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What is Classical Music?

The term “classical music” has been applied to a range of music from different cultures, and gradually came to mean “authentic” or “principal.” In Western European music, it is distinguished from “popular” music, although history has shown that popular and classical forms were once closely woven together and to some extent, still are. Classical music has also developed its own conventional history, which unfolds over a series of periods including the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Baroque, the Enlightenment or Classical (with a capital “C”), and the Romantic, Modern, and Contemporary eras, each of which evolved characteristic styles and forms. Whichever way we approach them, each of these periods also reveals its own particular beauty. This series of compilations invites the listener to savor salient examples of works penned by composers from the Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and Modern eras and gleaned from Analekta’s impressive roster of performers.

What is Baroque Music ?

The word “Baroque” is borrowed from the French, which in turn adapted it from the Portuguese barocco, meaning a pearl of a strange or irregular shape. Originally (and logically) ascribed to the manufacture of jewellery in the 16th century, it was first used outside of this profession in a French critic’s appraisal of Rameau’s tragedy Hippolyte et Aricie, performed in Paris in 1733. The anonymous critic, who wrote in the famous journal Mercure de France, complained that the dissonances, modulations, and constant changes of meter and melody in Rameau’s work were nothing more than “du barocque.”

The German musicologist Manfred Bukofzer identified three major periods, which did not, however, coincide in every European country: 1580–1630, early Baroque; 1630–80, middle Baroque; 1680–1730, late Baroque. Other musicologists have located a “primitive baroque” period which began in the middle of the 16th century, ostensibly in Italy where the Renaissance had also taken an earlier hold than in other countries.

Whatever arguments of date and place we may have, the main achievements of the Baroque style were a more marked emphasis on vocal and instrumental solo parts, the rise of opera and oratorio, the development of the cantata and the evolution of the bel canto style and figured bass accompaniment. The latter, which was designed to maximize the expressivity of solo vocal or instrument lines, was complemented by an ultimate flowering of the contrapuntal style which was increasingly relegated to religious or keyboard works. The present recording reflects these innovations in a vast range of chamber and orchestral works, solo compositions, and dramatic vocal music, both sacred and secular.

© Guy Marchand
Translation: Peter Christensen

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AN 2 8738
AN 2 8738

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