The Baroque musical period

The Baroque music period is said to have existed from approximately 1600 to 1750, and was principally developed in Western Europe. Composers like Georg Friedrich Handel and Johann Sebastian Bach evolved the musical methods of the Renaissance, and this era was in turn followed by the Classical musical period. Other composers of note in this era include Antonio Vivaldi, Henry Purcell, Georg Philipp Telemann, Jean-Baptiste Lully, Arcangelo Corelli, and Francois Couperin. The origin of the name Baroque is disputed. The philosopher and composer Jean-Jacques Rousseau, wrote in 1768:

Baroque music is that in which the harmony is confused, and loaded with modulations and dissonances. The singing is harsh and unnatural, the intonation difficult, and the movement limited. It appears that term comes from the word "baroco" used by logicians.

Here, Rousseau refers to the medieval philosophical term baroco, which was used to describe an elaborate academic argument.

Arcangelo Corelli

Corelli contributed to the new concepts of common-practice tonality
Others suggest that the name is derived from the French "baroque", which means an "irregular pearl".

The concept of writing music in a particular key came to fruition in the Baroque period, this is also known as common-practice tonality. Professional musicians in this era were adept in the art of improvisation, both of melodic lines and of accompaniment parts. Accompaniments comprised of chordal instruments like the harpsichord and lute, and bass instruments like the viola, cello and double bass - these players made up what was known as the basso continuo group. The basso continuo played improvised parts by reading music known as figured bass. This setup has similarities to modern jazz and pop music, whereby a rhythm section creates an accompaniment from chord symbols.

Composers increasingly used chord progressions to create music in the Baroque period, they also introduced more dissonant sounds by including the tritone interval in dominant 7th and diminished chord types. The concept of harmonic resolution was firmly established through the concept of the cadence whereby the end of a musical phrase used cadential chords to bring a harmonic sequence to finality, thus grounding the music in a particular key.

Composers of the Baroque musical period


Henry Purcell


Francois Couperin


Johann Sebastian Bach


Antonio Vivaldi