Baroque Music, Vivaldi, Monteverdi, Handel, J.S. Bach, and more

Baroque music in the history of vocal music

During the Renaissance, the Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation both emphasized the use of vernacular languages.

During the baroque era, vocal music tended to emphasize the lyrics over the polyphony as was the norm during the Renaissance. However, the return to monody was not a return to Gregorian chant because Gregorian chant is linked to Latin. Baroque music is about reciting a text in the vernacular in vocal music. Moreover, unlike earlier periods, the compositions are centered around bass notes.

Baroque art began in the Florentine Camerata and spread throughout Europe.

Some characteristics of Baroque music

The tone is defined in major and minor key. The notes are on a scale of 12 all equal semitones (il temperamento).

The Marian "Tropi" [1] are still the source of inspiration for the new Marian music.

Above all, Baroque music emphasizes the phrase of the Credo: “Et incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto ex Maria Virgine.” The Baroque composers seem to have fallen on their knees before the mystery of the Incarnation. It is hard to decide whether to admire them for their faith or for their musical inspiration. (This characteristic attitude continues after J.S. Bach, in the time of Haydn and Mozart, and later with Beethoven).

The "Oratorio" is also an update of the medieval liturgical drama: there is both a sacred text and characters in dialogue. The historical account prevails [2].

Some common themes

The "Magnificat" is very popular, for instance, by J. S. Bach: the Magnificat in D major (BWM 243) and another in E-flat.

Many composers wrote a "Stabat mater": Edgar, Pergolesi, Colonna, Stefani, Clain, Caldara, Gasparini, Scarlatti, Astorga, Hasse, Traeta, Zingarelli, Ferradini, Layolle, Handel, Haydn, Mozart (lost), Hiller, Wagenseil, etc. ... 


[1] The tropi are texts added onto the Gregorian melodies of Alleluia, Kyrie, Agnus Dei, etc., so that there is a syllable on each note.

[2] Pellegrino SANTUCI, La Madonna nella musica, Capella musicale D. Maria dei Servi, Bologna, 1983. Vol II, p. 819


Françoise Breynaert