early 18th century
Vivaldi - Bach - Händel
of Baroque music, usually the most famous composers who come into
one's mind are those of the first half of the 18th century, like
Antonio Vivaldi, Johann Sebastian Bach and Georg Friedrich Händel.
The composers of the late 17th century, like Henry Purcell or Jean
Baptiste Lully, are nowadays, so it seems, less well known than
the later ones.
for sure one of the three of the greatest and most famous composers
of the first half of the 18th century, the so-called late Baroque
period. He was born on 4th March 1678 in Venice, the son of a barber
who was also a violinist with distinction.
Vivaldi studied for priesthood and was ordained in 1703, having
had lessons in music from early childhood on. In the same year,
in 1703, did he start his career as violin teacher and conductor
of the Venetian orchestra, having established himself as a violinist
of remarkable ability. Vivaldi was among the most famous virtuosi
of the day, as well as being a prolific composer of music that won
wide favour at home and abroad and exercised far-reaching influence
on the music of others.
Between 1714 and 1740 he was the in-house composer of the girls'
conservatory Ospedale della Pietà, which was one of
the four famous foundations in Venice for the education of orphan,
illegitimate or indigent girls, a select group of whom were trained
as musicians. Back then, just as nowadays, Venice was an attraction
to many foreign tourists, and the Pietà and its music
remained a centre of cultural pilgrimage for long. Vivaldi's oeuvre,
comprised operas, oratorios, violin sonatas and concerts, numbering
well over five hundred. His concertos were written for string orchestra
with bass continuo, to which solo instruments or groups of instruments
were added. The Four Seasons are probably the most famous amongst
them. Vivaldi died on 28th June 1741 in Vienna.
Johann Sebastian Bach
has to be numbered as well amongst the three illustrious composers
of this era, a few years younger than Vivaldi, he was born in 1685
in Eisenach, Germany. He was the son of a musician and a member
of a large musical family with a long and flourishing tradition
in music. When his parents died, he moved to Ohrdruf, where he received
lessons in music by his elder brother.
Already early in his life, he made a career as an organist, namely
at the age of 22, when in 1707 he was appointed as a court organist
in Weimar. In 1717 he moved to Cöthen as director of court
music for the young Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen. The following
years were seen as the happiest period in his life, which sadly
came to an end when the Prince married a woman who Bach later described
euphemistically as "amusica".
In 1723 he moved to Leipzig, to become the Thomascantor at
the famous Thomasschule, a highly honoured position, with responsibility
for music in the principal city churches, to which he later added
the direction of the University Collegium Musicum, founded
some years earlier by Telemann. One of his immortal compositions
being the Brandenbourg Concertos. He remained in Leipzig until his
death in 1750.
Georg Friedrich Händel
the composer of the so very well known Watermusic and Music for
the Royal Fireworks, was born in the same year as Bach and also
in Germany, namely in 1685 in Halle. He too, similar to Vivaldi,
was the son of a barber-surgeon. His elderly father had achieved
some distinction in music, and planned a much greater career for
his son than any position in the field of music could promise. Nevertheless,
he was permitted to study music through the intervention of the
Duke of Saxe-Weissenfeld, at whose court his father served, and
received organ lessons from early childhood on by Friedrich W. Zachow.
Although Händel started his studies in law, which he combined
with a position as organist in the Calvinist cathedral of Halle
for a year, he finally abandoned all further law studies in 1703,
to move to Hamburg, where he worked as a musician. He played the
second violin in the opera orchestra, to later take his place as
Händel wrote his very first Italian operas before he was twenty,
which were produced in 1705. The following year he travelled to
Italy, to stay there until 1710, where he was celebrated by the
Italian aristocracy. The influence on his music was great in Italy,
and he studied the Italian opera, which was the source of inspiration
for his compositions. It was there, that he met Baron Kielmansegge,
who was the Master of Horse to the Elector of Hanover, which led
consequently to his appointment as Kapellmeister to the Elector.
The Elector then granted immediate leave for Händel to visit
London for the staging of his Italian opera Rinaldo. His success
was so widespread and celebrated, that Queen Anne granted him an
annual income. He left again for fifteen months, to return in 1712
when he sought permission to visit London and this time he remained
there, accepted at court after the accession to the English throne
of the Elector of Hanover as George I, reconciled with his former
Kapellmeister, so it is said, by Händel's Water Music.
In 1727 he received English citizenship. He died on 14th April 1759
in London. Händel's oeuvre comprises more than forty operas
almost all of them Italian operas. As well as numerous oratorios
and instrumental pieces.
Baroque Music | Late Baroque Music I | Late
Baroque Music II
Early English Baroque
© N. Kipar 2003. All rights reserved
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