Music 2115

Study Guide for Chapter 16

"Baroque Instrumental Music"

2115 Homepage | Calendar | Chapters | Recordings | Reviews | Syllabus | Instructor


Imitative Style
Improvised Style
Harpsichord Style
The Concerto
Other Composers
Variation Style
Lute Style
French & Italian Styles
Violin Making
Dance Style
Organ Styles
The Sonata


By the end of the 17th century, instrumental music equaled vocal music for the first time in both quantity and quality, preparing the way for composers of the next 2 centuries


Four general classifications of Baroque instrumental music

I. Music using imitative counterpoint

The terminology was not very exact, and can be confusing

Three main types were recognized:

a. Ricercar
Modeled on the Renaissance motet

Generally non-sectional, using continuous imitation

Developed into the Fugue

b. Canzona

Modeled on the Renaissance chanson

Generally sectional, with contrasting sections

Can have points of imitation like a chanson

Can be based on variations of a single theme

Or can have each section contrasting and unrelated

Developed into the Sonata da Chiesa (church sonata)

c. Fantasia (or Fancy)

Could be fugal, with points of imitation

Could consist of variations on a single theme

2. Music using variation techniques

a. Cantus firmus variation
Variations on a given tune, which is repeated many times (Chorale Prelude would be one example)

b. Paraphrase variation

The given melody was varied over constantly repeated harmonies (Theme & Variations would be typical)

c. Variations on a ground

Used in both instrumental and vocal music

Ground refers to a repeated pattern of bass notes and their harmonies

1. A fairly short bass pattern & its harmonies are repeated over and over

2. Variations on a melody, or free variations, are spun out over the ground

3. Specific Baroque forms include Passacaglia and Chaconne

3. Dance music

The dances that were in style changed over time
Pavane and galliard
Often paired together, sometimes with the same tune used for both dances

Pavane was a slow processional dance, often used to begin the evening's festivities, surviving in the modern Wedding Processional

Galliard was a lively jumping dance, reserved for the young and the healthy

Both dances went out of style after Elizabeth's death

Allemande and courante

Also often paired together

Allemande was a couples or line dance at a moderate tempo (The name is a French word meaning "German," perhaps reflecting the "goose-step" nature of the dance step)

Courante was a lively dance

Both remained popular and were used in the Baroque Dance Suite through the middle of the 18th century

Sarabande and Chacona

Both were originally very fast and dirty

Later on both got very slow and graceful

Jig (French Gigue)

Originally associated with English masques

Became the fast Gigue movement that ended many Dance Suites


A Suite is a collection of dance pieces, generally 4 to 6 movements

Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, and Gigue was one common arrangement


4. Improvised and improvisatory-like music

The terminology is confusing, since all three types have similarities
a. Fantasia--improvised on the spot or worked out in advance

b. Prelude--a warmup piece, often improvised on the spot

c. Toccata--"touch" piece, similar to the prelude

French Lute Music

The lute was used throughout Europe as an accompanying instrument

In France it was considered a very important solo instrument

Because the tone of a plucked string did not sustain very long, chords were arpeggiated and chord tones re-sounded

Individual decorative ornaments were added to the music, and specific notational signs for these ornaments developed

This ornamenting of individual notes became known as French ornamentation, different from the Italian ornamentation which consisted of dividing long notes into scales of many smaller notes

This style of playing was adopted by French harpsichord composers by the end of the 17th century

German Organ Music

Tocatta--Improvizational, showoff pieces

Fugue--Had a highly formalized structure

Expositions (statements of the fugue subject in various voices), alternating with

Episodes (modulatory or developmental sections between expositions)


Music based on Lutheran chorale tunes

Chorale fugue--chorale is the fugue theme; could be prelude to a chorale

Chorale fantasia--extended development of the chorale melody

Chorale partita (chorale variations)--variations on a chorale melody

Chorale prelude--polyphonic setting of the entire chorale melody


Best-known Italian keyboard composer

Girolamo Frescobaldi (1583-1643)
Known in his time as an incredible player

Organist at St. Peter's, Rome, 1608-1643 (with 6 years off spent in Florence)

Fiori musicali ... ("Musical Flowers," 1635) is his best-known publication of music


Best-known German keyboard composer

Dietrich Buxtehude (c. 1637-1707)
Organist at Lübeck, 1668-1707; highly respected

His Abendmusik--Sunday evening concerts were famous all over Germany

A young Johann Sebastian Bach took a leave of absense and walked 200 miles to hear these concerts

Bach overstayed his leave and was chastized on his return

Buxtehude offered to make Bach his successor, but the deal included marrying Buxtehude's daughter and Bach turned it down

Music specifically for harpsichord

The important forms were the Suite, Sonata, Theme & Variations


Best-known French keyboard composers

Elisabeth-Claude Jacquet de la Guerre (c. 1666-1729)
Her talent was obvious from the age of 10, and she was personally encouraged by King Louis XIV

She wrote and published not only keyboard music but operas, cantatas, and other chamber music

François Couperin le grand (1668-1733)

Most important French musician between Lully and Rameau

Organist & harpsichordist

Pièces de clavecin ("Pieces for Harpsichord," 1713, 1717, 1722, 1730; pieces grouped in ordres or suites)

Regle pour l'accompagnement ("Rules for accompanying," in ms.)

L'art de toucher le clavecin ("The Art of Playing the Harpsichord," 1716, 1717)

French and Italian Styles in the High Baroque

Couperin's music defines French Style in the high Baroque
a. Short mood pieces, often with descriptive names

b. Filled with specific individual ornaments that are part of the music

c. Little room is left for additional improvisation

Characteristics of Italian Style in the late Baroque

a. In slow movements, the composer often gave only the outline of the basic melody

b. In performance that melody was elaborated extensively by the performer

c. Italian ornamentation was thus "divisions" or "diminutions" of the melody notes

Breaking up long notes into many shorter notes

Not as concerned with specific individual ornaments as the French

Baroque Instrumental Ensemble Music

Warning: the terminology can be very confusing!


1. The Sonata

Sonata meant a piece to be "sounded" or played on instruments, while Cantata meant a piece to be sung
In early 17th century, "Sonata," "Sinfonia," "Concerto" simply meant an instrumental ensemble piece

By mid-17th century, the term "Sonata" was prefered

Two types of sonata were recognized

"Sonata da chiesa" (church sonata)
Instrumental music intended for use during the church service

Often in 4 movements: slow, fast, slow, fast

Sometimes a Prelude added

"Sonata da camera" (chamber sonata)

Instrumental music ntended for diversion or entertainment

Usually several dance movements, perhaps beginning with a prelude therefore a suite

Sonatas were also classified by the number of players required

"Trio Sonata"
Two melody instruments plus basso continuo

Requires 4 performers

"Solo Sonata"

One melody instrument plus basso continuo

Requires 3 performers

Occasionally for a single solo instrument without basso continuo accompaniment

"Ensemble Sonata"

Several melody instruments plus basso continuo

2. The Concerto

In the early 17th century, concerto or concerted music simply meant vocal music with instrumental accompaniment

Later in the century it meant a specific kind of ensemble sonata for 2 contrasting groups of instruments

This was called a "Concerto Grosso" ("Large concerto")
It featured a small group of soloists called the "Concertino"

They were accompanied by a larger group of instruments--usually strings, called the "Ripieno"

A "Solo Concerto" at this time was a concerto grosso in which the concertino was a single soloist

Late 17th Century Instrumental Composers

Centers were Venice, Modena, and Bologna in northern Italy

The excellent violin players became the violin composers


Giuseppe Torelli (1658-1709)

Virtuoso violinist and composer

Worked in Bologna

Wrote trio sonatas and solo sonatas for both church & chamber

Wrote concertos for orchestra and concerti grossi for soloists

Wrote solo concertos for the violin


Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713)

Trained at Bologna

Worked most of his life at Rome

Fine reputation as violinist, composer, & teacher

Published works

Corelli himself prepared these volumes for publication

Op. 1 (1681) Sonate a trè (12 church sonatas; trio sonatas for 2 violins & bc)

Op. 2 (1685) Sonate da camera a tre (11 chamber sonatas & a chaconne; 2 violins & bc)

Op. 3 (1689) Sonate a tre (church sonatas; 2 violins & bc)

Op. 4 (1694) Sonate a tre (chamber sonatas; 2 violins & violone)

Op. 5 (1700) Sonate a Violino e Violone o Cimbalo (6 church, 5 chamber, variations on La folia)

Two editions were published that gave Corelli's own ornamentation for the slow movements, one in Amsterdam and one in London

Op. 6 (1714) Concerti grossi (8 church, 4 chamber; 2 violins & cello with optional ripieno)

Op. posthumus (1715) Sonate a tre (6; 2 violins & bc)

His work defined the Italian style

Clear major-minor tonality, little chromaticism

Expected slow movements to be ornamented unless "come stà" ("as it stands") was indicated

Trio Sonatas
2 equal violins separated widely from the bass

Da chiesa sonatas slow-fast-slow-fast

Da camera sonatas: Preludio , several moderate dance movements, & a lively finish

Concerti Grossi

Concertino is a trio sonata group (2 violins + cello, with b.c.)--their music is harder

Ripieno is a contrasted string orchestra (with b.c.)--their parts are easier, and they never play alone

Solo Sonatas

Technically demanding--slow movements to be ornamented by the performer


Corelli's Lasting influence

His publications reprinted many times and known all over Europe

Many composers imitated his style

The young George Friderick Handel studied with him in Rome

Enormously influential as a violin teacher

(Geminiani's The Art of Playing on the Violin, 1750, based on Corelli's teaching)

Other Late 17-th Century Composers

Henry Purcell (1659-1695)

English singer, organist and composer

Associated from boyhood as a singer and then composer with the Chapel Royal

From 1682 served as organist as Westminster Abbey

Wrote for church, chamber, and theater, plus music for large public events

His fantasias for viols were the last ever written; he then turned to the modern trio sonata

A movie of his life, "England, My England," sometimes shows in art theaters or on Bravo


Marin Marais (1656-1728)

Virtuoso player and prolific composer for viola da gamba at the French court

Studied composition with Lully and viol with Sainte-Colombe

Had a 7th low A string added to his viol

A movie of his life, "Tous les matins du monde" ("All the Mornings of the World") sometimes shows in art theaters or on Bravo


François Couperin le grand

Already noted as a French keyboard composer

Composed chamber music and operas

Took the French style of Lully and the Italian style of Corelli and tried to combine them, as did other French composers


Jean-Marie Leclair (1697-1764)

Founded the French school of violin playing

Carried on Couperin's work of combining elements of French and Italian styles


Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber (1644-1704)

Native of Bohemia; became Kapelmeister at Salzburg in 1684

Virtuoso violinist and composer in both instrumental and vocal forms

Used scordatura tunings (deliberate mis-tuning of some strings) in a number of pieces


Georg Muffat (1653-1704)

German composer

Transmitted both Lully's French style and Corelli's Italian style to Germany

Wrote about performance practices, including bowing and proper ornamentation

Violin Making

During the 17th century the violin became the most important ensemble instrument and one of the most important solo instruments in Europe

The finest violin making was centered in Northern Italy, especially the town of Cremona, and across the mountains in Southern Germany, especially in the town of Mittenwald

The most important violin-making family was the Amati family

Andrea Amati (c. 1510-c. 1580)--Probably made the 24 Violons du Roi for the French court

Antonio and Girolamo Amati (sons of Andrea)

Nicolo Amati (1596-1682 or 1684) (grandson of Andrea)

Trained Antonio Stradivari (1644-1737) and Andrea Guarneri (c. 1626-1698)

Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesu (1698-1744) was the grandson of Andrea Guarneri

Stradivari and Guarneri violins are today considered the finest in the world, and at auction are likely to bring several million dollars

2115 Homepage | Calendar | Chapters | Recordings | Reviews | Syllabus | Instructor