TALLINN - During the second half of the 16th century European sensibilities towards art, including music, began to change. There is no universal agreement, though, when the Baroque era began, and no evidence to suggest that it occurred as a synchronic development.
Baroque music describes a style of European classical music extending from 1600 to 1750. It is said that this era in music had begun after the Renaissance, and was followed by the Classical era.
The word Baroque was borrowed from architecture to describe the elaborate music of the day. Baroque music is full of confidence and is very complicated. It is also lively, engaging and it seems to always be in motion.
In the late 18th century, a period during which the dominant style stressed elegance and simplicity, writers used the word baroque to describe earlier music (as well as painting, sculpture and architecture) that seemed to them to be distorted by a profusion of unnatural ornamentation.
The word “baroque” came from the Portuguese word “barroco,” meaning “misshapen pearl,” a strikingly fitting characterization of the architecture of this period. Later, the name came to be applied also to its music. Baroque music forms a major portion of the classical music canon, being widely studied, performed and listened to. It is associated with composers such as Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frideric Handel, Alessandro Scarlatti, Antonio Vivaldi, Jean-Baptiste Lully, Arcangelo Corelli, Claudio Monteverdi, Jean-Philippe Rameau and Henry Purcell.
The baroque period saw the development of functional tonality. During the period, composers and performers used more elaborate musical ornamentation, made changes in musical notation, and developed new instrumental playing techniques. Baroque music expanded the size, range, and complexity of instrumental performance, and also established opera as a musical genre. Many musical terms and concepts from this era are still in use today.
Many instruments reached the peak of their development at the height of the Baroque era. The baroque era in music was crucial to the development of the modern musical language. The codification of tonality and the establishment of the tempered tuning system were of vital importance. Equally important, though, is the fact that the prolific composers of the era left works that continue to speak eloquently over a distance of centuries.
As does all great art, Baroque music speaks to something that transcends time and place, but it also derives much from the social and cultural context of the world for which it was written.
Music from the Baroque period is of many styles. There is Italian, French, English and German Baroque music. There is early, middle and late Baroque music. There is secular and sacred Baroque music. And there are distinctive personal styles of many composers. One result of this diversity is a certain difficulty in defining Baroque music in terms of a large number of common elements. However, there are three areas where it is useful to make generalizations about Baroque music: 1) Baroque musical instruments; 2) Baroque stylistic elements; 3) The Baroque musical esthetic.
The Baroque Music Festival we’ll introduce here, initiated by the Estonian early music ensemble Hortus Musicus and its leader Andres Mustonen, was born in 1989 of a series of winter Baroque music concerts in the historical Tallinn’s Old Town and the Tartu University Hall.
It soon acquired international dimensions as the Tallinn Baroque Music Festival, with world-famous performers. Since 2002, the Festival has significantly been widening its grasp of repertoire. Among performers one can always find Hortus Musicus and its Academic Orchestra. This festival has hosted a variety of famous musicians, such as Gustav Leonhardt, Jordi Savall, Barthold Kuijken, Emma Kirkby, Patrick Gallois, Edward Parmentier, as well as Liana Isakadze, Michel Lethiec, Natalia Gutman, ensembles Timedance, Consort of Musicke, The Tallis Scholars, Red Priest, Providence, Concerto ’91, Kremerata Baltica with Gidons Kremer, Taganka Theater with Yuri Lubimov and others, whose way to Estonia has been paved by Andres Mustonen’s personality as a musician. In the last years the Baroque Music Festival has been focusing on the interaction and connection between the Eastern and Western music cultures and national cultures’ individualities.
The Artistic Director of the Festival is violinist and conductor Andres Mustonen, an internationally acknowledged authority of this early music. The Festival is organized by the State Concert Institute Eesti Kontsert (Estonian Concert) as well as the Estonian Music Festivals organization, which is a member of the European Festivals Association (EFA).
Following the opening night’s Golden Bach, the program includes the works of Dufay, Monteverdi, Byrd, Handel and many others, as well as a new opus from Giya Kancheli. The list of participants includes the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, and Hortus Musicus. The guest performers are Ramin Bahrami, I Virtuosi Italiani, Stile Antico and more.
The festival takes place every year in Tallinn; this year it starts on Jan. 28 and runs till Feb. 6. The annual Baroque Music Festival goes on tour to a variety of locations across Estonia, including Estonia’s Concert Hall.