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The Transition between Baroque and Classical
Franklin C. van Splunteren Catalani,  2009
  1. Introduction
       Musical Divisions
  2. Cultural influences on the Baroque and Classical Musical periods
       Reason
        Lag time
        Macro vs. Micro
       Art as one manifestation of world events.
       Important Events Matrix
        Periods
        Synchronicity  
  3. Characteristics of the Baroque and Classical Forms
       Baroque
        Classical
  4. Influential Composers of the period
  5. The Hall of Fame
      
    Baroque
       Classical
  6. Example of pure Baroque, Transitional and pure Classical Composers
       Pure Baroque
       Transitional
        Pure Classical
  7. Baroque and Classical in terms of physical and metaphysical implications
  8. Conclusion
       Listen to the transition taking place
        Composer matrix

Note: The "Transition between Renaissance and Baroque" will be published here December 2011

I. Introduction

This essay briefly describes the transition between the Baroque and Classical forms, presents some of the parallel world events, and discusses baroque and classical characteristics. For the reader's convenience and further reading, references may be hyperlinked (blue, underlined) to Wikipedia or other web based sources for further study, whereas the audiovisual aids are mostly from YouTube/Google. 
 

Our musical history over the last 1600 years may be roughly divided into nine sections:  (click the sections for more information)
 

EUROPEAN MUSIC 400AD - Present
Musical Period Approx. Duration
Medieval   400 - 1500
Renaissance 1500 - 1600
Baroque timeline scope 1600 - 1750
Classical for this essay 1750 - 1825
Romantic 1825 - 1900
Impressionist 1900 - 1935
20th Century 1935 - 2000
Contemporary 1950 - Present
21st Century  2000 - Present
Fig. 1a  Musical Periods f.vanSplunteren/intersilo 2010


 

 

In this essay we'll take a brief look at the fascinating musical period between 1700 and 1800, where two important periods overlap and morph: the Baroque and the Classical.

 

II. Cultural influences on the Baroque and Classical periods

Reason and linear logic.  Rational thought, as practiced in Mesopotamia, India, China, Greece and Egypt was apparently often actively suppressed in Western Europe, especially during the dark ages (~400AD-1500AD), when it suffered from relentless religious and superstitious persecution. A combination of many factors contributed to a new awakening, a new re-birth, a Re-naissance, which gained power in Italy around 1500. Galileo and Kepler stand out as proponents of the idea that man could understand the world around him by observing phenomena, followed by constructing models describing those phenomena while using mathematics as a descriptive language. These models are then validated by repeatable experiment, and... behold the cradle as well as the cornerstone of modern science. For example by using physical models, we no longer have to measure the time it takes for a stone to reach the ground when dropped from the top of  the tower of Pisa. The model, like the crystal ball of the ancients, will predict the future for us and tell the observer how much time it will take to reach the ground. The model worked for Galileo when he dropped the stone 600 years ago, as well as today. The models are completely abstract and rational mental operations. The latter is an example of belief in the power of rational thought, which nowadays seems obvious and commonplace, but in 1600 perhaps not quite so.


Lag time.  It apparently takes quite a long time for new concepts to comfortably settle in the collective, cultural subconscious. Newton had already disputed the invention of the calculus with Leibnitz and published his Principia Mathematica by the time Bach and Handel were two years old! But I believe it took a generation for the powerful ideas about rationale and logic to sink in, and that the subsequent rejection of the Baroque and the birth of the Classical musical period could be seen as a cultural byproduct of this so-called "Age of Enlightenment", as the latter gained widespread acceptance, pushing previously held beliefs out of the way and heralding cultural change. "Enlightenment" in this sense means we believe that our existence can be explained in a rational and logical manner.  Although the Musical Classical period is of course long gone, we are still witnessing what well may be the dying phase of that Age of Enlightenment, since we've become aware through experience, philosophy and science that rational thought is not the explanation, but merely seems to be one dimension of an answer. Therefore the next Age may for example well be the "Age of Awareness", driving major c t-family:Palatino Linotype"> 

Micro vs. Macro. A Baroque composer may subconsciously have thought of himself more as a spiritual vessel, as a medium or a vehicle i.e. the Potter and the Pot scenario, somewhat of a macro-cosmic perception.  The Classical composer in contrast might place more importance on mankind, himself and his work, i.e. a more anthropocentric, ego-centric or opus-centric attitude, i.e. a micro-cosmic view. I hasten to add that this observation merely points out possible tendencies and not absolutes. Consider the arch-baroque Handel, who is apparently worldly and practical - in contrast to Bach - and was often reported to be obsessed with success, rivalries and mundane financial affairs. The themes of the librettos he used (though not the oratorios) deal mostly with relationships, power and politics, or are staged in the mythical, and not the spiritual realm. Great fanfare over an angry Zeus or a jealous Juno and so forth. Yet his music often seems to supersede the script and human melodrama, touching on the real drama of existence and so transcending into the metaphysical anyway simply due to the sheer weight and brilliance of his musical mind. The practical and worldly side of his psyche is also revealed by the fact that Handel would recycle and reuse entire musical parts while making slight changes, in the interest of rapid productivity. 

 

Art as a manifestation of world events. To better appreciate a work of art, it may help to have some sense of the main cultural and sociological forces at the time the work was created, i.e. to better understand the Beatles, it helps to know there was a war in Vietnam, a Cold War, a Space Race, a struggle for Civil and Women's rights, a sense of an always imminent nuclear destruction, a surprisingly acid and literate Bob Dylan restating biblical metaphors in country-rock terms, the widespread use of marijuana and so on. Hence this author found it helpful to create a greatly condensed chronological chart of a few important social, artistic and scientific events surrounding those periods.


Transitional periods are colored gray. Philosophers are not listed by birth year, but rather bclose to the median of their productive life, and include mathematicians, natural philosophers (i.e. physicists) and some theologians (i.e. meta-physicists). The hyperlinks may be helpful musical and visual aids, and are underlined in blue. Art includes painting, sculpture and examples of trending architecture.

 

                SELECTED MUSICAL AND WORLD EVENTS, EUROPE 1600 - 1830

MUSICAL   E V E N T S WORLD   E V E N T S
Period Decade Musical example Sociopolitical Philosophers Art related Science Technology
TRANSITION
Baroque
1600 1606 L'Orfeo favola Monteverdi Jamestown, Slaves
England united
Dutch East India
Galileo Galilei Shakespeare Sonnets
Painting: Carvaggio
Galileo's Kinematics Water Thermometer
  1610 1611 Vespro della.. Monteverdi King James Bible Grotius, Kepler Drawing: Rubens Planetary Motion Refracting telescope
  1620 1619 Alleluia  Schutz Louis XIII Dictator
30yr war, British India
Thomas Hobbes
Bauhin
Arch:1624 Versailles Logarithms
Plant Classification
Slide Rule
  1630 1630 Miserere  Allegri Japans bars West
Pilgrims at Plymouth
Fermat, Descartes
Harvey
Painting: LaTour Blood Circulation Blood Transfusion
  1640 ~1640 Messe Vidi  Allegri Scotland, Ireland wars
Dutch dominate Asia trade
Manchu conquer China
Pascal Cavendish  Painting: Brouwer
Painting: Claesz
Moon Atlas Steam Turbine
Adding Machine
 
  1650 1650 Jephte I  Carissimi Enlightenment
Manchester Public Library
Isaac Newton
Huygens
Painting: Frans Hals
Arch: Sheldon Theatre
Isochrone Barometer
 
  1660 ~1660 Cain Carissimi
~1650 Jephte III
Engl. Monarchy restored Bayle, Spinoza Painting: Rembrandt Newton's Laws  Reflecting Telescope
  1670   French invade Holland Leibniz Painting: Vermeer Principia Matematica Champagne
  1680 1676 Atys - Zephirs Dance  Lully
Le Roi Danse 
  John Locke Painting: van Kessel Topology, Binary Microscope
  1690 1694 Opus 1, Sonata Albinoni
Sonata in G Minor  
Sonata in B Flat 
England becomes GB Constitut. Monarchy Malebranche
Bernoulli
Painting: Perez
Sculp: St. Francis
Variational Calculus Steam Pump
  1700 1709 Opus 2 B minor Vivaldi First Newspaper GB Astell Painting: Ponte Newton's Opticks Piano
  1710 1710 Ti ricorda, Irene D. Scarlatti Louis XIV dies
Prussia Famine
Montesquieu Painting: Rigaud Higher Mathematics Tuning Fork
Steam Engine
  1720 1724 Tamerlane Opera Handel Marseille Plague
Spanish to Mexico
Linnaeus, G. Vico Painting: Watteau Statistics, Annuities
Marine, Flora Fauna
Thermometer
Print in Color
TRANSITION 1730 *Sonata in E, in G  Scarlatti
*Sonata in D
Russo-Turkish war Voltaire, Berkeley Painting: Chardin
Arch: 1730
Systema Naturae Fire Extinguisher
TRANSITION 1740 Semele  Act II  1645 Handel
Semele - Myself I shall adore
Semele III - Sleep
Frederick in Russia
Jacobite rebellion
d'Alembert, v.Kleist
Bernoulli, Diderot
Sculpture: Verschaffelt
Painting: Subleyras
Actuarial tables
Scientific Encyclopedia
Capacitor
TRANSITION 1750 1749 musical offering1 JS Bach
1749 Musical Offering 9
Lisbon Earthquake
J.S. Bach dies 1750
Handel dies 1759
Hume, S. Johnson British Museum opens
Painting: Panini
Hydrodynamics English Dictionary
Lightning Rod
Classical 1760 '64 Symphony 1  Mozart at  8 ! French defeat in NAm.
George III crowned
 
Condorcet
Euler
Arch: Piranesi
Painting: Gainsborough
Baye Probabilities
Partial Diff Equations
Chronometer
  1770 Concerto Dmaj JC Bach American revolution Rousseau
Lavoisier
Painting: Melendez
Painting: Batoni
ZooGeography
PhotoSynthesis
Steam Car
Telegraph
  1780 1776 Symphony No 60 Haydn Industrial Revolution Immanuel_Kant
LaGrange
Painting: LeBrun Mass Conservation
Motion Equations
Hydrogen Balloon flight
  1790 1791 Zauberflote Mozart
1791  London Symphony  Haydn
French Revolution
Mozart dies
Adam Smith Sculpture: Volpato
Painting: Stuart
Synthesized Speech Steamship, Flush Toilet
  1800 1800 Symphony No 1 Beethoven Nationalism Lord Byron Painting: Sharples Smallpox Vaccination Gas Lighting, Battery
  1810 Opus 50 abt. 1810 Clementi   Fries, Comte Painting: Villers Atomic Physics Tin Can, Lightbulb
TRANSITION 1820 1817 Symphony No 9  Beethoven Bolivarian Revolution Fresnel, Malthus Painting: Prud'hon Light Wave Matches, Stethoscope
Romantic  1830 1836 Requiem  Cherubini Beethoven dies Shopenhauer
Weber, Faraday
Painting: Goya Electrom. Induction
Coriolis Effect
Typewriter, Electric Car
Earth M.Field, Generator

 

Fig. 1b  music and world events 1600 - 1830 f.vanSplunteren / intersilo 2010

Periods are neither precisely defined nor arbitrary, because they are characterized by a somewhat stable and recognizable content, style and form. Changes in musical perception on the one side, and style, form and motifs on the other are likely caused by a sum of economic, religious, sociological and political factors and give rise to transitional states, where both forms coexist for some time. It is interesting to examine the music created within the hazy boundaries between the periods. The forces which drive the changes in music should also manifest in other cultural changes such as painting, literature, sculpture, poetry as well as in new religious, social, scientific and political currents and events.

 

Synchronicity? Interestingly enough, it does not appear that major changes in direction of the different arts necessarily appear simultaneously, and that each of the seven arts may well possess distinct inertia, and hence separate reaction times to the forces of change. In other words, a change in the visual Arts caused by the culture of the time may manifest 10, 20 even 30 years before the same change becomes apparent in other Arts or vice versa, a complex discussion of which goes well beyond the scope of this essay.

 

 

III. Characteristics of the Baroque and Classical Forms

Although musical periods do not follow sharply defined boundaries, we can nevertheless safely assume that the musical movement known as 'Baroque' acquired a recognizable identity in form and musical intention somewhere between the time of G.Gabrieli (b. 1554) and C.Monteverdi (b.1567), and had been in existence well over a century before Vivaldi, Telemann, Bach, Handel and Scarlatti (jr.) appeared on the world stage. As we will see later, the Baroque form was no longer in vogue by 1761, at the time Mozart wrote his first sonatas at the ripe age of 5.  And in turn the Classical Period had given way to the Romantic Period before Beethoven's death in 1827, at least judging by the style of the defining works from that period.

 

Some characteristics of Baroque: a characteristic physical aspect of the Baroque lies in the widespread usage of popular dances of the time like the Sarabande, Bourree, Gavotte, Minuet and Passepied as basic underlying rhythmic and phrasing motifs. Another characteristic is the polyphonic approach (i.e. where multiple melodic lines  harmoniously coexist within a common structure). Part of the harmony is implicitly generated by the interplay of the intertwined polyphony. The basic form is usually some type of three part (ABA), although the binary form (AB, where B often modulates to the dominant) is also used.

 

Gavotte Minuet Passepied
Fig. 2  popular dances in the Baroque

Some Classical characteristics: in contrast to polyphony, music from the Classical period tends to use a single melodic line, giving more importance to the harmonic content of the background. The Classical period also tends to have a different technical form, neither ABA nor AB. The structure usually consists of two contrasting themes, followed by two repeated variations ('expositions'), whereby the first original theme is at last recognized and reworked in a second variation (called recapitulation or 'reprise') which in turn is followed by the 'coda', or tail end, so in a sense imitating the natural flow of the human condition.

 

Instrumentation: Important changes are in evidence. Probably the most important would be the definitive adaptation of the piano-forte and later the piano, substituting the venerable harpsichord. Other changes were gradually made and instruments added, making it possible for the orchestra to perform symphonic works.

 

IV. Influential Composers of the period

Some of the most important personalities which helped to shape these two important musical eras are listed below, chronologically ordered by date of birth.  In order to highlight the period of change (somewhat arbitrarily taken as 1745-1775) , I chose to tag those composers in whom both Baroque and Classical influences are apparent as 'Transitional'.  I also tried to provide more insight by researching the dates of their first and last known works, thereby  highlighting their productive years. In a subsequent essay, we'll discuss the connection between some of their works and world events from the same time and geographical areas.
 

Another way of looking at the impact these composers had on their time is to sort the above data by the date of their first work. The view changes somewhat. It is interesting to see that Johann Sebastian, born seven years after Vivaldi, starts composing five years before Vivaldi. The importance of this observation lies in the fact that older artists tend to influence younger artists.  But this natural phenomenon may be distorted if the younger artist starts producing before the older artist, thereby giving a bit more insight into the environment in which the work was created.
 

Composer

Birth

Death

Productivity

Musical Period

Years

 

 

 

Start

End

 

Age

Productive

T.Albinoni

1671

1751

1694

1741

Baroque

80

47

A.Vivaldi

1678

1741

1705

1740

Baroque

63

35

G.P. Telemann

1681

1767

1708

1759

Baroque

86

51

J.S.Bach

1685

1750

1700

1750

Baroque

65

50

G.F.Handel

1685

1759

1705

1752

Baroque

74

47

D. Scarlatti

1685

1757

1703

1751

Baroque

72

48

B.Marcello

1686

1739

1711

1730

Baroque

53

19

C.P.E.Bach

1714

1788

1731

1788

Transitional

74

57

N.Jomelli

1714

1774

1737

1770

Transitional

60

33

C.W.Gluck

1714

1787

1741

1780

Transitional

73

39

J.Haydn

1732

1809

1755

1803

Classical

77

48

J.C.Bach

1735

1782

1761

1779

Classical

47

18

L.Bocherini

1743

1805

1765

1801

Classical

62

36

M.Clementi

1752

1832

1773

1832

Classical

80

59

W.A.Mozart

1756

1791

1761

1791

Classical

35

30

L.Cherubini

1760

1842

1778

1837

Classical

82

59

L.van Beethoven

1770

1827

1780

1826

Transitional

57

46

J.Field

1782

1837

1796

1832

Transitional

55

36

C.M. von Weber

1786

1826

1800

1826

*Romantic

40

26

Fig. 3  List of composers 1700-1800 f.vanSplunteren/intersilo 2010

 

V. The Hall of Fame

Baroque: One finds it difficult to choose between so many great Baroque composers, but certainly Handel and J.S. Bach should be on the short list without causing much controversy.  Handel and Bach Sr. were born in 1685 just 23 days and less than 60 miles apart! Between the two of them they would arguably produce the greatest Baroque works, if not the greatest European music of all time.

 

One might include Domenico Scarlatti, son of noted composer Alessandro Scarlatti, and born six months later that same year. In this author's opinion Scarlatti is not in the same league as the two masters in terms of artistic breadth, depth and enduring impact and influence. This comes as no surprise since few composers, if any ever, were. Scarlatti worked most of his life in a court setting, and is best known for his 22 'exercises' and over 500 Harpsichord sonatas and seems more of a creative virtuoso instrumentalist than a true composer and arranger. Perhaps a good reason to include Mr. Scarlatti Jr. in the Hall of fame instead of for example  a more obvious Vivaldi or Telemann is that he, more so than most, contributes great elegance, lightness, endless inventivity and effortless virtuosity. Even though he prefers to use a simple two part ('binary') division for musical contrast instead of the classical form beckoning ahead, one can sense an independence of mind and a tendency to look forwards, so that at times his sonatas can sound classical, albeit with baroque decorations. In view of the relative originality of his work, this author wonders where Scarlatti would have moved to musically without the natural boundaries his Royal sponsors likely demanded.

Classical: Haydn and Mozart  each made enormous contributions to their Art in somewhat different ways with Mozart as the student who surpassed the master, and Haydn as one of the main forces behind forming the concepts of what we now know as the Classical peiod. Beethoven can be considered Classical although with strong Romantic tendencies, and is undoubtedly a musical giant.

 

 

The harvest of 1685: two of the most influential Baroque composers plus Scarlatti jr.
G.F. Handel (b.1685) J.S. Bach (b.1685) D. Scarlatti (b.1685)
        Fig. 4 Three of the most important personalities in Baroque Music

 

 

VI. Example of Baroque, Transitional and Classical Composers

Pure Baroque: Although his contributions were extraordinarily significant, perhaps even transcendental, Handel wrote pure Baroque all his productive life. Johann Sebastian did so as well, although his later, evolved work such as parts of the 1647 'A Musical Offering'  offer a glimpse of an alternate, almost revolutionary direction his music could have taken instead of choosing the more evolutionary path we inherited. Who knows what music could have looked like today, if Johann Sebastian had lived ten years longer, and had placed more emphasis on self-promotion. Of course the contradiction lies in the fact that a true artist is not likely to be a self-promoter, since it is his/her integrity which is partly responsible for being a great artist in the first place. And self-promotion is not exactly an integrity-boosting activity.
 

Transitional: in Carl Philipp Bach, one can observe the influence of the period and of his famous father on his earlier music . A good example is his Concerto in D Minor from 1747, (when his father was 62 and would pass 3 years later). Part 1 especially is vintage Baroque with whole phrasings directly attributable to Johann Sebastian.

Next observe the surprising and complete metamorphosis over the next 26 years which results in Carl Philipp's Symphony in G major, composed for the Baron van Swieten twentysix years later, in 1773. Here one  envisions fleeting images of Haydn, Mozart or even Beethoven (who was 3 at the time), but none of Johann Sebastian, who had passed 23 years prior!
 

Jam session: King Frederick the Great - Flute, C.P.E. Bach - Harpsichord, F.Benda - Violin
Fig. 5  A Royal Jam Session with C.P.E. Bach at the harpsichord, probably at the SansSouci palace in Potsdam


So it seems that Carl Philipp turned further and further away
from his influential father as many artistic youngsters tend to do, and consequently from turns away from the Baroque, stepping out on the 'galant' road to the new Classical form.  And later in his life, one can trace Carl Philipp Bach's influence on Haydn, and subsequently Haydn's impact on Mozart.

Pure Classical: Mozart in turn acknowledges this by dedicating a number of his best string quartets to Haydn (No. 15-18 op 10, 1783). Mozart also owed musical influences to J.S. Bach's son Johann Christian. Of the older son Carl Philipp, Mozart writes: "He is the father, we are the children", and the motivation for writing his first symphonies starting at age 8 are attributable to the younger Bach son. And so the musical debt owed to Johann Sebastian Bach, leading from himself through his sons C.P.E. Bach and J.C. Bach to Haydn and beyond is paid back in full and with dividends by the wonderful gifts Mozart  later bestowed on the world.
 

 

VII. Baroque and Classical in terms of physical and metaphysical implications

Musical periods or movements, much like in the visual arts, manifest the culture of the times. Culture also implies the current and/or latent world perception or vision. Music, like any of the Arts, can serve as a bridge or portal between the physical, emotional and metaphysical realities, altering the mood and/or consciousness level of the observer. Therefore the mood and/or consciousness of the musical listener will tend to be altered in the same general direction as the prevailing culture of the time in question. 

 

One important way to consider the Arts, is in terms of consciousness modifiers. That is to say, that by looking at a certain painting, by reading certain literature or by listening to certain music, we modify our consciousness, we modify our perception of the world around us. And in turn, by modifying our consciousness, we modify our world forever because as the ancient saying tells us, one cannot unring the bell.

 

If the culture of the period tends towards spirituality and meditation, then (allowing for the differences between composers and between listeners) one effect of listening to the music of that period will probably be to place the listener in a spiritual, devotional or meditative mood; if a particular culture of a period is inward looking and focuses more on human pleasure and suffering, then the effect will be more towards the humanistic and romantic, and so on.

 

In this author's opinion, the Baroque seems infused with a sense of worship and gratitude, a sense of being children of the Infinite, the relationship of humanity with God, an upward look and empathy with the Creator a sense of love as well as great fear.  Using the earlier analogy, listening to Baroque music should empower a clearer connection with the spiritual world beyond physical boundaries, hence meta-physical, similar to other methods such as prayer and meditation, all of which serve to lightly increase our awareness of reality beyond the physical, beyond the powerful illusion and projection of the physical world.

 

In contrast, although merely as this author's opinion, the Classical era could perhaps be better interpreted as expressing human needs, desires and suffering, i.e. an inward look, empathy with humanity and the folly of material life itself. This could be partially explained by the fact that religion played a more central role in Baroque daily life than during the Classical period hence a shift in center of the collective consciousness.

The pictures below can hopefully demonstrate these ideas.  

    some discern the physical   and...the not-so physical
                                

Fig 6. Intimations of the boundaries between physics and metaphysics. Notice the uncanny parallel between the "real" photograph on the left and De Chirico's  painting on the right. De Chirico was the founder of Metaphysical Painting in Italy, ~1914.  Methods such as a certain type of meditation, prayer, music or other art, may serve as a catalyst to change the state of awareness, as do certain psychotropic chemicals.

 
 

 

Another way of analyzing this is to say that the spiritual (not necessarily religious) perception --central to Baroque and medieval life-- of living within a majestic, terrifying and incomprehensible creation, and the continual habit of introspective prayer may well lead to a different attitude towards the Arts, since spiritual awareness may unveil that one is in reality merely a tiny part of the infinite, which then manifests in music as Man communicating with the Sacred, with the macro cosmos, with the meta-physical, whereas the Classical period seems to deal more with Individual Man and his earthly condition, feelings and emotions, i.e. with the physical micro cosmos back on earth.
 

In ending this essay, I trust that the stellar list of performances below should entertain as well as enable the listener to discern the unmistakable drums of change, the almost tectonic wrenching of a new culture over the old, a changing of the guard as it were. The musical excerpts are taken from the 1740-1775 transition period starting with pure High Baroque, and ending with pure Classical.  A trove of musical treasure, belonging to all humankind.

 

 

VIII. Conclusion

Listen to the Transition! Hopefully the listener will hear the metamorphosis from Baroque into Classical by listening to these chronological selections in sequence. Please click on the hyperlink to listen.

Baroque 1745  Handel Semele II Act II The work was first performed on 10 February 1744 at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, London. The audience for the concert series, held yearly during Lent at London's Theatre Royal, Covent Garden expected Bible-based subject matter. Most oratorios, including most of those by Handel, would have met this expectation. But the amorous topic of Semele, which is practically a creation of the late Restoration Period, transparently drew on Greek myths, not Hebrew laws. It displeased those who attended the Lenten seasons for a different kind of uplift, and, being in English, likewise irritated the supporters of true Italian opera. As Winton Dean suggested in his book Handel’s Dramatic Oratorios:

"The public [in 1744] found [Semele's] tone too close to that of the discredited Italian opera and set it down as an oratorio manqué; where they expected wholesome Lenten bread, they received a glittering stone dug from the ruins of Greek mythology."

As a result, only four performances took place. The cast on February 10, 1744, included Elisabeth Duparc (‘La Francesina’) in the title role, Esther Young as Juno (and Ino), and John Beard as Jupiter. Henry Reinhold sang the bass roles. Handel seems to have interchanged some of the music between singers. Pandering to his critics, Handel did rustle up two further performances, in December 1744, at the King’s Theatre, London. Changes and additions were made, including interspersed arias in Italian (for the opera crowd) and the excision of sexually explicit lines (for the devoted). Then Semele, perhaps unsurely matched to the spirit of its time, fell into long neglect. (WP)

Baroque 1747  Johann Sebastian Bach Fugue in 6 Voices At 62, Bach wrote 'A Musical Offering', after a meeting with King Frederick at Potsdam, where Bach's son Carl Phillip worked as a court musician. A wonderfully mature, tempered work, where the master draws on half a century of experience and produces something both simple and complex, actually evolving a statement through a canon. No wonder that music is sometimes referred to as 'the language of angels'. Just imagine a conversation between six people, often speaking at the same time, with similar but distinct messages. Instead of the cacophony which would result in a similar  human conversation , the Fugue in 6 voices produces a coherent and powerful mood and consciousness altering message by harmoniously summing all voices. In this piece one cannot detect any Classical tendencies at all, but perhaps because of the sometimes improbable harmonies generated by as many as six leaders and followers in the canon parts, at times Bach seems to jump 200 years ahead of his time with eerie 20th century harmonic intimations of Schoenberg and Berg,  and takes the baroque to the very limit of the form, in that space where craft has been completely sublimated and art is born. Listening carefully to this masterpiece of simplicity and complexity one can imagine that music could have continued on this very viable path of evolution instead of what this author thinks of as a downwards path towards the new 'galant' style and classicism. It is not hard to believe that the sons simply could not deal with the great complexity needed and knowledge required to continue on the upward spiral the fathers had left them, as someone wrote 'The great baroque masters, an impossible act to follow...'. It was far easier to break it off and start a simpler art instead of standing on the shoulders of the fathers. In this author's opinion, arguably the start of a general musical decadence which continues to this day. It makes one think of Robert Frost's "The road not taken". Indeed it made all the difference, but if only the children of the Baroque great masters would have chosen to take the first road, the one their parents had traveled on...here's the Robert Frost excerpt:
 

I shall be telling this with a sigh  
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Baroque 1749  Handel Theodora several arias

This oratorio, which was also performed as an opera, was one of Handel's worst commercial failures, much like Semele (1745). It was performed only two or three times. Yet this was one of Handel's own favorites. The libretto text was perhaps too forceful for the times, as it dealt with religious persecution a very Handel-like, courageous artistic expression. Rhythmically very bold at times - Some of the rhythms of modern rock as well as what would become the rumba and rumba-blues can be clearly heard, 250 years ahead of it's time. Modern costumes are used for the specific performance of this video. Although Richard Croft is certainly a great singer and the whole performance exemplary, the German accent, shotgun type weapon and the tendency to almost yodel can leave you with the unfortunate impression of the Terminator Schwarzenegger singing Handel.
 

Baroque 1749  Johann Sebastian Bach Art of the Fugue- Contrapunctus #4 One year before his death, Johann Sebastian wrote the masterful 'Art of the Fugue'. Consisting of counterpoints and canons. This fine example surely counts as belonging to the Himalayas of the baroque era. I chose to include this older recording of less than ideal audio quality because of Glenn Gould's impeccable performance. The unconventional Canadian master would change the sound of the piano by placing metal over the hammers to suit the composition to his taste.

Also included #1 in this series, transcribed for string quartet and for two harpsichords 


Transitional 1748
  Carl Philipp Bach - Concerto in D Minor  notice the 'baroqueness' of this concerto, for example compare the similarity of structure and phrasing to an example of his father's work 28 years prior:  1720 JS Bach Concerto for two Violins in D Minor.


Transitional 1749
  Carl Philipp Bach - Magnificat A very interesting comparison between son and father, since both used wrote the Magnificat (12 sections of music based on the ten Gospel books)

I have included the unforgettable section #2 (Exsultavit)  from Johann Sebastian's Magnificat. Carl Phillip wrote very very well, but J.S. is olympian. JS Bach Magnificat - Exsultavit


Classical ,1761, some baroque remnants
 Johann Christian Bach Catone in Utica, opera This was JC Bach's most successful opera. The same theme had been exposed since roman times, and later interpretations were also popular such as the one by Piccini. Notice the opening bars, strongly reminiscent of the Baroque, sounding a bit like a coarsened Pachebel. After the opening bars, a very classical response. 


Classical 1764 Baroque R.I.P -
  Mozart Symphony No 4 in D major, K19 I thought it interesting to include one of Mozart earlier works, because at the early age of 8 he would probably be a good reflector of the culture surrounding him since his own personality could not yet have been fully developed. What comes across is strong classical influence from Haydn and Johann Christian Bach mixed in with a dash of Vienna, and no Baroque at all. We have now formally witnessed the death of the great Baroque movement. A titanic sustained musical and cultural effort of  almost two hundred years the world had never seen and would not see again, culminating in the refined, powerful yet merciful works of Johann Sebastian Bach and Georg Friedrich Handel. Western Music owes a debt to this era like no other.


Classical 1773  Mozart Symphony No 26 in Eb major, K184 Even though the original of Mozart's manuscript has not survived, the set of parts written in the hand of his father, Leopold Mozart, is preserved in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich.[1] It is known today that the early symphonies by young Mozart were performed at the public concerts in the Little Haymarket Theatre in London. It is therefore possible that these parts were written for one of these public performances. (WP) 
 

 

Classical 1775  Johan Christian Bach -  Sinfonia Concertante

The Sinfonia Concertante is a purely Classical invention, more or less a merger of Concerto and Symphony. J.C. Bach composed several of these during the 1770's. Notice the powerful influence the "London'" Bach must have exterted on young Mozart. Indeed to this author J.C. Bach often comes across like a "Mozart Lite". And it is clear that by now there is nothing left of the Baroque Period, so we have come to the end of our very pleasant journey traversing the wild waters where two musical rivers merge.

 

 

Composer Matrix of works 1700-1800
As a convenience to the listener, three works from each important composer of the period are listed: music from their earlier stages, mid-life and later stage. In this way the listener can witness the transformation taking place facross the board, by moving vertically down the matrix. Or, one can also follow the maturing process of each composer by moving horizontally across the 'Earlier', 'Mid-Life' and 'Later'  columns. In some cases insufficient information is available (as in the case of D. Scarlatti), and I was forced to use my own judgment to date the piece, in which case an asterisk is placed before the name.

You can click on any of the works listed in the table below, and a corresponding video will be played on YouTube. Make sure you have your speakers on, and enjoy the privilege of modern technology, of being able to easily witness musical metamorphosis. The actual range of the selections spans about 140 years,  from 1694 (Abinoni's Opus 1) through 1836 (Cherubini's Requiem, which incidentally he wrote for himself). 

Composers whose works fall in the transitional period are listed on a grey background. are listed on a grey background. Enjoy!

 


 

THREE WORKS IN A COMPOSER'S LIFETIME  (~1700-1800)

Composer

Productivity

Period

three successive works in a composer's life  (click to listen)

 

Start

End

 

Early Mid-Life Late  

T.Albinoni

1694

1741

Baroque

1694 Opus 1, Sonata 1707 Opus 5,#10 a cinque 1715, Opus 7, conc. oboe  

J.S.Bach

1700

1750

Baroque

1709 Fugue in B minor 1735 three keyboards 1749 musical offering

D. Scarlatti

1703

1751

Baroque

1710 Ti ricorda, Irene *Sonata in E L224 *Sonata in A

G.F.Handel

1705

1752

Baroque

1709, Rodrigo Opera 1724 Tamerlane Opera 1750 Theodora, arias

A.Vivaldi

1705

1740

Baroque

1709 Opus 2 B minor 1725  Summer 1740 Opus 14  Siciliano

G.P. Telemann

1708

1759

Baroque

1712 Suite in D Minor 1725 Pimpinone, comedy 1754 Matthew Passion

C.P.E.Bach

1731

1788

Transitional

1731 Sonata 1748 Magnificat 1787 Resurrection

N.Jomelli

1737

1771

Transitional

* 1764 Demoofont *

C.W.Gluck

1741

1780

Transitional

1743 Demoofonte 1762 Orfeo & Euridice 1779 Iphigenie & Tauride

J.Haydn

1755

1803

Classical

1759 Symphony No1 1776 Symphony No 60 1795 Symphony No 104

W.A.Mozart

1761

1791

Classical

1763 Sonata KV7 1777 Concerto KV271 1791 Zauberflote

J.C.Bach

1761

1779

Classical

1765 Adriano in Siria 1772 Temistocle 1779 Amadis de Gaulle

L.Boccherini

1765

1801

Classical

*Minuet 1786 La Clementina 1801 Stabat Mater

M.Clementi

1773

1832

Classical

1780 Sonata 3 1802 Sonatina op40 Clement Opus 50 #3

L.Cherubini

1778

1837

Classical

1797 Medea 1815 Symphony D Major 1836 Requiem

Beethoven

1780

1826

*Romantic

1786 Piano trio No.9 1800 Symphony Mo 1 1817 Symphony No 9
Fig. 7   Composers 1700-1800 with references to three chronologically ordered musical works of each composer.        f.vanSplunteren/intersilo 2010

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 Opinions and mistakes are the author's responsibility. Some information was gathered via WikiPedia. and was annotated with a 'WP' at the end-of -paragraph.