About Baroque Composers: the Role of a Musician

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In the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and well into Baroque era, musicianship and composing was a profession and craft, much like other occupations – butcher, tailor, weaver, however strange it can sound. The skill was taught from generation to generation. For example, J.S. Bach’s family had produced musicians for over 300 years.

Of course, music is not just your ordinary merchandise, like shoes or clocks. At that time, you could not sell your talent in the market (now you can!). Musicians had to find wealthy patrons who would employ their talent and pay for their work. These patrons were usually kings and nobles of the land and princes of the church. They employed composers and orchestras much like they employed their guardsmen, bookkeepers, builders and property managers.

Composers were not expected to repeat performances of their compositions. Rather, they were ordered to compose new works for different occasions. Like many other professionals, they loved to meet with their colleagues, share ideas and use the ideas of others. Music knew fashion and competition. Sometimes, it was easy to congregate with the colleagues, and sometimes, one had to travel far and experience hardships to hear a famous person performing or teaching.

What we now know as Italy and Germany at the time were not unified countries, but a collection of small kingdoms, duchies, city states and principalities. Sometimes the border of different kingdom would lie just outside one's home town. And every ruler or aristocrat would want to be as advanced as others and have music created and performed “in house”. This is why the musical heritage of the Baroque is so vast. Composers counted their works by the hundreds. Vivaldi composed over 600 concertos, Bach’s works add up to over 1000. And with every work, the skill and virtuosity grew. 

To keep their jobs, composers wanted to make sure that their patrons would be pleased and their desires followed. One had to be really creative to keep producing wonderful music for years and years, following the rules and customs of the craft and satisfying the whims of the wealthy and powerful employers.

The Leopold Mozart Academy

... a small music school with branches in Elkins Park and Morrisville, PA We offer private instruction in Piano,Violin, Viola, Violoncello, Winds/Brass, Percussion/Drums. We also offer classes in chamber music, composition, and music theory/solfeggio at the elementary and pre-college levels. All of our teachers are devoted pedagogues and seasoned performers. Our teaching mission is to address each student’s personal needs, talent and individual learning curve. We accept every student who is willing to work hard and with discipline