Music of the Italian Baroque

ABC Classics
Jul 17, 2017 · 3 min read

The power of poetry inspires a musical revolution: from the opera stage to the music rooms of the aristocracy, composers from Monteverdi to Vivaldi find new ways to bring emotion alive in music.

Listen

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When?

In 1607, Claudio Monteverdi’s first opera L’Orfeo was premiered at the Ducal Palace in Mantua, Italy. It was received “to great satisfaction of all who heard it”, and is the earliest opera still being performed in the 21st century. Meanwhile:

  • In Paris, King Henry IV opens the Pont Neuf (‘New Bridge’) — the oldest bridge still standing over the Seine

Fast Facts

  • The Baroque era in music began in Italy around 1600 and lasted till about 1750. Before it came the Renaissance period, during which the concept of music had expanded from a single line of melody (the Gregorian plainchant of the Medieval age) to multiples lines which could be sung or played simultaneously, and fit together smoothly to make a harmonious whole. But in 1602 an Italian composer called Giulio Caccini published a collection of songs called ‘Le nuove musichi’ (New Compositions) which took a very different approach: instead of many equal voices, there would be one solo singer, with an instrumental accompaniment. The emphasis would now be on the words, on getting the emotions of the text across through the music. From this new ‘voice + accompaniment’ texture came a new musical genre, opera. One of the first examples of opera was L’Orfeo, by Claudio Monteverdi, in 1607.

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