque Era was concerned with feelings, the stronger the better. This could be seen throughout the churches. In church structure the proportions are grandiose, they are designed to impress and awe the observers. Gold and rich textures and surfaces can be seen all through the churches. All of these themes that I have discussed are also clear in the music of the Baroque period. It paints pictures of vibrant colours and triggers strong emotions. The desire to discover these themes is evident in the invention of the exciting new form music, opera, and in the use of operatic techniques in dramatic music for the church.

Important Musical Developments

Composer-performers would strive at becoming Kapellmeisers in this
Era. A Kapellmeister is a music director at one of the great courts. They were responsible for all the music performed in the court. These positions were very unstable though and composer were always on the lookout for new opportunities. The responsibilities of performers during this era was to write music at a furious pace due to the demand. Bach, for example, was responsible for one cantata a week while he was music director at Leipzig. Due to the pace the music was written, the performers of the pieces had to fill in the details. Baroque music can therefore be classified as a type of jazz because the soloists would p...

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... satisfying effect: the listener of this piece feels the triumph and joy of the text due to it’s easy to follow material.

Antonio Vivaldi,
“Spring” from The Four Seasons

Bach and Handel are not the only great composer of this era. Antonio
Vivaldi was another master of music during the Baroque period.
Vavaldi was born in 1678 in Venice. His father too was a musician, a violinist at St.Marks’s church in Venice. For thirty-six years, from 1704 until 1740, he was music director at the Ospedale della Pieta, a school for illegitimate daughters of the aristocracy. He then left his job to conduct opera in Italian cities. He eventually wrote concertos not only for violin and standard winds-oboe, flute, bassoon-but also for instruments such as the piccolo, mandolin, and guitar.
One of his best known works is “the Four Seasons.” It is a set of four concerti grossi which relate to nature during these seasons. The spirit of childlike playfulness can be seen throughout out this piece which is important to Baroque style. It is very easy to see why Vivaldi’s pieces are still played and enjoyed to this day.

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