The Baroque Period: Music History, Composers and Pieces
The Baroque period is the first major musical period, and lasted from about 1600 to 1750. It’s in this period where you’ll find composers such as the esteemed JS Bach.
Music from this era is very different from more modern styles, and can be more difficult to listen to and play because of this. But Baroque music is very rewarding to get into – nothing teaches you hand independence like learning some fugues by Bach.
The Baroque Period
This video series goes into depth on the baroque period in music, the influential composers from this time, and genres and instruments that were popular.
Playing baroque music on the piano is quite a bit different than playing anything more modern. The main reason for this is because pianos didn’t even exist in the baroque era (harpsichords, clavichords and organs were the available keyboards).
This means we have to adjust our playing style to properly capture the baroque style as pianists.
Opera was a big part of the baroque era, so it seemed important to plant this video here. The first video discusses opera in the baroque and classical eras of music.
Baroque Composers and Influential People
Bach was the man in the baroque era. He was very prolific, extremely capable and talented, and wrote a huge amount of music that essentially defines the era. He also wrote a ton of keyboard music for all levels of pianists.
Not all music history is roses and wonderful people! Some people, like John Taylor, profited from bunk pseudoscience.
This video is a good starting point if you’re just getting into Bach and/or baroque music. It features some of his most-loved piece in a wide variety of genres.
This video is a fun look at the Bach music to permeate pop culture – you’ve likely heard some or all of these. It’s also a good primer to Bach, the main composer of the baroque period.
Though this video includes a discussion on the song form theme & variations, it features the famous Bach Goldberg Variations. It’s a long composition mainly because it features a short melody that is altered a bunch of times.
Canon in D is one of the most famous pieces from the baroque era, written by Pachelbel. It exists in many variations, versions and recreations today. You’ve probably heard it at at least one wedding.
The dance suite was one of the most popular genres in this period, and you’re bound to come across them in your piano-playing journey.
Once you have an understanding of the baroque dance suite, this video takes you on a tour of one famous dance suite by Bach, his first French Suite.
Handel’s Messiah is a Christmas staple, and a Baroque classic. This brief analysis looks at the Hallelujah Chorus from Messiah.
Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is well-known, particularly “Spring”. But I really love “Summer” – it’s all storms and anxious shepherds. It’s very pictoral songwriting (program music).
This preparatory/beginner level piece is a nice introduction to Vivaldi’s famous string piece “Spring”. It features a steady left hand beat, and a light right hand melody.
This preparatory-level piece was written for Mozart by his father, Leopold. Many beginners find baroque-style music difficult because it requires more left hand movement and hand independence, but that’s exactly why I recommend practicing them.
Chorales are tough because they imitate multiple voices singing at once – but you only have two hands when you’re playing piano, or so I assume. This can be found in the grade 1 RCM syllabus.
This is another tough grade 1 level piece for the same reasons mentioned above – it requires dexterity and hand independence.
Pachelbel’s Canon in D is very famous, especially for weddings. I thought it would be fun to make my own grade 2-level arrangement of this lovely piece. It should be doable for pianists who have been playing at least a year.
This minuet is a staple for any studying pianist. Not only is it very well-known, it’s a joy to play. And challenging, too, like most other pieces from this era.
This is the companion piece to the more famous written above. It’s also at a grade 3 level. These pieces were designed to be played back to back, so I enjoy teaching them as a pair.