While the beginnings of classical music date back many, many centuries to the Italian Renaissance period, what most people consider to be classical music today was really started in the late 1600s in the form of a musical style called Baroque music.
Such great composers as Johann Sebastian Bach, Antonio Vivaldi and Henry Purcell were Baroque music composers that left an indelible mark on the world of classical music.
Bach wrote the famous Brandenburg Concertos and Air on the G String, among many, many others, which are still played on classical music stations today, more than 300 years later.
Vivaldi wrote the Four Seasons, of which the Spring movement is one of the most recognizable pieces of Baroque music – and classical music, for that matter – ever written.
Purcell, the famous English composer, wrote Dido and Aeneas, which may rank as the greatest opera ever to come out of the Baroque period of classical music.
Baroque music is characterized by a unity of mood throughout an entire work, less frequent shifts in dynamics than its successors in the Classical or Romantic eras, and a devotion to sacred music, evident in Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, or Handel’s Messiah.
Another interesting tidbit about Baroque music is that the piano had not been invented yet, so the music composed during that period was done so on the harpsichord. One of the questions I am most often asked is why one never sees a piano concerto from the Baroque period of classical music, and I always have to tell them that the period pre-dated the piano.
Baroque music really kind of got things started for classical music as most people know it, and served as the foundation on which later composers, such as Mozart and Beethoven, would create their music.
As a matter of fact, it was Beethoven that once referred to Handel as the greatest composer that ever lived.
Baroque music was not simply limited to sacred music, either, as Bach wrote some of the greatest fugues, and Handel was renowned the world over for his ability to write great oratorios.
My uncle, who is also a great classical music lover, counts Bach and Handel as his two favorite composers of all time. They are not just his favorite composers of Baroque music, but his favorite ever, so I asked him about that. He told me that it is just hard to top the music that both men produced.
Baroque music was paramount to the development of classical music and was really the first era in the history of classical music in which multiple composers from several countries contributed a large body of work. It is one of my favorite eras of music, and once a person becomes familiar with classical music, Baroque is unmistakable in its form.