Baroque Composers

BABELL, William (c1690–1723): William Babell was born about 1690, probably at London where his father was a bassoonist in the Drury Lane Theater orchestra. His short life as a composer, arranger and harpsichordist was centered in London during Handel's early years there. He died September 23, 1723 and was buried at All Hallows Church, London, where he had been organist.

Babell's first musical training came from his father, after which he studied with Pepusch and possibly with Handel. He was a competent violinist but excelled as an organist and virtuoso harpsichordist. His harpsichord arrangements of popular music of the day, especially arias from Handel's operas, were intended to display his own technical skill, They achieved international acclaim, although they were assessed more soberly by London's two famous music historians, Charles Burney and John Hawkins. The former strenuously deplored Babell's showmanship and lack of musical taste but the latter observed that when published, some of these pieces might be fine challenges for aspiring harpsichordists. Some were indeed published during his lifetime, often in collections, and demonstrate a close affinity with Handel's own keyboard style.

In editing the chamber sonatas after the composer's death, John Walsh made suggestions for appropriate solo instruments, such as oboe or violin. But the Concertos in 7 Parts, published about 1726, carry Babell's own specification of recorders and violins with violin solo. These concertos owe more to the widely distributed concertos of Vivaldi than to those of Handel.


BACH, Carl Philipp Emanuel (1714-1788): C.P.E. Bach was born at Weimar on March 8, 1714, and was the most important of the five sons of J.S. Bach who became composers. He died at Hamburg on December 14, 1788.

Bach 's career spanned the late baroque and early classic periods. He was the second surviving son of J.S. Bach and studied composition and keyboard playing with his father. In 1740 he became harpsichordist at the court of Frederick the Great at Potsdam (near Berlin), with the main duty of accompanying the King's performances on the flute. During his 28 years in this post he published numerous keyboard sonatas and concertos, as well as his renowned textbook, "Versuch über die wahre Art das Clavier zu spielen" [Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments], which has been an invaluable guide to performance practice in the revival of baroque music.

In 1768 Bach moved to Hamburg, and his later compositions gradually moved away from baroque idioms, cultivating the "empfindsamer Stil" [sensitive style] that was a harbinger of the Romantic movement. Even in his early "Prussian" and "Württemberg" sets of keyboard sonatas (1740-42), he was interested in developing the art of expressing personal feelings, and for this reason his favorite instrument was the delicate clavichord rather than brilliant harpsichord. Although these views departed substantially from his father's teachings, he continued to respect his heritage and to defend him publicly against criticism. His mastery of counterpoint, learned from his father, is apparent even in his later music.

Nicholas Temperley


BACH, Johann Sebastian (1685–1750): Johann Sebastian Bach stands among the most universally venerated musicians of the Baroque or any age. Yet he never traveled beyond the borders of his German homeland, and received virtually no formal training in music theory, composition, or performance.

He was born in Eisenach, Thuringia, on March 21, 1685, the last of eight children of J. Ambrosius and Maria Elisabetha Bach. In that area "Bach" was synonymous with "musician," as at least six generations of his family distinguished themselves as composers, organists, cantors, and town pipers. By the age of ten Sebastian was orphaned. He was sent to Ohrdruf to live with his brother, Johann Christoph Bach, 14 years his senior, who provided him rudimentary keyboard training. At age 15 he entered the Michaelisschule in Lüneburg, where he was exposed to the music of northern Germany, especially Hamburg, Lübeck, and Celle.

By 1703 Bach was seeking professional work. His first position was as church organist in Arnstadt. His earliest compositions, the long-forgotten (until 1984) Neumeister chorales for organ, most probably date from this period, as does the first of his seven keyboard toccatas. Due to his restless and impatient spirit, Bach was soon dissatisfied, and in 1707 relocated to Mühlhausen, an appointment that lasted only one year, but saw both the composition of his first cantata, "Gott ist mein König," and also his marriage to second cousin Maria Barbara Bach.

In 1708 the Bachs were off to Weimar, to accept the prestigious position as court organist and chamber musician to the Duke of Weimar. During the next nine years Bach composed most of his organ works and several of his secular and sacred cantatas. He and Maria Barbara had their first six (of seven) children in Weimar.

Bach became kapellmeister [director of music] at Cöthen in 1717, to provide music for the court of Prince Leopold. Curiously, these six years are seen as Bach's happiest, even though his earnest dedication to church music was not called upon. Instead, he concentrated on orchestral and chamber music — notably the Brandenburg concertos, the orchestral suites, the unaccompanied sonatas and partitas (suites) for violin and cello, and the first volume of the "Well-Tempered Clavier," designed in part to demonstrate the advantages of temperament. Bach continued his lifelong avocations as virtuoso recitalist. and as expert consultant to pipe organ builders. After the death of Maria Barbara in 1720, Sebastian married Anna Magdalena Wilcken. She bore him 13 children. Several of the Bach offspring died in childhood, and only nine survived their father. No direct descendants lived into the twentieth century.

In 1723 Bach was appointed cantor of the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, where he also served as the city's director of music. This post included teaching music and Latin classes, coordinating the music at four parish churches and the university chapel, and providing ceremonial music for civic and state occasions. Many of Bach's tasks were frustrated by pragmatic aldermen, irreverent schoolboys, unappreciative clergy, and his own perfectionist nature. Nevertheless in Leipzig he composed some 200 cantatas for Sunday performance in St. Thomas and St. Nicolai churches and his longer choral pieces: the St. John Passion, St. Matthew Passion, Magnificat, Ascension and Easter Oratorios, and parts of the Mass in B Minor. He also wrote and performed light-hearted music for a town-gown ensemble (Collegium Musicum), for evenings at Zimmermann's Coffee House.

In his last years Bach revised and compiled many of his earlier works, as in the great eighteen Leipzig organ chorales and the six cantatas of the "Christmas Oratorio." Many compositions of these years serve to sum up his views of music theory as well as his consummate compositional skill: volume two of the "Well-Tempered Clavier," an organ mass, keyboard partitas (suites), the "Goldberg" Variations, the "Musical Offering," the "Art of Fugue," and the Mass in B Minor. These compositions remain the grandest monuments of Baroque music.

Johann Sebastian Bach died in Leipzig on July 28, 1750, due to complications of eye surgery. Buried originally at St. John's Church, his remains now lie beneath St. Thomas Church.

John S. Setterlund


BLOW, John (1649–1708): John Blow was born at Newark, Nottinghamshire, in 1648. He was the most important composer among the English contemporaries of Henry Purcell. He died at Westminster on Octoner 1, 1708.

Trained as a boy chorister in the Chapel Royal choir, Blow by his mid-20s was one of the best musicians in England. He became a "gentleman" [male singer] of the Chapel Royal in 1674, and within months was placed in charge of the musical training of its choristers; the same year saw his appointment as composer-in-ordinary for the King Charles II's "Private Music." He served as organist of both Westminster Abbey (appointed 1668) and the Chapel Royal (1676). A new post, Composer for the Chapel Royal, was established for him in 1700; he retained this, his other royal appointments, and the Abbey organist position until his death in 1708.

With music for church, court, and paying public, Blow's compositional output is substantial. He wrote anthems (both old-fashioned "full" anthems and new-fangled "symphony" anthems with string accompaniment), motets (for private devotions), ceremonial odes for special occasions, songs (solos, duets, trios), a court masque ("Venus and Adonis," a seminal influence on Purcell's "Dido and Aeneas"), harpsichord suites, organ voluntaries (some of the most substantive of the period), and instrumental chamber music. His music enlivened the coronations of James II (1685), William & Mary (1689), and Anne (1702).

An Ode on the Death of Mr Henry Purcell ("Mark how the lark and linnet sing") is scored for two countertenors, two recorders, and basso continuo. A setting of an allegorical poem by John Dryden, this evocative piece of vocal chamber music is a fit memorial to Blow's colleague and friend, whose untimely death affected him profoundly.

J. Mark Baker


BROSSARD, Seacute;bastien de (1655–1730): Sébastien de Brossard, the first French music lexicographer, was born at Dompierre and baptized September 12, 1655. A priest by vocation, a musician by avocation, and an assiduous book collector, he combined these interests in a lifetime of service to the church. He died at Meaux August 1, 1730 and was buried in the cathedral there.

Brossard was the last of a family of glass-blowers who traced their ancestry back to Philip the Bold in the 13th century. He received formal training in philosophy and theology at Caen and became a sub-deacon in 1676, meanwhile beginning self-study to learn about music theory. To this end, he copied manuscripts, learned to play the lute, and began composing music for his instruments. Some time before 1678, he moved to Paris, where presumably he served as a priest. In 1687 he was installed as a vicar at Strasbourg Cathedral, where he soon became maître de chapelle [director of music]. Here he composed music both sacred, for the cathedral, and secular, for an academy which he founded and where he conducted operas, ballets, and other secular music. While at Strasbourg he also began his collection of music books and scores which grew to an impressive and valuable personal library. In 1698 Brossard succeeded Pierre Tabart as maître de chapelle at Meaux Cathedral, a position he retained until his retirement as an active musician in 1715. Thereafter, he devoted his efforts to literary pursuits and was in demand as an authority on music theory.

Brossard's music was seldom performed outside its intended venues, but his "Dictionnaire de Musique" (Paris, 1701) brought him considerable recognition. The wide range of music he encountered in Strasbourg was influential in his compositions, particularly that of Lully and Vivaldi.


BRUNA, Pablo (1611–1679): Pablo Bruna, born in Daroca in the province of Zaragoza, Spain, was known as one of the foremost organists of his time. Blinded in childhood by smallpox, he became organist of the collegiate church of Santa Maria, Daroca, in 1636, and rose to the position of choirmaster in 1671.

His surviving music is modest in scope, consisting mainly of tientos for organ. Some are severely contrapuntal. Others exploit the particular features of the Spanish organ: the horizontal trumpet pipes, and the divided keyboard allowing a contrast between tune and accompaniment.

Nicholas Temperley


BUXTEHUDE, Dieterich (c1637–1707): Little is known about Dieterich Buxtehude's early life, but it is likely that he was born in Helsingborg, Denmark around the year 1637. He is the most important of the North German school of organist-composers of the 17th century. He died at Lübeck on May 9, 1707.

Largely educated by his father, Buxtehude became an accomplished organist and took his first post in Helsingborg, Denmark, when he was about twenty years old. When Franz Tunder died, Buxtehude auditioned for the prestigious position of organist at the Marienkirche of Lübeck in northern Germany. He was granted the job in 1668 and held it until his death.

During his time in Lübeck, one of Buxtehude's most important contributions was the creation of the concert series known as the Abendmusiken [Musical Evenings]. Often considered to be equivalent to operas of the time, Buxtehude's Abendmusik concerts became famous throughout northern Germany. In 1705–6 young J.S. Bach made a pilgrimage to Lübeck to meet Buxtehude and to attend the concert series. Originally planning to stay for about four weeks, it is reported that Bach remained in Lübeck for about four times as long and attended the Abendmusik concert commemorating the death of Emperor Leopold I and the accession of Joseph I.

As organist and overseer of all church musical activities, Buxtehude was required to composed in several genres. He composed many organ chorales that were intended to be played as preludes to congregational singing of the hymns. These settings, which often featured only one statement of the ornamented chorale melody in the top voice, have become widely known in recent decades. Equally important are his monumental organ works alternating brilliant virtuosity with learned counterpoint: in this category fall his great toccatas, preludes, and fugues. In addition, Buxtehude composed 114 sacred vocal works, including cantatas and motets, 10 secular vocal works, 19 keyboard suites, and various chamber works.

Laura Neff


CABANILLES, Juan Bautista José (1644–1712): Cabanilles is perhaps the most important Spanish composer of the 17th century. Born at Algemes in 1644, he devoted his life to the service of the cathedral at nearby Valencia, where he died on Aprtil 29, 1712.

As was required of the principal organist at Valencia, he was ordained priest. He was highly regarded by contemporaries for his organ playing and his compositions, and something of that fame has persisted until the present time. Although he was in touch with recent international developments in music, especially those in Italy, his style was still based on the Renaissance idiom so bly endorsed by the Roman Catholic Church.

He left a mass setting and several other choral works, but he is best known today for his organ music, most of which is in the form of the tiento. These were pieces in an improvisatory style, moving freely between counterpoint, slow chords, and virtuoso material. He was particular interested in the "tiento de falsas," a special type that depended on holding certain notes of a chord over to the next beat ("suspension") in order to create dissonance ("falsas"), often harsh, against the new harmony. Others are batallas (battle pieces), exploiting the horizont

al trumpet pipes that are a unique feature of Spanish organs. He also developed the passacalles (Italian passacaglia), a series of variations on a repeating bass.

Nicholas Temperley


CARISSIMI, Giacomo (1605–1674): Carissimi was born in Marini, near Rome, in 1605. He was the most important composer in mid-17th-century Rome, and is considered to be the father of the oratorio. He died in Rome on January 12, 1674.

After directing music at several churches, he was appointed maestro di cappella [director of music] at the German College in Rome in 1629, and was ordained to the priesthood in 1637. At the college Carissimi trained the choirs and taught counterpoint and composition to selected students. He was also responsible for providing liturgical music for the adjoining chapel. In 1655-6 Queen Christina of Sweden, exiled in Rome, also began to patronize his work.

Unlike the majority of composers throughout the centuries, Carissimi was financially stable and had the luxury of turning down jobs, several of them quite prestigious. One of these passed-over career changes was for the position of music director at St Mark's cathedral in Venice upon Monteverdi's death in 1643. He also declined an offer to enter the service of the Emperor's son in Vienna, choosing instead to remain in Rome.

Carissimi's most important cotributions are his Latin oratorios, settings for voices and figured bass (generally with strings as well) of poems on sacred stories. The best-known today are "Jephte" [Jephtha] and the miniature "Judicium Salomonis" [The Judgment of Solomon]. He also wrote hundreds of motets, as well as Italian-language cantatas and oratorios, masses, and other sacred works.

Carissimi died a wealthy man after 44 years at the German College. He bequeathed some of his wealth to the college by funding two chaplaincies for priests and salaries for two sopranos. He also left all his compositions to the college. In 1674 the Jesuit superiors at the college, realizing the value of their deceased maestro's music, obtained a papal brief from Clement X that threatened excommunication to anyone who dared to remove any of Carissimi's manuscripts.

Laura Neff


CEREROLS, Joan (1618–1676): Joan Cererols was a Catalan composer who spent his whole professional life at the monastery of Montserrat, near Barcelona, as choirboy, then novice, and finally monk. He played many instruments including the organ, and was probably the director of music at the monastery.

Montserrat was a conservative center that continued to promote the older polyphonic style of music. Cererols wrote a number of Latin masses, hymns, and psalm settings for the church. He excelled in music for two or three four-voice choirs: a supreme example is his "Missa da Batalla" [Battle Mass] for three choirs and continuo, which uses a great variety of contrasts between single voices, duets and trios, and whole choirs, and also exploits rhythmic devices such as syncopation. Cererols also produced a number of works in Spanish, in the form of the villancico, a variant of the Italian cantata making use of popular songs with refrains. Some are sacred, others secular.

Nicholas Temperley


CHAMBONNIÈRES, Jacques Champion de (1601/2–1672): Jacques Champion, sieur de Chambonnières, was born in Paris in 1601 or 1602 of a family of court musicians. He succeeded his father as spinet player to the court in 1643, and was highly influential until intrigues caused his retirement in 1662. He died at Paris in 1672.

Chambonnières was the senior member of an influential group of clavecinistes [harpsichordists] that included Louis Couperin and D'Angelbert among them. Much of his highly-praised music is lost. About 150 pieces remain, all in the form of dances, and they showan elegant command of the style brisé as well as a refined melodic sense.

Nicholas Temperley


CLARKE, Jeremiah (c1673–1707): Jeremiah was born in London around 1673. He was one of the principal English composers of the mid-Baroque period. He took his own life in London on December 1, 1707.

Clarke became a chorister of the Chapel Royal at an early age and a pupil of John Blow. He served as organist for Winchester College from 1692-5. In 1699 he was appointed a vicar-choral [choir singer] at St. Paul's Cathedral, London, eventually becoming joint organist of the Chapel in 1704..

Clarke composed services and anthems for St. Paul's as well as psalms and hymns for parish-church use. He also provided instrumental music for plays and other stage works., and several of his keyboard compositions were included in The Harpsichord Master of 1702. In 1695 Clarke composed a piece of ceremonial music to honor Henry Purcell's death ("Come, come along for a dance and a song") . The connection with Purcell does not end here, for Clarke's best-known work is a

Trumpet Voluntary that until recently was regarded as having been written by Purcell. Clarke titled the piece "The Prince of Denmark's March," both in its original form as a harpsichord piece and in an arrangement for wind instruments.

Laura Neff


CORELLI, Arcangelo (1653-1713) : Corelli was born February 17, 1653, at Fusignano in northern Italy, the youngest of five children. His compositions, though few, were enormously influential throughout Europe, and he can be regarded as the founder of the "classical" style of the baroque sonata and concerto. He died January 8, 1713 in Rome, where he had lived most of his adult life.

Corelli's formal studies began in 1666, in the famous school of violin playing centered at S. Petronio Cathedral in Bologna. His principal violin teachers was Giovanni Benvenuti. the new compositional technique of tonality: By 1675, he had moved to Rome. At this time, the violin family had virtually superseded the viols in solo and concerted playing, and Corelli became one of the first virtuoso violinists. In addition to composing for his instrument, he also expanded his technique through his teaching and performance by the use of double stops and various bowings across multiple strings.

Queen Christina of Sweden was one of his early employers, and to her he dedicated his Opus 1, a collection of 12 trio sonatas of the "sonata da chiesa" [church sonata] type. These were published in 1681 and became very popular. All of Corelli's published compositions benefited from the greatly expanded access to published music afforded by the change from printing to engraving that took place during his lifetime.

While continuing in the Queen's service from time to time, Corelli became in 1687 the music master to Cardinal Pamphili, to whom he had dedicated his Opus 2 years earlier. Along with his assistant, former pupil, and lifetime companion Matteo Forhari, he moved into the Cardinal's palace and there, in addition to performing and composing, he supervised the very popular Sunday Academies. He retired from solo performing in 1708 but continued with other musical occupations until his death.

As a composer, Corelli was both a synthesizer and an innovator. He enlarged the older cycle-of-fifths method of modulation to one in which sequences of chords could also gravitate to a desired key, thus establishing a stable system of tonality which was to last for more than two centuries. His total published catalogue comprises just six sets of works, each a collection of 12 sonatas (Op. 1–5) or 12 concertos (Op. 6) for stringed instruments with basso continuo. The sonatas retained a clear distinction between "sonata da chiesa" and "sonata da camera" [chamber sonata]. In the concertos he set the standard for the concerto grosso form: an alternation between a large ensemble (the ripieno) and three solo instruments (the concertino). Among the most frequently performed of all these works today is the G minor Concerto Grosso, Op.6, No.8: the Christmas Concerto ("Concerto fatto per la notte di Natale"). However, during his lifetime and for years thereafter, all were performed and studied as exemplars of the forms they represented. They were models for the sonatas and concertos of Vivaldi, Telemann, Bach, Handel, and many others.


COUPERIN, François (1668–1733): One of the greatest French composers of the era, François Couperin was born in Paris on November 10, 1668, and died there on September 12, 1733.

He came from a prominent family of musicians who enjoyed the patronage of the French court; his uncle Louis Couperin was an important composer of keyboard music. François studied organ and harpsichord, most likely under the tutelage of his father. When he was ten years old his father died, and he began studying with the court organist Jacques Thomelin. In 1685 he took over the post of organist at the church of St. Gervais, Paris, that was once held by his uncle and then by his father.

In 1690 Couperin was granted his first royal privilege to print and sell his music. He used this to publish his "Pièces d'orgue," in multiple handwritten copies with a printed title page. It consisted of his two organ masses. The favor of King Louis XIV assured him financial stability. He often served as a court chamber musician and harpsichord tutor for the royal family.

Couperin was one of the leading harpsichordist of the day, and his most important compositions are his pieces for harpsichord, arranged in 27 ordres which he published in four books between 1713 and 1730. Though the ordres can be called dance suites, they are far more varied and free in their contents than the suites of Handel, let alone Bach, and include a number of programmatic pieces with fanciful titles, as well as thinly disguised thumbnail sketches of ladies of the court. In 1717 Couperin was appointed maître de clavecin du roi [harpsichord master to the king] for the recently crowned boy king, Louis XV.

Couperin also wrote some 40 sacred motets, several secular vocal works, and numerous instrumental works. The latter include his "Concerts royaux" [Royal Concertos] (for harpsichord and flute, violin, oboe, viol, or bassoon 1722) and his "Nouveaux concerts" [New Concertos] for unspecified instruments (1724). In 1716 he published an influential theoretical treatise, "L'Art de toucher le clavecin" [The Art of Playing the Harpsichord].

Sadly, there was much more of Couperin's music that was not published and no longer survives today. In 1733 Couperin he was granted ten more years of publishing privilege, but died before sending his works to press. His family did not take advantage of the opportunity and many pieces were left unpublished and have since disappeared.

Laura Neff


COUPERIN, Louis (c1626-1661): Louis Couperin was born at Chaumes-en-Brie, France, about 1626. He was a player of both viol and harspichord and an important composer for the latter instrument. He died at Paris on August 29, 1661.

He was the first Couperin to hold the post of organist at the church of St. Gervais, Paris, and a member of a sophisticated group of clavecinistes [harspichordists], led by Chambonnières, who served the court of King Louis XIV. He left several hundred dances and other pieces for harpsichord or organ, all of them in manuscript. Many have an extraordinarily individual character, especially his chaconnes and fantasias. He contributed to the development of the style brisé, and to the expressive use of counterpoint and ornaments. Of special interest are his sixteen "unmeasured preludes," which set out a series of pitches in whole notes, leaving the player to choose the rhythms and durations of the notes.

Couperin also composed fantasias for two viols and for larger ensembles of strings and woodwinds.

Nicholas Temperley


D'ANGLEBERT, Jean Henry (1629–1691): Jean Henry D'Anglebert was baptized April 1, 1629 at Bar-le-Duc, France, the son of a well-to-do shoemaker. An important contributor to the French clavecin school, he spent most of his life in Paris and died there April 23, 1691.

Though there is no record of D'Anglebert's early musical training, manuscripts from the 1650s show that he had by then become associated with Louis Couperin and Chambonnières (the latter quite possibly his former teacher) as a composer and harpsichordist in Paris. Beginning in 1660 he was employed as a court musician with duties both as performer and composer. On the death of Chambonnières in 1672, he succeeded him as harpsichordist ot the King. He arranged many arias and even overtures from Lully's operas for harpsichord performance. The overtures in particular foreshadowed the first movements of the expanded keyboard suites of Bach and Handel.

In 1689, D'Anglebert published his masterwork, the "Pièces de clavecin". These harpsichord pieces are especially fine examples of the grand style and expressiveness in music of the French harpsichord school, while his organ pieces display D'Anglebert's mastery of counterpoint. Also included in the publication is a primer on continuo playing, and its glossary of ornaments became a model for composers of the next generation. Even J.S. Bach copied them out as he began to compile his own system of ornamentation.


FASCH, Johann Friedrich (1688–1758): Johann Friedrich Fasch was born near Weimar on April 15, 1688, a descendant of Lutheran clergymen and church musicians. Although overlooked for over a century, his significance as a composer has more recently been recognized. He died at Zerbst on December 5, 1758.

Fasch received his early training as a boy soprano in choir schools, then from 1701 at the Thomasschule in Leipzig. He began composing without formal training, but as a student at the University of Leipzig he became familiar with new French and Italian musical styles which influenced his own musical development. Encouraged by a commission from the Duke of Saxe-Zeist to write some operas for the Naumburg Peter-Paul festivals in 1711–12, he set out to broaden his education by an extended trip through Germany.

In 1722 Fasch became court kapellmeister [director of music] at Zerbst, which remained his home for the rest of his life. He was twice invited to apply for the post of Kantor at St. Thomas in Leipzig, to which Bach was eventually appointed, but along with his friend Telemann, who was also offered the post, he declined. Fasch's travels earned him friendships with other court musicians with whom he often exchanged compositions for performance purposes. Thus his works were known in Dresden, Hamburg, Cöthen and even Prague and Vienna, but none were ever published.

Most of his vocal works, including 9 cantata cycles, 14 masses and 4 operas, have been lost, but many instrumental pieces remain. His concertos follow the compositional style of Vivaldi, but his orchestrations, particularly in the use of wind instruments to emphasize string parts, point toward the coming Classical style. Fasch is considered to have anticipated the transition from the baroque contrapuntal idiom of Bach to the homophonic idiom of Haydn and Mozart.


FRESCOBALDI, Girolamo (1583–1643): Born in Ferrara, Italy, in 1583, Girolamo Frescobaldi was an accomplished keyboardist who holds a central position in the early baroque era as a composer for organ and harpsichord. He died at Rome on March 1, 1643.

He was a student of Luzzaschi. He was named organist at the Accademia della Morte at the age of 14. Sometime soon after this appointment he acquired the wealthy cleric Guido Bentivoglio as his patron. Through this patronage he was able to travel to Rome, where he enrolled in the Accademia di S. Cecilia in 1604 and held an organist job at S. Maria Trastevere. In 1608 he was appointed organist of St. Peter's, Rome.

By 1615 Frescobaldi left the service of the Bentivoglio family and spent the next several years engaged in composition. During this fruitful time he composed two books of toccatas, sets of ricercars, and various canzonas. He also worked at the Vatican, and with his new patrons, the Aldobrandini family. From 1628 to 1634 he worked for the Medici family in Florence and experimented with song composition, writing strophic songs, through-composed madrigals, and stile rappresentativo compositions in his two books of "Arie musicali." He then returned to his former post at St. Peter's. His last and most famous publication, "Fiori musicali" [Musical Flowers] (1635), consists entirely of sacred keyboard compositions, arranged in the order in which they would occur in a celebration of the Mass.

Frescobaldi's principal legacy is his keyboard music. It continued with his numerous students, including Giovanni Battista Ferrini and Johann Jakob Froberger. Johann Sebastian Bach is reported to have copied out Frescobaldi's liturgical organ music from the Fiori musicali as part of his own compositional studies.

Laura Neff


FROBERGER, Johann Jacob (1616–1667): Froberger was born at Stuttgart, Germany, in 1616. He was the most important German composer for the harpsichord in the 17th century. He died at Héricourt, France, on May 6/7, 1667.

Froberger became court organist to the Emperor at Vienna in 1637, but travelled widely. He took lessons from Frescobaldi in Rome, then went to Brussels, Paris and London. In 1658 he gave up his court post and moved to Héricourt, as private harpsichordist to his patron and pupil Princess Sibylla of Württemberg-Montbéliard.

Froberger left a quantity of keyboard music, including canzonas and ricercars in the style of Frescobaldi as well as dance suites and character-pieces of the French school led by Chambonnières. He was famous for his laments and tombeaus. He was partly responsible for establishing the standard order of dances making up the typical German keyboard suite: allemande, courante, sarabande, gigue. His influence can still be discerned in the work of Bach.

Nicholas Temperley


GABRIELI, Giovanni (c1555–1612): Giovanni Gabrieli, nephew of Andrea Gabrieli (c1533–1585), was essentially a late-Renaissance composer, born at Venice about 1555, and dying there in 1612.

He was, however, a pioneer of the sacred concerto, which was to be a significant feature of both Catholic and Lutheran sacred music of the 17th century. In particular he was the first important composer to exploit the spatial effects of separated groups of voices and instruments, which he could conveniently explore in the cathedral of St. Mark, Venice, where he was made organist in 1585. His two volumes of Sacrae symphoniae (1597, 1615) were particularly important, and he had a great influence on Schütz and other German composers.

Nicholas Temperley


GREENE, Maurice (1696–1755): Maurice Greene was born at London on 12 August 1696. He was one of the leading English-born composers of his time, and died at London on 1 December 1755.

The son of a clergyman, Greene was a chorister of St. Paul's cathedral, and after holding organists' posts at several London churches he became organist of St. Paul's in 1718. He became also organist and composer to the Chapel Royal in 1727, professor of music at Cambridge University in 1730, and Master of the King's Music in 1735. As a young man he was a friend of Handel's, though later on their relationship cooled.

Greene composed music in many fields including odes, oratorios, and secular songs, but he is best known for his anthems, of which he published forty in 1743. Though they bear a natural resemblance to the work of Handel, they also possess an individual character that was Greene's own, tending towards the melancholy rather than the spectacular. Greene was a master in the setting of biblical English texts.

Nicholas Temperley


HANDEL, George Frideric (1685–1759): Handel was born in Halle, Saxony, on February 23, 1685, the second child of Georg and Dorothea Taust Händel. Georg Friedrich ultimately anglicized his name, dropping the umlaut while retaining the original pronunciation of his surname. His father, a barber-surgeon, guided him into the study of law and discouraged any musical interests. Nevertheless young George developed as a competent keyboard artist, and by 1694 was studying with Wilhelm Zachow (1663–1712) in Halle. Serving as church organist, Handel learned theory, choral writing, improvisation, and composition. Unfortunately a notebook of his earliest works, dating from 1698 and accompanying Handel throughout his life, is lost. At the age of 17 Handel was appointed organist at the Halle cathedral, where he composed organ pieces, chamber music, and cantatas — all this while studying law at the local university.

However, by 1703 he was lured to Hamburg. He renounced law, to pursue the organ, harpsichord, and violin. While performing in church and in opera orchestras, he composed his first opera, Almira (1705), part-German, part-Italian. So began a long series of operas, the later ones composed to wholly Italian texts. This new-found interest drew Handel to Italy the following year. Soon playing the organ in the cathedral of St. John Lateran, Rome, he was admired and befriended by the great composers of Rome and Venice.

In 1710 he left Italy. After a brief interval as kapellmeister [director of music] to the Elector of Hanover, soon to become King George I of England, Handel settled in London. Before long the Londoners were dazzled by his keyboard virtuosity and his operas, beginning with Rinaldo (1711), the first Italian opera composed expressly for London. Within a few years he was completely "at home" in London, and rose to the top of its musical hierarchy, becoming a popular figure in the cathedral and tavern, as well as the theater. One opera after another, eventually nearly 40 of them, kept Handel in the limelight, sought out by the public and the nobility. He became resident composer to the Duke of Chandos in 1717, for whom he wrote the 11 "Chandos Anthems." A famous work of this period is the Water Music (1717), written to accompany a formal procession of the royal barges down the Thames.

Handel's operas remained in high fashion until 1728, when John Gay's "The Beggar's Opera," an English-language comedy, stole the show. After that, the popularity of Italian operas began to wane. Handel continued to produce wonderful new operas, but struggled to maintain ticket sales, critical acclaim, and his own health. During the late 1730s and the 1740s he turned his efforts to writing oratorios: operas recast into unstaged concert pieces on religious and secular themes, sung in English. Meanwhile his anthems for the coronation of George II (1727) enhanced his fame.

Towering above all his composition in the minds and hearts of succeeding generation is his "sacred oratorio," Messiah. It was first performed at Dublin in 1742, and, though at first treated with caution on account of its unconventional subject, it eventually received great critical and popular approval. Some of Handel's later performances of this work were held at the Foundling Hospital, for which he also composed an anthem, and he bequeathed the royalties on Messiah to the charity.

Despite failing eyesight, Handel struggled to revive, produce, and even conduct his earlier works, some of which were becoming old favorites, many destined as classics for the ages to come. Following unsuccessful eye surgery in 1758, he fainted during a performance of Messiah and died on April 14, 1759. Three thousand attended his funeral in Westminster Abbey, where he is buried.

In the decades that followed his standing with the British public steadily rose to the point where he was considered "Britain's national composer." His lasting reputation was founded chiefly on his oratorios and ceremonial choral music, but his operas have been successfully staged in recent decades, and there is growing appreciation of his cantatas, keyboard music, concerti grossi, and organ concertos.

John S. Setterlund


JACCHINI, Giuseppe Maria (1667–1727): Jacchini was born July 16, 1667 at Bologna. He was one of the first composers to write important solo music for the violoncello. He died at Bologna on May 2, 1727.

Jacchini's life as a cellist, composer, and minor cleric was centered around the activities of the basilica of San Petronio and the musicians of its famous music school. He probably received early musical training as a choir boy there. He became well known for his fine cello playing in both church and theater, particularly for his creative realization of continuo parts in accompanying singers. He became a member of Bologna's Academia Filarmonica in 1688, and in 1689 began a lifelong tenure as a cellist at San Petronio. In later years, he also served as maestro di cappella [director of music] in the Collegio dei Nobili and at the church of San Luigi in Bologna.

Jacchini's compositions were generally intended for performance by ensembles in which he played, and comprised both sacred music for liturgical services and secular pieces to accompany festal occasions. His sonatas and concertos followed structural forms initiated by the Bologna school, and followed notably by Torelli and Albinoni at Bologna and by Corelli in Rome, in which fast movements often required small ensembles or soloists for playing short passages in alternation with the larger ripieno group. Jacchini became famous for such sonatas featuring the trumpet or violin, often with obbligato or solo cello parts as well. His Op.4 (1701), dedicated to his patron Count Pirro Albergati, comprised a set of ten concertos, six of which include cello obbligato passages. Such interludes became more and more similar to those for solo trumpet or violin in Jacchini's compositions. They required cello technique far beyond that expected for continuo playing, indicating his own growth as a virtuoso cellist. In a period when the cello was still considered only an instrument for enhancing bass parts in concerted playing, Jacchini was among the first to demonstrate its solo capabilities.


LULLY, Jean-Baptiste (1632–1687): Jean-Baptiste Lully was born Giovanni Battista Lulli in Florence, Italy, in 1632. He became the founder of the French school of opera. He died at Paris on March 22, 1687.

As a boy he was taken to France after his mother's death to serve as "garçon de chambre" [page boy] and Italian conversationalist in the household of the Duchesse de Montpensier, a powerful courtier. Lully received lessons in guitar, violin and dance, attracting the notice of King Louis XIV, and eventually gained a prestigious position at court.

After his patroness was sent into exile because of her involvement in the political movement called the Fronde, Lully was free to pursue his interests in composition and dance. On March 16, 1653 he succeeded Lazarini as instrumental music composer to the King, and later took control of the "petits violons," a 16-member string ensemble that played for the king's meals. Beginning in 1657 he collaborated with the dramatist Isaac de Benserade in creating a series of ballets de cour [court ballets]. In all, Lully composed over 30 ballets. He continued to enjoy royal favor and became a naturalized French citizen in 1661.

In the next phase of his production of dramatic music, between 1664 and 1671 Lully collaborated with Molière on a series of comédies-ballets which are still in the repertoire as spoken plays, but are rarely performed with Lully's incidental songs and dances. They include Le Mariage forcé [The Forced Marriage] (1664) and Le Bourgeois gentilhomme [The Middle-Class Aristocrat] (1670).

Finally, Lully was granted a monopoly to present a fully-fledged, five-act operas (tragédie-lyriques) on stories drawn from classical mythology. When the founder of the Academy of Poetry and Music was jailed for outstanding debts, Lully offered to pay his debts (and a pension) for the right to control the academy. In March of 1672 he opened the Royal Academy of Music, which allowed him to secure royal patents granting him sole rights to productions of opera.

On the basis of techniques learned from his work with Molière, Lully developed the genre that was virtually the beginning of serious French opera, the tragédie-lyrique. These works, thirteen in all, remained popular throughout Europe through most of the 18th century, and have recently been successfully revived on stage. They are characterized by a b declamatory style, lyrical songs and dances, and a rich accompaniment for five-part strings.

When Louis XIV became ill in 1686 Lully honored him with a performance of his Te Deum. During the performance Lully stabbed his foot with his large conducting stick (with which he normally beat time on the floor) and, against doctor's orders, refused to have his toe amputated. He died of gangrene a few days later.

Laura Neff


MONTEVERDI, Claudio (1567–1643): Monteverdi was born at Cremona on May 15, 1567. A seminal figure in the history of Western music, he has been called the "Creator of Modern Music." He died at Venice on November 29, 1643.

He studied music under Marco Antonio Ingegneri, the music director of the local cathedral. He entered the service of the Duke of Mantua, Vincenzo Gonzaga, in 1590, becoming head of the ducal chapel in 1602. In 1613, he took up the prestigious post of maestro di cappella [director of music] at St. Mark's Cathedral, Venice, and remained there until his death thirty years later.

Monteverdi was a truly progressive composer who used the modern principles of monody (seconda prattica), but who was equally eager to use the contrapuntal techniques of the prima prattica when it suited his purpose. He also invented what he called the stile concitato to create a dramatic effect, or to convey the hidden tremors of the soul. Above all, Monteverdi wanted to make his music express the emotional content of the poetry. "The text," he stated emphatically, "should be the master of the music, not the servant."

He excelled in nearly all the major genres of the period. His operas take the monodic experiments of the earlier Florentine Camerata and develop them further, creating potent ways of structuring drama and expressing its action through music. His sacred music combines the old cantus firmus style and the new operatic manner to create a unique effect. Likewise, his secular vocal music is varied in style. And though he composed little or no independent instrumental pieces, his writing for instruments is strikingly innovative.

The eight books of madrigals published between 1587 and 1638 are virtually a compendium of all the current musical styles. The first four books represent the late-Renaissance type, with great attention to the colorful depiction of individual words. In the fifth (1605), figured-bass accompaniment is introduced, freeing the voices from maintaining a continuous texture. The seventh book (1619), titled "Concerto," brings in melodic instruments as well, as in the duet "Chiome d'oro" ["Golden curls"], which uses both strophic variation and a threefold ritornello between verses. Monteverdi reused this musical material much later for a six-voice psalm setting, "Beatus vir" (1640). The eighth book (1638) includes stage pieces such as the "Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda" [Fight between Tancred and Clorinda] (performed 1624) and "Lamento della Ninfa" [Nymph's Lament] (1629). The central battle action of the Combattimento, a cantata-like dialogue madrigal, is largely portrayed by stile concitato string writing.

On a larger scale, Monteverdi is celebrated for his operas, of which only three survive in complete form: L'Orfeo [Orpheus] (1607), Il Ritorno di Ulisse in Patria [The Return of Ulysses to his Homeland] (1639), and L'Incoronazione di Poppea [The Coronation of Poppea] (1642). Another great work was the Vespers of 1610, which again combines many styles in an extraordinarily original series of movements, planned for large forces.

Monteverdi's oeuvre was a summing up of both the late Renaissance and the early Baroque. Living on the cusp of two eras, he assimilated the compositional techniques of both and fashioned them into a style uniquely his own, one in which the effective (and affective) expression of human emotions still speaks movingly to us today.

J. Mark Baker


MOURET, Jean-Joseph (1682-1738) : Mouret was born April 11, 1682, the son of an amateur violinist. After a respectable career as a composer and music director in Paris, Mouret died in the care of the Fathers of Charity at Charenton on December 20, 1738.

He was the son of an amateur violinist. It is believed he may have been trained at the choir school of Avignon's Notre Dame des Domes, perhaps during Rameau's short tenure there as organist. By 1707, Mouret had moved to Paris and was employed as ordinaire de la musique [music manager] for the Duke of Maine at Sceaux. Further administrative posts included orchestra director of the Paris Opéra (1714–18), composer-director of the Comédie-Française (1719-1737), and artistic director of the Concert Spirituel (1728-1733).

As a composer, Mouret was particularly active in the theater. His first opera, "Les Fêtes, ou Le triomphe de Thalie," given August 19, 1714 , was controversial in its introduction of comic characters and popular tunes into the august world of the Paris Opéra, but it established Mouret's fame. For the Comédie française theater, Mouret composed about 140 divertissements, and his "Le mariage de Ragonde" (1714) was one of the first true lyric comedies All of these works display a melodic grace for which Mouret achieved considerable acclaim during his lifetime, though they have not survived the test of time.

His non-theatrical compositions apparently had less appeal, though they encompassed a rather wide range of vocal and instrumental forms. The "Suites des symphonies" for small ensemble were specifically orchestrated, a trumpet in D being required in the first suite. In this, as well as in some other compositions, Mouret showed a distinct originality. He was apparently a very personable man and possessed a fine singing voice. However, a series of business difficulties from about 1734 caused him to lose several of his administrative posts and may have hastened the mental deterioration that eventually took his life.


PACHELBEL, Johann (1653–1706): The German composer Johann Pachelbel was born in Nuremberg in 1653 and died there on March 9, 1706. Best known today for his "Canon in D Major," he was in his day famous for works in many genres.

Pachelbel received his education in Nuremberg and, later, in Regensburg. He spent his entire working life as an organist, in court, civic, and ecclesiastical appointments: he had brief stints as court organist at Eisenach (1677-78) and Stuttgart (1690-92); he was the town organist at Gotha (1692-95); he served churches in Vienna (1673-77), Erfurt (1678-90), and his native Nuremberg (1695-1706).

Despite the demands of his duties as an organist, Pachelbel was a prolific composer, writing music for organ, harpsichord, chamber ensemble, choir, and solo voice. His organ music includes some 70 chorales (written as hymn introductions for Erfurt), 95 Magnificat fugues (for Vespers services at Nuremberg), and over 60 non-liturgical compositions such as toccatas, passacaglias, fantasias, and ricercars. For the harpsichord, he wrote 21 suites and more than 15 sets of variations.

Though the body of Pachelbel's extant chamber music is relatively small, scholars believe he may have composed many more works in this genre. The Musicalische Ergötzung [Musical Entertainment], a set of six suites for two violins and continuo, is Pachelbel's most important collection of chamber music. Each suite begins with a sonata, followed by a group of dances. The beguilingly beautiful "Canon" (scored for three violins and bass), with its two-measure ground bass, might be better classified as a passacaglia. Above the repeated bass line, the violins proceed in 28 continuous two-bar variations.

Pachelbel also wrote for the voice: arias, sacred concertos, two masses, and Vespers music. These works illustrate the lucid, uncomplicated style he preferred and, at the same time, exhibit a wider range of dramatic expression than his keyboard music.

J. Mark Baker


PEPUSCH, Johann Christoph (1667–1752): Johann Christoph Pepusch was born in 1667 at Berlin, the son of a protestant minister. He emigrated to London and died there on July 10, 1752.

His early music training included theory as well as violin and keyboard performance. From the age of 14, he was employed at the Prussian court, but becoming disaffected with Prussian army injustices, he emigrated in about 1698 to London, where he lived for the remainder of his life. He was engaged in 1704 as a violist and harpsichordist at Drury Lane. In 1708, he became a violinist and harpsichordist for an opera company at Queen's Theater in the Haymarket, and also served as agent for the soprano Margherita de l'Épine, whom he later married. In 1713, he was awarded the degree of doctor of music from Oxford, and the following year became musical director at Drury Lane Theater, where his compositions included four English masques on classic Greek myths (e.g. "Venus & Adonis") for use in addition to the main production. In 1716, he assumed musical directorship at Lincoln's Inn Fields Theater, where, along with some concurrent employment by the Duke of Chandos at Cannons, he continued to direct stage works and occasional instrumental concerts for about 15 years.

He is best remembered for his association with "The Beggar's Opera," which opened there January 29, 1728, although the only part of the music that was his was the published overture for oboes, strings and continuo: the real creator of the work was the poet John Gay (1685–1732), who wrote a spoken play with new lyrics set to existing popular tunes. This was the first ballad opera.

After the 1732-33 season, Pepusch retired from the theater to pursue other interests. In 1736, he reorganized the Academy of Ancient Music as a music seminary for young boys and the following year, became organist of the Charterhouse. In 1745, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society for which he prepared a paper on "various species and genera of music among the ancients." He was much in demand as a teacher and his extensive personal library of books and music became the property of the Academy after his death. In his earlier years, Pepusch was a prolific composer in many genres; dramatic works, odes, sacred and secular works, and instrumental compositions including over 100 violin sonatas. It is ironic that this scholar, performer, and highly learned composer should be primarily remembered for "The Beggar's Opera," a work displaying quite another kind of genius than his own.


PRAETORIUS, Michael (c1571–1621): Michael Prateorius was born at Creuzberg an der Werra about 1571. He was an influential German theorist, best known today for his chorale settings. He died at Wolfenbüttel on February 15, 1621.

Praetorius was kapellmeister at Wolfenbüttel, and later at Dresden. He thus was well acquainted with Schütz and Scheidt and, like them, played an important part in the elaboration of Lutheran choral music and its absorption of baroque ideas.

He did not create original works on a large scale, but he was a consummate arranger of pre-existing music. His nine-volume Musae Sioniae [Music of Sion] (1605–10) provided treatments of most of the chorales and chants in use in the Lutheran church at the time. Terpsichore (1612) was a collection of arrangements of contemporary dance tunes. Polyhymnia caduceatrix et panegyrica (1619) contained grand sacred concerto settings of Lutheran texts.

His famous treatise, Syntagma musicum [Musical syntax] (1614–18), is a meticulous account, with illustrations, of the instruments, forms, and performance practices of his time. It has been invaluable for scholars of early baroque music.

Nicholas Temperley


PURCELL, Henry (1659–1695): Purcell is considered one of England's greatest composers. He was born in London in 1659, and died there on November 21, 1695, at the age of 36.

His father, also named Henry, was a singer in the choirs of Westminster Abbey and the Chapel Royal. Henry junior was a boy chorister in the Chapel Royal, and his main teachers were John Blow and Christopher Gibbons; Matthew Locke was also a b influence.

In the early part of his career Purcell was chiefly involved with church music. In 1679 he succeeded Blow as organist of Westminster Abbey, and in 1682 he became a "gentleman" [male singer] of the Chapel Royal. In the last years of Charles II's reign he composed many "symphony anthems" [with string accompaniment] for use in the Chapel, such as the popular Bell Anthem, "Rejoice in the Lord alway" (1683). When in 1685 Charles was succeeded by his Roman Catholic brother, James II, this part of Purcell's activities came to a virtual stop, and did not fully revive with the accession of William and Mary (1689). He did, however, continue to compose odes for royal events, as well as the beautiful funeral music for Queen Mary, "Thou knowest, Lord, the secrets of our hearts" (1695).

In 1689 he wrote a miniature opera, "Dido and Aeneas," for a girls' boarding school. From 1690 onwards he was heavily involved in music for the London theaters, composing four full-scale semi-operas, plus incidental music for about 40 spoken plays. He was in great demand as a teacher, and composed much domestic music for keyboard, voice, violins, and viols. But many of his best known songs are taken from his theater music, including the famous Dido's Lament ("When I am laid in earth"). He wrote three Odes for St. Cecilia's Day (for soloists, chorus, and orchestra), and his grand Te Deum and Jubilate of 1694 was also in honor of Cecilia, patron saint of music.

Like other English composers of the time, Purcell was much influenced by French and Italian styles as well as older English traditions. He is noted for strong, distinctive harmonies, for his sensitivity to the rhythms of the English language, and for his partiality to the ground bass. The grand public style of his choral odes and other ceremonial works, such as the 1692 Ode on St. Cecilia's Day ("Hail, bright Cecilia"), was certainly a model for Handel.

Nicholas Temperley


RAMEAU, Jean-Philippe (1683–1764): Rameau was born in Dijon in 1683 and died in Paris on September 12, 1764. Along with Lully and Gluck he is regarded as one of the masters of pre-Revolutionary French opera. A prolific and versatile composer, he made important contributions to the cantata, the motet, and keyboard music. He is also notable for his work as a theorist. The basic foundation of his theories was that music can be reduced to a science. Rameau believed that all music is founded on harmony and that all chords can be derived from the perfect triad. He is credited with the ideas of harmonic inversion and chord roots.

Rameau was initially taught by his father before entering the Jesuit Collège des Godrans. In 1706 he moved to Paris and published his first book of keyboard pieces. During the 1720s Rameau acquired a growing reputation as a composer and teacher and composed his second and third sets of harpsichord pieces. He also published two important theoretical works: Traité de l'harmonie [Treatise on Harmony] (1722) and Un nouveau Système de musique théorique [A New System of Music Theory] (1726).

Though his interest in opera began when he was 12, Rameau's first opera, Hippolyte et Aricie, did not reach the stage until he was fifty years old. This strikingly dramatic opera drew immense acclaim from some and outrage from others (mostly loyal supporters of Lully). Despite criticism for his avant-garde style, his earlier operas were considered to be successful (Les Indes galantes was performed 64 times between 1735 and 1737, and Les Fêtes d'Hébé was given 71 times in 1739-40). He continued to write both traditional tragédies-lyriques and pieces in the newer style of opéra-ballet, almost until his death, and in the 1740s they dominated the Parisian stage.

Rameau also produced many ephemeral writings on music in addition to his theoretical works. Many pamphlets sparked from the notorious "Guerre des bouffons" (the musical and literary dispute waged in Paris between 1752 and 1754 between the proponents of Italian opera buffa and those loyal to the serious French opera). Criticized for not conforming to the changing musical tides, Rameau's works were not widely performed after his death.

Laura Neff


ROSSI, Salomone (c.1570–1628) : Rossi was born in 1570 and died in about 1628, probably in Mantua. He was the only Jewish musician who reached a position of eminence during the baroque period.

He was among the "musici straordinarii" [supplementary musicians] at the Gonzagan Court in Mantua, Italy, where his colleagues included Viadana, Gastoldi and Monteverdi. A viol player, singer, conductor, and composer, he enjoyed favor and was exempted from wearing the shameful yellow badge required of most Jews. Rossi composed instrumental music for the court's theatrical productions and wedding festivities, collaborated with Monteverdi in the composition of music dramas, and was involved in the landmark productions of Il Pastor Fido [The Faithful Shepherd] (1598) and L'Orfeo (1607).

Although less famous than Monteverdi, Rossi was a pioneer of the period. His was the first madrigal volume to be published with a basso continuo part (1602), and for his Sinfonie et Gagliarde [Sinfonias and Galliards] (1607) he is credited with transforming the instrumental canzona into the trio sonata. Rossi's volume of Jewish service music, "Hashirim Asher Lish'lomo" [The Songs of Solomon] (1622–23), is the first music printed with a text in Hebrew, and the only extant collection of Hebrew polyphony published before the nineteenth century. These 33 synagogue motets, in the style of Rossi's Italian contemporaries, included a copyright notice "invoking the curse of the serpent's bite" on anyone who reprinted the music without the composer's consent.

Allison Fromm Entrekin


SCARLATTI, Alessandro (1660–1725): Alessandro Scarlatti was born at Palermo, Italy, on May 2, 1660. He was the most important Italian composer of serious opera in his time. He died in Naples on October 22, 1725.

At the early age of 12 he was sent to Rome as director of music at the church of San Giacomo degli Incurabili. There he was exposed to some of the grandest music of the day. He was soon writing oratorios and he experienced his first success as an opera composer with the short comic opera "Gli equivoci nel sembiante" [meaning roughly "Appearances are Deceptive"] in 1679.

Just one year later Scarlatti was appointed maestro di cappella [director of music] to Queen Christina of Sweden, a leader in Rome's high society at the time, and was also supported by two prominent cardinals. But in 1684 he left Rome to for a court position in Naples (then a Spanish possession). During his 18-year tenure Scarlatti established his personal domination of mid-baroque Neapolitan opera seria, finding success both at home and abroad with Il Pirro e Demetrio [Pyrrhus and Demetrius] (1694) and La Caduta de' Decemviri [The Fall of the Council of Ten] (1697).

In 1702 Scarlatti left Naples for Florence. The War of the Spanish Succession had left him economically insecure, and he grew increasingly unhappy with his position. His hopes of obtaining employment from Prince Ferdinando de' Medici fell through and he was forced to return to Naples and Rome, where the public music theaters had been closed since 1700. Scarlatti turned to composing for various patrons and in 1707 earned the position of maestro di cappella at S. Maria Maggiore.

Scarlatti returned to opera composition in Naples and in 1716 he was granted a patent of nobility from Pope Clement XI. Some of his most successful operas from this period include: Il Tigrane (1715), Il Trionfo dell' onore [The Triumph of Honor] (1718)—his only surviving comic opera, Telemaco (1718), Marco Attilio Regolo (1719), and his last surviving opera, La Griselda (1721).

He wrote an estimated 115 operas, though many of them are lost. He also composed over 600 cantatas, most of them for solo voice and continuo. He wrote in other vocal genres as well, including serenatas, oratorios, Masses, and motets. In most of these genres he was pre-eminent and set the models for the late Baroque period.

Laura Neff


SCARLATTI, Domenico (1685–1757): Domenico Scarlatti was born at Naples on October 26, 1685. He was one of the most original and influential composers of keyboard music in his time. He died at Madrid on July 23, 1757.

Domenico was the sixth child of Alessandro Scarlatti. It is not known exactly how he gained his musical training (though it is likely that at least some of it came from his father), but it appears that he never attended a conservatory.

When Alessandro left Naples for Rome, Domenico took over his father's duties in Naples. While there he composed his first two operas, both in 1703: L'Ottavia ristituita al trono [Octavia Restored to the Throne] and Il Giustino. In 1705 on a trip to Venice (in hopes of securing a post there) Domenico likely met Gasparini, Vivaldi, and Handel. This was not to be his only encounter with Handel. It is reported that in 1708 or early 1709 Scarlatti and Handel engaged in a contest of virtuosity where Handel proved to be master of the organ and Scarlatti prevailed on the harpsichord.

In 1709 Scarlatti entered into the service of Queen Maria Casimira of Poland. In 1717 he petitioned for and gained legal independence from his authoritarian father and escaped to Lisbon as director of music to King João V of Portugal. When his chief pupil, the princess Maria Barbara, was married to Fernando, the heir to the Spanish throne, Scarlatti was allowed to go with her in 1729, and he spent the rest of his life in Spain, though with frequent return visits to Italy.

It was for Maria Barbara's private use that Scarlatti composed most of his 555 sonatas for solo keyboard, which became his most important legacy. They are in one movement, generally in binary form, and a group of them were published in London as Essercizi [Exercises], but most remained in manuscript until recent times. Key relationships have led some scholars to speculate that they were conceived in pairs as two-movement cycles. They are highly individual, with eccentric gestures, irregular phrases and phrase groups, and unusual modulations. Scarlatti also experimented with virtuoso techniques including frequent crossing of the hands, runs in thirds and sixths, leaps wider than an octave, rapid arpeggios, and rapid repeated notes.

Laura Neff


SCHEIDT, Samuel (1587–1654): Born in Halle in 1587, Scheidt was an important member of the first generation of Baroque composers in Germany. He died in Halle on March 24, 1654.

Educated at the local Gymnasium [high school], he became organist at the Moritzkirche in 1604 before traveling to Amsterdam to study with Jan Pieter Sweelinck. He returned to Halle at the end of 1609 to serve as court organist to the new administrator, Christian Wilhelm, Margrave of Brandenburg. His duties included playing the organ for services at the castle chapel or the cathedral as well as providing secular keyboard music. In this post Scheidt had the opportunity to work with two notable musicians, Praetorius and Schütz. He became kapellmeister [director of music] in 1619–20, and published several important works.

The Thirty Years' War had a ruinous effect on Halle and affected Scheidt greatly. He lost his salary, his musicians, and the momentum of his rapidly advancing career. He turned to teaching, until the city created a new post for him in 1628 as musical director of the prominent Marktkirche. But the war continued, and the years to come were devastating for Scheidt. He was released from his post at the Marktkirche and in the span of a month in 1636 he lost all four of his children to the plague. Nevertheless, he continued to compose, and in 1627 the final volume of his major work, the Ludi musici [Musical Games], appeared.

In 1638 peace returned to Halle, and Scheidt was restored to his post as kapellmeister. When the new administrator, Duke August of Saxony, arrived, Scheidt composed the music for the service marking the occasion, including a polychoral Te Deum.

Scheidt distinguished himself in both keyboard and sacred vocal music, combining traditional counterpoint with the new Italian concerto style. The summit of his career as a composer came in the 1620s, when he in quick succession published a collection of motets, Cantiones sacrae (1620); three volumes of instrumental ensemble music (Ludi musici, 1621, 1622, 1624); a volume of large-scale vocal concertos (Concertus sacri, 1622); and his three-volume magnum opus of organ music, the Tabulatura nova [New Tablature] (1624).

Laura Neff


SCHEIN, Johann Hermann (1586–1630): Schein was born in Saxony on January 20, 1586. He was an important predecessor of Bach, both as cantor of the Thomaskirche, Leipzig, and as a gifted composer. He died at Leipzig on November 19, 1630.

Scheidt began his musical career as a boy soprano at the Hofkapelle [private chapel] of the Elector of Saxony. In this curriculum he was exposed to a vast repertory of sacred and secular works in Latin, German and Italian. He went on to study at the University of Leipzig and was then admitted to Schulpforta, a specialized school for students of music and the humanities (it is reported that the students sang motets before and after their meals).

Schein's first significant musical position was in Weimar as kapellmeister [director of music] to Duke Johann Ernst the Younger, starting in 1615. In the following year he accepted the prestigious position of cantor at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig. Like Bach in later times, Schein, in addition to his responsibilities of directing the choral music at the Thomaskirche and at the Nicolaikirche, was required to teach 14 hours a week of Latin grammar and singing.

Schein's life from this point on was darkened with sickness and deaths. He lost his first wife in childbirth and saw several of his children buried. He was also a victim of poor health, suffering from tuberculosis, as well as gout, scurvy and kidney stones. These ailiments affected his creative output and ultimately led to an early death at the age of 44.

There are many parallels between Schein and Heinrich Schütz, his contemporary and close friend. Schein is credited as of the first composers to incorporate Italian madrigal, monody and concerto styles into traditional elements of Lutheran church music. He often alternated his compositions between sacred and secular works, sometimes incorporating traditional elements of one into the other. His first sacred publication appeared shortly before he went to Weimar. This collection of 30 motets, "Cymbalum Sionium" [The Cymbal of Sion], utilizes Biblical texts in both Latin and German. His "Opella nova" (1618) is one of the earliest examples of sacred concertos with continuo in Germany. His linkage of sacred Lutheran music with Italian madrigal style can be found in his "Fontana d'Israel" [The Fountain of Israel] of 1623.

A notable poet, Schein wrote the texts for all of his secular music. Some of his most significant works in this genre include 17 vocal pieces in his early collection, "Venus Kräntzlein" [Venus's Wreath], the three parts of the popular "Musica boscareccia" [Woodland Music] (1621, 1626, 1628), and the first published collection of German madrigals, "Diletti pastorali" [Shepherds' Delights] (1624).

Laura Neff


SCHÜTZ, Heinrich (1586–1672): Heinrich Schütz was born at Köstritz, Saxony, in October 1585. He was the greatest German composer of the 17th century and the first of any period to gain international standing. He died at Dresden on November 6, 1672.

His talent as a boy singer attracted the attention of Landgrave Moritz of Hesse-Kassel, who engaged him as a chorister for his chapel and paid for his education, and then for his study with Giovanni Gabrieli in Venice in 1609–13. Later he was taken away from the Landgrave's employment by Johann Georg I, elector of Saxony, who made him effectively kapellmeister [director of music] in his chapel. He remained in this post for the rest of his long life. A second visit to Italy in 1628–9 completed his familiarity with the newer Italian styles, and he became a great admirer of Monteverdi.

His first published opus was, indeed, a set of Italian madrigals (1611), but the great majority of his music was written for the Lutheran church, which still used Latin as well as German texts. Most of it is preserved in an impressive series of publications, beginning with Psalmen Davids (1619), a set of 26 polychoral settings of German psalm texts with voices and instruments. Since Schütz was writing for a court chapel he did not make use of the popular chorale melodies that are the basis of so much Lutheran baroque music. Nor did he play any part in the great Lutheran development of organ music that took place in his time. His medium was always the human voice, with or without instrumental assistance.

Beginning with his Latin-texted Cantiones sacrae (1625) and Symphoniae sacrae, Vol. 1 (1629), Schütz steadily developed the sacred concerto, strikingly demonstrating his mastery of the prima prattica contrapuntal techniques as well as the more modern homophonic styles learned in Italy. After a period in which the musical establishment at Dresden was depleted by the expenses of the Thirty Years' War, he was able to return to more massive forces, including instruments, with the third volume of Symphoniae sacrae in 1650. The Geistliche Chor-music (1648) is particularly noted for its expressive setting of the German language in 29 motets for 5–7 voices. Several collections use smaller forces, sometimes down to the lvele of monody.

One of his most ambitious works is the "Musikalische Exequien", composed in 1936 for the funeral of Prince Heinrich Posthumus of Reuss. It includes a complete burial mass on texts chosen by the porince, a double-chorus motet on Psalm 73, and a German "Nunc dimittis" enhanced by additional texts sung by an angelic choir "in the distance."

Only one of Schütz's oratorio-like "Histories", that on the Resurrection (1623),was published complete in his lifetime. The others, including the Seven Last Words from the Cross (c1645), the popular Christmas History (1664), and the three Passions (c.1664–6) have been gradually restored in modern times from scattered manuscripts. In these late works the bold harmonic expressionism of his youth have yielded to calm reflection, sometimes almost austere in its rejection of all inessential aids to musical thought. This is even so in the immense setting for double chorus of Psalm 119 (1671), which he composed, astonishingly, at the age of 85.

Schütz's place at the head of his contemporaries is not in doubt, and his personal achievement in music is great. However, he exercised little influence on his successors. By the end of his life the ever-changing styles and techniques of music had already moved on to a new phase.

Nicholas Temperley


STANLEY, John (1712–1786): John Stanley was born January 17, 1712 at London. Though blinded in an accident at age 2, he was able through skill as an organist and violinist, and through the gift of an exceptional memory, to live a full and productive life. He died at London May 19, 1786.

In childhood, Stanley studied music with John Reading and also with Maurice Greene, organist at St. Paul's cathedral and the Chapel Royal. In his twelfth year, he succeeded William Babell as organist at All Hallows' church, London, and in 1726 was the winning candidate for a similar post at St. Andrews, Holborn, London. In 1729, he became the youngest person to be granted the degree of bachelor of music from Oxford, and his growing reputation as a performer led to his appointment in 1734 as organist to the Inner Temple (a college for lawyers).

Here he became famous for his playing of voluntaries. The ability to perform such music has long been a skill cultivated by organists, and such an art was especially appropriate to Stanley's disability. In 1738, Stanley married Sarah Arlond, whose dowry provided further security for his work as a composer.

His songs and secular cantatas, many with texts by his friend John Hawkins, began to be published in 1741, and there followed the six string concertos (op.2, 1742) and the three sets of organ voluntaries (1748–54) for which he is best known today. Structurally, the voluntaries followed a pattern with a slow introduction leading into a fast movement which often featured a solo stop such as the trumpet or cornet.

Stanley's organ concertos were imaginative, departing somewhat from Handel's stricter style, and some were later arranged for as solos for flute, violin, harpsichord, or organ. After about 1750, Stanley became a conductor of oratorios, particularly those of Handel, staged at Covent Garden and Drury Lane. In 1770, he was elected a governor of the Foundling Hospital, where he was active in selecting and/or conducting music for its various public occasions. In 1779 he became Master of the King's Band for which he composed fifteen New Year and birthday odes. He also wrote several works for the stage, including "Arcadia, or The Shepherd's Wedding" (1762) composed for the wedding of King George III and Queen Charlotte. In 1986, this work was revived and performed on BBC radio in honor of the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of York.


STEFFANI, Agostino (1654–1728): Steffani was born at Castelfranco, near Venice, in 1664. He was a leading Italian composer of cantatas and vocal duets, and died in Frankfurt on February 12, 1728.

His principal career was in the Roman Catholic church, as priest, bishop, and papal diplomat. This obliged him to travel to many of the courts of Europe. This did not prevent him from undergoing a thorough musical training at Munich, where he was appointed court organist to the Elector of Bavaria, then, en 1688, director of the newely opened Italian opera theater in Hanover.

Steffani composed operas, cantatas, and other works, but his most significant contribution was the chamber duet for two voices and continuo, usually on the subject of unsatisfied love. He made this form fashionable and also made it his own. He contributed over ninety specimens, many of which were included in a collection published in 1702–3. These elegant pieces much influenced Handel, whom Steffani met during a visit to Rome in 1708–9.

Nicholas Temperley


STRADELLA, Alessandro (1639–1682): Stradella was born at Nepi, near Viterbo, Italy, on April 2, 1639. He was a leading composer of opera in the still largely unfamiliar period between Monteverdi and Scarlatti.

Nothing is known of his musical training, but he emerged as a composer in Venice after 1663. He was involved in a number of sexual scandals, the last of which led to his murder by a family he had dishonored, at Genoa on February 25, 1682. His colorful life would become the subject of several operas in the Romantic period.

Stradella was a prolific composer of operas, oratorios, and instrumental music, but his biggest contribution was in the realm of the chamber cantata, of which he left no fewer than 125 scored for solo voice and continuo. His oratorio San Giovanni Battista [St. John the Baptist] (1676) was one of the first early oratorios to be successfully revived in the 20th century.

Nicholas Temperley

SWEELINCK, Jan Pieterszoon (1562–1621): Sweelinck, born at Deventer in 1562, was the last Dutch composer to gain a commanding position in musical history. He died at Amsterdam on October 16, 1621.

Before 1580 he succeeded his father as organist of the Oude Kerk [Old Church] in Amsterdam, and retained the position until his death, when his son succeeded him in turn. Thus he was professionally a servant of the Dutch Reformed Church, which, however, allowed no music in its services other than unaccompanied metrical psalms. Sweelinck played the organ at church concerts and recitals, and his virtuoso compositions for organ or harpsichord, often based on Dutch popular songs, are clearly influenced by English masters such as William Byrd and John Bull.

His many settings of psalms included none in his own language; most are in French, and were evidently for the use of wealthy Dutchmen who chose to perform them at home. The same applies to his motets and chansons. His reputation as an organist was far-reaching, and through his many German pupils (Scheidt among them) his influence, rooted in the late Renaissance, lasted into the time of Bach.

Nicholas Temperley


TELEMANN, George Philipp (1681–1767): Telemann, born March 14, 1681, in Magdeburg, was considered the greatest of all German composers during his lifetime. He died at Hamburg on June 25, 1767.

Raised by his widowed mother, Telemann took his first music lessons at the local cathedral school. He also absorbed enough music at the opera theater that by the age of 12 he composed his first opera, Sigismundus. He not only succeeded in getting it produced, but he played the title role himself.

His mother sent him to Zellerfeld, where he studied under Caspar Calvoer. From him Telemann learned music theory, counterpoint, and composition. During this period he wrote weekly church cantatas and various pieces for the town musicians. A move to Hildesheim in 1698 found him composing for the school dramas, as well as for the Evangelical and Catholic churches, and it was here that he encountered French music.

At age 20 he set out for Leipzig, with a stop at Halle en route to meet Handel. In Leipzig, at his mother's urging, he enrolled at the university to study law and philosophy. However, he could ignore his inclination to music, and soon was composing cantatas for and directing music at the Neue Kirche. He founded the Leipzig Collegium Musicum (later directed by Bach), and influenced students with the simplicity, clarity, and elegance of his style.

Further travels took Telemann to Sorau, where he served the court and studied the French composers Campra and Lully, to Berlin, and to Cracow. In 1708 he moved to Eisenach. During all this time music of every sort poured from his pen: concertos, sonatas, sacred and secular cantatas, ouvertüren (orchestral suites), masses, and psalm settings. Also during this period he married, but his wife died in 1711. He remarried three years later.

Telemann's next move was in 1712 to Frankfurt. He served the churches there with a steady stream of oratorios, passions, and cantatas. He achieved great local popularity and international acclaim, and was in high demand. His final post was Hamburg, beginning 1721, where the prestige and pay were high enough to induce him to turn down the Cantorship is Leipzig at the death of Kuhnau in 1722.

Telemann's works were acclaimed and performed even in Paris. Besides his prodigious efforts as a composer, he founded the music journal Getreue Musikmeister [The True Master of Music], for the publication of new music. Telemann died at the age of 86. His music soon fell into eclipse, but it was revived with great success in the 20th century.

John S. Setterlund


TORRES Y MARTÍNEZ BRAVO, José de (c1670–1738): José de Torres y Martínez Bravo was born in Madrid in about 1670, and died there on June 3, 1738. He was the most influential Spanish composer of the later baroque.

Torres became a choirboy in the royal chapel in 1680. He was appointed organist of the chapel in 1686 and rose to the position of maestro di capilla [director of music] to the King in 1718, which he retained until his death. He was twice married and fathered two sons. He founded the first significant music publishing business in Spain.

In the earlier part of his career, Torres's church music exemplified the conservative prima prattica style that prevailed in Spain during the 17th century, summed up in the Missarum liber [Book of Masses] which issued from his own printing press in 1703. He also composed examples of the more popular villancico, a Spanish-language genre that was frowned on in the more conservative religious centers.

After 1700, when the new Bourbon dynasty replaced the Habsburgs on the Spanish throne, a series of foreign-born queens imposed their taste for Italian musical styles on the Madrid court. Torres gradually responded to this growing trend. His "Cantada al Santissimo Sacramento" [Cantata for the Blessed Sacrament], probably dating from the 1720s, combines Italian-style recitatives and arias with older movements such as might have appeared in a 17th-century villancico, and introduces violins, oboes, and basso continuo.

Torres also composed some secular works and wrote an important treatise, "Reglas generales de acompañar, en organo, clavicordio y harpa" [General Rules for Accompanying on the Organ, Clavichord, and Harp] (Madrid, 1702). He enjoyed much prestige, not only in Spain but also in Portugal, Italy, England and Latin America.

Nicholas Temperley


VIVALDI, Antonio (1678-1741): Vivaldi was born in Venice March 4, 1678. Today, as in his own time, he ranks as the leading instrumental composer of the Italian later Baroque. He died in Vienna on July 27 or 28, 1741.

The oldest of nine children, Vivaldi began violin studies with his father and continued for a time with Legrenzi, but much of the virtuoso technique for which he became so famous was probably self-taught. A man with numerous professional triumphs and their substantial monetary rewards, he nevertheless died in poverty.

In 1693 Vivaldi became a postulant for holy orders and was ordained a priest in 1703. Having inherited the family trait of red hair, he was known as the "red priest." But few men have been less suited to that calling, and by 1706 he had relinquished all duties of the sacristy (as well as the attendant annual stipend) in favor of a life devoted to music. He did however continue in the position of music director at the Pio Ospedale della Pietà, Venice, to which he had been appointed in 1703 and which he retained somewhat tenuously until about 1740. This establishment was a combined school and convent for nuns, orphans, and girls talented in music. Vivaldi was obliged to compose a great many works for immediate use, and a considerable portion of his enormous catalogue originated at this school.

He began publishing his works soon after arriving at his new post. By 1705 a set of his trio sonatas was in print as Opus 1 and by 1711 his compositions were already attracting attention outside Italy. With the publication in that year of his Opus 3, L'Estro armonico, his fame spread throughout Europe, aided perhaps by new music publishing processes and distribution methods. Opus 3 comprised a set of 12 concertos, four each for one, two, and four solo violins. They retained the three-movement fast/slow/-fast format but displayed much inventiveness in thematic diversity, melodic concept and the relentless rhythmic drive that became so characteristic of last movements in the nearly 500 concertos Vivaldi eventually composed.

Among the many admirers of Opus 3 was Prince Johann Ernst of Saxe-Weimar, whose kapellmeister was the young J.S. Bach. In order both to please his employer and to improve his own understanding of the new Italian style, Bach arranged nine of these 12 concertos as well as some from the later Opus 4 and Opus 7, for organ solo or harpsichord with orchestra. His organ arrangement of Opus 3, No.8 in A minor remains a frequent program choice of organists.

This new acclaim provided Vivaldi with many opportunities for travel to other European musical centers, and he began taking extended leaves of absence, with or without permission, from the school. For a number of years he had been involved with Venetian opera, and in 1719–20 three of his own operas were performed at Padua, where he was appointed maestro di capella da camera [director of chamber music]. Similar honors continued to come his way during ensuing years. His compositional fervor never seemed to wane and the demand for his concertos kept pace, partly because of the uniform accessibility of their musical content. In 1739, he returned briefly to rehearse some new concertos for a performance in Venice, then departed for Vienna where he spent his last days amid few friends and in failing health.

Above all, Vivaldi should be remembered as an innovator. His concertos show increasing deviation in form and style from accepted norms. Melodic simplicity replaced fugal complexity; ritornello form became standard in fast movements, but Vivaldi retained his ability to surprise the listener. His operas have been successfully revived in recent years, while his church music, often dominated by expression of the text, covers a wide variety of styles and forms. As well as his many solo concertos, several other works are in the standard repertoire, such as the four concerti grossi called "The Seasons" which form the first part of Opus 8, and a setting of the Gloria in excelsis for chorus and orchestra.

   
 
 
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