Seattle Baroque Orchestra Seeks to Teach Appreciation of Early Music
Between the start of the 17th century and the middle of the 18th century, Europe saw the rise of the baroque arts encompassing painting, architecture, sculpture and music. During the later decades of the baroque period, composers who today are considered the epitome of classical music wrote their seminal works. Composers such as Vivaldi, Handel and Bach created works that still comprise the musical programs of thousands of orchestras. Likewise, musical instruments that are still appreciated and used today, such as the violin, the cornet and the harpsichord, were developed during the baroque period. It's no wonder, then, that baroque orchestras also have devoted fans today.
The Seattle Baroque Orchestra, which is a part of the Early Music Guild of Seattle, presents concerts between October and May each year that celebrate the music of this period, from the chants of the early 16th century through Bach's violin concerto masterpieces. The orchestra has paid homage to Bach and Haydn as well as to the operatic works of the period in its concerts. The Seattle Baroque Orchestra performs pieces from all areas of Europe influenced by baroque music, including Italy where baroque was born, France and Germany.
Baroque music, including that performed by the Seattle Baroque Orchestra, is best known as the style of music that introduced complexity to musical form, both in the way compositions were written and in the instruments used to perform those compositions. One of the most important musical concepts developed during the baroque period, functional tonality, or the relationship of a chord to the other chords in the piece, impacts musical composition even today.
Since its formation in 1994, nearly 20 years ago, the stated mission of the Seattle Baroque Orchestra has been to teach 21st century audiences, through performances and education, about the important influence early music has had on today's composers and compositions. Under the guidance of its founders, musical director and violinist Ingrid Matthews and artistic director and harpsichordist Byron Schenkman, the orchestra typically performs approximately half a dozen concerts each season. The concert venues include the Great Hall at Town Hall Seattle as well at nearby locations such as St. James Cathedral on 8th Avenue.
The Seattle Baroque Orchestra seeks to educate audiences on the major impact baroque music had on the ensuing musical styles from the Classical era of music that followed it through today's compositions. Audiences have the opportunity to not only appreciate baroque music for its own merits but to recognize and understand the lingering influences they hear in music composed from the middle of the 18th century, when the baroque period ended, through today's orchestral offerings.
The orchestra, in addition to presenting concerts in Seattle, performs on nationwide tours each year. As a premier example of an early music ensemble, the Seattle Baroque Orchestra has been featured frequently on National Public Radio. The orchestra's six recordings of baroque music have received overwhelmingly positive reviews. The orchestra is known for highlighting lesser known works of famous composers, such as Bach and Handel, as well as those of composers not as familiar to audiences.
The Seattle Baroque Orchestra's members range from its founders Matthews and Schenkman to soloists and orchestra members with long musical pedigrees of their own in other baroque orchestras as well as on recordings ranging from classical to movie soundtracks. The orchestra is made up of violins, violas, cellos, recorders, oboes, lutes and flutes, and keyboards that might include harpsichord or pianoforte, depending on the requirements of the pieces performed.
The orchestra has received excellent reviews of both its performances and its recordings as it has developed a dedicated following of early music lovers. The Seattle Baroque Orchestra has earned well-deserved praise for the work it has done in the Pacific Northwest as well as across the country to increase appreciation of the much-loved baroque musical form that still influences composers of all musical genres today.