Baroque Music and Instruments

This eight-session course presents curated encounters with the most important instruments used in Baroque music, with discussion of the history and expressive qualities of each instrument, featuring faculty from Oberlin Conservatory and the Oberlin Baroque Performance Institute. Intended for lifelong learners of all backgrounds (high school age and older).

Curated by Michael Lynn and Kenneth Slowik


Historically informed musicians performing.
Photo credit: Yevhen Gulenko

Course Description

As recently as the 1980s, most classical music audiences, if asked to list composers of the Baroque period, might cite Bach, Handel, Telemann, and Vivaldi before running out of names. Though the works of these geniuses occasionally found their way onto concert programs, the output of many other composers at least as well known during the 17th and 18th centuries remained shrouded in obscurity. But beginning in the middle of the 20th century, and accelerating rapidly as that century reached its end, the movement known by the acronym HIP—"historically informed performance"—introduced many long-forgotten masterworks, and with them the names of many formerly celebrated musicians.

This shift came about largely because of—or at least in parallel with—the rediscovery of the possibilities offered by the instruments known to Baroque composers. Some of these, like those of the violin family, retained a similar outward appearance over the centuries, so that the casual observer might reasonably assume that a Stradivarius violin made in, say, 1720, would sound as it did shortly after it left its creator's Cremona shop. Others, like the flute and oboe, evolved in ways that made them look and sound radically    dissimilar to their 18th-century forebears.

In this course, through looking closely at the instruments and their repertoires, we'll examine some of the principal ways in which music of the Baroque can be considered a multifaceted aural analogue to the arresting paintings of Caravaggio, Rubens, and Boucher; structurally akin to the sweeping architecture of Wren, Le Vau, and Fischer von Erlach; and linked to the philosophical and intellectual milieu that nurtured Descartes, Spinoza, Leibnitz, and Pascal. Oberlin Conservatory faculty and invited guest artists will discuss the history and expressive possibilities of their instruments, and each class will include performances that illustrate the remarkable range of forms, textures, and colors they afford.

Meeting Times

March 7 through April 25 (eight consecutive Mondays): Synchronous sessions from 8 to 9:30 p.m. ET.

CEU/Hours of Engagement: 1 CEU/10+ hours of engagement*

Course Fee: $300


Week 1: Overview: Baroque Music and Instruments
Week 2: An Introduction to Baroque Instruments
Week 3: Harpsichord and Clavichord in the Music of J.S. Bach
Week 4: Development of the Flute
Week 5: The Language of Lute’s Mystery
Week 6: The Oboe and Organ
Week 7: The Caldwell Collection
Week 8: The Goldberg Variations of J.S. Bach


This course is presented by current and former members of the Oberlin Conservatory faculty and the Oberlin Baroque Performance Institute, and is curated by Michael Lynn and Kenneth Slowik.

Michael Lynn (recorder, Baroque flute) is a professor of recorder and Baroque flute at Oberlin Conservatory. He has performed internationally with such groups as Apollo's Fire, Mercury Baroque, the Smithsonian Chamber Players, and the Boston Early Music Festival, has given workshops around the country, and is well known for his knowledge of historical flutes.

Kenneth Slowik is artistic director of the Oberlin Baroque Performance Institute and the Smithsonian Chamber Music Society. He has made more than 70 recordings on the cello, viol, fortepiano, and baryton, and conducted repertoire ranging from Monteverdi to Stravinsky. He serves on the faculties of the University of Maryland, the American Bach Soloists Academy, and L’Académie internationale du Domaine Forget. He received the Smithsonian Secretary’s Distinguished Scholar Award in 2011.

Julie Andrijeski (Baroque violin) is senior instructor and director of Baroque music and ensembles at Case Western Reserve University. She leads classes in historical performance practices, teaches Baroque violin, and directs the Baroque orchestra, chamber, and dance ensembles. She also is artistic director of Atlanta Baroque, codirector of Quicksilver; principal player with Apollo’s Fire, and a member of Les Délices, the Boston Early Music Festival Orchestra, and the King’s Noyse.

David Breitman (clavichord) is associate professor of historical performance at Oberlin Conservatory. He is equally at home with the fortepiano and the modern piano, and enjoys both solo and ensemble playing. Recent seasons have included Beethoven’s Fourth Concerto and Choral Fantasy, and performances at the Cobbe Collection of historical instruments outside of London. In the book Piano Playing Revisited: What Modern Players Can Learn from Period Instruments (University of Rochester Press), Breitman acknowledges the dilemma of confronting historical repertoire with modern instruments, then shows how to apply insights from period instruments to practical problems on any piano.

Mark Edwards (harpsichord) is an assistant professor of harpsichord at Oberlin Conservatory. He has presented solo recitals at numerous major festivals and series, among them the Utrecht Early Music Festival, Bozar, and the Montreal Baroque Festival and Clavecin en concert. He has performed concertos with ensembles including Il Gardellino, Neobarock, and Ensemble Caprice.

Lucas Harris (lute) performs with the Canadian-based Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir and is a faculty member of its summer institute. He is the founder of the "pluck band" known as the Toronto Continuo Collective and the Southern Italian folk group the Vesuvius Ensemble, and he regularly collaborates with other ensembles. Harris is artistic director of the Toronto Chamber Choir.

Catharina Meints (viola da gamba) retired from Oberlin Conservatory in 2020 after a distinguished teaching and performing career. She and her husband, oboist and viol enthusiast James Caldwell, established the Oberlin Baroque Performance Institute in 1971. She retired from the Cleveland Orchestra in 2006 after a 35-year career.

Kathryn Montoya (Baroque oboe) appears with a variety of orchestral and chamber music ensembles including the Boston Early Music Festival Orchestra, Tafelmusik, the Wiener Akademie, Pacific Musicworks, and Apollo’s Fire. Montoya has been broadcast on NPR’s Performance Today and can be heard on the Erato, Naxos, CPO, NCA, Analekta, and Dorian Sono Luminus labels.

Jonathan Moyer (organ) specializes in a vast repertoire from the renaissance to the 21st century and has performed throughout the United States as well as in Europe and Japan. In addition to his role on the Oberlin Conservatory faculty, Moyer serves as organist of the Church of the Covenant in Cleveland and has been a visiting lecturer in organ at the Hochschule für Musik in Lübeck, Germany. He has performed with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Boston Pops, the Tanglewood Festival Orchestra, Richmond Symphony Orchestra, the Oberlin Orchestra, Apollo’s Fire, Quire Cleveland, Concert Artists of Baltimore, and the Handel Choir of Baltimore, among others. 

Rebecca Landell Reed (Baroque cello and viola da gamba) is a member of the historial performance faculty at Oberlin Conservatory. Her “luminous” ( and “notable” (New York Times) sound elicits a range of expression “from classically evocative to Hitchcock horrifying” (Washingtonian). Her solo appearances include performances with Apollo’s Fire, Atlanta Baroque Orchestra, Vermont Symphony Orchestra, Three Notch’d Road, and Batzdorfer Hofkapelle. Reed pursues a diverse professional career, and her credits have included performing and acting in Studio Theatre’s An Iliad, working with composer Eric Shimelonis on the NPR children’s show Circle Round, and developing educational programs with the Crumhorn Collective.


*Oberlin Conservatory Global does not grant CEUs but does provide verification of course content, participant attendance and hours of engagement. Participants are responsible for conveying this information to their Local Professional Development Committee in a manner consistent with their local guidelines.

with Kenneth Slowik


This introductory lecture will trace the development of key instrumental families in the Baroque period, examining how they differ from their modern counterparts and providing an overview of key concepts to be explored in subsequent classes.

with Mark Edwards, Michael Lynn, Rebecca Landell Reed, and Julie Andrijeski


This class and Q&A session will provide an introduction to the harpsichord, recorder, Baroque flute, viola da gamba, cello, and Baroque violin. Additional discussion will cover the improvised continuo playing of a harpsichordist and aspects of ornamentation and rhythm in French Baroque music.

with Mark Edwards and David Breitman


Edwards and Breitman explore the harpsichord and clavichord as a solo instrument, with demonstrations of music by Bach. Included are a partita on harpsichord and a discussion of Bach’s two-part inventions on clavichord featuring a number of instrument types. This session includes Q&A opportunities with the presenters.

with Michael Lynn


The flute has undergone more changes over time than virtually all other instruments. This video presentation describes and demonstrates a large number of flutes and styles spanning the Renaissance through the end of the 19th century and utilizing Lynn's collection. The video will be followed by a live Q&A with Lynn.

with Lucas Harris


Harris, a specialist in historical plucked-string instruments, introduces his collection of more than a dozen Renaissance and Baroque lutes, theorbos, archlutes, guitars, and bandoras, as well as an antique guitar from 1831. Featured will be music by John Dowland, Robert de Visée, Alessandro Piccinini, Sylvius Weiss, Nicolo Paganini, and others.

with Kathryn Montoya and Jonathan Moyer


This video presentation and live Q&A session includes an introduction to the Baroque oboe family, which was beloved by Bach, and an exploration of the development of the pipe organ and its repertoire from the 16th to the 17th century, using as examples two of Oberlin's remarkable instruments housed in Fairchild Chapel and Warner Concert Hall. How did the organ acquire characteristics that make it such a unique and complex instrument? How were some of these idiosyncrasies present in music written during this time? Moyer explores clues that reveal the complex evolution of both instrument and repertoire.

with Catharina Meints, Rebecca Landell Reed, and Ruby Brallier


Meints, a longtime Oberlin professor and co-founder of BPI, presents a video tour of her world-class collection of violas da gamba. Featured will be music by Sainte-Colombe, Schenk, Gibbons, and others. The session also includes a live Q&A about the collection with Meints.

with Mark Edwards and Kenneth Slowik


Bach’s Goldberg Variations represents one of the monuments of keyboard music. In this video presentation and live Q&A, Edwards introduces the work and plays different variations on numerous harpsichords from Oberlin's collection. The session will conclude with remarks by Slowik.