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Baroque, which is an early form of Italian music, thrived between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries during the Renaissance period when people believed music to be an important tool of communication (Richardson, n.d). Baroque originated from an Italian word ‘barocco,’ which means “irregular shape”. Because of the early negative attitude people had toward baroque music, they felt the word ‘barocco’ suited it (Sartorius, n.d.).
The Baroque era of music evolved in three stages between the 1600s and 1750s. The period of Italian opera, which existed during the Renaissance era, is the time music pioneers invented homophony. In the late period between 1680 and 1750, homophony became an important acquisition in music development because its manipulation led to the resurgence of polyphony.
It was during the Baroque era that artists manipulated the ‘opera music’: a style that employed the use of instruments and drama to perfection. During both the early and middle period (1640-1680), opera music was the most popular style because of its technique of engaging drama and musical instruments into a single piece of entertainment (A short introduction to Baroque music, n.d.).
Unlike the opera music, oratorio music depicted biblical teachings rather than drama and comedy (Sartorious, n.d). It evolved during the late Baroque period of the seventeenth century with artists opting to perform in their reserved states instead of using regalia and other styles of acting. Significantly, the artist who composed both opera and oratorio was Georg Friedrich Handel.
Not only was Handel the only artist who had influence on music during this period, but there was also Johanne Sebastian Bach who through his religious interventions composed the Chorale music and the Cantata. While Bach first developed the Cantata as a secular form of music but later embraced the church, Chorale mainly mastered biblical songs and praises of worship.
Importance and Influence of Baroque Music
The Baroque era symbolizes the revival of the Catholic Church because the music style was synonymous with major church events (Sartorious, n.d). Considering its exuberance and influence at that time, the church faithful manipulated the popularity of Baroque music to revive the Roman Catholic. Moreover, Baroque music has largely affected the development of the European music of the 17–18th centuries in general. First, the classical music relived a second revival.
When it comes to defining the key influences that the Baroque era has had on music in general, one must mention the fact that the classical music finally received an opportunity to evolve in a different direction. Particularly, the European music started developing on a very fast pace since the emergence of the Baroque tendencies in art. For instance, the French musicians, or luminaries, finally gained an opportunity to break new grounds in the creation of new musical compositions.
The names of Charles Gounod, Cesar Franck and Georges Bizet became especially big at the time, making the audience realize that the Baroque influences allowed musicians to introduce new undertones into their creations. However, it would be wrong to claim that the impact, which the Baroque music had, was restricted to altering the realm of classical music. Apart from the above-mentioned changes, Baroque music altered the landscape of music in general, allowing the further creation of rock music (Richardson, n.d.).
Coming from a family of a German musical background, Johanne Sebastian Bach thrived in the music industry during the era of Baroque music, which has since influenced the music industry. Before his regretful death in 1750, Bach nursed and developed Baroque music for many years until it gained popularity leaving a legacy of art legendary. Bach was the master composer of the cantata music, the Latin mass, and the German Passion which depended on counterpoint and phrasing as a stylistic devices (Stevens,1982).
Bach orchestrated his music using a technique of German influence utilizing instruments rather the vocal orientation of Handel. Among the works of Bach that continue to influence the generations that came after him is the “Well Tempered Clavier” (WTC), a collection that pianists and composers manipulate for entertainment (“Baroque Music,” n.d). Adopting the techniques of counterpoint, Well Tempered Clavier has assisted keyboard teachers and composers in creation of music pieces even many centuries after his death.
Among artists, who treasured and stored the works of Bach, is Baron Van Swieten, who played the counterpoint using Bach’s WTC. Wolfgang Mozart, who used to direct Swieten’s orchestra, also loved the beauty and sophisticated nature of WTC; therefore, he used it to perform counterpoint. Before his death, Mozart had become an expert in counterpoint. The artists, who emerged after Bach and adopted his style, treasured these instruments and kept them so that others could use them in future (Bach, n.d.).
Although he was only eight years old, Beethoven had adapted and mastered the use of WTC such that the keyboard seemed easy to him (Stevens, 1982). Because he lacked the knowledge of counterpoint in his teenage days, Beethoven later learnt the counterpoint developing his own style of playing the counterpoint.
The influence of WTC continued with Chopin who played the counterpoint with extraordinary expertise having studied many of Bach’s works. Brahms and Mendelssohn who lived in the nineteenth and eighteenth century respectively also loved Bach’s style of music because they adopted his styles and used in their musical works (Bach & Bennett, 2885).
When it comes to defining the effects that Bach’s music has had on the evolution of the classical genre, as well as on the development of various music styles, one must admit that the composer created the timeless classics that would later on be used as the basis for the creation of other music styles, such as opera and even rock. In addition, Bach has influenced a range of his contemporaries, including Mozart and Haydn.
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Indeed, listening closer to the Mass in B Minor, one will inevitably hear the similarities between the composition and some of Haydn’s most famous works. Finally, Mendelssohn’s tribute to the genius of the great composer, i.e., the famous Schumann’s Bach Gesellschaft, deserves to be listed among the key pieces of evidence of Bach’s immense influence on both the contemporaries and the descendants.
Born on February 1685 in Germany, Georg Friedrich Handel left a lifetime legacy in music composition that many would find hard to replicate. Although his father’s preference that he study law, Handel opted for the musical adventure and never relented. His musical journey began at the age of eighteen when he decamped to Hamburg in Germany to work as a violinist. After spending some time in Germany, Handel moved to Italy where he worked as a musician.
Many people loved Handel’s works of operas and oratorios which utilized the use of textures, melodies, dynamics, and expertise in counterpoint. One of his many admirers was Mozart who composed his own works on the inspiration and influence of Handel’s style (George Handel, 2014, para. 3). Although Mozart also loved Bach’s works, Handel’s influence on his music compared to none.
Mozart’s Requiem mass borrows the themes that Handel used in his compositions of Messiah and other artists like Mendelssohn and Beethoven composed works based on the themes of Handel’s oratorios. Beethoven considered Handel as the best composure in his generation (“George Handel, 2014, para. 3). Handel’s works became popular in the nineteenth century with his Messiah being the standout among several of his works and it is still the Anglican Anthem.
Unlike Bach, though, Handel did not put that much emphasis on bringing diversity into the genre; as a result, the compositions created by Handel affected the realm of opera and allowed for improving the sound of the Latin mass to a much greater extent than spurring the creation of new genres. Claiming that Handel’s influence on music was less significant than Bach’s would be unfair; however, the changes that Handel brought onto the realm of music were slightly different.
For example, Handel improved the Italian opera and the English Oratorio greatly; relying on counterpoint and being more vocally oriented than Bach’s compositions were, Handel’s works were more suitable for defining the further evolution of opera and mass. Finally, the fact that Beethoven was inspired greatly by both Handel and Bach deserves a mentioning as a proof for the genius of both composers.
Although there are other composers who contributed to the influence of Baroque music like the early Italian composers, Handel and Bach left a huge impact on the music industry. Many musicians and students of the modern period continue to study the works of Bach and Handel, analyzing, and using their techniques to develop their own pieces (“Musical Times,” 1885).
As opposed to the current performances, most compositions during Baroque era were designed for church performances or during important occasions. Despite having lasted for over two hundred years, oratorio and opera compositions are still common today with the modern composers basing their inspirations and themes on the early works of music. The modern music forms like jazz and rock music still have certain elements of the Baroque music (A short introduction to Baroque music, n.d., para. 4).
A short introduction to Baroque music. Web.
Bach, J. S. & Bennett, J. (1885). The musical times and singing class circular. The Great Composers, 26(508), pp. 322-325. Web.
George Handel. (2014). Web.
Richardson, T. Baroque and classical influenced rock music. Web.
Sartorius, M. Baroque music defined. Web.
Stevens, D. (1982). Music of the Baroque. Oxford University Press, 68(2), 217-227.