Glossary of Musical Terms

concerto – in Baroque era, a piece calling for diverse instruments; by late Baroque, usually small group or soloist contrasting with slightly larger group.

(basso) continuo/figured bass – a method used throughout the Baroque period for notating the bass part in a piece music. A bass line is given along with numbers and symbols, called figures, that indicate the harmonies to be played above the bass. Filling out the harmonies is referred to as “realization”. This line typically uses at least two performers: one instrument (in our case viola da gamba) to play the bass line and a keyboard instrument such as harpsichord or plucked instrument such as a lute to fill in the harmonies. This requires that our harpsichordist continually improvise much of the music that she plays!

obbligato – a part in the music that is to be played as written, as opposed to for example the basso continuo part, which can be played by one or more instruments and may be realized. This, of course, does not preclude ornamentation.

ostinato – a melodic and/or rhythmic figure that is persistently repeated throughout a composition, often in the bass line.

sonata -in Baroque era, a piece for one or more solo instruments and continuo; early in 17th c., a sonata is usually in several brief, contiguous, contrasting sections; later, it is divided into discrete movements.

suite – a piece of music arranged for keyboard or instrumental ensemble as a group of varied dance movements. Non-dance movements can be included such as a prelude or conclusion.

trio sonata – a sonata that has two obbligato parts (usually treble) and a supporting basso continuo part. When performed by Albuquerque Baroque Players, a trio sonata is performed by four people, the basso continuo being played on viola da gamba and harpsichord.

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