A Primer on the Art of Baroque Music
Once regarded as a sanctuary for scholars, Baroque music is finding favor with a growing number of modern string players
300 years ago, every string player was hip to historically informed performance practice. For them, Baroque music, instruments, and practice weren’t “historical”—it was the style of the moment. To play Baroque music in the most effective fashion, young musicians simply learned their instruments, picked up tips from experienced players, and plunged into what was then modern music.
These days, it’s not so easy for fans of Baroque-era Italian violinist and composer Arcangelo Corelli to party like it’s 1699. So much has changed—musical aesthetics, the design of stringed instruments and bows, the manufacture of strings, even the kinds of places where music is played. All these developments have separated modern players and fans from the sounds of the 17th and 18th centuries. During the past 50 years, though, so-called ancient music played in a manner—and on instruments—akin to what was common in the Baroque era has become increasingly popular. The skill level of the practitioners has steadily increased, as have the availability of affordable period-style instruments and the variety of approaches to old scores through a reimagining of the aesthetics of their time. And it’s no longer only a pursuit for specialists. Today’s orchestral musicians may play Johannes Brahms or John Adams one week and J.S. Bach the next, using a few Baroque techniques specific to Bach’s time without having to trade in their modern instruments.
This article, "A Primer on the Art of Baroque Music," is part of the Strings Archive, which you can access with a paid site subscription.
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