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With the evolution of man has come the inevitable evolution of the arts.

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Introduction

With the evolution of man has come the inevitable evolution of the arts. Whether decorative, visual, or musical, the arts have seen several distinct periods of development through the course of history and as one of the definitive artistic media, music is no exception. During the 17th through middle 18th centuries, music progressed through a period that historians labeled "Baroque." New musical forms and a style of music that was unheard of at the end of the renaissance characterized this period. These new styles and forms saw the emergence of several composers who, rather than break new ground in the musical world, took the existing forms and developed them into robust, mature works that fully exhibited their virtuosic command of the "rules" of composition. Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) and George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) were two composers that historians and musicians alike use to describe the essence of the baroque period. Neither composer generated groundbreaking reforms in the core of the music they composed, but rather they took that which was defined and increased the breadth, scope, and complexity of existing genres to suit their purposes as working musicians and/or composers. ...read more.

Middle

Although not a dramatic medium, the cantata was organized religion's answer to the use of aria and recitative. Cantata in the Baroque era made use of alternating aria and recitative sections to set a religious text to a specific story. J.S. Bach's Wachet Auf, ruft uns die Stimme, BWV 140, sets the story of Philip Nicolai's telling of angels come down from heaven to wake the virgins in anticipation of the bridegroom's arrival. The entire cantata makes distinctive use of ritornello reminiscent of Antonio Vivaldi's (1678-1741) Concerto Grosso in G Minor, Op. 3, No. 2, RV 578. The ritornello is divided into four-bar phrases that are based on several distinct melodic motives (Palisca 547). Bach also makes extensive use of text painting and subtle musical paintings that are clearly throwbacks to composers such as Josquin Des Prez (~1450-1521) and Carlo Gesualdo (~1561-1613) that wrote in the "musica reservata" style in the renaissance and ars nova periods. J.S. Bach lived and worked in Germany all of his life. His work was, almost exclusively, with the Lutheran church, which is not surprising since it is known that Bach was a devout Lutheran. ...read more.

Conclusion

His Oratorio, Saul (1739), was, for all intents and purposes, an opera set to the story of Saul's conversion into Christianity. Although Oratorios make extended use of accepted operatic forms, aria, recitative, etc., no physical drama takes place in the setting of the stories. Handel makes use of contrapuntal passages and fugue, typical baroque compositional elements, to tell his story of Saul, while Heinrich Sch�tz (1585-1672) used more of a concerto grosso form to tell of Saul's revelation. Sch�tz set the story of Saul for six voices and orchestra and made extended use of harmonic dissonance rather than play with rhythms or melodic structures to tell the story. The relatively thick-textured nature of Sch�tz's setting makes for a dramatic interpretation of Christ's words to Saul. Handel, however, takes his experience with recitative and aria to paint a no-less striking story of Saul. The "masters" of any historically defined era or period are usually those that came into the scene "en medias rex" (in the middle of things). We see that both J.S. Bach and G.F. Handel took the existing artistic forms and artistic media available to them codified at the beginning of their period and expanded them into what would become the defining elements of music of the Baroque period. ...read more.

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