Week 3: The Passions of the Baroque The Birth of Opera: Claudio Monteverdi Orfeo Economic life of a musician: Chapel, Court and Countryside “Baroque” an art history term meaning a gaudy, extravagant pearl or flamboyant, ornamental, elaborate, (overly) emotional
Caravaggio Conversion of St. Paul Bernini Ecstasy of St. Teresa, Apollo and Dafne Chiaroscuro- interplay of light and shadow Rise of the Harpsichord and orchestra The Baroque is an era of intricate balance between the "Apollonian" virtues of clarity, order, structure and elegance and the "Dionysian" ideals of intense emotionalism and wild spirit Prelude- improvisatory, “unbuttoned” Fugue, Chaconne, Passacaglia- extremely structured forms
Great Baroque Composers Jean Baptiste Lully, court composer for Louis XIV at Versailles Marin Marais: Le Badinage for vielle de gamba Antonio Vivaldi: Four Seasons- "Summer" Domenico Scarlatti: Keyboard Sonata in b minor, K.27: an example of "too much" repetition G.F. Handel: Apollo and Dafne: Come Rosa – major key, light, moderate tempo. Notice the structure: A (Major key): B (minor key): A (Major key) Semele: Ah me! Too late! (Kathleen Battle)- slow, tragic, minor- Depicting the death of Dionysus’ (second) mother
J.S. Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 6: Interplay of Homophony and Polyphony The Well Tempered Clavier: Preludes in Bb Major and Bb minor Concerto for Four ( yes, that's right, four!) Harpsichords We'll explore Bach's Cantatas and Passions in great details in next fall's class, "Passion and Joy"
Below is a video of the extraordinary counter tenor Philippe Jaroussky filmed in the Versailles Hall of Mirrors. This young virtuoso is accompanied by a Baroque ensemble performing on period instruments. Short of time travel, this may be the closest you can get to the experience an uppercrust European aristocrat of the 18th century would have had listening to this kind of music. In many Catholic countries, women were not allowed to appear on stage and so young boys of talent were often castrated in order to preserve their high voices and they would appear on stage in the heroine's roles instead. Philippe is one of a growing number of men in o the 21st century who are reviving the Baroque art of male singing in the higher ranges- this time, thankfully, without surgery. Marvel at his phrasing and control- it is simply superb.
The clip below is from Handel's oratorio Apollo e Dafne. Notice the dominance of string instruments, the easy, moderate tempo and the sunny major key, all characteristics of the Apollonian ethos.
Below is a climactic aria from Handel's opera "Semele", sung by Cecilia Bartolli. This is the scene in which Dionysus's (second) mother is realizing she has made an enormous mistake in insisting upon seeing Zeus in his full glory and she is about to get incinerated. Notice how the more brooding tempo, ominous minor key and the "start and stop" rhythmic quality support the tragedy- all are hallmarks of Dionysian-style music, which avoids moderation in favor of emotional and tempo extremities.
Below is the delightfully irrepressible Brandenburg Concerto No. 6, performed in an authentically small sized ensemble held together by a "basso continuo" that consists of harpsichord and a bass instrument articulating the harmonic underpinnings of the piece. Enjoy how Bach weaves together homophony (where everyone is playing the same chord structure) and polyphony (where each part has its own intertwining melodic line) and then marvel at this: Bach collected together the Brandenburg Concerti as a job application . He didn't get the position.
Below is another performance of the same piece, this one highlighted graphically so you can SEE the differences between monophony ( in rectangular blocks) and polyphony ( colorful squiggles).