Baroque

What is baroque music? First things first though! How on earth do you say this funny word ‘baroque’?

‘Baroque’ is said like ‘Ba-rock’. Think of a sheep sitting on a rock. Then you will know how to say it!

So now we know how to say it, what is it? The word ‘baroque’ is used to describe a style of ‘art’ from a certain period of history. ‘Art’ here means all sorts of things, like paintings, buildings (architecture) or music. The baroque period of history is from about the year 1600 to about 1750 (in other words, it is a long time ago!). This means that baroque art is art painted sometime around 1600 to 1750. Baroque architecture are buildings built sometime around 1600 to 1750. And baroque music is music written sometime around 1600 to 1750.

The greatest baroque composer was Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750).

Other famous baroque composers include

It is important to remember that baroque music is a style of music. It is not an exact period of time. This means that some composers lived during the baroque period, but their music wasn’t always very ‘baroque’ in style. One example is Domenico Scarlatti (1685–1757). On the other hand, Handel’s music was always baroque—even though he died after 1750.

So what is the baroque style?

Well, like classical music in general, it is not easy to describe (see the Classical Music page). The best way to understand what baroque is, is to listen to the great baroque composers.

If you listen to a lot of baroque music you will begin to recognise the style, even if you can’t describe it. And if you study the music very carefully you will begin to notice common features. Two of the most common features are:

  • Lots of ‘twiddly bits’ (as my mum calls them!). Baroque music has lots of quick wiggles backwards and forwards on a single note. These wiggles don’t really add anything to the tune. They are simply there as decoration.
  • Lots of different lines of music (or ‘tunes’) all going their own way. These single tunes weave together to make the whole music.

I think that will do. Enjoy listening to baroque music! Here is a video to set you on your way. It’s the end of Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 3.

4th and 5th movements of Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 3

Picture credits:
  1. An example of baroque art. This painting is called ‘Adoration of the Magi’ and was painted in 1624 by Peter Paul Rubens. The image is in the public doman. Click here for the source of this image, along with the relevant copyright information.
Video credits:
  1. Bach – Bwv1068 Orchestral Suite – 04-05 – Bourrée-Gigue. Ton Koopman, Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra – Buy this dvd from : http://amzn.to/qEoY0G.