The 55 Greatest Baroque Composers in One Sentence Each

Jacopo Peri

Peri Credited with writing the first opera, “Euridice,” and seen as key in transitioning music from Renaissance to Baroque stylings

Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck

Jan_Pieterszoon_Sweelinck Established North Germany organ tradition, the harmonically and rhythmically complex improvisatory style that was later mastered by Dieterich Buxtehude

Claudio Monteverdi

220px-claudio_monteverdi First musical dramatist, sometimes considered first Baroque opera composer, who built on Peri’s Renaissance-Baroque transition work

Gregorio Allegri

Gregorio An early instrumentalist who is more well-known for his vocal works, mainly “Miserere mei, Deus,” which is sung annually at the Sistine Chapel during Holy Week

Girolamo Frescobaldi

Girolamo Frescobaldi Influential early instrumental Baroque keyboard composer who showed how interesting keyboard music, unaccompanied by voice, could be

Heinrich Schütz

schuetz With “Dafne,” first German opera composer and the most renowned German composer before Bach and Handel

Samuel Scheidt

Student of Sweelinck who helped spread North German organ tradition throughout Europe, and noted for his “patterned variation” keyboard technique in which chorale phrases build to a climax

Denis Gaultier

French lutenist known for writing graceful melodic lines with clear phrase structures

William Lawes

Lawes Minor figure but possibly the most notable English composer along with John Blow prior to Henry Purcell. His viol consort suites juxtaposed bizarre, spine-tingling themes with pastoral ones

Francesco Cavalli

Cavalli1 Helped bring opera to the masses with his performances in small public houses that relied on limited orchestras of strings and basso continuo

Giacomo Carissimi

Giacomo1 First master of the oratorio, which set biblical or other forms of sacred text to music in dramatized settings that dispensed with scenery and costumes

Antonio Bretali

Bertali Helped establish the tradition of Italian opera seria

Johann Jakob Froberger

Froberger Developed the keyboard suite and contributed to the exchange of musical traditions through his travels outside Germany

Barbara Strozzi

strozzi Arguably the most notable female composer of the Baroque period with vocal pieces that are firmly rooted in the seconda pratica tradition but that have more lyricism than Monteverdi’s work

Johann Heinrich Schmelzer

SchmelzerVirtuoso violinist who helped bring the sonata form to Germany and whose innovative techniques in playing and tuning greatly influenced Biber.

Jean-Henri d’Anglebert

anglebert Known mainly for his four suites of harpsichord music and the standard he set for the material quality of the music books he published

Jean-Baptiste Lully

250px-jean-baptiste_lully_nicolas_mignard The Italian founder of French opera who, with Moliiere, created comédie-ballet, which combined theater, comedy, incidental music, and ballet. “Psyché” is his most well-known work

Dieterich Buxtehude

Buxtehude Pinnacle of North German organ tradition who is said to have inspired Bach to walk 200 miles to hear him play. His organ works today remain central to the standard organ repertoire

Marc-Antoine Charpentier

MA_Charpentier_I Known for his sacred music, which is considered more varied, expressive, and accessible than that of Lully, his contemporary

Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber

HIF Biber Widely regarded as one of the most important composers for the violin in the history of the instrument, pioneering many tuning and playing techniques and composing works that use multiple stops in intricate polyphonic passages. His “Mystery Sonatas” are among the earliest known pieces for solo violin

John Blow

Blow English composer whose opera, “Venus and Adonis,” is credited with influencing Henry Purcell’s landmark opera, “Dido and Aeneas,” and who composed hundreds of anthems for Anglican church services

Domenico Gabrielli

Gabrielli Composer of some of the earliest works for solo cello, including a group of seven ricercari for unaccompanied cello

Johann Pachelbel

unknown Known today mostly for his Canon in D, which is loved and dismissed in equal measure by critics. In his time, he was greatly admired for his work, considered the highest achievement of the South German organ tradition, which is simpler, more melodic than that of the North German organ traditon

Arcangelo Corelli

arcangelo_corelli Eminent instrumentalist composer who is widely credited with developing two of the most significant forms of instrumental music there is, the sonata and the concerto. His “Christmas Concerto” remains a favorite today

Marin Marais

Marais1 Master of the basse de viol and the leading French composer for the instrument, which today has largely been replaced by the cello

Johann Caspar Ferdinand Fischer

Fischer-Johann-Caspar-Ferdinand-01 Widely regarded as one of the best keyboardists of his day, but most of his work has been lost, so the German composer’s work is rarely heard today

Giuseppe Torelli

220px-Giuseppe_Torelli Matured Corelli’s idea of the concerto and today his 12 concerti of opus 8 constitute one of the great achievements of the Baroque period

Henry Purcell

250px-henry_purcell_by_john_closterman Combined French and Italian influences into a unique English Baroque style. The opera “Dido and Aeneas” is his most well-known work and today he remains one of England’s most eminent composers

Alessandro Scarlatti

457px-alessandro_scarlatti Founder of the Neapolitan school of opera, which took Italian opera in a more Classical, less Baroque style, and influenced even non-Italian opera, including the work of Handel

Johann Christoph Pez

Pez2 German composer whose work, heavily influenced by Lully’s French style, is little played today but was highly regarded during his time for the quality of his sonatas

Attilio Ariosti

ariosti Noted for his opera and, maybe more importantly, his work for the viola d’amore, which is a violin-like instrument characterized by non-playing “sympathetic strings” that resonate “in sympathy” with the strings above them when they’re played. Biber is another composer who made memorable use of sympathetic strings

Jean-Féry Rebel

Rebel French violin prodigy who studied under Lully and whose work often had a surprisingly modern, and often under-appreciated, sound to it, with striking counter-rhythms and complex harmonies

François Couperin

250px-francois_couperin_2 French keyboard master who innovated fingering techniques, established new heights of ornamentation, and brought Corelli’s sonata form to France

Tomaso Albinoni

220px-Albinoni Italian composer whose instrumental music greatly influenced Bach but who is almost entirely known today for a piece of music he didn’t actually write, the “Adagio in D Minor.” The piece was mainly written by Italian musicologist Remo Giazotto, who, after Albinoni’s death, took the small bit that Albinoni had written and turned it into the piece that’s so familiar today

Antonio Vivaldi

170px-antonio_vivaldi The greatest and most prolific writer of concertos, including the set of four violin concertos so popular today, the “Four Seasons”

Jan Dismas Zelenka

zelenka1 Czech Baroque composer whose music is admired for its daring compositional structure, harmonic invention, and counterpoint

Pietro Castrucci

Castrucci Virtuoso violinist who studied under Corelli and eventually settled in London. HIs work is little known today, but he is credited with inventing the violetta marina, an instrument no one today has seen but is believed to be a smaller version of the viola d’amore

Georg Philipp Telemann

220px-telemann_4 Hyper-prolific composer of some 3,000 works who was greatly admired by Bach, a friend of his, and whose music is said to serve as a bridge between German Baroque and Classical styles

Jean-Philippe Rameau

200px-attribuc3a9_c3a0_joseph_aved_portrait_de_jean-philippe_rameau_vers_1728_-_001 French harpsichord genius whose music built on the work of Lully and became the pinnacle of the French opera tradition

Johann Gottfried Walther


German music theorist, organist, composer, and lexicographer of the Baroque era. He was most well known as the compiler of the Musicalisches Lexicon. 

Johann Sebastian Bach

220px-johann_sebastian_bach The titan of western art whose music is revered for its intellectual depth, technical command, and artistic beauty

Domenico Scarlatti

220px-retrato_de_domenico_scarlatti Master harpsichord composer whose work, starting with his 555 keyboard sonatas, helped transition music from a Baroque to a Classical sound

George Frideric Handel

220px-georg_friedrich_hc3a4ndel German-born British composer who made his fame and established his imminence as a writer of operas and oratorios, but who is as well-known today for his concerti grossi, including “The Water Music,” and his sonatas

Benedetto Marcello

Marcello1 Much admired in his time for his Vivaldi-like work, he’s largely known today for his Estro poetico-armonico, a musical setting for voices, figured bass, and occasional solo instruments

Sylvius Leopold Weiss

weiss German lutenist who was perhaps the most prolific composer for the instrument with his approximately 600 pieces for it

Francesca Geminiani

Geminiani Instrumentalist composer in the manner of Corelli but with his concerti grossi and sonatas, enlarged the canvas by varying the material more than Corelli and enriching the orchestral colorations

Johann Friedrich Fasch

Fasch image German violinist held in high regard by Bach for his work, including his cantatas, concertos, and symphonies, but his vocal works have largely been lost

Giuseppe Antonio Brescianello

Brescianello Violinist and lutenist known mainly for his 12 concerti e sinphonie op. 1 and 18 pieces for gallichone, a type of lute

Francesco Maria Veracini

Veracini Violinist best known for his suites of violin sonatas. His bowing technique so impressed Tartini that it led this latter composer to withdraw from public while he studied how to apply it to his own work

Giuseppe Tartini

Tartini Corelli’s most significant successor in writing music for the violin. He wrote 150 or so violin concertos and a hundred violin sonatas, including his “Devil’s Trill Sonata,” which Tartini said came to him in a dream

Pietro Locatelli

Locatelli Violin virtuoso whose “L’arte del violino, opus 3,” a collection of 12 concertos for solo violin, strings, and basso continuo, was one of the most influential musical publications of the early eighteenth century. Locatelli’s style is considered a bridge between Corelli and Vivaldi

Jean-Marie Leclair

jmleclair Renowned violinist who is considered to have founded the French violin school.

Johann Joachim Quantz

Quantz Widely regarded as the greatest player and teacher of the flute, and composer for the instrument. He was also an innovative designer of the instrument, adding keys to enhance intonation

Johann Adolph Hasse

Hasse A popular composer in his day, best known for his prolific operatic output and for his role in developing opera seria, the noble, serious form of opera that contrasts with opera buffa, or comic opera

Carlos Seixas

Seixas1 Portuguese composer influenced by the German Empfindsamer Stil (“sensitive style”) for keyboard works. Only three orchestral pieces and around 100 keyboard sonatas, plus a handful of choral works for liturgical use, are available today

Baldassare Galuppi

Galuppi_Baldassare Known as “the father of the comic opera,” he enjoyed considerable fame for the dramma giocoso (“merry”) style of opera that he helped usher in

Giovanni Battista Pergolesi

220px-Pergolesi Along with Galuppi, an innovator of opera buffa, or comic opera, whose work helped establish the traditions that would govern the writing of opera buffa for more than a century

William Boyce

Boyce English “Galante” composer best known for his set of eight symphonies, anthems, and odes. “Galante” refers to a simplified, modern style of music that, in some accounts, is seen as a kind of transition between the Baroque and Classical periods of music

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Tension in the Service of the Sad: Pete Townshend Meets Henry Purcell


Rock legend Pete Townshend of The Who has long cited Henry Purcell as a major, if unlikely, musical influence and in fact he incorprated parts of Purcell’s work into his rock opera, Quadrophenia, and in the opening of “Pinball Wizard,” among other pieces.

It’s interesting how this influence began. In a conversation he had with Matt Everitt of the BBC’s “6 Music” program, he said he was living with his manager, Kit Lambert, whose father was the musical director of the Royal Ballet at Covent Gardens, Constant Lambert. Purcell-2 Early in the band’s career, around the time of “My Generation,” Kit shared with Townshend a recording of Purcell’s suite, “The Gordian Knot Untied,” which uses a series of suspended chords. The sophistication and emotive quality of the chord suspensions, particularly in the Chaconne, riveted Townshend and he started incorporating the idea of suspension into his work. “Suddenly I was in a world of suspensions,” he says.

Purcell translates rather nicely into pop music, Townshend says, because, like pop, it’s simple. “Purcell wrote in the very early era of orchestral and choral music,” he told Everitt, “and his music was simple, very basic. It had to be knocked off quickly. It wasn’t as complex as Bach went on to produce later.”

The Chaconne is the sixth of eight parts of “The Gordian Knot Untied” and it is, as Townshend described it, moving and “profoundly sad,” which would certainly characterize much of The Who’s music, if you think of pieces like “The Song is Over” and “Behind Blue Eyes.” wizard

Townshend also used suspensions in the opening chord sequence of “Pinball Wizard.”

“That chord sequence [at the beginning of ‘Pinball Wizard’] runs for about 15 minutes [on the demo],” Townshend told Steve Rosen of Sounds International in 1980. “It’s just an exploration of how many chords I could make with a running B. The B was in every chord. It went through about 30 or 40 chords very slowly and then into the song. “I’m a Boy” did that as well, in the solo.

“I got very Baroque,” he went on. “I started to be interested in the fact that [Baroque composers] used melodic transitions very rarely and there would always be suspensions and tension and it would be another level of tension and it would drop. This was mainly Purcell.”

Tension in the service of the simple and the sad. That sounds a lot like The Who.—Nabob, On Baroque

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John Blow: Notes and Commentary

John Blow was an English Baroque composer and organist, appointed to Westminster Abbey in 1669. His pupils included Henry Purcell. In 1685 he was named a private musician to James II. His only stage composition, Venus and Adonis, was thought to influence Henry Purcell’s later opera Dido and Aeneas. In 1687 he became choirmaster at St Paul’s Cathedral, where many of his pieces were performed. In 1699 he was appointed to the newly created post of Composer to the Chapel Royal. Fourteen services and more than a hundred anthems by Blow are known. In 1700 he published his Amphion Anglicus, a collection of pieces of music for one, two, three and four voices, with a figured bass accompaniment. A famous page in Charles Burney’s History of Music is devoted to illustrations of Blow’s “crudities”. These show the immature efforts in expression characteristic of English music at the time. Some of them have since been judged to be excellent. He lived from February 1649 to October 1, 1708. —Excerpted from Wikipedia

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John Blow, 1649-1708


Selected Recordings

Venus and Adonis, Act I

O pray for the peace of Jerusalem

Salvator mundi

Selected Sheet Music



Showcase Piece

Ground in G for 2 Violins and Continuo

Notes and Commentary

John Blow was an English Baroque composer and organist, appointed to Westminster Abbey in 1669. His pupils included Henry Purcell. In 1685 he was named a private musician to James II. His only stage composition, Venus and Adonis, was thought to influence Henry Purcell’s later opera Dido and Aeneas. In 1687 he became choirmaster at St Paul’s Cathedral, where many of his pieces were performed. In 1699 he was appointed to the newly created post of Composer to the Chapel Royal. Fourteen services and more than a hundred anthems by Blow are known. In 1700 he published his Amphion Anglicus, a collection of pieces of music for one, two, three and four voices, with a figured bass accompaniment. A famous page in Charles Burney’s History of Music is devoted to illustrations of Blow’s “crudities”. These show the immature efforts in expression characteristic of English music at the time. Some of them have since been judged to be excellent. He lived from February 1649 to October 1, 1708. —Excerpted from Wikipedia

Books and Music

Selected Books

The Trumpet
Yale Univ. Press,
John Wallace
$36 on Amazon


“Provides a remarkable overview of all important trumpet topics and includes complete analysis of important works. Some reporting is done with considerable bias (the authors are trumpeters) including a suspect appendix of important 20th century works that includes far more than a fair share of the author’s own commissions.”—Andy on Amazon

Selected Music

adonis Venus & Adonis (2008), 1 CD

anthems Anthems (2006), 2-CD set

spinet Music for Harpsichord & Spinet (2003), 1 CD

More John Blow music

Complete Works

Morning canticles
Te Deum in A
Jubilate Deo in A
Cantate Domino in A
Deus Misereatur in A
Te Deum in E minor
Jubilate Deo in E minor
Te Deum in G
Jubilate in G

Communion settings
Kyrie in A
Nicene Creed in A
Kyrie in E minor
Nicene Creed in E minor
Kyrie in G
Nicene Creed in G
Kyrie in G
Nicene Creed in G

Evening canticles
Cantate Domino in E minor
Deus Misereatur in E minor
Magnificat and Nunc dimittis in G

Full anthems
Behold, O God our defender
Be merciful unto me O Lord
God is our hope and strength
Let my prayer come up
Let thy hand be strengthened
My days are gone like a shadow
My God, my God, look upon me
O God, wherefore art thou absent
Praise the Lord, ye servants
Save me O God
The Lord hear thee

Verse anthems
God spake sometime in visions
I was in the spirit
O pray for the peace of Jerusalem

Latin works
Salvator mundi

Catches (secular)
Catch on the battle at Hailbron
On The Kings coming home

Other works
Amphion Anglicus
An Ode on the Death of Mr. Henry Purcell
Prelude in C major
Venus and Adonis

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William Boyce: Notes and Commentary

William Boyce is widely regarded as one of the most important English-born composers of the 18th century. He is best known for his set of eight symphonies, his anthems, and his odes. He also wrote the masque Peleus and Thetis and songs for John Dryden’s Secular Masque, incidental music for William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Cymbeline, Romeo and Juliet and The Winter’s Tale, and a quantity of chamber music including a set of twelve trio sonatas. He also composed the British and Canadian Naval March “Heart of Oak”. The lyrics were later written by David Garrick for his 1759 play Harlequin’s Invasion.

Boyce was largely forgotten after his death and he remains a little-performed composer today, although a number of his pieces were rediscovered in the 1930s and Constant Lambert edited and sometimes conducted his works. Lambert had already launched the early stages of the modern Boyce revival in 1928, when he published the first modern edition of the Eight Symphonies (Bartlett and Bruce 2001). The great exception to this neglect was his church music, which was edited after his death by Philip Hayes and published in two large volumes, Fifteen Anthems by Dr Boyce in 1780 and A Collection of Anthems and a Short Service in 1790. He lived from September 1711 to February 7, 1779.—Excerpted from Wikipedia

Is Boyce sometimes referred to as “The English Bach?” That’s open to debate.

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