If the eras of musical evolution were to be compared to the eras of evolution in architecture, then the Middle Ages would be symbolized by the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, the Renaissance by the buildings of Florence and the Baroque by Louis XIV's palace at Versailles. Baroque music is very rich and textured, especially in comparison with the music that came before it.
At the beginnign of the Baroque age, around the year 1600, a new musical form was developed - opera. This form combined poetry, theater, the visual arts, and music. It arose as a result of the efforts of a group of Italian intellectuals in Florence who wanted to recreate the drama of the ancient Greeks, in which music played a key role. The first big opera was Orfeo, by Claudio Monteverdi, and it was first performed publicly in 1607. The ability of music to express human emotion and to depict natural phenomena was truly discovered in the Baroque period. Vivaldi's The Four Seasons is the best-known example of this.
Although imitational polyphony remained very prominent, homophony became more and more important. Homophonic music advanced a clear difference between the melodic line and the secondary accompanying parts. This style was very important in opera and in solo vocal music, where it helped listeners to locate the expressive melody of the vocal part.
The style of homophony became more widespread in instrumental music as well. Many baroque pieces contain a continuo part, in which the keyboard (a harpsichord or organ) and the bass instruments produce a harmonic point, which accompanies the melodic line or lines.
New polyphonic forms were devised, and just as during the Renaissance the art of counterpoint was an essential skill for every baroque composer. Canons and fugues, two very strict forms of imitational polyphony, were extremely popular. It was even commonly expected of a composer of the period to be able to improvise a fugue anytime on the spot, if he wanted to be considered a real composer.
The orchestra was another creation to arrive at the beginning of the Baroque era, evolving from the accompaniment to opera and vocal arrangements. The most popular baroque musical genre was the concerto, in which solo musicians (or small groups of soloists) played "in concert" with an orchestra, which brought about interesting contrasts in dynamic and melody.
Many composers were also virtuoso musicians. For example, Archangelo Corelli was known for his skills as a violinist and Johann Sebastian Bach was famous in his day as an organist.
|Heinrich Schütz||(1585 - 1672)|
|Arcangelo Corelli||(1653 -
|Henry Purcell||(1659 - 1695)|
Couperin||(1668 - 1733)|
|Antonio Vivaldi||(1678 -
|Georg Philipp Telemann||(1681 - 1767)|
|Jean-Philippe Rameau||(1683 -
|Johann Sebastian Bach||(1685 - 1750)|
Friedrich Händel||(1685 - 1759)|
|Domenico Scarlatti||(1685 -
The Imperial Ensemble relocated during the reign of Matthias to Vienna and came to the Czech lands only for large court celebrations. The new focus of Czech music in the latter half of the 17th century became the nobles' ensembles. Especially noteworthy were two ensembles - founded by the Bishops of Olomouc Karel Lichtenstein Kastelkorn (1664 - 1695) and Schrattenbach (1711 - 1738). These groups originated in Kromeriz and Olomouc. Secular music also grew in popularity in the monasteries, as numerous documents surviving from the Cistercian monastery in Osek u Duchova can attest.
Opera came to Bohemia for the first time in the year 1627 during the coronation of Ferdinand II, and from then on was repeatedly performed on tours of Bohemia. In Prague and Brno at the start of the 18th century, there were numerous visits by (staggioni) Italian opera companies; none of them, however, succeeded in establishing themselves here permanently. The decisive turning point came at the coronation of Charles VI in 1723, when Fux's opera Constanza e fortezza (Constancy and Fortitude) was performed with an unusaully showy and beautiful staging, attended by the foremost musicians in Europe. As a result of this opera, Count Sporck summoned the opera company of Ant. Denzio to his court at Kuks u Jaromere in 1724 and entrusted it with the management of opera in his Prague theater.
The most identifiable of the personalities of early Czech baroque is the
composer , organist and poet from Jindrichuv Hradec, Adam Michna z Otradovic
(1600- 1676). With his creative energy, he earned a significant place in the
music of the time. In two collections, entitled Ceska marianska
muzyka (1647) (Czech music of the Holy Virgin) and Svatorocni muzyka (1661)
(Holy Year Music), he published four-part and five-part spiritual songs,
frequently taken from popular tradition. Several of Michna's songs were used
by later publishers of hymn books, and his song Chtic, aby spal (Wanting Him to Sleep) is still sung today. Somewhat more artistic, Loutna ceska (1653),
(Czech Lute) was a collection of spiritual compositions for two sopranos
accompanied by two or three violas and bass.
The top figures of Czech baroque are undoubtedly Zelenka and Cernohorsky. Jan Dismas Zelenka (1679 - 1745) came from Lounovice pod Blanikem, and studied music in Vienna and Italy. In his melodic inventiveness, especially in rhythm, are recognizable features of Czech music, which make him stand out from his Italian and German contemporaries. His distinctive sense of melody helped Zelenka to become a master of his craft, in which he applied a beautiful contrapuntal technique and a freely expanded melody, articulated in the closed form "da capo". Zelenka's compositional abilities were praised even during his lifetime by contemporaries such as Telemann and J.S. Bach.
Bohuslav Matej Cernohorsky (1684 - 1742) was born in Nymburk. Little information survives about him, so his biography can only be reconstructed approximately. The same can be said of his compositions, of which, for all his renown, very few have been preserved. Among those that did are the excellent motet Laudetur Jesus Christus (a grandiose vocal fugue with organ accompaniment), Regina coeli, a concert cantata, several pieces for organ, fugues and toccatas. An entire school of composers are connected with his name, including the likes of Seger, Zach and Tuma.
Josef Seger (1716 - 1782) was the author of excellent organ pieces and fugues in the tradition of J.S. Bach, and he composed a fugue based on the carol Narodil se Kristus Pan (Christ the Lord is Born).
|Adam Michna of Otradovice||(1600 - 1676)|
Dismas Zelenka||(1679 - 1745)|
|Bohuslav Matej Cernohorsky||(1684
|Jan Zach||(1699 - 1773)|
|Frantisek Tuma||(1704 -
|Josef Seger||(1716 - 1782)|