Western Music History/Baroque Music
The Baroque Period spans from early 1600 to 1750. During this time there were increases in commercial activity, leading to an increase of power in the middle class, which ultimately lead to the Industrial Revolution.
Opera was now emerging for the first time, with many opera houses being built. The two 'giants' of the Baroque era were Bach and Handel.
Bach's death in 1750 marked the end of the Baroque period. Other main composers of this period were Monteverdi, Purcell, Vivaldi, Corelli, Telemann, and Rameau.
The Baroque era is sub-divided into Early Baroque, Middle Baroque and Late Baroque. The Early Baroque period was between about 1600 and 1660. During this period came the invention of opera – a drama sung to an orchestral accompaniment - and homophonic texture was favored. The Middle Baroque period dates from about 1660 to 1710. Here church modes give way to major and minor chords. Instrumental music becomes very important, and the fully fledged orchestra is now developed. The Late Baroque begins about 1710 and ends circa 1750. Polyphony once more flourishes, most notably of all in the works of Bach.
Rhetoric and SymbolismEdit
The art of clear, effective, and impactful communication is, and has been, a focus of all art forms for centuries. Ancient Greece explored rhetoric and dialectics, and in the centuries that followed, the principles of the two became central to countless aspects of day-to-day life. An approach informed by an understanding of individual rhetorical figures and the broader effects that the pieces contain must be utilized to explore baroque music and its rhetorical devices properly. Baroque composers, particularly German baroque composers, were fixated on the expression and communication of extra-musical ideas, and thus, the overall goal of baroque music “is defined by the composer's intent to objectively present a rationalized emotional state referred to as an affection.” This goal thereby extends the concepts of the renaissance related to the topic. Bartel outlines that “to the Renaissance affectus exprimere the Baroque added affectus movere,” or in other words, the goal of composers shifted from the simple and clear presentation of an emotion to the moving of the affections to alter the listener's emotional state. The common codes, being music-rhetorical figures, or figurenlehren, and their context allowed for effective and clear communication of extra-musical ideas and worked together with other musical elements to convey a more general affect.
Musica Poetica and Its RootsEdit
Musica poetica, or musical-rhetorical thought, can be understood as a merging of elements of oratory and music. Classical rhetoric, as used in oratory, involves a “division of the art of verbal discourse” containing the elements: inventio, dispositio, elocutio, decoratio, and pronuntiatio. Thus, orators would use the structures and rules of rhetoric to form a compelling argument and convince an audience of the validity of their viewpoint and simultaneously move, delight, and teach listeners. During the Enlightenment, the writings of Greek philosophers, such as Aristotle’s Rhetorica, fascinated society and pervaded many movements, and in the seventeenth century, rhetoric and musical thought became deeply interconnected. Understanding of topics and their proper rhetorical development for the conveyance of affects became a top priority, and “in 1739, […] Mattheson laid out a fully organized, rational plan of musical composition borrowed from those sections of rhetorical theory concerned with finding and presenting arguments,” which while composers were certainly not expected to follow to this plan strictly, it could be used as a tool to help guide composition.
Figurenlehren: Musical-Rhetorical FiguresEdit
Musica poetica and specific rhetorical figures, called figurenlehren, worked together to emphasize an overarching affect, particularly in the German Lutheran musical tradition. The figures acted as a common code between the composer and the audience with the support of their context. Choice of mode, rhythms, and tone painting also had an impact on the affect but was more dependent on the supporting context than the figurenlehren. The figures were divided by Mattheson into seven overarching categories, being figures of (1) melodic repetition, (2) fugal imitation, (3) representation and depiction, (4) dissonance and displacement, (5) silence and interruption, (6) melodic and harmonic ornamentation, and (7) miscellaneous figures. Some of these figures were highly specific, while others had more general forms and shapes or were based on the general phrase direction.
The more specific figures were those of representation and depiction, as classified by Mattheson. These figures effectively worked together with the text or provided more extra-musical meaning in instrumental works.
The anabasis, also known as the ascensus, is a figure of ascension or exultation, utilizing an ascending musical passage. As in figure 1, this figure would frequently accompany theological texts about the ascension and resurrection but could also be easily utilized in secular or even instrumental works. As demonstrated in figure 1, it could also be understood as an example of emphasis, defined as a musical passage which heightens the meaning of the text.
The assimilatio, or homoiosis, is a musical representation of the extra-musical imagery, such as the figure of the cross or an illustration of fluttering wings. Figure 2 illustrates the symbol of the cross as it was used in the Catholic tradition. A straight line could be drawn from the top note to the bottom, with the B and D in the middle for the smaller line of the cross.
The circulatio figure is a series of notes, often eighth or sixteenth notes, in sine or waveform. Purcell used this figure extensively on words such as 'turn,' 'round,' or, as in figure 3, the word ‘flow’. Figure 3 also fits into the category of hypotyposis, which is a musical representation of an extra-musical idea, in this case, the flowing of the notes reinforcing the text. It is consistent throughout the work, as the word 'flow' is frequently set over a similar set of notes as in the above example.
The catabasis, or descensus, is a figure that follows a descending passage in order to "express descending, lowly, or negative affections." This will often accompany topics of pain, worry, sorrow, or death in theological settings. In figure 4, Bach utilizes the catabasis on the text of ‘weinen, klagen, sorgen’ to emphasize the mournful affect of the passage.
The exclamatio is a musical exclamation, usually coinciding with an exclamation in the text. In the Messiah, by G.F. Handel, there are frequent examples of this, such as in the famous soprano aria, "Rejoice, Greatly," where there are frequent iterations of 'shout' and 'rejoice,' as in figure 5.
Fuga in alio sensu is a musical passage that vividly expresses fleeing or chasing. Often, this figure involves rapid subdivisions such as eighth or sixteenth notes. In figure 6, fuga in alio sensu is utilized, accompanying the word ‘fugge.’ Also demonstrated in the same figure is the interrogatio, a musical question. The interrogatio can be accomplished by pauses, a rising of pitch at the end of a phrase, or certain cadence types. In figure 6, it is accomplished by the rise of the melodic line that follows the rapid sixteenth notes.
Finally, the pathopoeia expresses affections such as sorrow, terror, or fear through semitone motion beyond the standard harmony or a piece. One example is the lament bass figure in the ‘Crucifixus’ movement of J.S. Bach’s B Minor Mass, as shown in figure 7. This lament bass is a well-known figure falling under the larger category of pathopoeia and effectively supports the affection of sorrow and pain expressed throughout the movement.
While it was certainly prominent in German music, it was not exclusive to it by any means. In France, Mersenne asserted that “musicians were orators who must compose melodies as if they were orations” and included all the sections, divisions, and periods appropriate to an oration in his Harmonie Universelle. Similarly, in Rome, Kircher titled a section of Musurgia Universalis, his encyclopedia on theory and music practice, Musurgia rhetorica, and in it, he emphasized the connection between rhetoric and music in their usage of inventio, dispositio and elocutio. In England, prominent composers such as Handel and Purcell are known to have made extensive use of rhetorical devices.
Thus, just as an orator had to determine their subject (inventio), composers needed to develop a musical subject or theme that could be expanded upon and explored in a composition. From here, composers could utilize tools and elements of rhetoric, such as the dispositio, elocutio, decoratio, pronunciatio, and more. However, unlike the more structured process that orators were to follow in the composition of their speech, composers were not held to such strict adherence; instead, the rhetorical structures were at the composer's disposal to use as needed and could be skipped or revisited in an order decided upon the composer. A composer, therefore, had more freedom in their creative process than an orator in this way.
Other Creations of RhetoricEdit
Tools of rhetoric pervaded musical compositions throughout the Western world, evident even in the structural forms. The da capo aria, with an ABA form that presents, develops and reviews a subject. Fugal compositions, such as those by J.S. Bach, have a sole focus of developing a subject, or thema, which is ultimately to fugue what the inventio is to orators. This is developed through tools of imitation, inversion, and more, as well as the structural arrangement into expositions and episodes, allowing for the effective development of the subject or subjects. These forms are just two of many that, much like how an orator writes a speech, guided composers and assisted in achieving coherency and understanding. Further, these compositional structures pervaded traditions in all the major Western musical centers.
Context and the Overall AffectionEdit
While the musical-rhetorical figures themselves do hold some individual significance and validity, the impact and full implications of these figures are determined by the context of the complete musical selection. Ornamentations in music, whether in harmony or melody, allows compositions to “depart from the simple method of composition, and with elegance assume and adopt a more ornate character,” thus transforming simple phrases into elegant and complex musical statements. Thus, it can be inferred that the overarching ideas and affections guided the choices of figures and rhetorical devices used by composers. The context was important and to be considered by the composer as they made their rhetorical decisions so that the figures would support the content of a work and its text, as applicable. Thus, while detailed analysis is fascinating, it is vital to zoom out and appreciate the overall affect that is achieved by the composition.
Music in SocietyEdit
Music was the main source of entertainment/diversion in the Baroque era. Aristocrats surrounded themselves with concert halls etc.... Music directors were employed by the aristocracy to oversee orchestras, choirs, instruments, music libraries etc... They were highly paid and prestigious positions in Baroque society. Music was a craft passed down over generations, a musician teaching the craft to his son, and he to his son. Commercial opera houses were about and flourishing.
Music and PowerEdit
Music In France under AbsolutismEdit
Baroque music in France always tended to sustain a conservative approach on the musical level. Unlike their European counterparts, such as the Italians, who were well-known for drawing out the intensity of the affects and emotions with their music, French baroque music aimed purposely for the quality of the sound itself. A well-developed scientific outlook on this can be attributed to Marin Mersenne (1588-1648), who published L’Harmonie Universelle in 1636, which describes the intricacies and the components of what makes certain sounds and harmonies “flattering to the ear”, according to his work. This research also parallels the ensemble of humanistic principles, for it unveils the reasoning and the experimental process to obtain the exquisite “French sound” in its total capacity.
France’s music during the totalitarian regime of Louis XIV (1638-1715) had a significant influence throughout the continent, especially in the way the courts would perform it. Court music in France was mainly played for entertainment and stature purposes, to display and affirm the monarchy’s authority towards the foreigners. The instrumental music would be used for the ballet de cour dances that the king would hold inside the court, which for the most part, were composed in accordance with the choreography of the ballets . France depicted court dancing as an embodiment of their artistic identity, which expresses the absolute connection of the mind, soul, body, and spirit to the rest of the European continent. With their arts’ touch of grace and distinctive refinement, Europe would label France’s culture and aesthetic as an elegance and fashion pillar.
One specific and iconic musical ensemble in Louis XIV’s court was the Vingt-Quatre Violons du Roi , led by Guillaume Dumanoir (1615-1697). This musical group included Michel Lambert (1610-1696), a singer and theorbist, and the Italian-born Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687), a master of the French baroque sound. Lully’s Italian background sculpted and deliberately influenced the French’s baroque sound, putting aside the passion-driven Italian music and leaning towards the reason field. His ballet compositions held the French taste through their rhythmic style but were heavily influenced by the Italian Bel-canto in his recits and airs . Lully and the rest of the band would perform major concerts exclusively for important bureaucratic events to showcase the empire’s greatness. This approach to music performance eventually started raising competition all around Europe, mainly when the Versailles court was constructed. France’s musical objective began shifting from the stylistic, vogue approach to more political, cultural-identity-fixed artistic creations. This concept of competition that is starting to settle in the musical and artistic realms directly paved the way towards France’s, and consequently Europe’s, period of Enlightenment.
Musical Nationalism in EnglandEdit
The various political entanglements in the British empire significantly shaped the music in the baroque era, especially between reigns and periods. During the Stuart period (1603-1642), musical works, especially church music, did not attach any political signification to their sacred songs, not until the English Civil War (1642-1649), a time when music was used as one of the most reliable tools for propaganda publicity. Both parties were associated with different religious affiliations, mainly the Calvinist and the Puritans opposing the Armenians and the Anglicans. Before the war, the Puritans were already altering the musical practices inside their churches to suit the congregational needs, such as cutting the choirs and the organs for monetary and maintenance purposes, which had no political connotation whatsoever around the 1580s. However, later, the tension between Charles I (1600-1649) and the Parliament grew bigger as Charles I would dissociate the Parliament by suppressing its members in order for him to maintain his political strength. Before that, Bishop of Canterbury William Laud (1573-1645) and the Anglican church were already systematically controlling the reforms and the religious writings of the Puritan church since the 1630s, causing more division between the social classes of each opposing church. Furthermore, publication licensing modifications around the 1640s allowed the churches to release uncensored musical works and pamphlets, which became an independent topic of publication when the English Civil War blew up, using those publications as means of political indoctrination, both in the cases of the Royalist faction of the Parliamentarian faction.
One of the first sacred works that vehicled propaganda publicity was published in 1641 called The Organs Echo, a musical work that depicted the organ as a political symbol, which was already settled as a topic that divided simply the socio-political ideologies between both parties. This ballad was arranged by an anonymous composer, which talks roughly about the Parliament favorably and ridicules the Arminians, William Laud, and the Anglican church. The political content is straightforward and described satirically, even from its subtitle, which reads “To the Tune of The Cathedrall Service”, making it unofficially a parody of a pre-existing, Royalist-affiliated-church tune. The topics of this piece would roughly portray how the organs can be seen as a distraction during the liturgical services, using simple descriptions such as loud and distracting so that the laypeople could comprehend and associate it more effectively with the intended target, the Royalist churches. Other more-developed diplomatic pamphlets and publications, such as The Organs Funerall (1642), were also created but would use a more subtle and intellectual approach to manipulate the audience through their subconscious level.
After the civil war, the Baroque English sound was heavily changed via minor yet cumulative factors and influences from the continent, from Italy in particular, as Henry Purcell (1659-1695) was a product of the substantial Italian effect. This Italian sound was brought by one of his teachers, Pelham Humphrey (1647-1674), a composer who had received his training in France and Italy and who picked up the Lullian dance rhythms, which are prominent in both his secular and sacred music, which Purcell introduced to his music consequently. Purcell is known for reviving the English baroque sound after the English Civil War, all with the societal limitations that were put on him, narrowing his possibilities as a composer. His sacred music was often criticized pejoratively and seen as containing “superficial and secular traits in his [sacred] music” (Bukopzfer, 203) since the church’s music’s function was not aligned with Purcell’s compositional approach, leaving hints of secular features in his liturgical works. His sound was dominantly showing the Italian human Pathos and the French rhythmic pulse throughout his compositions; however, his dissonance treatment and his graceful melodic style are the factors that defined Henry’s authentic musical color. In other words, his musical impact during the English Restoration can be expressed as the outcome of the various external social contacts that Henry Purcell went through during his shortly lived life.
Musical Consequences in Germany and ItalyEdit
Throughout Europe’s history, especially in Germany and Italy, politically driven events that fragmented the countries in question have caused tremendous changes in the arts domain, including in the musical field. Various extensive research shows a solid correlation between the political fragmentation and the artistic outcome of the concerning country, in this case, which is Baroque music. Philosopher and economist David Hume (1711-1776) explains in his book called Of The Rise And Progress Of The Arts And Sciences how creative freedom and interstate competition are crucial elements for artistic progress. He says as follows:
“The next observation, which I shall make on this head, is, That nothing is more favourable to the rise of politeness and learning, than a number of neighbouring and independent states, connected together by commerce and policy. The emulation, which naturally arises among those neighbouring states, is an obvious source of improvement […] But the divisions into small states are favourable to learning, by stopping the progress of authority as well as that of power. Reputation is often as great a fascination upon men as sovereignty, and is equally destructive to the freedom of thought and examination. But where a number of neighbouring states have a great intercourse of arts and commerce, their mutual jealousy [competition] keeps them from receiving too lightly the law from each other, in matters of taste and of reasoning, and makes them examine every work of art with the greatest care and accuracy.”
In other words, Hume explains how the different provincial competition welcomes more diversity and comparisons. Indeed, the different dominions give room to different smaller courts instead of one single larger court, which offers more demand for music. Consequently, this greater demand bears more competition between composers and musicians, offering greater creative freedom, as Hume previously mentioned. This freedom led to a more significant number of experiments, which stimulated the Baroque development that we now know in today’s world.
A more modern publication that explains this concept in a very elaborated way is Roland Vaubel’s essay (1948-present day), called The Role of Competition in the Rise of Baroque and Renaissance Music, revealing the direct relationship between the fragmented countries and their social impact on the musical progress in the Baroque period. He collected different data from composers of the Baroque period and their compositions in his redaction. He classed them according to various constituents, such as nationalities, age, employees, and so forth, to prove his hypothesis about the impact of political fragmentation on music development. He also explains how the court’s prince’s competitive demands for composers and musicians raised their wealth and reputation. He also mentions how court music was more profitable for the musicians, as they would be paid by the courts in more significant amounts than the churches, maintaining this vigorous competition between the interstate courts. In other words, the concept of inter-dominion competition, brought by political fragmentation, is a crucial cause for the development of Baroque music in the countries of Europe in question, which are Germany and Italy, according to Vaubel. In other terms, the political fragmentation of Germany and Italy reconstructed, paved, and developed their music during the Baroque era.
One concrete historical example of this phenomenon is Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672), a German composer whose country’s political state altered his music drastically. The difficult conditions that the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) has brought to Schütz’s domiciliary city, Dresden, forced him to move back to Venice, where he previously had lived and studied under Giovanni Gabrieli (1557-1612). This return to Venice allowed Schütz to become acquainted with Claudio Monteverdi, which would have never happened if the collateral damage of the war didn’t occur. Besides the physical deterioration of the country, the war had also deprived Heinrich of his singers, as they were drafted for the war, not allowing him to compose larger choral works anymore. Consequently, his music became much leaner and with more simple textures, which can be seen in his collections of miniature-sized concertos called Kleine Geistliche Conzerte (1636, 1639), which uses only up to five solo vocal lines and an organ continuo. These works explore dissonances and contain mournful lyrics, a direct connotation of the Thirty Years’ War, which will categorically mark the beginning of the climactic musical apex of the Baroque period.
Musical Styles in the Baroque EraEdit
A Baroque piece expresses only one basic mood, and follows what is termed the ‘doctrine of affect’. Composers used musical language to depict particular affective states, specific rhythms and melodic patterns being associated with each. Word-painting was especially used to associate what one was playing to certain texts of music, for example, "Primavera" (Spring) within Vivaldi's "Four Seasons." The sonnet that precedes each movement describes what the music will be representing (i.e. violins emulating birds, thunderstorms, dogs, etc).
Unity is achieved through rhythmic continuity. The same rhythmic patterns are repeated throughout a Baroque piece of music. Some might think that this repetition would become tedious, but this, however, has the opposite effect, propelling the music forward. The beat is emphasized very strongly, which is a huge leap from the rhythmically free nature of the Medieval Gregorian Chant.
The Baroque melodies also create a feeling of continuity. The melody was also repeated in the same way as the rhythm. An unraveling, unwinding and expansion of the melody was gradually created as the piece goes along. As a result, melodies of this era tend to lack the kind of symmetry and balance associated with Classical era melodies.
Baroque music uses terraced dynamics. This means that the volume stays the same for a period of time, then there is a sudden shift to a different dynamic level. There are no gradual changes in dynamics (such as a crescendo or decrescendo). Terraced dynamics were used as the main keyboard instrument was the harpsichord, which could only be played in two modes, either loud (forte) or soft (piano), precluding the ability to accomplish crescendos or decrescendos.
Textures used in the Baroque period, especially in the early part (c. 1600-1660), were predominantly homophonic, or melody with basso continuo, typical of Baroque music. In the late Baroque era, German composers such as Telemann, Bach, and Handel experimented with counterpoint and helped to create, in no small degree, Baroque polyphonic music.
Chords became increasingly important in the Baroque period. Before then, composers were concerned with the individual beauty of melodic lines, rather than with chords. Chords were previously a mere by-product of the motion of several simultaneously sounding melodic lines. In Baroque, chords become significant in themselves, due to the emphasis on the Bass Voice. The entire structure of the Baroque piece rested on the Bass Voice. This new emphasis on chords and the Bass part results in the most characteristic feature of all Baroque music – the Basso Continuo (alternatively translated as Thoroughbass or Figured Bass).
The Basso Continuo consists of a bass part together with numbers below each note which specify the chord to be played above it. It is played by at least two instruments, usually the organ or harpsichord (to produce the chords) reinforced by a cello or bassoon. The performer was given a great deal of freedom with regards the realization of the figured bass. The Basso Continuo was also used in the early classical period, particularly in some works by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, who will be covered in the next chapter.
Words and MusicEdit
Word painting was still important, and composers emphasized words through their music.
The orchestra was based on the string instruments, and usually consisted of 10 to 40 instruments. However, there was a very flexible arrangement of instruments. At its nucleus were the basso continuo and upper strings. The use of woodwinds, brass and percussion was variable.
Compositions include sets of movements/pieces. A movement is considered an independent piece. The musical genres used during the Baroque era include: opera, oratorio, cantata, suite, sonata, mass, concerto and fugue.
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)Edit
Bach came from a very long line of musicians. Each generation learned the musical craft from the previous generation. Bach had twenty children, although only nine survived; of those nine, four became composers. When he was 18 years old he became an organist. The church complained about his dense polyphony and questioned his strange meeting with a maiden in the church (which happened to be his cousin, who he then married). He then started working for the Duke of Weinstad and was promoted, but did not want the promotion, so he was put in jail for a month. He then moved to Cöthen, where he wrote the Brandenburg concertos. He then moved to Leipzig and became municipal director of all four churches. He sent his children to the local university to study. He was completely blind towards the end of his life, only to have regained his sight briefly before his death.
Bach created masterpieces in every Baroque genre except opera. Instrumental music - especially keyboard works - were prominent in his output. It was also during the Baroque period that the public witnessed the emergence of the orchestra. Bach used dense polyphonic textures and rich harmonies. His harmony and counterpoint is still used as a model for music students today. His 'Art of Fugue' displays all resources of fugal writing.
Bach wrote fugues for solo instruments (mainly for keyboard instruments). The fugue is NOT a form, but rather a compositional device, much like a canon or round. A fugue consists of two items: a subject, or main theme, and an answer. The answer can be either an exact, or real, repeat of the subject, or it can be a tonal repeat, in which the answer is modulated to another key center (usually the dominant) and contains intervallic modifications in order to make it fit into the new key.
Several methods can be used to modify a fugue subject: AUGMENTATION (Lengthening the values of the notes), DIMINUTION (Shortening the values of the notes), INVERSION (Inverting the intervals), RETROGRADE (the theme backwards) and STRETTO (Overlapping of voices).
Another often encountered feature is pedal-point, where the tonic or dominant note (usually in the bass part)is held for long periods of time. One subject is exhaustively exploited.
The cantata was the principal means of musical expression of the Lutheran service. Most usually it was written for chorus, vocal soloists, organ and small orchestra, and set to a German religious text based on the bible. It was used to reinforced the minister’s sermon, and was generally around 25 minutes in length. It consists of several movements, including choruses, chorales (hymns), recitatives (sections consisting of melodically intoned narrative), arias and duets. Bach wrote a total of 295 cantatas in his lifetime. While the opera, which also blossomed during the Baroque era, was a dramatic SECULAR work employing an orchestra along with stage actors, the cantata featured all the opera's elements except that the cantata was sacred.
Bach's most famous Cantata: Cantata no 140 – “Wachet Auf”. It was based on a chorale tune, written 130 years earlier. This hymn has 3 movements. Bach uses hymn melody in 3 of the 7 movements.
1st Movement Opens with orchestral introduction. Uses dotted rhythms, syncopation and rising scale passages. Sopranos enter, sing chorale notes in long note values. There are three layers of sound: 1. Chorale melody in long notes in Soprano voice. 2. Imitative dialogue in shorter notes in lower voices. 3. orchestral accompaniment .
4th Movement This is the most famous movement. Arranged as a chorale prelude for organ later on in Bach’s life. Thee are two contrasting melodies against each other. Chorale tune moves in faster rhythmic values than in the 1st movement, sung against the string’s counter-melody.
7th Movement This movement rounds off the cantata. For first time, all voices and instruments are used. The chorale is set in a homophonic texture for four voices with the instruments doubling. The chorale is presented as a continuous melody with full harmony and regular rhythms.
The Concerto Grosso was an very important genre in late Baroque in orchestral form. It was written for small groups of soloists (between two and four) put against the orchestra – called the tutti. It standardly comprises three movements : 1st: fast (dramatic); 2nd: slow (lyrical); 3rd: dance-like; 1st and 3rd movements use ritornello form, which is based on alternation between tutti and solo sections.
The main theme is always presented by the tutti. It returns in different keys (possibly only fragments). Bach wrote many Concerti Grossi, e.g., the six Brandenburg Concertos.
Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G major, BWV 1048Edit
This is arguably the most famous of all the Brandenburg concertos. This is with out a doubt a great piece for an intermediate orchestra. The outer of the three movements are in ritornello form. The concerto's first movement is easily recognizable and associated with Bach. Surprisingly, the second movement consists of only two chords that make up a cadence, which leads to the final movement in 3/4 meter.
Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D major, BWV 1050Edit
The Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 uses a string orchestra and group of soloists, which are the flute, violin, and harpsichord. It comprises three movements: The 1st movement - Allegro (lively) - makes use of a continuous flow of rapid notes, alternating between soloists and tutti. The recurring tutti section is louder and longer than the intervening soloist sections, which are mainly marked piano and use the flute to add a new tone-color (timbre). Their music is brilliant and more polyphonic than the tutti refrain, and new material is presented in them. Tension is built up during each soloist section, which anticipates the tutti’s next return. There is a vast cadenza for solo harpsichord towards the end, demonstrating this tension-building and eventual relief, and thus the formal scheme of the concerto grosso, as a tour de force.
Note : A Cadenza is a passage which displays virtuoso brilliance.
The 2nd movement is slow, in the relative minor (B minor) and much quieter. It uses only the three solo instruments, and a cello, which duplicates the bass line of the harpsichord. The harpsichord has both an accompanying role as well as a solo role. There is a serious mood throughout. The 3rd movement is dance-like and makes use of an ABA form (maj|min|maj – ternary form). It opens like a fugue, with plentiful contrapuntal imitation. The main theme is introduced by violins and imitated by the flutes and harpsichord. In the B section, a new, lyrical theme is introduced.
Numerical Symbolism the works of J.S. BachEdit
In the work of J.S. Bach, there has been speculation and evidence suggesting the presence of numerical symbolism and references. According to Timothy Smith, "there are two ways that number symbols can be put into music or text. First, each letter of the alphabet and each pitch of the musical scale can be given a number. […] The second way that numbers are made into symbols is by association." The first technique is known as gematria. In the association method, the number five is particularly notable as it is a symbol of the stigmata and the cross. In the St. Matthew Passion, the chorale “O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden” is repeated five times. This is the Passion Chorale, making this presence of the number five significant. Additionally, there are instances of other forms of associative symbolism and gematria. The key signature is altered with each re-iteration, moving from four sharps to three flats, two sharps, one flat, and finally, no sharps and no flats. With this information, it can be found that the sum of all the flats and sharps is ten. Ten, in this instance, can be seen as a multiple of two and five, with two symbolizing Christ, and five symbolizing the Passion, as before established. Moreover, the number of chromatic alterations involved results in the number seventy-four, which, using gematria, is the same number as C+H+R+I+S+T.
In Bach's B Minor Mass, similar symbolism has been found. The number five is again a symbol used in the Credo, specifically, the "Crucifixus" movement. This is clearly significant because of the association of the number five with the wounds of the cross (stigmata) and the cross itself, as it has five points (including the intersection point). Bach altered the Credo to accomplish this: the 'Crucifixus" would have been the fourth movement in its original structure. When the Credo was re-worked, the number of measures involved in each movement was carefully thought out. If the first four are added together in pairs, the sums created are both 129. The significance of this number is found in its factors of forty-three and three. Forty-three is the gematria symbol for the Credo, so when combined with 3, it is asserted by Friedrich Smend that it is the numerical way of stating, "I believe in the Trinitarian God."
Thus, based on the consistent presence of numerical symbolism and knowledge of Bach's highly meticulous and purposeful method, this form of extra-musical symbolism is considered valid by many scholars. Unlike other forms of symbolism in the Baroque period, numerical symbolism is less apparent – and often wholly unidentifiable aurally – making it problematic at times. However, from an analytical perspective, hidden numerical references and symbols are undeniable, and discovering such symbols adds a layer of meaning to the music for academics and musicians who choose to explore the field.
Antonio Vivaldi (1678 – 1741)Edit
Vivaldi was an Italian composer born in Venice. His father was a violinist in St. Marks’s cathedral. Vivaldi is best known for his 400 concerto grossi and solo concerti. In particular, he exploited the resources of the violin. His solo concertos include instruments like piccolo, flute, cello, bassoon, and mandolin. He also composed many operas, many of them lost. Despite being known for his concerti today, in his own time he was known largely for his operas (indeed, he was the most performed composer in Venetian theaters from 1713 to 1719).
The Four SeasonsEdit
His most famous work is a set of concertos for solo violin with string orchestra. Each concerto depicts a season, and each concerto is prefaced by a sonnet. These concerti are programmatic / narrative in nature. The “Spring” concerto is arguably the most famous of the Four Seasons. It consists of three movements (fast | slow | fast), and makes use of terraced dynamics and tone painting; e.g. high trills to imitate bird chirps, tremolos to depict thunder and lightning, and soft running notes depict a stream. There is a Ritornello theme.
Opera in the early Baroque EraEdit
The Baroque era invented opera. "Opera" can be simply defined as a drama, set to an orchestral accompaniment. It originated in the courts of kings and princes, and does not deal with the ordinary and mundane, but rather deals with the spectacular and the wonderful. An opera is the joint effort between a composer and a librettist (dramatist). The Libretto is the text, which is set to music by composer(s). Some operas are serious, comic or a mixture of both, and may contain spoken dialog, but most are sung entirely. They can consist of one to five acts subdivided into scenes. The main attraction is the aria, which is a song for solo voice set to orchestral accompaniment. The Opera may include recitatives, where the vocal line imitates the rhythms and pitch fluctuation of speech. Words are sung quickly on repeated notes, and are not melodic. Also, duets, trios, quintets etc... are used. The Chorus is important, as it generates atmosphere, and makes comments on the actions. Dance may be included. Most operas open with an overture or prelude, which is purely an orchestral composition.
Opera was born in Italy. Prepared by musical discussions between a group of nobles, poets and composers, which met regularly in Florence around 1575, and were known as the Camerata (Translated : “Fellowship” or “Committee”). They included Vincenzo Galilei, the father of Galileo. The Camerata wanted a new vocal style based on the music of ancient Greek tragedy. These Grecian dramas were sung in a style midway between melody and speech. They wanted vocal lines to be speech-like. This speech-like style became known as recitative. The earliest opera that has survived is “Euridice” by Jacopo Peri (1561-1633). The first-known great opera is “Orfeo” by Monteverdi. It was written for the court of the Gonzago family in Mantua and based on Greek myth. The first commercial opera house, opened in Venice in 1637, which was one of the factors which caused Venice to became a major tourist attraction.
Claudio Monteverdi (1567 – 1643)Edit
Monteverdi was an Italian composer of the Early Baroque, who initially worked for 21 years in the service of the Gonzagas, the ruling family of Mantua. He was later positioned as the director of music at St. Marks in Venice. All of his works involve voices, and include operas, madrigals and church music. He makes use of the basso continuo and other instruments. He wrote 12 operas, of which only 3 are preserved. He is one of the key composers in the transition from Renaissance to Baroque.
Generally considered to be the first large-scale opera ever composed, 'Orfeo' was written in 1607 by Monteverdi for the Mantuan court. It was a lavish production, including soloists, dancers, chorus and large orchestra of 40 players. Beginning with an orchestral overture, it uses recitatives, arias, duets, choruses and instrumental interludes.
Barbara Strozzi (1619-1677)Edit
Barbara Strozzi was born in Venice and lived her entire life there. She was either the illegitimate or adopted daughter of Guilio Strozzi and Isabella Gorzoni, Guilio Strozzi’s longtime servant. Because Barbara Strozzi’s name is originally documented as Barbara Valle her exact relationship to Guilio Strozzi is unclear. By 1638 her name appears in print as Barbara Strozzi and before this title, she was known publicly as “la virtuosissima cantatrice” of Guilio Strozzi . Though the exact relation is unknown, because Guilio Strozzi lists Barbara as his heir, it is accepted that she was likely his illegitimate daughter. It is because of her relationship with Guilio Strozzi that she succeeded as a composer of the Baroque era.
Guilio Strozzi was a respected member of Venetian society. He did considerable work as a poet and dramatist, supported music and theatre in public and private circles, and collaborated with many composers of Venetian opera as a librettist. His most recognized contribution was his work as a librettist for Monteverdi himself (Rosand 1978, 243). Because Barbara had such close ties to a man in the circle of the musical elite, Barbara had access to an environment where her musical talent could flourish; something that other members of her sex lacked.
In 1637, Guilio Strozzi created the Accademia degli Unisoni (Academy for the Like-Minded) in order to highlight his daughter's talent. Barbara was a crucial part of the academy. She chose topics for discourse, judged debates, awarded prizes, and of course performed. There is one occasion where Barbara read the debate of two academy members concerning love. The argument was about whether tears or song were a greater weapon in love. The story of Daphne and Apollo, inspired by the Baroque sculpture Apollo and Daphne by Bernini, was brought up on both sides of the debate, saying Apollo’s tears were a sign of love when he cried to water the laurel tree. It was argued that these tears were not tears of love, but reproach for Daphne’s leaving him. This debate was an important one that greatly influenced the subject of Barbara Strozzi’s compositions and the style of her lamenti.
Though the academy was a blessing for Strozzi, it also brought her some humiliation. As she was publicly known as the host of the academy, her virtue was questioned. A satirical manuscript was published that mocked the academy. One comment suggests the only reason Barbara was not pregnant was due to her having a relationship with a castrato. These types of comments come from a long history of associating aspects of music with sex, as seen in the Renaissance, and also the view that respectable women do not belong in the music industry, especially seen with the development of opera. Though historians are not sure, it is possible Barbara could have been a courtesan, especially based on the themes of her music, mostly centred around love. Even so, it is unfair for historians to comment with surety on her virtues without any supporting evidence.
Even with the questionable virtue, Strozzi’s music and talent were highly praised. In notes from the academy meetings, her voice is likened to that of Amphion, great musician and son of Zeus, and Orpheus, who could sing so beautifully all of creation, even rocks and trees would dance. Though her talent as a performer is praised, there is very little recognition of her work as a composer. In reviews of the academy meetings, the music that is performed is praised with no credit to any composer. Likely many of these compositions would have been Strozzi’s work. Her standing as a brilliant Baroque composer mainly comes from her surviving music.
The fact that Strozzi’s compositions were preserved at all is of amazing credit to her character and her relationship with Guilio Strozzi. Although there are other female musicians from that time period, many of whom are documented as the highest skilled singers, none of them have the same music output as Strozzi. Very few female compositions exist. Though famous Baroque singers were most likely composing music, the difficulty of publishing it as women stopped them from having the same lasting legacy as male musicians. References to female compositions are better preserved than the compositions themselves. It would have taken a great determination on Strozzi’s part to have her work published. Throughout Strozzi’s own works the listener is made aware of her self-perception as a female composer in the world of men. In Op. 1 she apologies for publishing her music “too boldly, as a woman” and in Op. 2, she refers to the “poor wit” of a woman’s mind. By Op. 5, she comments that being a woman does not affect her abilities as a composer, and in the last three volumes, Strozzi does not refer to gender at all. Through these comments, the listener is made aware of Strozzi’s own growth in how she perceived her work.
Strozzi was able to publish eight volumes of vocal music between 1644 and 1664, including over 80 arias and cantatas. Her oeuvre contains only one sacred work with the other seven volumes being secular. It is because of her numerous works that she is recognized as the most prolific composer of secular vocal music in the mid-seventeenth century. Her focus on works for the solo-soprano made Strozzi a very limited composer. While most other composers vocal chamber music composers also included music for the theatre and church. Strozzi not only avoids other musical genres but all of her texts are primarily centred on the same theme: suffering caused by unrequited love. Because of the restricted content of her music, the content itself is taken to be a defining characteristic of Strozzi’s style (Rosand 1978, 262). Another unique thing about her compositions was having them published in single-composer volumes. Something that even male composers at the time were usually incapable of doing, publishing their works in joint-composer collections.
Strozzi likely lived off of the money from her publications and enjoyed financial independence. She was self-sufficient and well off enough to loan money to other noble families in Venice. Her financial interactions were just another way Barbara made connections with the high Venetian Society.
Her writing style is decidedly vocal, with compositions that highlight the beauty of the voice and the obvious talent and control she had personally, as a musician. With long melismatic passages, the focus is often not on the text at all, but on the tone and agility with which the passages are presented. Barbara’s music highlights both the upper and lower registers of the voice and many of her works can be understood in terms of modern major and minor modes, even though that concept was not fully developed until the 18th century.
Another feature of Strozzi’s music is the decidedly different voices of the composer versus the poet. The poets for her works were male. This sometimes creates interesting relationships between the text and how it would have been performed by a woman. For example, all three of her laments are sung from the perspective of a man. In Apresso ai molli argenti, Fileno, the shepherd, cannot see his love and laments the separation. Going back to the famous Love or Tears debate from the academy, each lament focuses on the weeping or singing of a male character, but Strozzi creates an unusual perspective as both the performer and creator were female. Another work where Strozzi use of text is ironic, is found in Op. 3 with “Moralità amorosa” (“Loving Morality”). In this work, the poem starts with the description of the beloved in the morning. It talks about how she carefully arranges her hair and purposefully highlights her own beauty, trapping a man’s heart. The poem ends by saying the carefully crafted beauty is but dust and vanishes. Through this text, the poem is not only commenting on the fleeting quality of beauty but also specifically of hair as a form of self-ornamentation. This was another popular issue among the academies. It was thought that a woman should not resort to such female luxuries to distract men from their duties<ref name="Heller">. It is with this issue in mind that the irony of a female composer and performer evolves. Having a female singing about the distraction and fleetingness of female beauty, while she was most likely highlighting her own beauty and affecting male audiences is comical.
Many scholars refer to Op. 7 as the signature volume of Strozzi’s career. The work was dedicated to Nicolo Sagredo, a well-off figure in the arts and a high-standing individual in Venetian politics. The texts of the work are written by well-known poets, with three of the texts containing “barbara-barbaro” suggesting that the poems were written for Strozzi specifically.
Op. 7 contains Apresso ai molli argenti which is labelled as a lamento. There is speculation that Strozzi’s interest in songs of mourning came from the debate in the Accademia degli Unisoni about tears and song and their effect on love. Through her lamenti Barbara is able to express and explore different aspects of love while using both of the greatest factors that spark love itself. Barbara is able to create beautiful expressions of mourning and tears, while maintaining the sought-after grace and beauty of the female voice. Baroque laments are usually expressed in two ways: recitative, popular in Monteverdi’s Lamento d’Arianna and aria, developed in the 1620s-1630s and again popularized by Monteverdi. The lament arias are slow triple time arias that feature lyrical melodies above a lament bass (descending tetrachord). The lament bass was a sign of mourning well-known to educated listeners. It would have been recognized even through rich, ornamented textures. Strozzi uses both recitative and aria to express lament in this work. The story follows a shepherd who is separate from his beloved. The piece is divided into two halves. The first half, “Apresso ai molli argenti” (“By the silver banks”) is based on the older style of lament that is recitative, but it includes many shifts to more arioso passages. In this half, Fileno, the shepherd, is focusing on his separation from his love. His grief is strong and Strozzi expresses this mourning through the use of chromaticism, dissonance, and rich word-painting. The aggressive word-painting is seen right from the beginning of the piece, with images of murmuring streams where the vocal line “murmurs” around a central pitch, and searing flames, where dramatic sixteenth note runs emulate the intensity of an actual fire. The passages with more chromaticism or dissonance are at points in the narrative where Fileno is most distressed. Strozzi also places extra emphasis on unpleasant words by highlighting them with descending chromatic movement and rhythmic stress, usually, a sixteenth note followed by an eighth note (short-long). She uses these strategies, particularly on words like pain, laments, plaints, dying, sighing, and crying.
In the second half, called “Appresso il caro bene” (“When I was near my love”), Strozzi abandons the recitative style and shifts to the slow, triple-time aria. This half is divided into two halves itself, each section being a complete aria, and containing the lament bass figure the entire way through. Here, the listener finds Fileno reminiscing on the times he spent with his lover, instead of focusing so much on the grief of being away from her. By focusing on the sweet times he had with her, he slowly appeases his mourning. This change in demeanour is reflected in the music. As Fileno becomes less distressed, the lament bass figure becomes less obvious. In the second aria, Strozzi softens the lament bass by transposition, elaboration, inversion and rhythmic diminution. This half also abandons the excessive drama in vocal gestures of grief and turns sweeter. Fileno is able to appease his grief through reminiscence. Where the first half of the piece emphasized negative words with dissonance, this section, emphasizes the positive words. Strozzi does this by putting long, expressive melismas on words like song, express, and pleasing.
Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632 - 1687)Edit
Lully was an Italian-born French composer. His birth name was Giovanni Battista Lulli. He moved to France (where he later became a naturalized citizen) at the age of 14, and was very influential in the development of French opera, the French overture, and ballet. He composed many in these genres, along with a handful of keyboard works. He died of an infection caused by his stabbing of a staff into his foot.
Henry Purcell (1659 - 1695)Edit
Purcell was an English composer, born in Westminster, now part of London. He is best known for his opera Dido and Aeneas, semi-operas, and incidental music. He also wrote much chamber music and harpsichord suites.
Dido and AeneasEdit
This was Purcell's only true opera, based on the Aeneid by the ancient Roman poet Virgil. In this opera, soldier-of fortune Aeneas falls in love with Dido, queen of Carthage. Then he deserts her, sailing off to found the city of Rome. In Virgil's original story, Dido stabs herself with Aeneas's sword, but in Purcell's opera, she dies of a broken heart. This is the subject of the famous aria "When I am laid in earth."
Francois Couperin (1668 - 1733)Edit
Couperin was one of the leading French composers of the Baroque era, born in Paris. Like Bach, he was from a family of musicians and composed no operas. He wrote some choral and vocal music, but is best known today for his instrumental music, especially his harpsichord works.
Arcangelo Corelli (1653 - 1713)Edit
Corelli was an Italian composer, violinist, and teacher and was very influential to succeeding Baroque composers. He wrote 48 trio sonatas, 12 sonatas for violin and continuo, and 12 concerti grossi. Perhaps his most famous composition is the Concerto Grosso in G minor, Op. 6, better known as the "Christmas Concerto".
George Frideric Handel (1685 – 1759)Edit
Handel studied the organ at the age of 9, and was teaching and composing by the time he was 11. His output consists mainly of English oratorios and some 39 Italian operas, the latter based on ancient Greek and Roman history and mythology (e.g., 'Julius Caesar'). With the exception of the "Messiah", stories from the Old Testament form the basis of his oratorios. He also wrote a great deal of instrumental music, ranging from solo harpsichord works and sonatas for small combinations to orchestral concerti grossi and celebratory music (e.g. "The Water Music")
His music, which embraces both homophonic and polyphonic styles, contains frequent changes of texture and sharp changes of mood, and often shifts between major and minor keys.
The best-known of all oratorios, the 2 ½ hour long "The Messiah" took Handel just 24 days to write, and was first performed in 1742 in Dublin. It consists of three parts. The first part deals with the Messiah’s coming, and uses the New Testament extensively. There is a total of 50 movements in this oratorio. The famous Hallelluja chorus occurs at the end of the 2nd movement (movement no. 44). All movements are contrasting between major and minor keys.
Georg Philipp Telemann (1681 - 1767)Edit
Telemann, a German, was the most famous composer in Europe during his lifetime, over Bach and Handel, both of whom are now, ironically, more highly renowned than Telemann. He was born in Magdeburg. He wrote the first of his 40 operas at the age of 12. Other than operas, Telemann wrote numerous sacred music, but is best known today for his instrumental music. Among his most notable works is the Suite for recorder, strings, and continuo in A minor, TWV 55:a2, the Hamburger Ebb und Fluht, TWV 55:C3 overture in C major, and the Trumpet Concerto in D major, TWV 51:D7.
Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683 - 1764)Edit
Like Couperin, Rameau was one of the most famous French composers of the Baroque era. Besides composing instrumental music, he also composed a handful of ballets, motets, and during the second half of his career, many operas, making him a versatile composer. Some of his most famous works include Pièces de clavecin, Pièces de clavecin en concerts, and operas such as Hippolyte et Aricie, Castor et Pollux, and Zoroastre. He also wrote an influential treatise on music theory that paved the way for many developments which followed.
- Dietrich Bartel, Musica Poetica. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1997: 30.
- Blake Wilson, George J. Buelow, and Peter A. Hoyt. "Rhetoric and music." Grove Music Online. 2001.
- Bartel, xiv
- Definitions are based upon provided definitions in Bartel’s Musica Poetica.
- Note that in this sonata, scordatura is used to lower to E string to sound as a D. This means the notated A will sound as a G.
- Bartel, 214
- English translation: weeping, lamentation, worry.
- English translation: flees
- Burmeister, Musica Poetica, 154-5
- Bukofzer, Manfred F. Music in the Baroque Era: From Monteverdi to Bach. London: Dent, 1948, 141.
- Bukofzer, Manfred F. Music in the Baroque Era: From Monteverdi to Bach. London: Dent, 1948, 153.
- Bukofzer, Manfred F. Music in the Baroque Era: From Monteverdi to Bach. London: Dent, 1948, 144.
- Bukofzer, Manfred F. Music in the Baroque Era: From Monteverdi to Bach. London: Dent, 1948, 152.
- Joseph A. Mann, Printed Musical Propaganda in Early Modern England (Clemson: Clemson University Press, 2020), 35.
- Joseph A. Mann, Printed Musical Propaganda in Early Modern England (Clemson: Clemson University Press, 2020), 32.
- Joseph A. Mann, Printed Musical Propaganda in Early Modern England (Clemson: Clemson University Press, 2020), 33.
- Joseph A. Mann, Printed Musical Propaganda in Early Modern England (Clemson: Clemson University Press, 2020), 37.
- Manfred F. Bukofzer, Music in the Baroque Era: From Monteverdi to Bach (London: Dent, 1948), 203.
- Manfred F. Bukofzer, Music in the Baroque Era: From Monteverdi to Bach (London: Dent, 1948), 203.
- David Hume, Essays and Treatises on Several Subjects, in Four Volumes. Containing Essays, Moral and Political (London: A. Millar, 1753), 119.
- Roland Vaubel, “The Role of Competition in the Rise of Baroque and Renaissance Music,” Journal of Cultural Economics 29, no. 4 (2005): pp. 277-297, 282.
- Roland Vaubel, “The Role of Competition in the Rise of Baroque and Renaissance Music,” Journal of Cultural Economics 29, no. 4 (2005): pp. 277-297, 280.
- Roland Vaubel, “The Role of Competition in the Rise of Baroque and Renaissance Music,” Journal of Cultural Economics 29, no. 4 (2005): pp. 277-297, 280.
- Roland Vaubel, “The Role of Competition in the Rise of Baroque and Renaissance Music,” Journal of Cultural Economics 29, no. 4 (2005): pp. 277-297, 295.
- Richard Taruskin, The Oxford History of Western Music (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 224.
- Richard Taruskin, The Oxford History of Western Music (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 224.
- Timothy A. Smith, “More Evidence of Numeral-Logical Design in Bach’s ‘St. Matthew Passion.’” Bach 17, no. 2 (1986): 24-25.
- Two is the number of Christ to represent his two natures: the human and the divine.
- Robin A. Leaver. "Number Associations in the Structure of Bach's 'Credo, BWV, 232.'” Bach 7, no. 3 (1976): 17–24.
- Friedrich Smend. Bach-Studien, ed. C. Wolff (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 1969), p. 187
- Rosand 1978
- Fontijn 2020
- Kolb and Swanson 2018
- Heller 2007
- Kolb, Richard; Swanson, Barbara (2018). "Chapter 4: Barbara Strozzi, Apresso ai molli argenti (1659)". in Parsons, Laurel; Ravenscroft, Brenda. Analytical Essays on Music by Women Composers. Oxford University Press. pp. 74-106.
- Fontijn, Clair (2020). "Representations of Weeping in the Laments of Barbara Strozzi". Uncovering Music of Early European Women. Routledge. pp. 145-170.
- Rosand, Ellen (1978). "Barbara Strozzi, ‘Virtuosissima Cantatrice’: The Composer's Voice". Journal of the American Musicological Society 31 (no. 2): 241-281.
- Heller, Wendy (2007). "Usurping the Place of the Muses: Barbara Strozzi and the Female Composer in Seventeenth-Century Italy". in George, Stauffer. The World of Baroque Music: New Perspectives. Indiana University Press. pp. 145-168.