The Baroque period in music as it is known today lasted from around
1600 to 1750, culminating in the great works of J.S.Bach and
G.F.Handel. The word itself is French in origin,
and apparently describes a pearl of irregular shape and referred to the
strangeness, irregularity and extravagance of art in the period.
Later it was adopted by the music community.
Various features are given special emphasis during the period - the use of
basso continuo (a group of accompanying instruments which variously included
harpsichords, double bass, lute and other instruments); the emphasis on
contrasts as epitomised by the form of the Ritornello, in which a central tutti
is contrasted with solistic elements in between; and a belief in 'the doctrine
of the affections'.