The Baroque era in Western music extends from about 1600 to 1750. The earliest surviving opera was written in 1600, and the year 1750 serves as a convenient closing point because it marks the death of Johann Sebastian Bach, the greatest of all Baroque composers.
Many of the forms of Western music that are still at the center of our performing repertoire were developed during the Baroque era. In addition to opera and its primary components, aria and recitative, these forms include the sonata, concerto, suite, prelude, fugue, overture, oratorio, and cantata. Even the symphony has its roots in the Baroque. The word “baroque” is thought by some to derive from a Portuguese word, barroco, meaning “misshapen pearl,” but whether that’s true or not, it’s certainly the case that writers and theorists of the 1700s applied the label “baroque” disparagingly. They felt that Baroque music was overly ornate; confused, bizarre, and distorted by an excessive intensity of emotional expression. Later theorists, and listeners, have tended to feel… differently.
A Minute with Miles - a production of ETV Radio made possible by the JM Smith Corporation.