began as a combo of
dance scenes, lyrical
music and plot based
upon courtly love.
a French critic, late 1600s said:
“Opera is a bizarre affair made up of poetry and
music, in which the poet and the musician, each
equally obstructed by the other, give themselves
no end of trouble to produce a wretched work.”
How evil is opera??
Opera was illegal in Rome in the early
an English critic, 1872:
Opera is to be regarded
“musically, philosophically, and
ethically, as an almost unmixed evil.”
Baroque Instrumental Music
This is the first time that
we see instrumental music
sharing the same stature as
For the first time, there
was a clear separation of
Vocal and Instrumental
Baroque Instrumental Practice
• There were no ‘classics’, so contemporary
composers were very prolific
• Virtuosity (music that shows off the
technical skills of the performer)
Three main instruments
Organ: sacred venues and some home chapels
• Tracker Action
• Great, positive, and portative organ
Harpsichord: basso continuo for orchestra and
dance music. Solo instrument. Strings plucked
by a Plectrum.
Clavichord: strings struck by hammers made
originally from bone. Precursor to the piano.
Harpsichord, ca. 1675
Harpsichord, ca. 1675
Made by Michele Todini
Made by Michele Todini
Instrument building families
Stradivarius, Guarneri, and Amati
Slightly different playing technique….bowing
Woodwinds: mellow sound as opposed to a
more brassy sound in modern times.
Originally a military instrument for
Key changes made by inserting
longer or shorter crooks in the horn.
Made by Antonio Stradivari (1644–1737) Cremona, Italy
Johann Sebastian Bach
The Life of J.S. Bach
Born in Eisenach, Germany, which was also
the birthplace of Martin Luther.
Bach’s family supplied musicians (agents)
The Bach family was made up of more than 70
composers and performers in Germany from the
16th to the early 19th centuries.
Orphaned at age of 10, raised by his older
Brother was an organist and Bach’s first
music teacher (family apprenticeship)
Bach as a young man
Bach: prolific & complex
Wrote over 1000 musical pieces in
every genre except opera
Cantatas (1 per week for 8 years)
Public complained for his flowery
Musicians felt his
music too difficult
J.S.Bach (musical) cross. Bach signed himself with a single note
(using 4 different pitches)
B: Left staff (treble clef)
A: Upper staff (tenor clef)
C: Right staff (alto clef)
H: Lower staff (treble clef)
Write music for services
Conduct orchestra, choirs
Wrote music for entertainment
Wrote commissioned pieces
Organ construction consultant
Composer—sacred & secular music
This is a picture of one of the churches in Leipzig where
Bach worked. He was responsible for all music in all 4
churches in the town.
St. Thomas Church
“Since the best man could not be
obtained, mediocre ones would
have to be accepted.”
-Leipzig town council member commenting on the hiring of
In 1707, Bach married his cousin, Maria Barbara.
They had 7 children. She died in 1721.
The same year, he married Anna Magdalena Wilken,
who was a professional singer. They ended up
having 13 more children during their marriage.
This brings Bach’s total of children to 20!!!
It is interesting to see that Bach did not travel much during his
lifetime and stayed within a small area of Germany.
Bach’s life and work
By 1748 Bach was nearly blind from
In March and April of 1750, he was
operated on by the English oculist John
Taylor. The operations and the treatment
that followed them may have hastened
Johann Sebastian Bach died on July 28,
Did you know?
Bach shares his birth year with G.F.Handel.
Handel also had cataract surgery performed
by oculist John Taylor.
American composer, Edward MacDowell
"Bach and Handel were in every way quite
different, except that both were born in the
same year and killed by the same doctor”.
George Frideric Handel
George Fredric Handel
born in Halle, Germany
Father was a wealthy barber/surgeon that
believed that Handel should never enter the
Born Georg Friedrich Händel, Handel
anglicized the spelling of his name after
becoming a British citizen in 1727.
Handel never married.
He traveled to London to stage his opera,
which was very well received
The next time he went to London, he just
He was dismissed by the Elector of
The elector of Hanover, was crowned King
George I of England in 1714.
Handel’s Water Music 1717
An offering to King
George I after
irritating His Serene
Music for an outing
on the Thames river.
His former salary (in
Baroque vocal piece.
First oratorios were sacred operas.
Eventually stripped of staging and costumes
At the end of the Baroque it was simply a
Middle and late oratorio used no acting,
staging, costumes. -- Concert version.
Based upon a biblical story
Premiered in Dublin, Ireland.
Composed in 24 days.
Has been performed every year since its
premiere in 1742.
Libretto: Biblical verses divided in three
parts: Christmas, Easter, Redemption
Concert etiquette for Messiah
Why stand at the Hallelujah Chorus.
Tradition or Religious significance?
the Top 10 (possible) reasons
the king was awakened by the loud chords
of the beginning of the chorus
he was tired of sitting
he was hard of hearing and thought they
were playing “God Save the King”
he had gout and stood for relief
he arrived late and all stood when he
he had hemorrhoids and stood for relief
he had to go to the bathroom
he mistook the words “And he shall reign
forever and ever” to be a personal tribute
he thought the chorus was so splendid that
he assumed it marked the end of the show
he was actually moved and inspired to stand
Handel’s last years
he lost his eyesight during the last years of
He had the same physician who treated
buried in Westminster Abbey
Note the wrong date on
the grave marker.
Handel is the greatest composer
who ever lived. I would bare my
head and kneel at his grave.
- Ludwig Van Beethoven
Antonio Vivaldi: 1678 –1741
Composer in one of
four of the most
schools of Italy (and
Called ‘The Red
Priest’ because of
his red hair
Vivaldi’s Musical Style
Vivaldi is credited for helping to free
instrumental style from vocal style.
Each piece is used as a teaching tool to
create virtuosity in the players of the
orphanage and music school.
Most famous piece: The Four Seasons