The Baroque orchestra is the type of orchestra that existed during the Baroque period, commonly identified as 1600-1750. Its origins were in France where Jean-Baptiste Lully added the newly re-designed hautboy and transverse flutes to his vingt-quatre violons du Roy. As well as violins and woodwinds, the baroque orchestra contained continuo instruments such as the theorbo and harpsichord.
In the Baroque period, the orchestra was not standardised in size. There were large differences in size, instrumentation and playing styles - and therefore orchestral soundscapes and palettes - between the various European regions. The 'Baroque orchestra' ranged from smaller orchestras (or ensembles) with one player per part, through to larger scale orchestras with many players per part. Examples of the smaller variety were Bach's orchestras, for example in Koethen where he had access to an ensemble of up to 18 players. Examples of large scale Baroque orchestras would include Corelli's orchestra in Rome which ranged between 35 and 80 players for day-to-day performances, being enlarged to 150 players for special occasions.
The term 'Baroque orchestra' is commonly used today to refer to chamber orchestras giving historically informed performances of baroque or classical on period instruments or replicas. The period-instrument revival during the 1970s inspired the development of the first period-instrument baroque orchestras, led by Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Gustav Leonhardt and Frans Bruggen. Since then many baroque orchestras have been formed across Europe, as well as some in North America. Baroque orchestras of today include:
- The Academy of Ancient Music
- American Bach Soloists
- Apollo’s Fire: The Cleveland Baroque Orchestra
- Les Arts Florissants
- The Hague's Baroque Orchestra: The New Dutch Academy
- Boston Baroque
- Bourbon Baroque: Louisville's Period Instrument Ensemble
- Atlanta Baroque Orchestra
- Concerto Italiano
- Concerto Köln
- Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
- Portland Baroque Orchestra
- The English Baroque Soloists
- The English Concert
- Europa Galante
- Freiburger Barockorchester
- Hespèrion XX and Hespèrion XXI
- Il Giardino Armonico
- Musica Antiqua Köln
- New Trinity Baroque
- Newport Baroque Orchestra
- Les Paladins
- Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra
- Taverner Consort and Players
- Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra
- Barocco sempre giovane
- La Chapelle Rhénane
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