Fall 2018


Magnificence: Baroque Music in the Embrace of Architecture, Art and Style (55+)

The baroque period produced brilliant, highly ornate music as well as art, architecture, dance, poetry and literature. It outgrew public scorn and became familiar for its grandeur, drama, vitality, tension, emotional exuberance, religious passion and blurring of distinctions among the arts. The baroque appeals to all senses, with a combined effect on hearts and minds.

We’ll explore what makes baroque music “baroque” by listening to performances on contemporary and modern instruments. We’ll also find musical clues such as harmony, ornamentation, tempo and mood in baroque painting and architecture, and see how baroque music in turn corresponds to elements of the visual arts. Along the way, we will visit seats of power across Europe where baroque arts were patronized, and will discover lesser-known artists among the masters.

Please note that enrollment in this course is reserved for adults 55+.

This course is available at the following time(s) and location(s):

Campus Session(s) Instructor(s) Cost Seats available  
Vancouver 6 Jesse Read $115.00 16 Register

What will I learn?

Week 1: The Beginnings

We discuss the definition of “baroque” and trace its origin and discover the important guiding considerations for composers and artists. We begin to define the terms that illuminate this style of music, visual arts and architecture, and learn how “ornamentation” is expressed in each of them. We look briefly at the end of the Renaissance to hear the new music and how it brought its past into its present in Venice, where Monteverdi arrived after his youthful career in Mantua. We also listen to examples of his madrigals and operas. We hear Gabrielli’s multiple instrumental choirs in the Basilica of San Marco.

Week 2: Venice, Florence, and Rome

The Baroque in Italy led the rest of Europe as the transition from the Renaissance progressed.  Wealthy families patronized the arts, the Florentine Camerata gave birth to opera, and the Catholic church promoted the edicts of the Council of Trent. In Rome, the Vatican directed monuments of music and encouraged the genius Lorenzo Bernini, whose work embodied Baroque architecture and sculpture. We look at the painters Caravaggio and Reni, discover Guido Cagnacci, meet Carlo Maderno, the first Baroque architect, and remember Leonardo da Vinci. We hear music from Allegri, Locatelli and Corelli, and remember the quintessential Venetian composer, Antonio Vivaldi.

Week 3: Versailles, Paris

We visit a seat of absolutism, the domain of the two Louis, XIII and XIV, where a lively, rich, extravagant court flourished, and music and dance held sway. We discover the composers who illuminated the salon, including Lully, Rameau, Marais, Gaultier and Mouton. The art of Watteau, Poussin and Lorrain gives a special perspective on this music. Do you know Église Saint-Gervais-Saint-Protais de Paris, the first Baroque church in the city? We learn about the importance of dance in the Baroque, and how its popularity influenced the musical forms that became widely used in all types of music throughout Europe.

Week 4: England

London had a vital and important Baroque life, especially in opera. George Frideric Handel arrived from Germany, and the Italians Hasse and Porpora fell into a turbulent rivalry to control opera style in the city. After the great fire of 1666, the opportunity to rebuild St. Paul’s Cathedral in the grand Baroque style fell to the architect Christopher Wren. We discover some special musical examples of Handel, Purcell, Locke and Blow, and talk about masques, the theatre, the patronage of Charles II, and the literary contributions of Milton and Sir Anthony van Dyke.

Week 5: Dresden, Leipzig and Sanssouci

In Dresden, Germany, we meet Schütz and Zelenka. We hear how the position of Music Director for the city of Leipzig was bestowed on Johann Sebastian Bach, the “also ran”, and we learn more about the short list candidates—Telemann, Kuhnau and Fasch—and hear their music. We explore the “Doctrine of Affections” and how rhetoric influenced the composers of the time, then visit Frederick the Great’s magnificent chateau, Sanssouci. Here we meet Bach’s son, Karl Phillip Emmanuel, and hear music from the court, including an example composed by Frederick himself. We discover painter Georges de la Tour and are reminded of the school of Caravaggio.

Week 6: Influences, Changes, Adaptations and Versions

We look at how Baroque arts have been appropriated, reused, rediscovered and borrowed, including examples from jazz and pop, and meet Jacques Loussier and the Swingle Singers. We identify “neo-baroque” style in some works of art and music. We hear Stravinsky’s Pulcinella/Pergolesi/Gallo/Wassenaer, Villa-Lobos’ Bachianas Brasilieras, Bach using Marcello and Vivaldi, Handel’s recycled works, Britten’s use of Purcell, and fugues by Shostakovich, Ed Sheeran and Lady Gaga.

How will I learn?

  • Lectures
  • Discussion (may vary from class to class)
  • Papers (applicable only to certificate students)

How will I be evaluated?

For certificate students only:

Your instructor will evaluate you based on an essay, which you will complete at the end of the course. You will receive a grade of “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory.”

Textbooks and learning materials

Reading material (if applicable) will be available in class. Some course materials may be available online.

If you're 55+, you may take this course as part of

Look at other courses in