By Taso Comanescu | November 2018
aroque Music is a style of classical music composed between the years 1600 to 1750. It is renowned for composers like Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frederic Handel and Antonio Vivaldi, amongst others. Many of the now standard classical musical forms such as the concerto, sonata, the suite and Opera were developed during this period. Modes were replaced by the Major / Minor key system, ushering in the dawn of the Common Practice period and the birth of music theory. If it weren’t for the advancements in the Baroque Era, music as we know it today would not exist. Here are five impacts the classical era has had on modern-day:
1. The Composers
How can we discus Baroque music without a few words about who crafted it? There are many Baroque composers, but most music historians would say that Johann Sebastian Bach is the most important composer of the period. For many, it was and still is impossible to compose music and not be influenced in some way or another by Bach’s mastery of counterpoint, four-part harmony and sense of melody. Bach’s keyboard works inspired legendary classical composers Mozart and Beethoven to write their genre-defining piano sonatas, and Paul McCartney of the Beatles stated the Bouree from the 1st Lute Suite (BWV 996) directly inspired his hit song “Blackbird.” Bach’s masterpieces can be heard in concert halls over the world and in popular media extending Bach’s influence to future generation of musicians and listeners alike. Additional Composer recommendation: George Frederic Handel (“Messiah”).
“Music owes as much to Bach as religion to its founder” – Robert Schumann
2. Style and Form
During the Baroque era instrumental music became equally important to composers as vocal music, and this led directly to their combination in the form of Opera. The Italian Baroque composer Claudio Monteverdi is generally credited with composing the first great opera that is still performed today, “Orfeo”, in 1607. Opera is a form that synthesizes music and drama with the music heightening the dramatic impact of the narrative. Think about how much the soundtrack of your favorite movie adds to the viewing experience. Music and drama blend well together and we can thank the Baroque era for this.
The suite, or a collection of dances, for a solo instrument was developed during the Baroque era. Analogous to chapters in a book or episodes to a season, the suite takes the listener through various moods and themes, while showcasing the unique quality of said instrument (violin, cello, harpsichord).
The Baroque era saw the arrival and further development of string instruments such as the lute, violin, viola, cello and double bass. These, with the exception of the Lute, would continue to develop into the modern era and many important works were composed for them during the Baroque era (see the Bach suites and partitas for solo cello and violin).
Brass instruments such as the trumpet and horn as well as wind instruments including the flute, oboe and bassoon were written for and developed during this era.
4. The Common Practice period
The Baroque era created common practice tonality, essentially an approach to composition that was centered on writing in a particular key. This idea is still used in the present in every form of music, and especially popular Top 40 music. Major and Minor scales were created and this replaced the modal system used during the Renaissance. The development of modern harmony and music theory as we know it (roman numeral analysis and chord function) was codified during the era. Once again, Bach was at the center of it all with his “The Well-Tempered Clavier”, a collection of two sets of preludes and fugues in 24 major and minor keys for solo keyboard (clavier). Musicians in every style today use music theory as their language and there are countless recycled chord progressions that can be traced back to the Baroque period.
“Study Bach: there you will find everything” – Johannes Brahms
The Baroque era also gave us the idea of a soloist with orchestra in the form of the Concerto where a single instrument would play with a string orchestra. Every major composer in each era since has composed concerti in this manner, and perhaps the most famous Baroque Concerto is Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” for solo violin and orchestra.
During the Baroque era, the modern orchestra began to take shape with the string section being the focus and additional instrumentation coming via the brass and woodwind families. To this day, the symphony orchestra plays a large role in scoring for motion pictures and every major city in the United States supports a Philharmonic Orchestra. Often times the main attraction of a concert will be a famous soloist playing a famous concerto.
ContributorAmerican guitarist Taso Comanescu has recently emerged on the classical music scene as a colorful performer full of subtle nuance and strong musicianship. Comanescu’s various other musical pursuits include Greek folk music where he frequently collaborates with the renowned Greek composer Dimitris Mann. He also is actively interested in contemporary popular music as well as music history. Comanescu has been a member of the music faulty at Pepperdine University since 2011. He received his degrees from Pepperdine University studying with Christopher Parkening and the University of Southern California under Scott Tennant. He plays on a 1973 Jose Ramirez guitar, and his work can be found on Instagram @TasoGuitar and on Spotify and iTunes.