The Baroque Period



General Characteristics

Performance Media

English HarpsichordbassoonBassooncontrabassoonContrabassoon




by Mike, Arturo and Sidney



The oboe is a part of the woodwind family. It is played using a double reed and has a nasally sound. Many pieces use it as a solo instrument. Its range is about 2 ½ octaves, starting on Bb, which is one whole step down from middle C.




The bassoon, also reffered to as fagotto, is apart of the woodwinds. It is made up of three to four different peices that are put together.It is played with a double reed. When the double reed is blown through, the two peices of cane begin to vibrate against each other, creating a noise. It has a range of about 3 ½ octaves, stating at Bb. It is pitched in C. One notable baroque piece written for bassoon is Sonata in F major by Telemann.



The contrabassoon is an octave lower than the bassoon. The notation, however, is written an octave above the actual notes played. It is considered the lowest-pitched instrument of the orchestra.




The recorder is one of the oldest instruments in western music. It is made of the lip, the piece near the top of the body, the fipple, which is a block of wood inserted at the end which is blown, and a narrow channel along the fipple, where the air is blown through against the edge of the lip, the part that makes the sound, this is called the airway. It is a woodwind that does not use a reed. It has seven holes along the body and one thumb hole on the back. There are various sizes of recorders; there are the great bass, quint bass, bass, tenor, alto, two soprano and sopranino. It used to be known under the Latin name fistula. It is not only common for the baroque period, the first document about a recorder appeared in 1388.

You can listen to an example of a recorder here




The baroque violin is very similar to today’s violin but there are some important differences. By looking at it, it is usually recognizable because the neck, bridge, tailpiece and the fingerboard were a little different in the baroque period, but this is hard to recognize if one does not know a lot about violins. The neck is a lot thicker and wider then today’s violin, the fingerboard is shorter, the bridge has s different shape; it is thinner at the base and thicker at the top. Also, the absence of fine tuners is easily recognized. Another thing that is easily recognized as well is the missing chin rest and shoulder rest, because they were not invented yet in the baroque period. Also, the bows were very different then today’s bows. Today’s violin bows curve downward in the middle and the baroque bow was straight, if not even bend outward sometimes. But the baroque violin does not only look different, it sounds different because back then gut strings were used for violins, which resulted in a less pure sound.


Pipe Organ

A pipe organ is an instrument, which makes sound by forcing pressurized air through pipes. Pipe organs exist in many different sizes; small pipe organs can have only a few dozens of pipes while large some pipe organs can have thousands. The sound is created by pressing a key, just like on a keyboard or piano, which enables the traveling of air through that pipe. Because there is a continuous supply of air, the sound can sustain as long as you press the key. Pipe organs are one of the oldest known instruments. The first traces of pipe organs have been tracked back to ancient Greece in the third century BC. Back then the water pressure for making the sound was created by boiling water. That is were the name "water organ" comes from for early organs. In the baroque they were mostly used for sacred music, especially because they were large and therefore mostly found in churches














 Johann Jakob Froberger and Johann Kaspar Kerll, Girolamo Frescobaldi and Alessandro PogliettiGlossaryRhythm



- Sachin and Edd


~Two different types of rhythm common of the time were regular and flexible;

Regular- used for dance music and became more pursuasive

Flexible - Used for Vocal Recitatives and improv solos like toccatas and preludes



Types of Dance:

Gigue (not Jig)- A gigue or giga is a lively Baroque dance usually in compund meter, and often has contrapuntal texture. Gigues frequently occur as movements in binary form in larger works such as concertos and sonatas, and were one of the more common final movements in a baroque suite.


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Courante (not Carrenta)- The courante, corrente, coranto and corant are just some of the names given to a family of triple metre dances from the late Renaissance and the Baroque era. The courante came in two varieties: French and Italian. The French was moderately fast, in contrast to the allemande that preceded it, whereas the Italian was faster and more free flowing. In a Baroque dance suite, an Italian or French courante typically comes between the allemande and the sarabande, making it the second or third movement.

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Sarabande-shown in the video below is a slow dance in triple meter with the distictive feature that beats two and three of the measure are often tied, giving a destinctive rythm of quarter and half notes in alteration. Note in the video a dragging step on half steps.

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Allemande- The Allemande was initially written as a first movement before a Courante. 16th century Allemandes were in duple meter at a moderate tempo but 17th century Allemandes featured more quadruple meter and a larger range of tempo. Allemandes are most noted for their lack of syncopation and tonal contrasts.




by Roxanne and Becky



by Katherine and Hanna

Basso Continuo


~ Melody and bass parts written out with chords improvised by performers
~ played on continuo instruments: harpsichord, organ, lute
~ Figured Bass: musical notation used to indicate chords, intervals, etc.





by Juelan, Amy, and Elina




Varity of techniques used in pieces

1. Repeated melody with little or no change, though it may be transferred between

different voices and surrounded with different contrapuntal material in every variation.

This is called Cantus Firmus Variation.

2. Melody is ornamented differently for every variation, if so the part stays in the topmost

voice, with unchanged underlining harmonies.

3. The bass and/or harmonic structure is the constant factor instead of the melody.





A composition in several movements instead of a short piece in a certain mood and/or rhythm. Each consisting of loose aggregation of many miniature pieces. Most in dance rhythms that are highly stylized and refined.





Pieces that introduce operas and other large composite works, but can also be independent compositions and sometimes make the opening movement of a suite, sonata, or concerto.



Cantata and Song


A form consisting of many short contrasting sections; a pattern of alternating recitatives and arias for solo voice with continuo accompaniment on text usually in the form of a dramatic narrative or soliloquy. Designed to be performed in a room. Resembles a detached scene from an opera.



Oratorio and Motet


For sacred concert perforates and often serve as a substitute for opera during season where the theater is closed like Lent. Most Oratorios are for solos and duets.





Congregational hymns with organ accompaniment, where there is uniform movement in equal notes, with the close of each phrase marked with a fermata.



Musical-textual elements

1. Concerted chorus on a biblical text.

2. Solo aria, with strophic no biblical text

3. Chorale, with its own text and the tune which might be treated in many ways



Sacred concerto elements

1. Arias or arias and choruses in the concertato medium.

2. Chorales only, also in concertato medium.

3. Chorales and arias in simple harmonic settings or in the concertato medium.

(note: these combinations are called Cantatas, but the proper name is sacred concertos)








Johann Sebastian Bach



By: Laura

1. Dates of life: 1685-1750

2. Where born/died:

-Born in Eisenach, Germany

-Died in Leipzig, Germany

3. Life:

J.S. Bach was born into a family of musicians. His father played violin, and other relatives were music copyists, town pipers, fiddlers, and played the oboe or organ. His father taught him to play the harpsichord and violin and was introduced to the organ by his uncle who was famous organist. Bach lived with his oldest brother, Cristoph, after his parents died when he was 10. His brother taught him to play the harpsichord and organ. As a boy, he was admired for his soprano voice as he sang in the Mettenchor (Mattins Choir) in Lüneburg. After his voice changed, he studied violin, but then became interested in the organ and decided to pursue church music. He became an organist at the church of Arnstadt and began composing when he was 18. At the age of 22, Bach moved to Mühlhausen and married Maria Barbara Bach. He had seven children. He was known as an outstanding church musician and excellent organist and was appointed to the Duke of Weimar. During his nine years in Weimar, Bach composed some of his greatest organ music, including Toccata and Fugue in D minor as well as church cantatas and keyboard suites. In 1717, when he was 32, Bach accepted the post of master of music to Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen, where he composed much of his orchestral music, including his six popular Brandenburg Concertos and works for the clavichord and harpsichord. After his wife, Maria, died in 1720, he remarried in 1721 to Anna Magdalena Wülken, who was also a musician. He had 13 more children with her and taught most of his children to play a musical instrument. Several of Bach’s sons grew up to be respected composers and performers as well. In 1723, Bach accepted the post of music director of St. Thomas’s School in Leipzig, where he composed many of his most famous choral works, including Christmas Oratorio and the St. Matthew Passion. Bach was very religious and a devoted family man. He signed his music with “S.D.G” (Sol Deo Gloria), which means “to the glory of God.” He boasted that he could form a vocal and instrumental ensemble just from his family alone. In 1749, Bach became blind and died in Leipzig in 1750.

4. Mentors: Dieterich Buxtehude, who inspired Bach with his improvisatory preludes and use of counterpoint

5. Main influences:

In Lüneburg, Bach was influenced in his musical composition and performance by the French style. In Weimar, he came into contact with Italian instrumental music. Since Bach also stayed in Germany his entire life, he was influenced by German music as well. These French and Italian influences were mainly brought out through texture and rhythm. He often made arrangements of other composers’ works. For example, he could take an Italian ensemble composition, such as a violin concerto, and turn it into a single piece for harpsichord.

6. Types of compositions known for:

-Preludes and Fugues (Well-Tempered Clavier- a prelude and fugue in each of the 24 major and minor keys)

-Inventions and Sinfonias (Two- and three-part contrapuntal works)



-Concertos (Brandenburg Concertos)




Bach wrote music in a wide variety of other “forms” as well, including sonatas, dance suites, oratorios, etc.

7. Great works:

Harpsichord: Little Book for the Keyboard, The Well-Tempered Clavier, Books 1 and 2

Organ: Toccata and Fugue in D minor

Orchestra: Brandenburg Concertos

Choral: Christmas Oratorio, St. Matthew Passion

8. Compositional Techniques:

Bach is seen as the supreme master of counterpoint, but also embodies the entire Baroque era in his music.

9. Interesting facts:

-Bach is considered the father of Baroque. Bach had 20 children and composed the Little Book for the Keyboard for his nine-year-old son, Wilhelm Friedemann.

- Georg Philipp Telemann was the first choice to be cantor of St. Thomas Church in Leipzig, but turned down the position, forcing the administration to choose a "mediocre" second choice, J.S. Bach.

    -The Beatles were influenced by Bach in their music.




Antonio Vivaldi



By: Laura

1. Dates of life: 1678-1741

2. Where born/died:

-Born in Venice, Italy

-Died in Vienna, Austria

3. Life:

Antonio Vivaldi’s father was a violinist, who taught Vivaldi how to play the instrument. He became a priest in 1703, but did not celebrate mass after a year due to pain in his chest. Vivaldi was employed for the majority of his working life by the Ospedale della Pietá, an orphanage, where he was the maestro di violino (master of violin). He also worked for the Teatro Sant’ Angelo, an opera theater, where he staged and produced operas. His first opera was Ottone in villain 1713. He moved to Mantua at the end of 1713 where he composed operas and cantatas as Chamber Capellmeister. Between 1725 and 1728, eight operas were premiered in Venice and Florence. His concertos, such as the Four Seasons, became extremely popular during this time as well. Vivaldi traveled to Prague in 1730, and after he returned he concentrated mainly on operas. He wrote instrumental music only for the Ospedale della Pietá. In 1738, Vivaldi traveled to Amsterdam, where he conducted a festive opening concert for the 100th Anniversary of the Schouwburg Theater. He moved to Vienna in 1741, but died shortly after he moved there.

4. Mentors: Vivaldi’s father

5. Main influences:

6. Types of compositions known for:

-Concertos (The Four Seasons, composed over 500 concertos primarily for solo violin and group ensembles)

-Operas (46 operas)

Vivaldi also composed sonatas, sinfonias, chamber and sacred music.

7. Great works:

The Four Seasons is by far Vivaldi’s most famous work.

8. Compositional Techniques:

Vivaldi had a more playful energy in his music compared to the serious tone set by Baroque music. His concerti had a fast, slow, fast form with a ritornello form.



Alessandro Scarlatti



By: Laura

1. Dates of life: 1660-1725

2. Where born/died:

-Born in Trapani or Palermo, Sicily (Italian)

-Died in Naples, Italy

3. Life:

Alessandro Scarlatti trained in Rome. In 1678, he got married and was later appointed Maestro di Cappella of San Giacomo degli Incurabili. Here at only 19 years old, he performed his first large-scale oratorio-operatic work. In 1684, Scarlatti moved to Naples, and was appointed Maestro di Cappella at the vice-regal court of Naples. In Naples, Scarlatti produced over 40 operas, which were first performed in Viceregal Palazzo Reale and then at S. Bartolomeo, a public theater. Here he was employed as a director. In 1703, Scarlatti moved back to Rome after staying in Florence for a year. Here he was Maestro di Cappella at the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore, where he was required to compose motets and Masses in strict concertato and Papal styles. As another source of income, Scarlatti also started to compose oratorios, cantatas, and celebratory serenatas. Later on, Scarlatti experimented with orchestral writing, where he expanded the Sinfonia concept with his twelve Sinfonie di concerto grosso. Scarlatti’s final years were spent in Naples, teaching, composing cantatas, a Serenata, and a set of Sonatas for Flute and Strings. He died in Naples in 1725.

4. Mentors: None found

5. Main influences: Early Baroque Italian voice styles, which mainly rooted from Florence, Venice, and Rome

6. Types of compositions known for:


-Cantatas (over 600, mostly for soprano and continuo)




7. Great works:

Opera: La Griselda

8. Compositional Techniques:

From 1695, Scarlatti’s operas and “musical dramas” had three movement (fast, slow, fast) sinfonias (opera overtures), which eventually became the standard for all Italian operas. He also differentiated the singing styles of aria and recitative. In his later operas and overtures, he experimented with a more modern style of instrumentation.


Domenico Scarlatti


By: Laura

1. Dates of life: 1685-1757

2. Where born/died:

-Born in Naples, Italy

-Died in Madrid, Spain

3. Life:

Domenico Scarlatti was the son of Alessandro Scarlatti. He was taught at first by his father and took after him as well, as he began composing operas. At age 18, his first operas, Ottavia ristituita al trono and Giustino, were performed. In 1705, he moved to Venice to study with Francesco Gasparini who was the musical director at the Ospedale della pieta. In Venice he met George Frideric Handel and they became good friends. Scarlatti really established himself in Rome. He composed chamber music and operas for the miniature opera theater of Queen Maria Casimira. He became music director of St. Peter’s in Rome in 1715. Scarlatti became court harpsichordist in Libson to the King of Portugal and teacher of Princess Maria Barbara in 1720. For her, he composed keyboard music that ended up as Scarlatti’s greatest contribution to music literature. In 1725, he returned to Naples, and at this time his father died. Scarlatti spent the rest of his life in Maria Barbara’s service in Spain after she married the Spanish crown prince, who became King of Spain. In 1738, his 30 Essercizi per Gravicembalo were published in London and became widely used.

4. Mentors:

-His father, Alessandro Scarlatti

-Francesco Gasparini, the musical director at the Ospedale della pieta

5. Main influences:

Spanish folk music and dances, where Scarlatti was influenced by the vivid colors and rhythms used in it

6. Types of compositions known for:

-Sonatas (over 500 single-movement keyboard sonatas)

-Sinfonias (17)

-Concerti grossi (orchestra)




-Compositions that foreshadowed the sonata form

7. Great works:

-30 Essercizi per Gravicembalo (Studies for Harpsichord)

-“The Cat’s Fugue” K. 30, L. 499

8. Compositional Techniques:

Scarlatti’s harpsichord playing exhibited much freedom. He introduced new techniques, such as crossing the hands, fast repeated notes, wide leaps, glissandi, and double-note passages. In his keyboard sonatas, he generally used binary form.

9. Interesting facts:

-Scarlatti’s cat was the inspiration for one of his sonatas-“The Cat’s Fugue” K. 30, L. 499. His cat walked over the keyboard striking notes that Scarlatti used for the subject of the fugue.

     -Scarlatti and Handel participated in a keyboard tournament that ended in a tie.



Francesco Geminiani



George Frideric Handel



His Works Include:




Claudio Monteverdi

Dates of Life: 1567-1643Place of Birth: Cremona Place of Death: Venice :



NationalityItalian :

LifeBegan his career as a chorister at the cathedral in Cremona. At the age of 16 he had already published his volume of three-part motets and a book of sacred madrigals. In 1601 he became maestro di cappela at the Mantuan court. In 1607 he wrote his first opera L’Orfeo. The tragic death of his wife and close friend made him suffer a complete collapse. During this time he wrote Vespro della beata vergine (Vespers of the Blessed Virgin 1610). He wrote many ballets and operas for the Mantuan court, but many of his scores were destroyed when Austrian troops sacked the palace in 1630 in Venice. His madrigal collections show his moving with the times, from typically Renaissance polyphony pieces to highly expressive dramatic works for solo voices with instrumental accompaniment. :

MentorsNone found :

InfluencesThe death of his wife and his close friend were influences when he composed the Vespers of the Blessed Virgin, which date from this unhappy period. :

CompositionsOperas, Madrigals, Motets

Great Works:Vespro Della beata vegine, Vespers of the Blessed Virgin, (1610) a glorious setting for voices and instruments, L’Orfeo (1607) an opera. :

Unique StyleHe was a master of producing precisely styled motets that extended forms of Marenzio and Giaces de Wert. He used idiomatic writing, virtuoso flourishes and a thorough going use of new techniques. :

Other FactsHe bridged the worlds of the High Renaissance and the Baroque Era. He could re-invent and adapt his musical styles according to changing tastes. All of his music, early or late, is characterized by qualities of emotional intensity, depth of expression and understanding of human nature comparable with those that inform the works of Shakespeare.




Johann Joseph Fux

 By: Connor

Johann Jakob Froberger and Johann Kaspar Kerll, Girolamo Frescobaldi and Alessandro Poglietti 



Jean Baptiste Lully

 By: Aline


Dates of Life:

Place of Birth:


Life: Lully's singing voice was spotted at the age of 13; he had also a talent for dancing and playing the violin. He established himself as a strict disciplinarian with a quick temper, later in life as director of the opera house in Paris. He made an expedient marriage in order to disguise his homosexuality. He married the daughter of the court composer Michael Lambert. Jean-Baptiste Lully and Louis XIV, the "Sun King", enjoyed a close, symbiotic relationship. Lully had stuck gold, and made a huge fortune.




Great Works:

Unique Style:

Other Facts:

He accidentally stuck his foot with the heavy stick he used to mark the beat by banging it on the floor. Lully refused to have the toe amputated.
sacred music
Isis, Thésée, Phaëton and Armide
court ballets, comedy-ballets, opera, lyric tragedies
Playwright Molière, the poet Philippe Quinault
Nicolas Métru
Florence Place of Death: Paris



Dietrich Buxelhude

 By: Aline

Dates of Life:

Place of Birth:






Great Works: Abendmusiken

Unique Style:

Other Facts:

His organ works had enormous influence on Bach
St Mary required him to play and compose music for the main services
: Organ Music, cantatas for the German protestant liturgy
He was taught by his father
His father was a schoolmaster and organist. In 1637 Buxtehude himself became organist at St Mary’s Church in Lübeck; this appointment was one of the most important and lucrative in Germany. Dieterich Buxtehude applies as Tunders successor. 11 April Buxtehude is appointed organist and "Werkmeister" of St. Mary’s, Lübeck. 3 August he marries Tunder’s daughter Anna Margareta.
Oldesloe Place of Death: Lübeck



Johann Pachelbel

by: Aline







Dates of Life:

Place of Birth





Great Works:

Unique Style:

Other Facts:





Predecessor of J. S. Bach
German protestant church music, complex polyphonic pieces based on Protestant hyms tunes
Pachelbel’s Canon, six suites for two violins
Organ Music
Heinrich Schwemmer, Georg Caspar Wecker
Became organist at St Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, later in Thuringia and near Erfurt, where he came into contact with members of the Bach family. He remarried in 1684 after he lost his first wife and their baby son in a plague epidemic. Pachelbel raised a family of seven children.
: Nuremberg Place of Death: Nuremberg Nationality: German