Types of Baroque Pieces

Baroque music used highly ornamented lines, much like gothic buildings.The Baroque period was a time in which changes were being made to music, and the sophistication of composers was growing. Rather than writing for undefined instruments, composers began to think about how the timbre of the instruments affected the overall sound. New types of ensembles and pieces started to form in the Baroque period while others were developed based on past forms. Exploring Baroque music begins with the understanding of the types of music available. Baroque music includes material written from 1600 to 1750.

Opera and Oratorio

An oratorio is a religious vocal work that contains arias, chorus sections, and recitatives. It's similar to opera, except that operas were generally multi-movement dramatic works that didn't necessarily have religious connotations. These two types of vocal works were prominently used in Baroque music. The Baroque period marked the start of vocal specialization.


The sonata was first developed in the Baroque period and stemmed from binary form works. The Baroque period had two main types of Sonatas: the church sonata and the chamber sonata. Sonatas written for performances in homes were considered secular and were concerned primarily with entertainment. Sonatas written for the church were more serious and dealt with religious issues. Later, in the Classical period, the exposition, development, and recapitulation became parts of the established sonata form.


The fugue is one of the highest accomplishments of Baroque music. Bach was a famous composer who wrote countless fugues. Fugues are complex musical forms that combine several different elements to complete a three-, four- or even five-part texture. The subject is the opening musical idea that serves as the basis for the rest of the musical development. Following the subject is another musical idea called the answer. These two elements form the basis for the development of a fugue as they are twisted and developed through the composition.


Concertos are performed by an orchestra plus a soloist or group of soloists. The concerto grosso combines two different groups of performers to play an entire musical composition. The solo concerto features a single player throughout the piece, playing against a backdrop usually in the form of an orchestra. Both types of groups play the same kind of music, which alternates between ensemble and solo playing.


Suites were common in Baroque music and typically consisted of three to four movements. The most commonly used movements in a Baroque suite include the Allemande, which is a medium-paced piece played with four beats per measure. The next movement in the suite is usually a Courante, in which the player performs a piece with a triplet feel. The Sarabande follows the Courante and is also in a triplet feel but with a slower tempo. Finally, the Gigue is usually a fast piece meant to show off the player's virtuosity.


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