Skip to main content
Michigan State University

Baroque Choral Music: Home

Research methods for choral music of the Baroque era, including reference material, scores, recordings, books.

General references

Much of the music of this era can be found by searching the catalog under the composer's name, used as "author". Many works are included in larger sets and series, and may not have an entry under the composer's name.  This guide will help identify material that is not listed under the composer, using various indexes, works lists, bibligraphies, thematic catalogs, and similar resources. In some cases, online sources may help but be cautious about using general listings found through Google, Wikipedia, and similar sources which may not be completely accurate.

New Grove dictionary of music and musicians - 2000 edition behind desk (2-hour checkout), also available online through Oxford Music Online (from library home page, select "Electronic resources", then "Oxford Music Online", then "Grove Dictionary of Music". The 1980 edition of New Grove is available in Music Reference; a second copy of the 1980, as well as older editions, are in the circulating Music Book Collection. Call number: ML 100 .G885 + date.

Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart (MGG)-Music Ref ML 100.M92 (original set)

Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart (MGG)--Music Ref ML 100 .M92 1994 Sachteil (Subjects) 9 v.+ index

Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart (MGG)--Music Ref. ML 100.M92 1999 Personenteil (Biographies) 17 v. + index + supplement

New Oxford history of music. V.5: Opera and church music, 1630-1750. V.6, Concert music, 1630-1750) One set in Music Ref, others in Music Bk Collection. ML 160.N44 + date.

Subject headings

Subject headings are a good way to find material in specific genres, by choral ensemble, or similar topics, when not looking for a specific composer. There are standard patterns to subject headings, and they are easy to use once a relevant heading is identified.

Some subject headings are very general and will retrieve a great quantity of entries. Often, once material is found under such a heading, more specific headings are to be found on the same cataloging record to guide you to a more narrow search.

Some very broad headings will lead to both vocal and instrumental works. Examples:
Music-17th Century
Music--18th Century

In some subject headings, the singular word denotes a book about the subject, plural headings denote scores and recordings. In others, there is no such distinction. Other possible headings include the type of performance ensemble, sometimes the country of origin, language, format (--Scores; -- Vocal scores with piano). The same headings are used for recordings, although a subheading such as "-Scores" would never appear in the cataloging for a recording. Examples:

Motet/Motets [singular=book, plural=score or recording]
Oratorio/Oratorios [ " "]
Masses [books, scores and recordings are all under this heading]
Masses, Unaccompanied [scores and recordings]
Music-Italy-18th Century
Cantatas [books; scores and recordings including both sacred and secular music]
Cantatas, Sacred
Cantatas, Secular
Choruses [may be subdivided by type of chorus, eg Choruses (Mixed voices)]
Psalms (Music) ['music' is added to distinguish from works on the texts only]
Passion music
Choral music - Germany [or other country]
Choral music - 17th Century [or other century]

Individual composers may be searched as subjects, too; if an entire book or large section of a book is devoted to a specific composer, the name will appear as a subject. Remember, subject headings lead to books ABOUT the individual; author headings lead to the individual's works.

Call numbers

The most frequently used call numbers for books about choral music are:
ML 1500-1554 General works
ML 2400-2770 Secular works
ML 2900-3275 Sacred works

The major call numbers for scores are:
M1495 Mixed sacred and secular collections, 2 or more composers, mixed solo/chorus
M1497 Secular collections, 2 or more composers, mixed solo/chorus
M1500-1526 Dramatic music [operas, ballets, musicals, etc.]
M1530-1546 Secular choruses with orchestra/ensemble
M1547-1610 Secular choruses, part songs, one solo instrument or a capella
M1999 Mixed sacred works, 2 or more composers
M2000-2007 Oratorios
M2010-2017 Services [Masses, Requiems, Orthodox, Anglican…]
M2020-2036 Sacred choruses, part songs, with ensemble or unaccompanied
M2150-2146 Hymnals with melodies (text-only volumes are in BV classification)
M2147-2188 Liturgy and ritual of various denominations [Graduals, propers, antiphonaries, offices, etc.)

In general, when a large-scale work is to be accompanied by an instrumental ensemble of more than two instruments, it is a full score and the call number will end in "0"; if the accompaniment is reduced for keyboard, the call number will end in 3. Example: Opera, full score: M1500; piano reduction: M1503. Oratorio, full score: M2000; piano reduction, M 2003.

Research works

Some examples:

M 2.W88 v.1,2. Women composers : music through the ages. V.1. Composers born before 1599. V.2. Composers born before 1699.

M 2..R238 Recent researches in the music of the Baroque era. An on-going set from A-R Editions; check catalog under call number or series title for contents. Some volumes include performance material.

M 2.C2 v.2. Canadian musical heritage: Sacred choral music I, late 17th-19th C.

M 2 .M49 Monuments of Russian sacred music. See especially v.1, One thousand years of Russian church music, for chapters on the "Russian Baroque".

Mus Ref ML 193 .S38 2001 Schulenberg, David. Music of the Baroque.

ML 275.8 .N952 1982 Samuel, Harold E. The cantata in Nuremberg during the 17th Century.

ML 193.A66 1994 Anderson, Nicholas. Baroque music : from Monteverdi to Handel.

ML 194.E37 1993 The early Baroque era : late 16th Century to 1660s.

ML193.L38 1994 The late Baroque era: 1680s to 1740.

MT 855 .M36 1992 Bach and Handel : choral performance practice

Specific works

For composers' complete works, see M 3 plus third line for the composer's last name. Not all composers have a complete works edition, and not all of the complete works editions are complete. The following are examples of complete editions pertaining to Baroque composers. These volumes are for research purposes and are not circulating.

Bach, Johann Sebastian:   M3.B113

Pergolesi, Giovanni Battista: M 3. P4

Purcell, Henry:  M3.P93; M3.P94 

Schütz, Heinrich:  M3.S3912

Telemann, Georg Philipp:  M3.T4

Vivaldi, Antonio:  M3.V7 [this edition contains only the instrumental works]



Heyer, Anna Harriet. Historical sets, collected editions, and monuments of music. Mus Ref ML113.H52 (various editions)

Hill, George Robert. Collected editions, historical series and sets and monuments of music. Mus Ref ML 113.H55 1999

Anthologies of Music: an annotated index. Mus Ref ML 111.A1 D4 no.68.

Thematic catalogs


Found in Music Ref under call number ML 134 followed by another letter/number combination based on composer's name. [Note: there may be many works for a composer (Bach), a handful (Handel) or none at all - not every composer has had a thematic/bibliographic index created as yet] If the fourth line of the call number begins A1-3, the book is a thematic catalog; otherwise, it is a research/reference guide.

Sample call numbers:

Bach, Johann Sebastian ML 134 .B1 A2 P29... thematic index; ML134.B1 B8 research guide

Carissimi, Giacomo ML134 .C17 A2... thematic index; ML134.C17 S27 research guide

Carpenter, John Alden  ML134.C18 O25 research guide (no thematic catalog as yet for Carpenter)

These can be found by browsing the reference shelves under ML134 or by searching the composer's name as a subject with subheading-Indexes: Bach, Johann Sebastian, 1685-1750-Indexes.

Related headings

Music in art

Christian art and symbolism

Art, Baroque [Note: "Art, Baroque" is a legitimate heading but there is no comparable music heading; music is subdivided by centuries as shown above]

Islamic art and symbolism

Selected recordings

CD 6171B Bolivia: musiques des missions et cathedrales Andines

CD 6171C Colombia: musique a la Cathedrale Santa Fe de Bogota.

CD 9316 The muses of Zion : German sacred music, 1600-730.

CD 617A Zipoli, Domenico, 1688-1726. Zipoli l'amerecain.

CD 92 v.81, etc. Bach, Johann Sebastian, 1685-1750. Chorales [this set is 2-hour circulation only; there are other CDs and records for almost all of the chorales, cantatas, and other vocal works.]

CD 66656 Purcell, Henry, 1659-1695. Vocal music.

CD 368 Barocke Kantaten und Motetten

CD 5472 Make a joyful noise

CD 5451A Charpentier, Marc-Antoine. Lecons de Tenebrae.

  • Call MSU: (517) 355-1855
  • Visit:
  • MSU is an affirmative-action, equal-opportunity employer.
Michigan State University