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BAROQUE 1600-1750

The word “Baroque” comes from a Portugese word meaning

imperfect pearl.” It was used to describe art, statues, buildings, and

music that were flowery, complicated, and fancy.

Baroque art is full of busy designs, lots of

curlicues, swirls, and ornaments. Baroque

music is full of complicated, ornamented

melodies that swirl around each other. This

was a period in music history when musicians

had jobs composing and performing very

special kinds of music for the households of the rich and Noble all

over Europe. The music was dramatic, flowery, and emotional, and

reflected the spirit of the times. Courts in France, Germany, and

England competed with each other by trying to build the biggest

palace, have the biggest orchestra, and hire the best known composer.

Music and entertainments had to reflect the glory and “bigness” of the

court. And composers produced ballets, pageants, operas, and other

extravagancies that did just that.

Every church had its own organist-choir director-composer who

was required to produce new music for every

Sunday service. Each week he was expected to

compose a cantata based on the text from the

Bible, copy the parts, train the singers, and

rehearse the instrumentalists. He also had to

teach Latin and mathematics in the school

next to the church. Antonio Vivaldi (1678-

1741), Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750),

and George Frederic Handel (1685-1759) are HANDEL


composers of this period who created thousands of

pieces of music for voices and instruments. New

types of compositions—concertos, sonatas,

cantatas, operas, oratorios—for many different

combinations of instrument players and singers

all became important musical forms during the

Baroque period. Vivaldi, Bach and Handel were

the composers who perfected these forms.

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