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Late Baroque Music
early 18th century
Vivaldi - Bach - Händel

Thinking 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.

Antonio Vivaldi

Vivaldi was 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 

Bach certainly 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

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 harpsichordist. 
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.

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