Baroque / Classical music Though the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century, Baroque and Classical music were the main music forms of western culture. Even though they were so close together in time they were still very different but also very similar. Baroque music predates Classical, though towards the end of the Baroque period there is a bit of an overlap as it evolved into the Classical period. It is generally agreed that the Baroque period began after the Renaissance in approximately 1600. Baroque style was the dominant force in European music, art and architecture until 1750, when Classical music gained popularity.
Classical composers then dominated the Western musical tradition until the beginning the Romantic era at the beginning of the 19th century (Campbell). Immediately following the Renaissance, Baroque composers were the first to establish multiple instrumentation and use complex harmonies in their compositions. Baroque music favored the harpsichord and other stringed instruments, while the Classical period preferred the piano, brass and woodwinds(Campbell). Baroque music also allowed for much more improvisation than Classical music and featured many more opportunities for ensemble soloing.
Baroque composers were also the first to establish opera as a musical genre (“Authentic”). Early Classical music was among the first to express two different moods by using sonatas–one more lyrical and one more fast-paced–while Baroque music, and its predecessors composed only one mood per movement. The Classical era also saw the emphasis on the piano as the main instrument used for performing compositions (Campbell). Classical composers are governed by many rules of structure; most notably the evolution of the rondo style ABA or ABACA, as opposed to the most common Baroque rondo style of ABACABA (Music Forms of the Classical Period).
One of the key characteristics of the baroque period is the use of counterpoint. Counterpoint occurs when two or more melodies occur simultaneously. The art of counterpoint reached its culmination during the late baroque era, especially in the works of Johann Sebastian Bach. Early classical period composers rejected the use of counterpoint and chose to compose more simple and transparent melodies. However, composers in the later classical period, such as W. A Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven, studied counterpoint extensively and used it in many of their mature compositions(Baroque Composers A– Overview, Individual Biographies).
Many instrumental forms, such as the sonata, concerto and symphony, were invented during the baroque era and continued to be used in the classical era. Each of these forms evolved to suit the advances in instrumentation and the concert-going public’s taste. For example, a baroque era concerto would usually be performed by several soloists and a small group of string instruments. A concerto composed during the classical era would more likely have a single soloist accompanied by a orchestra consisting of strings, wind and brass (“Authentic”).
Many of the vocal forms invented during the baroque era continued to be popular during the classical era. These include the predominantly religious oratorio and cantata, as well as the secular opera. As public taste shifted radically during the beginning of the classical period so did the subject matter of vocal music. Oratorios and cantatas continued to be composed during the classical period but much less frequently. The subject of operas during the baroque era was predominantly classical mythology (Campbell).
Operas written during the classical period shifted to realistic contemporary subject matter, which reflected the ideas of enlightenment. The characteristics of music during the baroque era were one of ornate melodies that paralleled the architecture and painting of the period. A major aesthetic shift occurred during the middle of the 18th century which led directly to the classical period of music. Although many forms invented during the baroque period remained popular during the classical period, composers modified their style to reflect public taste (“Authentic”). Work Cited “”Authentic” Baroque Music Performance: Comment and Research. ” “Authentic” Baroque Music Performance: Comment and Research. N. p. , n. d. Web. 23 Oct. 2012. . – Campbell, Michael. Music. Boston, MA: Schirmer Cengage Learning, 2011. Print. – Baroque Composers A– Overview, Individual Biographies. ” Baroque Composers A– Overview, Individual Biographies. N. p. , n. d. Web. 23 Oct. 2012. – “BAROQUE MUSIC DEFINED. ” BAROQUE MUSIC DEFINED. N. p. , n. d. Web. 23 Oct. 2012. . – “Music Forms of the Classical Period. ” About. com Music Education. N. p. , n. d. Web. 23 Oct. 2012. .