Understanding Baroque Forms 1

Definitions constructed from the following reference books:

Suite (OCDM):

A piece of instrumental music in several movements, usually in a dance style. Can be equated to the Italian “Sonata da Camera”. Superseded by the sonata and the symphony, and the title given to works of a lighter type.

Concerto (OCDM & Google Words (for the contextual definition of “concerted”)):

Concert. Concerted performance (in this context, “concerted” is taken as meaning “Jointly arranged or carried out” or “Arranged in several parts of equal importance”).

A work in which a solo instrument (or instruments) is contrasted and blended with the orchestra. Usually in three movements.

Concerto Grosso (HWM):

“Great Concerto”. Whereby a small ensemble of solo instruments (the concertino) is set against a large ensemble (usually a string orchestra).

Partita (HWM):

“Divisions” or “Parts”. Used in the early seventeenth century for sets of variations. Later used as referring to sets of dances.

Sonata Da Camera (OCDM):

Chamber Sonata. A baroque type of sonata, the term originally indicating the place of performance (“camera” in Italian is “room”). Set as a number of dance movements for two or three string players with a keyboard accompaniment.

Sonata Chiesa (OCDM):

A “church sonata”. Much like a sonata da camera but of a characteristic more suitable to an ecclesiastical setting.

Canzona (CMG/OCDM):

Taking a number of definitions:

  • A short sixteenth and seventeenth century instrumental piece
  • A troubadour song in the form AAB
  • Sixteenth century secular vocal music similar to the madrigal
  • An instrumental composition having been developed from lute and keyboard arrangements which led in turn to the seventeenth century sonata and keyboard fugue.

Variations (OCDM):

A piece of music which is a varied (elaborated or embellished) version of a well known tune or of an original theme especially composed as a basis for variations.

Oratorio (OCDM/GMG):

A musical setting of a religious libretto for solo singers, chorus and orchestra.

Passion (CMG):

An extended oratorio-like setting of the story of the crucifixion of Christ.

Fugue (CMG/OCDM):

A type of composition in which imitative polyphony is used systematically (“Fuga” in Italian, taken from the Latin for “Flight”. Each part or “voice” enters successively in imitation of the first part, the “subject”.

Mass (CMG):

The central form of Roman Catholic sacred music since the fifteenth century, taking the structure of a basic five-movement form: Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Agnus Dei. The “Cantus Firmus” was a fixed melody running through the work, used most prominently in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, helping to give it unity.

Motet (OCDM/CMG):

A form of short unaccompanied choral composition. After the fifteenth century, defined as being a polyphonic setting of a Latin religious text for a number (initially three, later for four, five or more) of voices.

Cantata (CMG/OCDM/HWM):

A piece to be sung (voice) as opposed to “sonata” (“sounded”: Music produced solely with instruments). Later to include a vocal piece with an instrumental accompaniment.

Chaconne (CMG/OCDM):

A moderate or slow dance in triple meter, usually with a ground bass. Almost indistinguishable from “Passacaglia”.

Passacaglia (CMG):

A ground bass movement in slow or moderate triple time from the Baroque period.