Slideshow: The Late Baroque

You have probably already noticed that all the pieces on the playlist for this module sound quite different from one another. Setting aside differences of instrumentation and genre, there are significant differences between pieces written in the early, middle, and late portions of the Baroque period. As has been already mentioned, this is a period of considerable musical evolution.

Some of the hallmarks of late Baroque style are a steady, driving beat, lengthy melodic lines (often extended through the use of repeated ascending or descending melodic patterns known as sequences), and dense textures. The composers in the early Baroque were trying to get away from the complexity of late Renaissance polyphonic texture. As a result, they strove for simple homophonic textures. By the late Baroque, composers had once again embraced the complexity of elaborate polyphony. This is especially true of German composers writing for German audiences. Johann Sebastian Bach is a perfect example of this Germanic preference in the late Baroque.

Of course, neither Bach nor Handel were limited by regional tastes. Handel received his musical education in both Germany and Italy, and Bach studied the music of Italian greats Corelli and Vivaldi during his employment as music director at the ducal court in Weimar between 1708 and 1717. Both composers were able to combine their mastery of counterpoint with the melodic lyricism and lighter textures of the Italian style. This combination of exquisite contrapuntal technique and international influences, along with their astonishing talent, is the main reason we view these two composers and their music as representing the culmination of a century and a half of Baroque music.

This presentation covers the late Baroque music of Bach and Handel. Please use this as a study guide during and after your online reading.