How the Lives of Composers influenced their Music.

Music Essay

I have chosen this title for my essay because of the little attention the human lives of composers of the Baroque era received, whiched caused the circumstances for the music to be created. From reading and researching this idea, I have come to the conclusion that hugely important circumstances by chance or by choice in the lives of the composers dictated the music. In my opinion it is no coincidence that the greatest composers of this era had the most extraordinary lives. To expose their humanity is essential to fully understanding their music.

J.S. Bach (1685-1770)

The Bach family of musicians existed for over four hundred years and Johann Sebastian was added as no exception, being born the son of the official town musician of Eisenach: Johann Ambrosius Bach. Learning Violin by his father and later learning organ by his brother, his mastery of both instruments came from being exposed to thm at an early age. Receiving a scholarshipto a choir school run by Benedictine monks, and having written much work for organ, his efforts now turned to choral works as he had a choir at his disposal. Bach’s Brandenburg concertos were written because at that time he was the conductor of the court orchestra in Anhaltcothen. The majority of Bach’s life and work was to be spent in the school of musicin Leipzig. This decision to apply for the post came because of his desire to provide a better education for his children.265 of his 295 cantatas were written in Leipzig. His other famous works written in this time were St. Mattew’s passion and the Christmas oratorio. Bach’s prolific output of work was a direct outcome of his church orientated life because the Lutheran tradition meant large scale works to be churned out weekly on demand.

Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)

Unlike Bach, Vivaldi was the son of a barber and didn’t have the same solid musical foundation. He trained for priesthood, perhaps against his wishes and was ordained a priest in 1703. he eventually gave up saying Mass allegedly for having chronic chest pains. His interest in music culd now be more celebrated as he became violin teacher at the Ospedale Della Pieta, an orphanage for girls where he composed much of his work. Having written 550 concertos and having 50 operas accounted for, the vastness of Vivaldi’s work is irrefutable. He has a huge variety for such a huge amount, and I believe this because of the huge amount of travel he did throughout Europe. It was there that he really got exposed to other musician’s music and influence. His secular works also exist in large amounts (the Four Seasons) because of his eventual non-church position as composer.

Dominico Scarlatti (1687-1757)

Scarlatti was another composer born of a musical family. His musical life in a sense was pre-destined. His father Allesandro was a distinguished opera compaser who over shadowed his son for the first half of his life. However, his father must be credited for establishing Scarlatti’s musical competence as first organist, then choir master and composer, as he spent years of his life on the musical circuit. He was still under the great influence of his father even when he became master of music at St. Peters in Rome. His 12 concerti grossi and no less than 14 operas are works of a competent composer but not works of a composer who has mastered the art of the Baroque style. A shift in his life altered his musical direction and caused a turning point in his career when he became court harpsichordist and teacher to the king of Portugal. It essentially exposed him to the Iberian music and it concentrated his mind on the harpsichord. His reputation now lies on the 550 sonatas he wrote for the instrument, which I believe was caused by a simple twist of fate.

George F. Handel (1685-1759)

Handel next to Bach is crowned one of the greatest Baroque composers. Though unlike Bach whose musical education as insured at birth, Handel struggled in his youth to indulge in his natural musical talents. Raised in a Patriarchal family and having a father who forbid any musical career, Handel was to take up law forming strong odds against him becoming a composer