Orchestra Essay

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Even though the times have changed, many characteristics from the past still impact the world of art today. Characteristics from the Baroque period, Classical period, and Romantic period have had their share of impact on today’s society. In order to fully develop an overall understanding of how defining each of these eras are, one must expose themselves to the vastly varying eras’ music, and other art forms including paintings.

First in chronological order of these three eras, is the Baroque Era. The Baroque Era began roughly around the year 1600 and ended during the late 18th century. Baroque is generally characterized as an era with eccentric redundancy and also an abundance of details. Many art forms throughout this period resembled the general characterization of the period. Some characteristics in Baroque music include harmony, counterpoint, polyphony(1), strong emphasis on rhythm, and attractive melodies instead of the previous use of monophony(2). During this period, a new form of musical entertainment was born which was Opera. Opera was a play where the text was sung rather than spoken. The creation of opera then lead to overtures(3) which are pieces of music introduce melodies from music to come in later in an opera, and is also an orchestral work. Also given birth from opera was the aria(4) which was sometimes sung monophonically without an accompaniment, but was sometimes sung with an accompaniment. Many technological and mechanical improvements were being made to the instruments of the past which developed into the instruments that most of us are familiar with today. Originally, the main string instruments were of the viol family; however, the violin family began to replace them. Even though the violin family began to replace the viol family, the bass viol, more commonly known as the contrabass or double bass, was still used. Throughout this time period, the cores of the ensembles were string orchestras(5), orchestras consisting of only string instruments. However, ensembles including woodwind sections(6) started to come about. The sizes of many baroque orchestras were relatively small. Each section only had a few people in them. Pianos did not exist back in this era. Instead, its predecessors, the clavichord and harpsichord were used. The harpsichord was the instrument that was a favored solo instrument. Because of this, it has one of the most distinctive sounds of the Baroque Era. Cannons, fugues and concertos were very popular forms of music. Concertos generally featured a solo(7) instrumentalist or a small ensemble of soloists playing with an orchestra. This created more texture and volume to a piece. On February 28, 2008 I took part in the wonderful orchestra, Ivy Camerata Orchestra, to play Handel’s Entrance to the Queen of Sheba, which was conducted by Mrs. Booth! The rolling melody was rather ornamental and had many melodies playing at once which alternated between the sections. The size of this orchestra was not too small, but not tremendously large which was nice because it fit perfectly for the Baroque style. The piece was played with five first violins, with a few stands of the traditional second violin each playing violin two, violin three and violin four parts. There were five violas, eight cellos, and four double basses if I do recall. The song was played in a lively allegro(8). This refers to how fast the song is played or otherwise known as the tempo(9). Throughout the entire piece there was a reoccurring melody that was played by the mass of violin sections. This piece roughly reminded me of Hermann Schroeder’s Festliche Musik due to the common melodic flow and relatively quick tempo. In my opinion, this piece was very interesting because I had not participated in an orchestra with so many violin sections at once! The piece reminded me of how significant intonation was. Since there were only a few instruments in each section, if one instrument was out of tune then the audience would notice...
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