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Characteristics of Baroque Music

Baroque music, as well as the popular art and architecture of the Baroque period, puts an
emphasis on adornment. Immediately following the Renaissance, Baroque composers were the
first to establish multiple instrumentation and use complex harmonies in their compositions.
Baroque music favored the harpsichord and other stringed instruments, while the Classical
period preferred the piano, brass and woodwinds. Baroque music also allowed for much more
improvisation than Classical music and featured many more opportunities for ensemble soloing.
Baroque composers were also the first to establish opera as a musical genre.

Characteristics of Classical Music

Classical music is generally considered to have begun with the invention of the sonata. Early
Classical music was among the first to express two different moods by using sonatas--one more
lyrical and one more fast-paced--while Baroque music, and its predecessors composed only one
mood per movement. The Classical era also saw the emphasis on the piano as the main
instrument used for performing compositions. Classical composers are governed by many rules
of structure, most notably the evolution of the rondo style ABA or ABACA, as opposed to the
most common Baroque rondo style of ABACABA.

Time Period

Baroque music predates Classical, though towards the end of the Baroque period there is a bit of
an overlap as it evolved into the Classical period. It is generally agreed that the Baroque period
began after the Renaissance in approximately 1600. Baroque style was the dominant force in
European music, art and architecture until 1750, when Classical music gained popularity.
Classical composers then dominated the Western musical tradition until the beginning the
Romantic era at the beginning of the 19th century.


The most famous composers of the Baroque era include Bach, Vivaldi, Monteverdi, Handel and
Corelli. Vivaldi, a student of Corelli's, was a popular composer of the late Baroque period, and
among the first to canonize the characteristics of Baroque music, including the use of the rondo.
The Classical era was considered to be ushered in by the compositions of Haydn as he was one
of the first composers to develop piano trios and the sonata form, both of which distinguish

Classical music from Baroque. Other famous Classical composers include Schubert, Beethoven
and Mozart.

The harpsichord, which we have already met in the Renaissance, came into its own in the Baroque period
and is one of the instruments most closely associated with this era in music. The instrument became much
bigger and more powerful in the Baroque era and could have two manuals (rows of keys). The way the
sound was produced quills plucking the string from underneath remained the same and so the
instrument was still largely incapable of producing dynamics. No matter how hard the key was pressed, the
sound produced as always the same volume. The harpsichord was one of the principal providers of a bass
line. In the Baroque era a kind of shorthand for harpsichordists was devised, called figured bass. This
consisted of a simple one line bass part written out, with a series of numbers over each note which told the
harpsichordist which chord and in which position to play with that note.
Despite the enormous popularity of the harpsichord, instruments such as the
clavichord still remained popular, although its soft tone meant it was generally
unsuitable for most of the ensemble settings which became popular at this
time. It was mostly used as an instrument in private homes, and could still
accompany a single voice or soft instruments such as a flute. It was a
favourite instrument of Bach and his son Carl Phillip Emmanuel.
With the new emphasis on melody in the Baroque era, the consorts of viols popular in the Renaissance were
soon superseded by a new, more soloistic instrument the violin. The development of the violin family is
considered to have begun at the end of the 17th century. Although a baroque violin might look much the
same as our modern violins, if you look closely there are many differences. Firstly, the Baroque violin
doesnt have a chin or shoulder rest. The fingerboard is a little shorter on the Baroque violin and is not
raised as high as on the modern instrument. The bridge also isnt as high and there are no fine tuners on
the tailpiece. Some of the most famous makers of violins of all time were active in the Baroque era, like the
Amati family and Antonio Stradivari. Their instruments are still highly prized today, and can fetch millions of
Viol (viola da gamba)
Viols were still played during the Baroque period, but
the arrangement of a consort, in which a group of
differently-sized viols played music together became
outdated, and it is only the bass viol, played as
a virtuoso solo instrument, that survived. At the end
of the 17th century a great deal of music was written
for the solo bass viol by French composers and
virtuoso players such as Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe
(c. 16401690) and Marin Marais (1656 1728). The
bass viol was also used a bass accompaniment
instrument in mixed ensembles with other
instruments such as the violin, flute and oboe. This
instrument was made by Kaiser of Dsseldorf, Germany, c. 1700.
Wind instruments also became popular as solo instruments during the Baroque period, as well as finding an
important place in the orchestra. One of the most popular of the wind instruments was the flute. In the
Baroque era, it became very fashionable for noblemen to learn to the play the flute. In fact, Frederick the

Great, King of Prussia, became a very proficient performer and composer on the flute. His teacher was
Johann Joachim Quantz, who wrote a very important book on how to play the flute, which is still used by
players today. The Baroque flute has only one key, and is usually made of ebony or boxwood, with ivory
decorations. Unlike the modern flute, the bore of the Baroque flute tapers towards the end.
The recorder continued to be played during the Baroque period, and a number of changes to the
construction of the instrument gave the Baroque recorder a sweeter sound, softer sound. Many composers
wrote specifically for the recorder, including Scarlatti, Schtz, Telemann Vivaldi, Bach, Handel and Purcell,
and the recorder was often used in operatic music of the period.
The oboe was another wind instrument which gained great
popularity in the Baroque era. Like the flute, it was also usually
made of ebony or boxwood, and also had fewer keys than the
modern instrument. Most instruments either had two or three.
The instrument in this demonstration has three. You will notice
that one is a central key and the two others are on either side
of it. These two keys actually play the same note, and have
been duplicated so that the player could play with either their
left or right hand uppermost, according to his preference.
Today, all oboes are played with the leftt hand uppermost.
Even though these instruments had fewer keys they could still
play all the same notes as the modern instrument, but players had to use more difficult fingerings to
produce them so couldnt play some combinations of notes very quickly.
Trompe Dauphine
Music was such an important part of life in the Baroque era that it can be found in all kinds of places. This
instrument, the Trompe Dauphine, is a kind of hunting horn and would have been carried on horseback
during the hunt and used to play signals to let the rest of the hunt know what was happening. As you can
see, it looks very much like a French horn, but has no valves and the player is holding it quite differently.
This kind of horn is very difficult to play because the player controls the pitch using only his lips. On the
modern French horn the player uses valves to help get the right notes, and on the classical hand horn the
player used their hand inside the bell, as well as a set of crooks, which are lengths of tubing attached to
extend the overall length of the horn, thus lowering its pitch. The player of the hunting horn is only able to
select notes from the harmonic series by altering the pressure and tension of his lips.

Classical Period
The Classical orchestra was relatively unchanged from that of the Baroqueapart from the trend towards
larger ensembles that carried on right through to the modern period; in the Classical orchestra this was
largely seen in an increase in the string section.
Out of the instrumental consorts of the Renaissance and Baroque, grew the various string, wind,
and brass ensembles that became popular during the Classical period. The most established of these
ensembles was the stringquartet, consisting of two violins, viola, and violoncello, for which many composers
wrote music. As Baroque ensembles grew into larger Classical orchestras the violin underwent a series of
changes in its construction to allow it to flourish in the concert hall setting, as discussed in the Baroque
section. The neck of the violin was lengthened slightly and set back at a slight angle, increasing the height
of the bridge and the pressure put on the body of the violin. With this increased pressure came a louder
sound, enabling the violin to be heard across large halls within a group and as a solo virtuosoinstrument.
Many surviving instruments of the time were altered in this way, and it is now rare to find a violin in its
unaltered pre-classical state.

One instrument that became a regular member of the orchestra for the first
time in the Classical period was the clarinet, which had been invented in
the early eighteenth century, but was popularised in the works of Mozart,
Haydn and other composers of the period. A type
of clarinet with extended range, the basset horn, was
particularly favoured in solo works by Mozart largely
due to his working relationship with one of its most
famous players, Anton Stadler.
Larger and smaller ensembles of matched wind instruments were also common
trios, quintets, sextets and octets with a broad range of music written for these
ensembles. During the Classical period valves and pistons found on brass instruments
such as the trumpet or horn had not yet been invented. Instead the player had to add
sections of tubing, called crooks to the instrument to make the overall tubing longer, thus lowering
its pitch. At the same time a technique developed on the horn, in which the player puts his/her hand in
the bell, altering the sound and allowing him/her to play more notes. You may have noticed horn players
with their hand in the bell before!
The piano gained popularity from the last quarter of the eighteenth century, as a solo instrument, for
song accompaniment, in chamber ensembles and with orchestra (although usually in this capacity as a
virtuoso solo instrument for concertos). Despite this, the harpsichord was still often used in opera
performances because of its particular bright and slightly percussive qualities that suited it to leading the
opera production.