|[pictured: "Jester with a Lute" by Frans Hals]
The scope of our site is mostly centered on the Classical, Romantic, and Modern
Periods, but any discussion of them cannot be complete without an
overview of the Baroque Period. The basics fundamentals for Western
music (and thus chamber music) were set in the Baroque Period by
the likes of Handel, Vivaldi, and (of course) Bach. We'll try to
keep the discussion short...
The Baroque Period began around the start of the 17th century. This was a time when the world's thought was constantly being shaken and revised. From Galileo and his geocentric theory to the settlement of the New World, change was taking place and people scrambled to update old philosophies and ways of thought. Much in the same way, early baroque composers sought to expand their musical expression.
But there was a problem: their new musical thoughts and ideas were too large and powerful to be fully expressed through old ways of writing music. It was kind of like a child wanting to write a story, but realizing that he doesn't know how to write. Realizing their problem, copmosers worked through most of the 17th century to develop new and better musical forms and methods.
Finally, musical techniques such as counterpoint and fugue began to emerge, which were used well into the modern period. Also, you can see the very early stages of some of the Classical Period's key elements: use of the continuo paved the way for the spread of homophony; the binary form gradually turned into sonata form.
The last part of the baroque period is generally characterized
by very elaborate pieces. These were generally very complex because
of their wildly contrapuntal
design. In fact, this complication is partly what caused the end of
the barouque period. Tired of such excess, composers like the young
Haydn began to seek simpler
means of musical communication.
Chamber Music in the Classical Period
In baroque times, music was still largely written for religious
uses. In fact, many composers were employed by the Church to write
new music for weekly services. Because the music was mostly
designed for the glory of God rather than for man's pleausre,
chamber music as we know it did not have much of an environment to
grow in. Chamber music could not flourish until the later growth of
the middle class during the Classical