Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643) was a leading composer in developing the Baroque style. Stating that the "end of all good music was to affect the soul," Monteverdi enriches his musical sound with emotional contrasts not seen in earlier periods. His most popular opera, the Coronation of Poppea, brings the Doctrine of the Affections to the forefront in musical sensibility. The opera is set in the Roman Empire with Nero seeking to rid himself of his wife Ottavia to place his mistress Poppea on the throne. In the Love Duet of Nero and Poppea, Monteverdi explores the Affections by using harmony to reflect the libretto - "pain" harmonized with dissonance or "joy" a complementary consonance.
The Coronation of Poppea -Sinfonia & Love Duet
Antonio Vivaldi's (1675-1743) four-hundred and fifty surviving concertos remain today the model for the Baroque concerto. Indeed, J.S. Bach himself learned the genre by copying the concertos of Vivaldi by hand. To effect a Concertante Vivaldi uses every conceivable combination of instruments. The Four Seasons is a group of four concertos grouped together each reflecting a season of the year. Such fanciful things aside, they are essentially violin concertos. Vivaldi develops the ritornello form by alternating complex solo passages with an orchestral "ritornello" theme. No where is this better demonstrated than the Spring Concerto.
Spring Four Seasons Op. 8 - Mv. I
George Friedrich Handel (1685-1759) is most known for his oratorios such as the Messiah, though his composing crossed the full spectrum of Baroque musical genre. In fact his life's ambition was to be known as an Italian opera composer itself particularly odd given he was a German composer living in England at the time. The recorder had become a popular instrument in the growing educated class in 18th century England making the published sonata a lucrative venture. Though he was consumed with producing grandiose Baroque opera at the time, Handel found time to produce a collection of sonatas to be accompanied by no more than a harpsichord continuo.
Sonata Number 4 for Recorder in A Minor
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) wrote a collection of suites for the harpsichord popularly referred to as the French Suites. Suites such as these would have been played in the typical Bourgeois home throughout the era. The suite in C Minor is a typical arrangement of dances beginning with the stately allemande. Though these dances were probably not danced per se, they still maintained the mannerism of their style. In the case of the allemande, it was is a duple dance in moderate tempo with a distinctive rhythmic pattern to accentuate the dancers move of 3 steps followed by a slight "hop." I play the allemande on my Flemish single harpsichord designed after the 17th century builder Hans Ruckers.
Allemande in C Minor from the French Suites
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) is the most famous of a long line of great composing "Bachs." Except for a brief period in his middle years, Bach's entire life was dedicated to producing music for the Lutheran Church. Where Handel's music captures the spirit of the opera house, Bach's is endowed with a true Christian piety. For some the fugue was nothing more than an exercise in compositional prowess, but in the hands of Bach it becomes a profound musical expression where the complexity of the "fugal formula" never eclipses the musicality.
From the Well Tempered Clavier - Fugue in F Minor BWV 881
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-1788) was more noted in the 18th century than his father the venerable Johann Sebastian. With the Baroque a distant memory, and the Rococo quickly proving shallow, the cultural world sought a more dramatic sensibility one that better reflected the varied moods of the human experience. For C.P.E. Bach that manifested itself in a style of shifting musical effects. Harmony with unexpected turns, or rhythms that seemed to twist in unpredictable ways. The turbulence of his Storm and Stress style foreshadows the coming revolutions - indeed, Beethoven himself.
Symphony Number E-flat Major
Jean Philippe Rameau (1683-1764) introduces the Rococo style to music as the Baroque style was beginning to be dismissed as hopelessly heavy and grotesque. His style reflects the new sensibility of the Rococo - light, airy, and seemingly simple and carefree. The harpsichord from the Baroque is still in use, but now it is used to weave dainty melodies over playful accompaniments rather than the complex intertwining of fugue subjects.
of the Orchestra
Primarily directed toward students in Introduction to Music (MUH 1110), this exposes you to each family of instruments in the orchestra, and then also each individual instrument. Britten's Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra is based on a tune originally written by the Baroque composer Purcell. In his version Britten presents the orchestra first by family, and then by individual instruments. It has served over the years as a wonderful method to get to know the orchestra instruments.
Britten - Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra