Playlist: Baroque music at its finest

Bright, lively, and exuberant, but most importantly, full of contrast: Baroque music is all of these at the same time, and much more. From Monteverdi to Rameau, without forgetting Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre, this is Baroque music at its finest!

Playlist: Baroque music at its finest
Playlist: baroque music at its finest, © Getty / Anatoly Sapronenkov

Over two centuries of music and a profusion of styles: where does one begin when dealing with Baroque music? France Musique has compiled a playlist of eight different composers in an attempt to understand the beauty of such a rich period of musical creation.

Monteverdi, L'Orfeo

Jean-Baptiste Lully, Thésée

Proud ambassador of art and of the French style of the 17th century, Jean-Baptiste Lully offered the musical world a new genre: the lyrical tragedy. From Cadmus et Hermione (1673) to Achille et Polyxène (1687), the formidable Lully composed one opera every year. The third of these, Thésée, with a libretto by Philippe Quinault, was first performed in 1675 and remained an integral part of the Paris Opera repertoire for over a century...a rare event!

Monteverdi, The Return of Ulysses

First performed in Venice in 1640, Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria (The return of Ulysses to his Homeland) is one of Claudio Monteverdi's last operas before his death in 1643. Perhaps less well-known than his famous Orfeo, Il ritorno d'Ulisse was nonetheless one of the first of the composer's operas to witness a renewed interest during the 20th century: the work was staged in Paris in 1925 for the first time after years of silence, due largely to the efforts of composer and pedagogue Vincent d'Indy

Bach, Toccata in e minor

Hundreds of cantatas, a infinitely rich body of work for the organ: Johann-Sebastien Bach remains an undeniably essential part of music history, to the point where the date of his death, 1750, is often used as a marking point for the end of the Baroque period. In this particular toccata, composed in around 1710, Bach draws upon the influences of past composers, notably Buxtehude, who passed away in 1707.

Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre, Semelé

Female composers are rare, and even more so during the Baroque period. Amongst the few published female composers was Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre (1665-1729), author of various suites for harpsichord, a lyrical tragedy (Céphale et Procris), and secular and sacred cantatas, including this Semelé.

Marin Marais, la Rêveuse

Prolific composer of music for viola da gamba and successful operas such as Alcyone (1706), Marin Marais experienced a second wind following the release of the film Tous les matins du monde in 1991, in which we hear La Rêveuse, narrating the musician's relations with his musical master, Monsieur de Sainte Colombe.

Vivaldi, Il Giustino

Known and beloved throughout the world for his Four Seasons, Antonio Vivaldi continuously highlighted through his music the infinite wealth of the human voice. Amidst the fifty-odd operas composed by the Venetian master, one must not forget Il Giustino, first performed in 1724, and here performed beautifully by Jakub Józef Orlinski. 

Francesco Cavalli, Erismena

Another important name of Italian opera: Francesco Cavalli, composer of La Calisto (1652), Xerse (1655), and Erismena, here performed during the 2017 Aix-en-Provence Festival. 

Rameau, Platée

Father of "French music" according to Debussy, Jean-Philippe Rameau only began to experience success at the age of 50. A late start, but no less explosive: he composed Platée in 1745 for the wedding of the Dauphin, son of Louis XV, and the young Marie-Thérèse. Humorously styled as a "Ballet Bouffon", Platée was also proof of an exceptional musical talent, as can be seen by the air Aux langueurs d'Apollon