Baroque Instrumental Music

Disc 4 of 24

Baroque instrumental music is where the hits just keep on coming! These are Top 40 classics that, had there been charts in that age, would have been the No. 1s! With their great melodies and jaunty rhythms, this music is guaranteed to endear itself to one and all, gaining new fans every generation.

CD 4 begins where CD 3 ended, with the music of George Frederic Handel (1685 – 1759). The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba, a bouncy Baroque gem, is excerpted from his opera Solomon and creates a perfect image of the Queen and her entourage making their grand entrance.

Poor old Johann Pachelbel (1653 – 1706) may be the original one-hit wonder. He was, and remains, a highly esteemed composer amongst academics, but for all the public is concerned he wrote one song, his Canon (Track 1). Even the Gigue (Track 2), the lesser partner in this couple, is usually skipped over. 

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750) wrote his set of Six Brandenburg Concertos for the Margrave of Brandenburg in 1721. As was customary in a Baroque concerto, the movements alternate tempo, fast – slow-fast and make use of ritornello, Italian for “little return”. After introducing the great melody that kicks off the first movement, the tune is transformed, being passed around the various instruments in the ensemble, one moment the horns, the next the oboes. The mood is darkened ever so briefly (Track 4 1:56 and 2:24), but at 3:26 Bach brings it all together in the ritornello to take it over the finish line. By comparison, the second movement is quite stark and sombre, while the final movement returns us to the jaunty exuberanceof the first.

Handel returns for his Music for the Royal Fireworks, a piece as grand and regal as the title implies. Written in 1749, this music celebrates the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle that ended the War of the Austrian Succession, which provided a brief respite to the hostilities between France and England. As would happen throughout his career in England, Handel was asked to compose music for particular occasions. The Dettingten Te Deum (written to celebrate the English victory at Dettingten) and four anthems for the Coronation of George II are two other examples.

Next up is arguably classical music’s biggest hit. Antonio Vivaldi (1678 – 1741) wrote his concerto, La Primavera (Spring), as part of a set known collectively as The Four Seasons. Written in 1725, these represent the epitome of his style. Great melodic invention, contrasting sonorities between ensemble and violin, passages tossed around in an echo-like manner, bravura solo work and use of ritornello (compare 0:17 and 2:55), lead to a grand finale. As in Bach’s concerto, the second movement is sombre while the third movement returns to a liveliness fitting the standard Baroque form of fast-low-fast.

Henry Purcell (1659 – 1695) wrote his Chaconne around 1680, a few years before Bach and Handel were born. Purcell, the greatest English composer since Byrd (CD 2), was also a major contributor in the development of opera. We will encounter his music again on CDs 23 and 24.


Recommended Tracks

Recommended Tracks

Johann Pachelbel (1653 - 1706):
Canon and Gigue in D major | 1. Canon
Pinnock · The English Concert
George Frideric Handel (1685 - 1759):
Solomon, Act III | Arrival of the Queen of Sheba
Pinnock · The English Concert
Antonio Vivaldi (1678 - 1741):
Concerto for Violin and Strings in E, Op.8, No.1, RV 269 "La Primavera" | 1. Allegro
Pinnock · The English Concert


(Please find our recommended audio excerpts for this CD on the bottom of the "Overview" page.)

    1. CD 1
      1. Johann Pachelbel (1653 - 1706)
        Canon and Gigue in D major
        1. 1.
          1. Canon
        2. 2.
          2. Gigue
      2. George Frideric Handel (1685 - 1759)
        Solomon, Act III
        1. 3.
          Arrival of the Queen of Sheba
      3. Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 - 1750)
        Brandenburg Concerto No.1 in F, BWV 1046
        1. 4.
          1. (without tempo indication)
        2. 5.
          2. Adagio
        3. 6.
          3. Allegro
        4. 7.
          4. Menuet - Trio - Polonaise
      4. George Frideric Handel (1685 - 1759)
        Music for the Royal Fireworks: Suite HWV 351
        1. 8.
          1. Ouverture
        2. 9.
          2. Bourrée
        3. 10.
          3. La paix
        4. 11.
          4. La réjouissance
        5. 12.
          5. Menuet I
        6. 13.
          6. Menuet II
          The English Concert, Trevor Pinnock
      5. Antonio Vivaldi (1678 - 1741)
        Concerto for Violin and Strings in E, Op.8, No.1, RV 269 "La Primavera"
        1. 14.
          1. Allegro
        2. 15.
          2. Largo
        3. 16.
          3. Allegro (Danza pastorale)
          Simon Standage, Trevor Pinnock, The English Concert
      6. Henry Purcell (1659 - 1695)
      7. 17.
        Ciacona in G minor
        The English Concert, Trevor Pinnock
    Playing Time 01:02:23