The Baroque period of music falls roughly between the years 1600 and 1750; it was popular throughout many countries of Europe including Italy, France, England, and Germany (Thornburgh 1990). The style of Baroque music sounds very organized, logical, and formal. This has led some critics to describe Baroque music to be emotionally cold, but when performed by the virtuoso performers it was composed for, this music offers a full range of emotions, is captivating, and delightful. There are a great variety of different styles in Baroque music, some of this depending on the time (early, middle, or late during the Baroque period), the country of its origin, and the patron or occasion it was composed for. Common instruments found in the music are voice, violin, cello, viola, double bass, the fretted viola da gamba, recorders, valveless trumpets, and the harpsichord. In spite of its diversity, Baroque music had in common the use of continuo, or “thorough bass,” and ornamentation devices like grace notes, the mordant, vibrato, or trills (Thornburgh 1990). The ornamentations usually were not written by the composers, but left to the musician to add as he felt necessary, which shows that there was some room for improvisation in Baroque music, in spite of its reputation as a very logical, methodical sound. Important Baroque musicians and some of their best known pieces include Johann Sebastian Bach (Well-Tempered Clavier, Inventions), Francois Couperin (Le dodo ou l'amour au berceau, L'evapore), Antonio Vivaldi (The Four Seasons), and George Frideric Handel (Messiah, Water Music).
The Romantic period of music occurred later than the Baroque period, and “can very roughly but conveniently be defined as the period from the death of Beethoven in 1827 to the death of Mahler in 1911” (Swann 1990). Romantic music has a very different sound than Baroque music, in part because of some of the instruments required by the composers. The piano, which was new and undeveloped during the Baroque period, became a mainstay of many composers and performers such as Franz Liszt and Frederic Chopin. Other Romantic composers used full symphonies to create their pieces. Unlike the Baroque composers who typically wrote music for the special occasions of their patrons, Romantic composers were writing for larger audiences at the cusp of the industrial age. This age of progress was seen as in rivalry with nature, and Romantic artists wanted to be seen as an antagonistic force outside of Society and its new, mechanical innovations. The term “Romantic” does not infer that the pieces are about love, as people typically define the word today, but reflects the more fantastic, exotic, and emotional definition of the term. Important Romantic musicians and some of their best known pieces include Frederic Chopin (Waltzes, Mazurkas, Polonaises, and Nocturnes), Hector Berlioz (Grand Traité d’Instrumentation et d’Orchestration Modernes), Franz Liszt (Hungarian Rhapsodies) and Richard Wagner (Tristan und Isolde) (Swann 1990).
Thornburgh, Elaine. “Baroque Music.” World Music in Contemporary Life. San Diego State University, 1990. Web.
Swann, Jeffrey. “Classical Music and Romantic Music.” World Music in Contemporary Life. San Diego State University, 1990. Web.