The Baroque style is one of my favorite time periods in music as well as architecture (1580-1730 AD). It bridges the gap between the Renaissance and Classical Eras in music. Europe was in the midst of the Protestant Reformation during this time period. Therefore religious, political, and artistic climates were all dramatically changing in Europe as power, beliefs, and borders were shifting.
The word Baroque was initially a negative term for the music and time period. It came from the Portuguese word barroco meaning 'misshapen pearl'. Baroque artists focused more on curved lines, drama, and passion than before. The period was known for realism and dynamic ornamentation. Its aim was to be impressive and impact the senses.
The ornamented style, complexity of rhythms, and further development of harmonies from previous styles makes me really appreciate the technical skill of musicians and composers of this era. Much of the music was improvised over an underlying chord structure or basso continuo and the use of tonalities for certain pieces was starting to take root. It is interesting to think that much of this music was highly critiqued during its inception as being too ornate. Personally, this is one of the reasons I like it.
The violin itself was undergoing changes during this time period as well. During the Baroque Era, the Golden Age for the violin was commencing. The sizes, shapes, types of bows, and materials for strings looked somewhat different in early violins than what you may think of today. It was around 1550 when the violin appeared in its modern form.
In Cremona, Italy two renowned violin makers started to set the standard for the violin's size, shape, and overall structure. Nicolo Amati (1596-1684) and Antonio Stradivari (1644-1737) were two of the most influential violin makers in Europe and by 1600 Cremona was the undisputed center for violin making.
The below linked video of a Mandolinist and Harpist shows some of the intricate technical abilities and ornamentation used in some of this music. Nicola Benedetti's recording of a Vivaldi Concerto showcases much of the violin's range and highlights of the style during this era.
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