3.5- Baroque Music

Instruments developed and instrumental music came to rival vocal music
The Development of New Musical Forms

  • Opera
  • Concerto
  • Concerto Grosso
  • Fugue
  • Oratorio

Italian Baroque Music

Drama and Theatre fused with Music = Opera

  • Combines staging, acting vocal and instrumental music
  • Greek myths and theatre provided the first subject matter


  • Wrote Orfeo the first notable opera (based on the story of Orpheus and the Underworld)

Elements of Opera

  • Recitative – Halfway between speech and melody

The Concerto


Bach – Double Violin Concerto in D minor 2nd movement, Largo

  • An instrumental musical form
  • Invented by Arcangelo Corelli
  • Perfected by Vivaldi
  • Composed in three movements
  • Fast-Slow-Fast
  • Featured Soloist
  • A vehicle for individual virtuosity
  • Terraced dynamics

Concerto Gross – A group of soloists, rather than a single soloist


A highly polyphonic composition which interweaves 3 or more independent musical lines, which often imitate each other. (more)

Listen to Bach’s “Little Fugue”


One of Bach’s famous sacred cantatas – see if you recognize it.

Vocal Chamber Music

Developed as part of the Lutheran church service, the cantata joined the ranks of other popular chamber music of the era, including chansons and romanescas.

Listen to this very popular instrumental work.

Italian Baroque Composers


  • First Opera of Note – Orfeo
  • Wrote for a patron — the Duke of Mantua
  • Music Master at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice
  • Wrote for the newly opened opera house in Vence

Arcangelo Corelli

  • Created the concerto form
  • International fame during his lifetime
  • A musical innovator

Antonio Vivaldi

Composers Outside of Italy


George Frederick Handel

  • German born
  • Wrote 40 operas in Italian style for London audiences
  • Wrote instrumental works for English Monarchy for ceremonies
  • Royal Fireworks Music

Water Music

  • Opera went out of style in the Protestant north
  • Handel switched to writing oratorios
  • Operatic in style, but without costumes and staging
  • Based on biblical text The Messiah – A 3 hour work based on Revelations 11:15
  • Hallelujah Chorus is most famous

  • Other selections from The Messiah link


Johann Sebastian Bach

  • Did not travel much during his lifetime
  • Famous for his virtuoso organ playing
  • Composed for a royal patron — Prince of Cothen
  • Moved to Leipzig to become teacher and organist at St. Thomas Lutheran Church
  • His style was out of date for his time (old fashioned)
  • His composition were not highly regarded during his lifetime
  • His death marks the end of the Baroque era of music

Prelude from Cello Suite No. 1

Air on a G string

Excerpt from St. Matthew’s Passion


Jean-Philippe Rameau

  • Wrote important publication on music theory
  • Music theory is basically how music works
  • Became an important composer for the court of Louis XIV
  • Worked with dramatist — Voltaire
  • Piéces de clavecin en concert

Jean Baptiste Lully

  • Another French composer of note
  • Please enjoy this fairly accurate recreation of music performed in the French court, including an accurate depiction of conducting styles during this era. Lully banged his toe while conducting. The wound turned gangrenous and led to Lully’s death.


Instruments developed further during this era. The Harpsichord and Pipe Organ are two important keyboard instruments that were refined during the Baroque era.

It should be noted that many of the performance links for this section feature instruments that were used during this era, rather than modern day instruments.

See how a harpsichord works.

See how a pipe organ works.


3 Responses to “3.5- Baroque Music”

  1. Thomas writes:

    Ah, Bach!!

  2. Courtney Sessum writes:

    Bach is good, however Air written by Handel I find to be much more soothing. In this era the music is supppose to connect at a emotional level. Bach is nice but I was not able to connect with him in that matter. Handel is a different story. Oceans and water are something I can connect with on a personal level and all. It soothes me and reminds me of so many emotions I locked away.

  3. cubiertas de piscina writes:

    Excellent article. I certainly appreciate this website. Keep writing!