Baroque to Romantic Program Notes
If it ain't Baroque, don't fix it.
Baroque is a style of music that generally includes work from 1600 to 1750. Key composers include J. S. Bach, Vivaldi, Handel, Pachelbel, Telemann and Scarlatti. The Baroque period saw the creation of tonality, an approach to writing music in which a song or piece is written in a particular key.
During the period, composers and performers used more elaborate orchestration. Baroque music expanded the size, range, and complexity of instrumental performance, and also established the mixed vocal/instrumental forms of opera, cantata and oratorio and the instrumental forms of the solo concerto and sonata as musical genres.
Dense, complex polyphonic music, in which multiple independent melody lines were performed simultaneously (a popular example of this is the fugue), was an important part of many Baroque works.
One of the most beautiful of the Baroque concertos
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) Double Concerto for Two Violins
Many scholars believe that Bach wrote this work between 1717 and 1723 while working for Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen as his Kapellmeister or music director. During this time he wrote a number of concertos for solo and paired instruments. It was also during this time that he wrote the Brandenburg Concertos. It may also have been written in 1730 when he was working in Leipzig.
The concerto form was borrowed from the Italians and Bach himself made 11 arrangements of Vivaldi concertos. Vivaldi’s influence can be heard in the works but they are truly Bach’s own genius.
All three of the concerto’s movements are fugues, A fugue is a counterpoint composition in which a short melody or phrase (the subject) is introduced by one part and successively taken up by others and developed by interweaving the parts. The intensity and beauty of this concerto make it stand out even among the finest of his instrumental works.
Here is a great listening guide for this piece.
Put a little romance back in your life.
Romantic music began in the late 18th and early 19th century. It is related to Romanticism, the European artistic and literary movement that arose in the second half of the 18th century. In the Romantic period, music became more expressive and emotional, expanding to encompass literary, artistic, and philosophical themes. Romantic composers include Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Chopin, Mendelssohn, Bellini, and Berlioz. The late 19th century saw a dramatic expansion in the size of the orchestra and in the dynamic range and diversity of instruments used in this ensemble. Also, public concerts became a key part of urban middle class society, in contrast to earlier periods, when concerts were mainly paid for by and performed for aristocrats. A prominent mark of late 19th century music is its nationalistic fervor, as exemplified by such figures as Dvořák, Sibelius, and Grieg.
Edvard Grieg (1843-1907) Peer Gynt Suite No. 1
Originally composed as incidental music for fellow Norwegian Henrik Ibsen’s play “Peer Gynt”. Peer Gynt is the name of a famous Norwegian of legend who travelled the world. Grieg wrote 28 original movements for the play. The music proved to be so popular that he chose four movements to make into a Suite.
The first movement “Morning Mood” depicts a sunrise over the Moroccan desert where Gynt is making a reed pipe. The flute solo literally depicts the making of this woodwind instrument and this movement may be one of the most well-known pieces in popular culture literally being used to evoke morning in almost any kind of situation.
The second movement, "The Death of Asé", refers to the death of Peer's mother, who waited many years for her son to return from his wanderings. Here Grieg uses only strings and long lyrical lines to depict Gynt’s sadness.
The third movement, "Anitra's Dance", like the first, reflects the exotic sounds and dance of the far off Orient.
The final movement In the Hall of the Mountain King Gynt returns us to Norway where he is attacked by mountain trolls. So much noise is made in the battle that the mountain comes tumbling down on the trolls saving Gynt’s life.
If only it had been finished.
Franz Schubert (1797-1828) Symphony No. 8 "Unfinished"
Schubert was 31 when he died. Some academics have said that if Beethoven had died that young that he would not be remembered at all or certainly as a lesser composer. Schubert was an important contributor to the Vienna cultural scene writing art songs, dance and chamber music as well as an opera, a mass and a symphony. In 1822, six years before his death, Schubert finished two movements and produced sketches for the third. The manuscript was given to a friend, perhaps as a gift.
There is much speculation as to why he did not finish it. Some think that Schubert thought it was too much like Beethoven. Others look to the sketches of the third movement and say he ran out of creative ideas for it. It might have been poor health and it is noted that his main diet was black coffee and pipe smoke. It could have been because there were no immediate prospects of the work being performed. Others say he ran out of time. However, he did have time to start and finish many other works. We may never know why it was “Unfinished”.
The friend rediscovered the manuscript 1860 (32 years after Schubert’s death). By that time Schubert’s work was well known and his genius recognized and he had posthumous champions such as both Robert Schumann and Franz Liszt. The “Unfinished” Symphony did not premiere until 1865.