Go forBaroque

Go for Baroque
About Tonight’s Music
aroque music is a style of Western art music
composed from approximately 1600 – 1750. This era
followed the Renaissance, and was followed in turn by the
Classical era. The word “baroque” comes from the Portuguese
word barroco, meaning misshapen pear, a negative
description of the ornate and heavily ornamented music
of this period. Later, the name came to apply also to the
architecture of the same period.
Baroque music forms a major portion of the “classical music”
canon. Composers of the Baroque era include Johann
Sebastian Bach, Antonio Vivaldi, George Frideric Handel,
Domenico Scarlatti, Jean-Philippe Rameau, Johann Pachelbel,
and Henry Purcell, to name a few.
The Baroque period saw the creation of “tonality.” During
the period, composers and performers used more elaborate
musical ornamentation, made changes in musical notation,
and developed new instrumental playing techniques.
Baroque music expanded the size, range, and complexity
of instrumental performance, and also established opera,
cantata, oratorio, concerto, and sonata as musical genres.
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750) was a German
composer, organist, harpsichordist, violist, and violinist of
the period. He enriched established German music styles
through his skill in counterpoint, harmonic and motivic
organization, and the adaptation of rhythms, forms, and
textures from abroad, particularly from Italy and France.
Bach’s compositions include the Brandenburg Concertos,
the Mass in B minor, the Well-Tempered Clavier, two Passions
(St. Matthew and St. John), keyboard works, and more than
300 cantatas, of which nearly 100 cantatas have been lost
to posterity. His music is revered for its intellectual depth,
technical command, and artistic beauty.
Bach’s abilities as an organist were highly respected
throughout Europe during his lifetime, although he was not
widely recognized as a great composer until a revival
of interest and performances of his music in the first half of
the 19th century. He is now generally regarded as one of the
main composers of the Baroque period, and as one of the
greatest composers of all time
Antonio Lucio Vivaldi (1678 – 1741), nicknamed il Prete
Rosso (“The Red Priest”) because of his red hair, was an
Italian Baroque composer born in Venice, Catholic priest,
and virtuoso violinist. Recognized as one of the greatest
Baroque composers, his influence during his lifetime
was widespread over Europe. Vivaldi is known mainly for
composing instrumental concertos, especially for the violin,
as well as sacred choral works and over forty operas. His best
known work is a series of violin concertos known as the Four
Many of his compositions were written for the female music
ensemble of the Ospedale della Pieta, a home for abandoned
children where Vivaldi had been employed from 1703 to
1715 and from 1723 to 1740. Vivaldi also had some success
with stagings of his operas in Venice, Mantua, and Vienna.
Though Vivaldi’s music was well received during his lifetime, it
later declined in popularity until its vigorous revival in the first
half of the 20th century. Today, Vivaldi ranks among the most
popular and widely recorded of Baroque composers, second
only to Johan Sebastian Bach.
The Sonata in B minor for flute or recorder and
harpsichord (BWV 1030) by Johann Sebastian Bach is the
greatest and most difficult of Bach’s flute works. Its historical
significance, technical demands, and timeless beauty, bring
it to the forefront of his compositions and takes the rightful
place as a staple in the solo flute literature.
Although most of his flute sonatas pose questions of
authenticity, the B minor sonata BWV 1030 is undoubtedly
one of Bach’s own. A sonata in three movements (Andante,
Largo e dolce, and Presto), the B minor is one of two (the
other being BWV 1032) in which the harpsichord part is fully
Go for Baroque About Tonight’s Music (continued)
composed. This differs from the past style of continuo, which
left the keyboard player plenty of room for his/her own
ornamentation. Given this, the harpsichordist acts as an equal
partner to the solo flute and shares the melodic material.
With the Sonata in G minor (BWV 1029), Bach takes us to the
world of the concerto, with an initial Vivace of exceptional
contrapuntal wealth and rhythmic variety. The theme itself
proposes very soloistic rhythmic articulations. In its economy
of means, the ample Adagio in B flat major, where the two
voices linger over the black notes of the harpsichord’s bass
line, is a touching moment of great beauty. Bach then closes
this sonata with a driving concerto finale Allegro, lightly
seasoned with a charming small cantabile motif which
reappears several times during the course of the piece.
To say that Bach’s Harpsichord Concerto No. 8 in D minor
(BWV 1059) is incomplete doesn’t really begin to explain the
real state of affairs. Just nine bars of the piece – the first nine
bars – have survived. Because of Bach’s practice of re-using
and reshaping his own material, however, it is possible to
reconstruct at least the first movement of the concerto with
reasonable accuracy, and several such reconstructions do
exist. Like nearly all of Bach’s harpsichord concertos, this piece
is an adaptation of a concerto written for another instrument,
in this case oboe. That work is completely lost. Before he ever
got around to making the harpsichord version, however,
Bach adapted the first movement of the oboe concerto for
use as the opening sinfonia of one of his cantatas. We know
this because the surviving nine bars of the harpsichord
version are the identical opening of the cantata’s opening
sinfonia. As that sinfonia has an obbligato organ part, it is
not an impossible task to fashion a rough cut of the first
movement of the Harpsichord Concerto No. 8 in D minor.
Concerto in C major for Flautino, Strings, and Continuo
(RV. 443) by Antonio Vivaldi.
Vivaldi’s flautino was a recorder, probably the high-pitched
sopranino recorder. The piccolo, which is the equivalent
member of the family of transverse flutes, only came into
existence around 1730. Nonetheless, the music fits perfectly
on the modern piccolo and has been widely appropriated
to that instrument’s repertory. The concerto opens in triple
time with an orchestral passage, the piccolo doubling the
melody. This passage will return to punctuate the piccolo’s
solo sections, in which the instrument is put through paces
of extreme virtuosity (notably rapid rolled chords and wide
jumps of intervals) while the orchestra recedes to the role of
Vivaldi’s second movements often display his most memorable
work. This concerto stands as a case in point. Where the outer
movements dazzle through virtuosity, this central largo, lyrical
and rather mournful, achieves genuine poignancy. Technical
demands return in the finale, as the piccolo’s solo interludes
again focus on quick figuration, including a couple of pages of
almost unbelievably rapid triplets.