The style of playing Baroque music?

I’ve become interested in Baroque music recently and I was wondering about the style of playing Baroque music…Since in the Romantic Era the use of rubato in pieces became more prominent and I was wondering there was a proper way to play Baroque music…

So far I know that Baroque music must be played in tempo strictly and that notes should be played more staccato like and not too legato…

This is for piano by the way.

Yeah…The addition of the ornaments came from there too…

Oh yeah…one more thing if there is a slur how would it be played?Would it still be played in a light staccato manner or legato?

7 Answers

  • [i] The piano was hardly even invented during the Baroque era. (Bach experimented with one loaned to him by his friend Silberman, but he returned it with disparaging comments on its lack of polyphonic potential. Knowing how much this great man loathed the piano, I often wince when pianists play his music!)

    [ii] Alberti, who, you may be astonished to learn, first used the ‘Alberti bass’, was not writing music in the Baroque era, and, believe it or not, nothing remotely like an Alberti bass appeared in this era.

    [iii] In general, music from this era was a little more passionate than in the following Rococo and Classical periods. Although the concept of crescendi and diminuendi were not much developed, [restrained] rubato is perfectly appropriate in certain circumstances.

    [Try playing an organ in a reverberant church WITHOUT rubato!]

    [iv] To play this music as if one were a machine is totally wrong. This Era is a kind of ‘early Romantic era’, and mechanical playing, though fashionable in the 1960’s, is not really correct, I feel.

    If a casual listener can tell you are using rubato, it is probable that you have overdone it, but delicate rubato is done by most great keyboard players of Baroque music.

    [v] Writers such as Lully or Scarlatti are atypical of Baroque writers, though they wrote at almost the same time as did Bach and Handel. To me, they are actually Rococo composers, and the genteel style of the Rococo IS appropriate for them.

    [vi] The ‘staccato’ touch you mention is a frequently used way of making a modern piano sound just a little bit more like a harpsicord.

    [ I always wonder why pianists don’t play piano music on their instrument, and, if they want to play Bach, why not use an organ or a harpsicord? A Table Tennis player, wishing to play Lawn Tennis, would probably not use his Table Tennis bat.]

    [vii] The Late Baroque era is one of the great golden eras of composition, and you are to be commended on searching for advice on how to perform it.

    Sadly, there is no substitute for a good teacher.

    Edit: I really enjoyed Ashley’s answer! P.S. As the harpsicord had no damping at all, I fail to see why the damper pedal on the piano is ‘not appropriate’ when playing harpsicord music on the piano.

  • Baroque style!!! Fun!!! Ok, so with Baroque style, the SHORTER the notes get, the more connected they are (for example, 4 sixteenth notes are more connected with each other than two quarter notes). The Baroque style is often very light and dance-like, so keep that in mind when you play. It may also help you to look up what some of there dances looked like-they were very formal, full of little frills and elegant! Also, Baroque music is hardly ever harsh. Additionally, don’t make up any dynamics-follow exactly whats on the page. I know more about piano Baroque style than flute, so that’s about as far as I’m willing to go before I say something wrong. I hope that you found this helpful!

  • How To Play Baroque Music

  • Yes Baroque music is pretty much straight forward. It’s always a very strict tempo and the notes should be played staccato, but not too much. Personally, I don’t like Baroque music. Most of the time it’s just an early version of an Alberti bass with a semiquaver rhythm in the treble.

    But yes, Baroque music is straight forward.

  • Oddly enough, the romantic era and baroque era have a lot in common in that they both strive for supreme musical expression. The romantics did it through rubato and dynamics and massive change as we think of it today. The baroque composers thought of music through a doctrine of ‘figures’ or little clichés that defined the music. For example, to signify that a line was sorrowful, they would make it descend, often times chromatically. (Ex. the lament bass line in Dido’s Lament from Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas). The ornamentation common on Baroque music served a few purposes – the improvisational aspect highlighted the concept of expressionism by handing that aspect over the performer. They also served as a way to sustain held notes on the harpsichord, which as a plucked string instrument did not have the capabilities that today’s pianos do. In order to obtain the sound most similar to the harpsichord, you would have to play the piano in a staccato manner, but it really depends on the piece. If it is light and joyful, staccato would be more advised, but to finger pedal a little on more sorrowful pieces would not be frowned upon. Tempo, however, should remain pretty constant with the exception of certain cadential ritardandos.

  • style playing baroque music

  • Don’t forget the (ad lib) ornamentation!

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