What is Your Favorite Musical Period?

Violinist.com recently asked for reader’s vote on “What is your favorite musical period?

Our chorale had just performed Vivaldi’s “Gloria” and last May, Haydn’s “The Creation”. Our conductor planned for Handel’s “Messiah” this coming Christmas and Mozart’s sacred music in the coming seasons. So, we are immersed in Baroque and Classical periods. And I am debating whether I should vote for “Baroque” or “Classical”.

Here are the basic definitions of these two periods by Violinist.com:

BAROQUE (1600-1750)

Definitive Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach
Other Baroque Composers: Antonio Vivaldi, Arcangelo Corelli, George Frederic Handel, Henry Purcell
Defining Characteristics: Continuous bass line (basso continuo), use of harpsichord and pipe organ, introduction of written works such as cantatas and oratorios, smaller ensembles with limited or no wind and percussion parts
Performance Style: added embellishments and tremolos, little or no vibrato, trills starting on the higher note

CLASSICAL (1750-1820)

Definitive Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Other Classical Composers: Christoph Willibald Gluck, Carl Philipp Emanuel (C.P.E.) Bach, Joseph Haydn, Ludwig van Beethoven (early works)
Defining Characteristics: short melodies and phrases, obvious cadences, larger orchestra than Baroque, music in sonata form, eventual disuse of harpsichord and introduction of piano, quartet music
Performance Style: light and clear articulation, trills starting on the lower note, modest use of vibrato, more dynamic contrast

As an amateur violinist, I love Mozart’s music. His music is often referred to as technically reasonable but hard stylistically. Working on Mozart’s concertos and particularly #3 in G which is not technically difficult but I found it is very hard to play it beautifully. Many suggested that when practice Mozart, you must a) practice very slowly, b) remember that every note counts, c) be extremely thoughtful about bowing; d) think about Mozart operas, male and female singers how they flirt and paint the music accordingly. Many also suggested that Mozart’s music is operatic and his instrumental music should be approached from a vocal perspective. I think by singing Mozart’s, it will help my violin playing.

This master class from virtuoso violinist Christian Tetzlaff at the Library of Congress in coaching the student to play Mozart #3 is an excellent recording to show how to play Mozart in perfect “classical” sound. (It requires RealPlayer plugin to show the recording).

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