The Continuo Collective of the South is an ensemble dedicated to the vast repertoire of Baroque chamber music. The "continuo," the harpsichord and ‘cello, is the consistent, driving force of the group as they cover all of the harmonies and reinforce the "voice" most fundamental to baroque accompaniment: the bass line. This core duo is always included in the Continuo Collective’s concerts and joined by a variety of instrumentalists or vocalists depending upon the repertoire being performed.
The founding members of the Continuo Collective of the South are the continuo of ‘cellist Ruth Berry and Ken Courtney on harpsichord, with soloists Angela Massey (flute) and Pawel Kozak (violin).
Baroque Trio Sonata
How many instrumentalists does it take to perform a Baroque "Trio Sonata?" A favorite combination of the Continuo Collective is the continuo plus two treble instruments, often a flute and violin. This allows the performance of many of the thousand or so Trio Sonata compositions composed by Baroque composers such as Corelli, Bach, Vivaldi, Pachelbel, Telemann and Handel. So, to answer the music terminology question … four – the continuo duo plus two treble instrumentalists – are required to perform a Baroque Trio Sonata. A fun, but tricky question indeed!
Baroque Solo Sonata: Accompanied
How many instrumentalists does it take to perform a Baroque Solo Sonata?
Answer: Three – the continuo duo plus the solo instrumentalist.
Baroque Solo Sonata: Unaccompanied
Yup, the apparent face value of this term is correct – only one instrumentalist is required! There are Baroque Unaccompanied instrumental compositions such as the Telemann Flute Fantasias, J.S. Bach Solo Violin Sonatas and Partitas, J.S. Bach Suites for Solo Cello, and many compositions written for solo keyboard. The Continuo Collective members often perform some of these unaccompanied works so that you can hear the contrast in texture between these and the works requiring continuo accompaniment.
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Suggestions for Listening to Baroque Music
Like the elaborately ornamented buildings and intricately woven tapestries created during the 17th and early 18th centuries, Baroque music is very busy. There is a lot going on at once, even in the unaccompanied instrumental works. Listen to how motives (ideas of several notes) recur, overlap, and move between "voices," (often sequencing step-wise up or down) and are then repeated/imitated and elaborated.