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date: 16 October 2019


  • Claude V. Palisca


A term used generally to designate a period or style of European music covering roughly the years between 1600 and 1750.

Although used in art and music criticism as far back as the mid-18th century, the term ‘Baroque’ has only relatively recently been adopted for a historical period. It is derived from the French baroque, which comes from the Portuguese barroco, meaning a pearl of irregular or bulbous shape. It is often found in texts having to do with the manufacture of jewellery from the 16th century onwards, in Spanish (berrueco, barrueco), French (barroque, barrocque, baroque) and later Italian (baroco, barocco).

It has been generally assumed that the word was first applied to the fine arts in reference to architecture. Charles de Brosses in Lettres familières écrites d’Italie en 1739 et 1740 (Paris, c 1755; ed. R. Colomb, Paris, 1855) criticized the architect of a Roman palace for transferring to a large scale the style of baroque ornamentation that better suited small objects like gold cases or dinnerware. But it has been shown that these ‘letters’ were not drafted until about ...

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