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Between 1600 and 1750, European music is described as "baroque." The period of the Baroque falls after the Renaissance and presages the Classical period. Baroque music is characterized by the following:
- The discovery of tonality.
- The invention of opera, cantata, oratorio, concerto, and sonata forms.
- Baroque music is often distinguished by its elaborate ornamentation.
Major Baroque Composers
- Johann Sebastian Bach
- George Friedrich Handel
- Antonio Vivaldi
- Claudio Monteverdi
- Johann Pachelbel
Originally, the term "baroque" was applied derisively, as one anonymous music critic in 1733 complained that Jean-Philippe Rameau's new opera, Hippolyte et Aricie, lacked coherent melody and changed key and meter too much. It was not until the 20th century that the entire age was labeled "Baroque" in a positive manner.
Of all of the Baroque composers, none holds as much historical reputation as Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). During his lifetime, Bach's reputation as an organist was nearly universal across Europe. His compositions were marked by counterpoint, harmonic organization, and his ability to incorporate rhythm, form and texture from other European areas, such as France and Italy. Handel's Messiah, often performed at Christmas, is another famous work of a Baroque composer, as are Pachelbel's Canon in D and Vivaldi's Four Seasons.