Pannini - Musical Feast (1747)


Baroque is the artistic period that runs from the 17th century to the mid-18th century (from the first preserved opera in 1600 to the death of J. S. Bach in 1750).
The word baroque is derived from the Portuguese word "barrueco", referring to a rough or imperfect pearl. Music was at the services of the absolute monarchies, the aristocracy and the Church, who used it as another manifestation of their power.
  • Rhythm: it was more varied and with a faster and more regular pulse.
  • Melody: it was complex and elaborated, because there was a liking for details and ornamentation.
  • Harmony: it was tonal. The use of tonality was established.
  • Texture: accompanied melody predominated with basso continuo, which is a bass line over which chords are built up.
  • Timbre: the orchestra was born.
  • Dynamics: they used terraced dynamics and echoing.
    Terraced dynamics: in this era dynamics were modified by means of changes in sound masses (loud = many performers, tutti; soft = fewer performers).
    Echoing: sound effect (presentation in forte and repetition in piano).
  • The expression of affections: composers tried to express states of the soul such as rage, joy, sorrow, etc.
  • The use of contrasts in different elements of music (rhythm, tempo, melody, timbre, etc.).
  • ltaly: Vivaldi, Monteverdi, Peri, Frescobaldi, Scarlatti, Corelli.
  • Germany: J. S. Bach, Praetorius, Schutz, Telemann.
  • England: Handel, Purcell.
  • France: Lully, Charpentier, Couperin.
  • Spain: Juan Hidalgo, Antonio Literes, José de Nebra, Sebastián Durón.
Monteverdi - Madrigal "Lamento della ninfa" (lyrics)


Opera: it was the main profane vocal form and it was written for orchestra, choirs and soloists. Origins: In the early 17th century in Florence a group of intellectuals around Count Bardi known as Camerata Fiorentina decides to revive Greek classical theatre, which was a combination of poetry, music and dance.
The first preserved opera is Euridice by Jacopo Peri (1600).
The first important opera is L’Orfeo by Claudio Monteverdi (1607).

Fundamental parts of an opera:
Vocal parts
- Recitative: halfway between spoken word and singing. It facilitates the advance of the plot.
- Aria: melodic part sung by a soloist. It serves to express emotions and to show off the skills of the soloist.
Instrumental parts
- Overture: it is the introduction to the opera.
- Interludes: instrumental parts that link the different sections together.
Choruses and ballets were included occassionally.

The castrati were famous male singers generally from the poorer classes chosen for the beauty of their voices. They were castrated before puberty to preserve their child's voices, but with all the lung capacity of an adult male. They became the first music idols in history. The most famous castrato was Farinelli, and there were other well known castrati such as Ferri, Senesino and Pacchierotti.

Myth of Orpheus and Eurydice
Monteverdi - L'Orfeo
Handel - Rinaldo. Aria: Lascia ch'io pianga


The opera decisively influenced the new religious vocal forms. They were all written for orchestra, choir and soloists, and were formed by a sequence of recitatives, arias and choruses.
Oratorio: is very similar to opera but the theme is religious, there is no stage-setting and no dances.
Passion: is a liturgical drama about the passion and death of Christ, usually played during Holy Week.
Cantata: it literally means "sung" in Italian. It can be a profane or religious form.
The major oratorio composer was George Friedrich Handel.
The major passion and cantata composer was Johann Sebastian Bach.

J. S. Bach - 
St. Matthew Passion, BWV 244
J. S. Bach - 
147 Choral "Jesus bleibet meine Freude"


Instrumental music achieved a definitive independence from vocal music, due to:
- The technical evolution of instruments, thanks to luthiers such as Stradivarius, Amati or Guarnieri.
- The birth of the Baroque orchestra, made up of bowed string instruments and other instruments that played the basso continuo such as the harpsichord. Also woodwind, brass and percussion instruments were included.
Musicians composed music specifically for instruments and the early instrumental genres began to appear.

Concerto: is a highly elaborated instrumental form in which the musical material is passed between different instruments. It’s structured in 3 movements: fast - slow - fast. Types:
  • Concerto grosso: is a dialogue between the full orchestra (tutti, grosso, ripieno) and a small group of instruments (concertino). The first major composer to use the term concerto grosso was Arcangelo Corelli.
  • Concerto a solo: is a dialogue between the full orchestra and a soloist. E.g. Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.
Correlli - Concerto grosso op. 6 n.3
(concertino: violin I, violin II & violoncello)

Vivaldi - Concerto a solo per mandolino RV.425
(soloist: mandoline)

Suite: is an instrumental form containing various dances that contrast in character, rhythm and tempo. It comes from the dances of the Renaissance. The main dances were:
- Allemande: is a stately German dance in 4/4 that literally means "German".
- Courante / corrente: a courante is a lively French dance in 3/4; a corrente is a very fast Italian dance in 3/4.
- Sarabande: is a slow and stately Spanish dance in 3/4.
- Gigue / giga: a gigue or jig is a fast English dance in 6/8; a giga is a very fast Italian dance in 3/8.

Charles Dieupart - 
Suite n. 6 en fa mineur 4. Sarabande
Charles Dieupart - 
Suite n. 6 en fa mineur 7. Gigue

Toccata: is an instrumental form typically for a keyboard instrument characterized by virtuosity with fast runs, arpeggios and fugal parts.

Fugue: is a complex polyphonic form in one single movement, built on a subject or theme that is introduced at the beginning and imitated constantly.

J. S. Bach - Toccata & fugue BWV 565


- String: violin (1), viola d’amore (2), theorbo (3), mandolin (4), harpsichord (5).
- Wind: piccolo (6), transverse flute (7), oboe (8), bassoon (9), trumpet (10), horn (11).
- Percussion: timpani (12).


RELIGIOUS VOCAL MUSIC: Handel - "Hallelujah" (from the Messiah oratorio)
  • Rhythm: quadruple time signature (4/4).
  • Texture: monophonic, homophonic and polyphonic parts.
  • Timbre: choir and orchestra.
  • Form: chorus of oratorio, binary form (AABB).
INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC: Vivaldi - "Spring"
  • Rhythm: quadruple time signature (4/4).
  • Texture: accompanied melody.
  • Timbre: soloist violin and orchestra.
  • Form: concerto a solo with ritornelli, rondo form (ABACADA...).