Baroque literally means an uneven pearl. It came from the Portuguese word barocco. Now, it means art that is bizarre, flamboyant and elaborately ornamented. Modern historians use it simply to refer to a particular style in arts. Basically, baroque movement involve the filling up of space. Painters, sculptors, musicians were concerned with filling up the space on their scores and canvas and making their art like an elaborate stage setting. Artists such as Bernini, Rubens, Rembrandt exploited their materials to expand the potential of colours, detail, ornament and depth.
Such a style was well suited to that of the aristocracy who thought in terms of completely integrated structures. In France, Louis XIV held court in the palace of Versailles, a magnificent setting that is fused with Baroque painting, sculpture and architecture into a symbol of royal wealth and power. The baroque style was also shaped by the needs of churches , which used the emotional and theatrical qualities to make worship more attractive. The middle class also influenced the baroque style. Prosperous merchants and doctors commission the realistic depiction of land and every day life.
Baroque style was also set against the background of great scientific discovery. Galileo and Newton represented a new approach to science based in the union of mathematics and experiment. They discovered the fact of mathematical laws governing bodies in motion. These led to new inventions and gradual improvement in medicinal field. Baroque art is a complex mixture of rationalism, spirituality, sensuality and materialism.
In music, the baroque style flourished from about 1600 to 1750. Its giants were George Frederic Handel and Johann Sebastian Bach. Incidentally, Bachs death mark the end of the Baroque era. Many other masters of the time were forgotten till the Baroque revival in the 1940s and 50s. Masters such as Monteverdi, Purcell, Corelli and Vivaldi emerged.
During the baroque period, most music was written to order it was commissioned by aristocratic courts, churches, opera houses, municipalities which all patrons musicians and invariable demanded new music. Thus, composers were an integral part of the baroque society and even though they wrote their music for specific purpose for their patrons and its quality is so high that much of it has become standard in todays concert repertory.
The Baroque period is divided into three phases, early(1600-1640), middle(1640-1680) and late (1680-1750). The early period was one of revolution and changes to the music history. Italian composers invented opera(drama sung to orchestral accompaniment). Early composers also stressed the important use of homophony which they thought could express words better than the polyphonic texture used previously at the Renaissance and Medieval period. However, later, they found polyphony more expressive of extremes in emotions, passion and dramatic contrasts. Thus, composers used dissonance with new freedom and stressed the contrasts of sound of the soloists against choruses and single instrument against large orchestras.
During the middle phase, the new musical style spread from Italy to the rest of Europe. Church modes of the middle ages gave way to major and minor modes and instrumental music took on a greater importance.
The late baroque period produced much of the music that is heard today and polyphony was intensely favoured.
CHARACTERISTICS OF BAROQUE MUSIC
GENRES OF BAROQUE MUSIC
COMPOSERS FROM BAROQUE PERIOD