On the lookout for spirited Baroque music

I’ve started to make a collection of upbeat, energetic Baroque music for the gym, the kind that puts you into hyperdrive and makes you realise that Baroque is just a syllable away from heavy rock. Normally, my go-to guy for upbeat and energetic is Handel, but I’d like to have something more than just my personal favourites and spend more time exercising than working my way through more than 100 years of the musical output of Western Europe.

I’m versatile when it comes to genres, so suggestions of opera, sacred and instrumental music are all good. Also, if you happen to know of ensembles or soloists known for kick-ass interpretations, feel free to share them. I’ll mention Red Priest as an example of the kind of vibe I’m looking for (although my tastes must have changed – suddenly I can’t stand the sound of recorders.)

Well, there’s Bach: some of the movements from his concertos are pretty upbeat and energetic. (I’m thinking of the Brandenberg concertos and the keyboard concertos (played on harpsichord or piano, depending on what version you’re listening to).) And speaking of Handel, make sure you don’t miss the organ concertos. Though I don’t normally think of the organ as a light and lively instrument, those are exceptions.

Empire Brass does some baroque.


You might enjoyIl Giardino Armonico, an Italian Baroque ensemble.

Keep an eye out for Jordi Savall and Hesperion XXI (formerly known as Hesperion XX). Some of it is earlier than you’re interested in, but the performances are first rate.

Vivaldi’s **Four Seasons **are nice. (You’re aware that in most cases the first and third movements of concertos are usually fast and the second movement is slow?)

Look for pieces with tempos allegro, vivace, presto. Another possibility is pieces containing movements based on lively dance forms such as gigue, bouree, corrente, gavotte, passepied. Bach wrote 4 orchestral suites and scads of keyboard and solo instrument suites and partitas using these.

Not just Baroque, but classical: Power Classics CDs. A whole series! Out of print, apparently, but copies can still be bought.

As Emily pointed out, the second movements of Concertos are always going to be slow.

With that being said though, the board is usually a fan of Rachel Podger. In particular La Stravaganza might be what you’re looking for. Here’s a sample.

Posting to subscribe.

Hi all, apologies for my late return, and thanks for your suggestions. A number of music teachers through my teens have helpfully ruined The Four Seasons for me, and thereby, a lot of the violin concertos as well. Imagine yourself caught at a party by a persistent and talkative old bore, who knows two jokes and repeats them endlessly to make sure you’ve got the point. That’s how much of Vivaldi sounds to me. In fact, it could be another thread: “How Not To Hate Vivaldi.”

Bach’s 3rd Brandenburg concerto has three movements but the 2nd is just a suggestion for improvisation, so many recordings omit that part. The two outer movements just rock, and there are lots of interesting transcriptions (original is violins, violas, and cellos; LAGQ has an arrangment, there are numerous arrangement for brass ensemble).

Glen Gould has his quirky moments, but he bust roars along on the outer movements of the Concerto in the Italian Style. Also his recording of the e minor fugue (1st book) is tremendous. There are some great videos on youtube. I like Glen Gould because you always get teh feeling that he is completly at ease with the tempo selected, and that if he wanted to go even faster he could.

I recently heard a recording of the Bach Inventions and Sinfonias that had amazing tempos. He takes off like a rocket on the #8 Invention in F.

My last suggestion is to visit your local public library for CD’s. My local has a great selection although they can be pretty badly scratched. I see if I like what I hear then make a purchase on I tunes.