The baroque period was characterized by a heroic, dramatic and emotional theme. With well know names like Rembrant, Bach, Pennini, Caravaggio, Bernini, Tintoretto, Velasques, Poussin, Handel, and Rubens, the period produced many popular pieces of music and art. The art of the period was filled with movement, light versus shadow, and the use of the whole surface. The composers incorporated new ideas into their music such as different major and minor scales, the use of the violin, a regular rhythm, a melody that was hard to sing to, terrace dynamics, the basso continuo, and instrumental music was now considered as good as vocal music. The baroque period was an important piece of history in the shaping of the music and art world.
George Frideric Handel was a composer of amazing talents and abilities. Although in todays society he is not as well known as Bach, his work was kept in high regards by the people of the time. Both Handel and Bach were born in 1685 about a month apart, and together the world was stunned by the masterpieces created by these great minds. Handel, being born on February 23, in Halle, Germany, was not from a musical family. As a child he was introduced to the harpsichord by his aunt, and soon after he began to practice the art that he loved. His father showed no interest in Handels music and disowned him saying, ” Then let him be a clown, a tightrope walker, a minstrel or a bear trainer!”On a business trip, Handel accompanied his father to the city of Weissenfels, where he happened to slip away into the town church, and began to play an improvised rendition of the postlude to the service. After seeing the remarkable talent of the young boy, the duke of the church persuaded Handels father that “to ignore this talent would be a sin against God.”2 Handel began his lesson with Duke Zackow soon after, being instructed in the playing of the organ, the harpsichord, and the violin. At the age of 17, Handel experienced the loss of his father. He would quickly move on and enroll as a law student t Halle University. Shortly after beginning school, he became the organist at the protestant cathedral.
After a year of school, Handel moved on into the world of the theatre. Handel was inspired to attempt his hand in composing an opera. Almira was Handels first attempt at an opera, and was warmly welcomed by the audience. Almira was characterized by a nondescript libretto, German recitatives, and a small amount of Italian arias.2 This work was recognized by even the greatest of composers, notably Bach who admired the opera and borrowed part to put in his own works. The popularity of his first opera convinced Handel to write a second. Handel immediately followed up his first work by writing his second opera, Nero. unlike the first opera, this one was a complete failure, only being preformed three times. Although Nero was a failure, Handel pursued his career as an opera writer with such works as Agrippina, Joshua, and Israel in Egypt.
Handle would move on to new and different types of music including many oratorios such as Handels famous Messiah written in 1741. The Messiah is a piece lasting two and one half hours long and amazingly composed in only 24 days. Messiah was first preformed in Dublin, Ireland in 1742. The piece was very popular after its premier, convincing Handel to take it to bigger and better places. He moved on, taking the Messiah into London, England. The first performance of the Messiah in London was poorly received by the audience due mostly because of religious opposition to the use of a Christian text in the theatre. Finally, after ten years of unpopularity, it began to become desirable in London. The Messiah consists of three parts. The first part begins with angels announcement of the Messiahs coming arrival and the birth of Christ.The second part has been described as “the accomplishment of redemption by the sacrifice of Jesus, mankinds rejection of Gods offer and mankinds utter defeat when trying to oppose the power of the Almighty.” The third part shows the need for faith in Christ as our Redeemer.3 The Messiah also contained over fifty movements, the most famous being the Hallelujah Chorus at the end of part two.
The last years of Handels life were lived in loneliness. he was troubled by failing sight which led to temporary blindness. He attempted to improve the condition of his eyes by having three operations on them, all resulting in failure and total blindness. Both without wife and children, he slowly began to shut himself off from the world. He ended his life as a wealthy man, owning several Rembrant paintings and having a large fortune which was ultimately passed on to relatives, friends, and charitable organizations. near to his death, he expressed his desire to find his last rest in Westminster Abbey. The English, who confirmed Handels citizenship, respected his wishes and he was buried in the south transept of the cathedral. On April 20, 1759, 3000 people followed his coffin, which was draped in red velvet. Since 1762, a sculpture of Handel has adorned his resting place. the blind eyes look upward, the right hand holds a sheet of music with the inscription: “I know that my Redeemer livith.”1
Peter Paul Rubens is considered one of the most important Flemish painters of the 17th century. His style became an international definition of the animated, exuberantly sensuous aspects of baroque painting. Rubens combined the bold brushwork, luminous color, and shimmering light of the Venetian style with the vigor of Michelangelos style of art.
Rubens was born in exile at Siegen, Westphalia, where his father had become the advisor and lover of Princess Anna of Saxony. After the death of his father in 1587, Rubens mother moved the family back to Antwerp. After studying the classics in a Latin school, and serving as a court page, Rubens decided to become a painter. He apprenticed with Tobias Verhaecht, Adam van Noort, and Otto van Veen, three minor Flemish painters influenced by the 16th century Mannerist artists of the Florentine Roman school. By the age of 21, the young Rubens was awarded the rank of master painter of the Antwerp Guild of St. Luke.4 Like many of the European artists, Rubens felt the need to travel to Italy, the center of European art for the previous two centuries. In 1600 he arrived in Venice where he was inspired by the paintings of Titian, Paolo Veronese, and Tintoretto. For the next nine years, Rubens was employed by Vincenzo Gonzaga who was the duke of Mantua from 1587 to 1612. In the year 1608, Rubens went back to Antwerp for the funeral of his mother. While in Antwerp, Rubens met Isabella Brant who he married in 1609.4 The success and reputation of Rubens had followed him back to Antwerp where began to work for the Austrian archduke Albert and his wife Isabella. The number of pictures requested from Rubens was so large that he established an enormous workshop in which the master did the initial sketch and final touches, while his apprentices completed all the intermediary steps. Between 1622 and 1630, Rubens value as a diplomat was equal to his importance as a painter. Rubens continued to work until he was physically unable to do so any longer and in 1640 he died.
Rubens created many popular paintings and drawing during his lifetime including his paintings, The Judgement of Paris and Adoration of the Magi. The concerns of Rubens late style and his whole career are summarized in The Judgement of Paris. In this painting, voluptuous goddesses are posed against a verdant landscape, with both the goddesses and the landscape symbolizing the richness of creation. The color is luxuriant, light and shadow glow, and the brushwork is incredible. All of these elements further the meaning of the narrative, which is Paris selection of what is most beautiful.5 Another example of Rubens Art is the Adoration of the Magi painted in 1634. this painting shows Rubens forming a total illusion, almost like a stage setting, It shows amazing contrast between the light and the shadows putting great emphasis on the Christ child and the Magi presenting their gifts. Rubens uses bright re and gold colors to portray the royalty and importance of Christs true nature. Rubens follows many of the baroque characteristics such as movement, business, and filling up the whole painting.6 Rubens characterized the baroque period with his art and gave the society art full of action and intrigue.
Much of the changing styles in art and music during the baroque period can be contributed to George Frideric Handel and Peter Paul Rubens along with many other popular composers and artists. The work that these two men contributed forever shaped the way we look at music and art. Without the work of Handel, we may never have the experience of an opera, and without Rubens we may never have the opportunity to see the wonderful art produced from the baroque period. Each man had his contribution to the world, whether it be in the form of a painting, a drawing, or a piece of music, and without these contributions, the world would have missed out on the phenomenal talents shared with us from the baroque period.
1.George Frideric Handel First EditionLang, Paul Henry, George McLeod Limited, Toronto, 1966
2.The New Grove HandelDean, Wilton, Macmillan Publishers Ltd 1982
3. George Frideric Handel Second Edition Lang, Paul Henry, George McLeod Limited, Toronto, 1977
4.Baroque and Rococo ArtBazin, Germain, Frederick A. Praeger, Inc., Publishers, 1964
5.Rubens Selected Drawings volume 1Held, Julius S., Phaidon Press Ltd., 1959
6.Rubens Selected Drawings volume 2Held, Julius S., Phaidon Press Ltd., 1959