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The Baroque Era (1600-1750)
But first a little closure to the Renaissance
Josquin des Prez (ca. 1440-1521)
Compositions and Style:
Motets & Settings of the Ordinary of the Mass
Arched, symmetrical melodies
Regular metre, gentle pulse
Pervasive imitation in four parts SATB
A cappella is the norm
Sacred – either cantus firmus or newly composed
Example: Josquin, motet, Ave Maria … virgo serena
Late Renaissance and Counter-Reformation
1. Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525-1594)
2. Orlando di Lasso (c. 1532-1594)
3. William Byrd (1543-1623)
Baroque comes from the French word derived from the Portuguese noun “barroco”, perjorative terms
used to describe pearls of irregular shape.
The Baroque is characterized by highly ornamental styles in the arts
Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680), St Peter’s Throne
Baroque art often emphasized contrasts of every kind
Rembrandt (1606-69) , Self-portrait as ‘St Paul’ (1657)
Jan Vermeer (1632-75), ‘Girl with the Pearl Earring’
And it also enjoyed its extreme ranges of expression
Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), ‘Bacchus’
Caravaggio (1573-1610), ‘Medusa’ (after 1590)
Venice by Canaletto (1697-1768)
Giovanni Gabrieli (c. 1555-1612)
Two interior views of St Mark’s (San Marco) in Venice, where many of Italy’s most famous Baroque
composers trained and worked, including Giovanni Gabrieli and Claudio Monteverdi.
Polychoral music: Music for multiple vocal and/or instrumental choirs.
Cori spezzati: “Broken Choirs”. Technique of placing singers in different parts of a building. The practice
was particularly popular in Venice (A. Willaert, G. Gabrieli) and northern Italy, as well as in Germany (H.
Schütz) and Austria. The term dates back to 16th century and can be seen as late as Bach’s St Matthew
Concerto: From the Italian and Latin “concertare”. A term often applied in the 17th century to ensemble
music for voices and instruments.
Concertato: “In the manner of a concerto”. Pertains to vocal and instrumental works of the early
Baroque in which forces are combined and contrasted.
Example: Giovanni Gabrieli (1557-1612), “In ecclesiis” (Venice, 1615), large-scale sacred concerto
Early Opera
Monody: Accompanied Italian solo song (solo voice and continuo), of c1600-40. The term
Opera: A music drama that is generally sung throughout, combining the resources of vocal and
instrumental music, with poetry and dramatic action, scenery and costumes. First developed in
the early years of the 17th century and a key invention of the Baroque
stands equally for an individual song or the entire repertory.
Recitative: A type of vocal writing, normally for a single voice, which follows the natural rhythms
and accentuation of speech and its pitch contours.
Arioso: A passage of vocal music sung midway between recitative and aria.
Basso Continuo (Continuo, Figured Bass, Thoroughbass): A term to denote the continuous bass
part that runs through a work of the Baroque period and serves as a shorthand indicator of the
harmonies. The harmonies are then “realized” by the accompanist in the performance.
In the original, only the bass line and the numbers would be given; the right-hand part would be
improvised, based on the information conveyed by the numbers
Example: “Thy hand Belinda” (Recitative); “When I am laid” (Aria, Dido and Aeneas (1689)
Adaptation of Virgil’s Aeneid
Aria: A song either independent or part of a larger work.
Ground Bass: A formal device whereby a recurrent melody (ostinato) is given in the bass, above
which continuous variations are written
Baroque Theatres and Opera Houses
Many of theatres at noble courts were rather small, intended only for guests of the ruler
(Ekhof Theater at Schloß Friedenstein in Gotha, Germany)
Margräfliches Opernhaus in Bayreuth, Germany
Castrato: A male singer who has been castrated before puberty to preserve the soprano or contralto
range of his voice; supported by a man’s lungs, the voice was powerful, agile and penetrating.
Farinelli (Carlo Broschi) (1705-82)
Alessandro Moreschi (1858-1922)
Example: Bach-Gounod, “Ave Maria”, Recorded April, 1904
Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643)
Example: “Pur ti miro” (Closing Duet), L’incoronazione di Poppea (Incoronation of Poppea) (1642)
Poppea: Pur ti miro,
Nero: Pur ti godo,
P: Pur ti stringo,
N: Pur t'annodo,
P: Più non peno, N: Più non moro,
P/N: O mia vita,
o mi tesoro.
Io son tua… tuo son io…
Speme mia,
dillo, dì,
L'idol mio,
Sì, mio ben, Sì, mio cor,
mia vita, sì
Poppea: I gaze at you
Nero: I delight in you
P: I tighten closer to you
N: I am bound to you
P: I no longer suffer
N: I no longer die
P/N: Oh my life
Oh my treasure.
I am yours
You are my hope
Say it always
My idol
Ever you are
Yes my beloved
Yes my heart
My life, yes