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A Time of Experimentation

A Time of Experimentation: Musicians embraced the idea that music could move the listener in a real and physical way. Opera, with its blend of music and drama, was the full realization of this ideal. In instrumental music (no less than in opera) composers experimented with ways of creating impressive effects. Expanding Roles for Music: Music continued to be used as an important tool of statecraft especially in religious worship; but it came to be associated more with Christian worship. The new and extravagant styles served as a rich adornment to religious services in both Catholic and Protestant traditions.

Music, especially the opera, was as an important source of entertainment to the merchant and landed classes. Distinct vocal and instrumental styles were developed in various nationalities especially in Italy, France and Germany. Composers were aware of these differences and made use of them in their music. A French composer, for example, might label a piece “In the Italian Style”. The question of the superiority of various styles was often the subject of heated debate. The Full Equality of Instrumental Music: New instrumental forms, such as the concerto and sonata developed.

Instrument makers created new types of instruments (especially wind instruments). The violin moved to the center stage as the most important string instrument. Performers reached new heights of expression and technique. Virtuoso players (such as Archangelo Corelli and Antonio Vivaldi) reflected these abilities in their own compositions. Even in vocal music, instruments played an important role. Instruments not only served as an accompaniment, but also played an equal role along with the voices. . Baroque music describes an era and a set of styles of European classical music which were in widespread use between approximately 1600 to 1750.

This was mostly due to the forward motion of the humanistic movement throughout Europe. It is assumed that the era of Baroque music started after the renaissance. The classical music era followed directly. Baroque means an irregularly shaped pearl which fit the architectural designs of that time. The term came to be applied to music also because it reflected in the music of that period. Baroque music forms a major portion of the classical music canon. The characteristic expression in the Renaissance was something that was clean, ordered and very static in its depiction, but in the Baroque era, all that changed.

The advent of the Baroque era brought along with it the filling of available space canvas, stone or sound with action or movement. Music became more ornate. This led to the next vision of the era, which dealt with the concept of movement, and how that could be incorporated into Baroque Music. It probably seems difficult to make music move in any way, but there are some very simple things that musicians of the time did to make their music move forward in ways that had only been thought of previously. The papacy returned to Rome in 1377, and after the middle of the 15th century the city became a center of Renaissance culture.

Massive papal patronage of the arts began to enrich Rome. The composer and violinist Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713), whose style of playing became the basis for the violin technique of the 18th and 19th centuries, and whose chamber music compositions were far-reaching in their influence was a noticeable figure in Rome during the Baroque era. His patrons included Queen Christina of Sweden and, after 1690, Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni, (1667-1740), a librettist and important music patron who as vice-chancellor of the church resided in the Palazzo della Cancelleria where the Poetico-Musicali Accademie were held and operas and oratorios performed.

Though highly influenced by developments in Italy, Germany was in fact grafting these forms and styles onto its own indigenous traditions and more importantly its music. The Reformation, led by Martin Luther and formally begun in 1517, brought religion to the masses, both through Luther’s translations of biblical texts into German, and through the extensive use of the chorale as an essential textual/musical accompaniment to the church service.

From the traditional chorale melodies much of German’s baroque music was to grow and develop. Cantatas and Passions were frequently chorale-based, and if not, were simply extensions of the chorale tradition. Organists too would elaborate on the chorale for the week, either by adding interpolations between verses, or by composing whole sets of variations based on a specific chorale melody. German composers were attracted to the fugue, the canon and passacaglia for their basis of fundamental form, pattern and unity.

One of several early baroque composers who contributed significantly to the marriage of chorale and counterpoint was Dietrich Buxtehude. In addition to his compositional contributions, his artistry on the organ was legendary. His performance of sacred music, instrumental and vocal, made Lubeck a place of pilgrimage for musicians anxious to advance in their art, and the young Sebastian Bach himself traveled two hundred miles to hear them and to sit at the feet of the Master.

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