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What is Baroque Music?

One of the most dramatic turning points in the history of music occurred at the beginning of the 17th century, with Italy again leading the way. While the stile antico, the universal polyphonic style of the 16th century, continued, it was henceforth reserved for sacred music , while the stile moderno, or nuove musiche - with its emphasis on solo voice, polarity of the melody and the bass line, and interest in expressive harmony - developed for secular usage. The expanded vocabulary allowed for a clearer distinction between sacred and secular music as well as between vocal and instrumental idioms, and national differences became more pronounced. The Baroque period in music, as in other arts, therefore, was one of stylistic diversity. The operaoratorio, and cantata were the most important new vocal forms, while the sonataconcerto, and overture were created for instrumental music . Claudio Monteverdi was the first great composer of the “new music.” He was followed in Italy by Alessandro Scarlatti and Giovanni Pergolesi. The instrumental tradition in Italy found its great Baroque composers in Arcangelo CorelliAntonio Vivaldi, and Giuseppe TartiniJean-Baptiste Lully, a major composer of opera, and Jean Philippe Rameau were the masters of Baroque music in France. In England the total theatrical experience of the Stuart masques was followed by the achievements in vocal music of the German-born, Italian-trained George Frideric Handel, while his countryman Johann Sebastian Bach developed Baroque sacred music in Germany. Other notable German Baroque composers include Heinrich SchützDietrich Buxtehude, and Georg Philipp Telemann.

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