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What is the Baroque era?

The Baroque era is the period in music from 1600-1750. The style of music in this period is characterised by polyphony, which means different lines of music imitating each other. The main keyboard instruments in this time were the organ and harpsichord, so even though we play pieces by Bach on the piano, they were originally written for the harpsichord. If you are playing pieces from this period on the piano, you will notice that there are various snippets from the right hand and left hand parts which resemble each other. The left-hand accompaniments are usually simple, consisting of one or two notes played at a time. The texture of the piece, or how many notes are played at a time, would be fairly thin (a few notes), compared to later pieces such as during the Romantic era.

In the ABRSM aural exam, one of the required tests is to identify the period a piece was written in. The points given above can be used to justify why a piece belongs to the Baroque era.

If you are feeling particularly brainy, and if the played piece allows you to, you can also mention that the harmonies of the piece largely belong to the first and fifth chords of the scale!

Why does the Baroque era end precisely at 1750?

The Baroque era, from 1600-1750, was followed by the Classical period, from 1750-1827. Piano (or keyboard, to be more precise) music in the Baroque era was largely of a thin texture and imitative style, while the Classical music was known for its Alberti bass, broken chord accompaniments, and scalic patterns in both treble and bass parts. It is not to say that in 1751 the music suddenly shifted in style. The Baroque period is strongly characterised by the musical style of Bach, and so his death in 1750 at the age of 85 is a convenient point to mark the end of the Baroque period.


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