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The Difference Between Baroque & Romantic Music

Music of the Baroque and romantic eras features separate instruments and styles.
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The soothing strains of classical music sound similar to the untrained ear. But clear dividing lines emerge when comparing Baroque and romantic music. Baroque emerged between 1600 and 1750, while mainstream romantic works appeared from 1820 to 1900. Each genre is personified by specific composers and features diverse musical instruments and tempos. The difference between baroque and romantic music also reflects the events and fads of those time periods.


Baroque composers include Handel, Bach, Pachelbel and Vivaldi. Bach led the trend of writing music with multiple melodies layered onto each other, some containing quick notes and other accompanied by chords, HyperMusic reports. Musicians expressed joy and anger through their Baroque works. During the romantic period, prominent artists were Wagner, Tchaikovsky and Brahms. Johann Strauss distinguished himself by composing waltzes and polkas that captured this lively and unrestrained era.


Different musical instruments depict the Baroque and romantic periods. Baroque compositions typically were played on an organ, harpsichord, flute, oboe or bassoon. The four-stringed violin replaced the six-stringed instrument known as the viol. Baroque composers wrote their music in one of three styles known as movements: fast, slow and dance. By the time the romantic era swept through, the public renewed its fondness for piano, and Frederic Chopin's compositions dominated the music world.


Music enthusiasts during the Baroque era were introduced to stories told through opera, which opened with overtures that set the mood. This style of storytelling originated in Florence, Italy, with a group of composers called the Florentine Camerata. During the romantic period, operatic compositions followed looser structures to cover wider ranges of emotions, such as Richard Wagner's operas that lasted six hours. Overtures no longer introduced operas but instead evolved into program music that still told stories but without the operas themselves.


Societal influences shaped the Baroque and romantic musical ages. Ornamentation was the rule in music, fashion and art between 1600 and 1750, when men and women wore wigs and layers of lace. Baroque composers typically worked for churches or wealthy ruling classes. During the romantic times, musicians broke boundaries in finding their creative outlets. Musicians no longer borrowed from European styles but instead drew inspiration from their own national folk music, especially Russian artists such as Tchaikovsky.

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