Top 10 Baroque composers (updated 2019)

Gramophone Sat 5th January 2019

From around 1600 to 1750, the Baroque period witnessed the creation of some of the greatest masterpieces ever composed

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

Bach has been called 'the supreme arbiter and law-giver of music'. He is to music what Leonardo da Vinci is to art and Shakespeare is to literature, one of the supreme creative geniuses of history.

Essential recording St Matthew Passion

Soloists; Trinity Boys Choir, Monteverdi Choir, English Baroque Soloists / Sir John Eliot Gardiner (Recording of the Month, April 2017; Shortlisted for the 2017 Baroque Vocal Award) Read the review

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Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)

With Antonio Vivaldi, Italian Baroque music reached its zenith. The prosperous, cultivated world of contemporary Venice shines through all his works, composed with innate craftsmanship.

Essential recording The Four Seasons

Rachel Podger vn Brecon Baroque (Editor's Choice, May 2018; shortlisted for the 2018 Gramophone Concerto Award)

Read the review

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George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)

Handel is one of the giants of musical history. His is happy, confident, melodic music imbued with the grace of the Italian vocal school, an easy fluency in German contrapuntal writing and the English choral tradition inherited from Purcell.

Essential recording Messiah

Soloists; Dunedin Consort and Players / John Butt (winner of Gramophone's 2007 Baroque Vocal Award) Read the review

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Henry Purcell (1659-95)

Many regard Purcell as the greatest English composer of all time. Among his most influential works are the opera Dido and Aeneas and the semi-operas The Fairy Queen and King Arthur.

Essential recording The Fairy Queen

Lucy Crowe, Claire Debono, Anna Devin; Glyndebourne Chorus and Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment / William Christie (DVD of the Month, October 2010; 2010 Gramophone Award for DVD Performance) Read the review

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Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643)

Monteverdi, a composer who bridged the Renaissance period and the Baroque, can be justly considered one of the most powerful figures in the history of music. Among his most notable works are the operas Orfeo and L’incoronazione di Poppea

Essential recording Vespers

Taverner Consort / Andrew Parrott (The Top Choice in our Gramophone Collection Article in June 2010) Read the review

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Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672)

Schütz was the greatest German composer of the 17th century and the first of international stature.

Essential recording Musicalische Exequien

Vox Luminis / Lionel Meunier (Gramophone's Recording of the Year 2012) Read the review

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Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757)

Scarlatti produced the vast body of instrumental music for which he’s best known, and in particular the keyboard sonatas. These works extended the genre immeasurably, introducing a virtuosity and brilliance that broke new ground.

Essential recording Sonatas

Yevgeny Sudbin pf (Recording of the Month, April 2016; shortlisted for the 2016 Gramophone Instrumental Award) Read the review

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Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764)

Though he was no judge of librettos, he raised the musical side of opera to a new level and in his ballets introduced many novel descriptive effects – the French loved these – such as the earthquake in Les Indes galantes.

Essential recording Overtures

Les Talens Lyriques / Christophe Rousset (winner of the 1998 Gramophone Baroque Non-Vocal Award) Read the review

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Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713)

Corelli was the main founder of modern orchestral playing and the composer who fashioned two new musical forms, the Baroque trio and solo sonata, and the concerto grosso.

Essential recording Complete Concerti Grossi

Amandine Beyer vn Gli Incogniti (Editor's Choice, February 2014; shortlisted for Gramophone's 2014 Baroque Instrumental Award) Read the review

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Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767)

Telemann was probably the most prolific composer in musical history. He wrote almost as much as Bach and Handel put together (and each of them wrote a perplexing amount) including 600 French overtures or orchestral suites, 200 concertos, 40 operas and more than 1000 pieces of church music.

Essential recording Concertos & Cantata Ihr Völker Hört

Clare Wilkinson mez Florilegium (Editor's Choice, September 2016; shortlisted for Gramophone's 2017 Baroque Instrumental Award) Read the review

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