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century  composer  french galant  french  italian  italy  les goûts  love  music  musical  perfect technique  secular sacred  vocal polyphony 
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Preview: Early Music - Advance Access

Early Music Advance Access

Published: Sat, 24 Feb 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Last Build Date: Fri, 23 Feb 2018 20:44:13 GMT


Les goûts-réunis in the French Galant

Sat, 24 Feb 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Like pâté de foie gras, escargots or an especially fragrant Époisses cheese, French Baroque music is, for many, a love-it-or-hate-it phenomenon. Regardless of your personal preferences in these regards, all will agree that the distinctive ‘taste’ of both French music and cuisine is anything but bland. The music of the French High Baroque, brought to its apex in the late 17th century at the court of Louis XIV by Jean-Baptiste Lully and others, has a particularly indelible sense of stylistic identity, with its notes inégales, heavily affected ornamentation, affinity for dance rhythms, and rich harmonies—not to mention a certain je ne sais quoi that falls under the nebulous umbrella of ‘good taste’, or le bon goût. Even so, French musicians and the musical public were not impervious to the influence of Italian music that took Europe by storm during the first half of the 18th century. This influence was acknowledged—indeed, celebrated—by François Couperin in his collection of ‘Nouveaux Concerts’ published in 1724 and entitled Les Goûts-réünis, wherein the composer sought to ‘reunite the tastes’ of the French and Italian styles. German composers—notably Telemann—also cultivated such a ‘mixed taste’ (vermischter Geschmack), and also impacted the development of French style. The nine recordings considered in this review feature music by lesser-known composers that, to an extent, reflects such an amalgamation of styles, which is itself a defining characteristic of the French Galant.

Vocal polyphony from and around Lassus

Sat, 10 Feb 2018 00:00:00 GMT

This selection of CDs brings together secular and sacred vocal polyphony from the 16th century, both a cappella and accompanied. The discs are reviewed in chronological order, starting with motets associated with a Ferrarese convent and ending with music found in the library of the Latin School in Freiberg, Saxony. The main body of this newly released repertory consists of sacred and secular music by the pan-European composer Orlande de Lassus, who worked as a composer in Italy, the Low Countries and the German Lands. Lassus is also a historical connecting figure between Italian convent music and Saxon music of Freiberg Cathedral.

Love and death in early modern Italy

Sat, 10 Feb 2018 00:00:00 GMT

A widely circulated fable of the late Renaissance draws parallels between Cupid and Death. In the story, both shoot their victims using arrows, so it is simplicity itself for them to switch places. After spending a night at the same inn, the two unwittingly exchange quivers, causing old men to fall in love and young ones to die. This is telling; during the early modern period, lovesickness, or love melancholy, was considered a genuine illness—one that could burn up the heart and soul, not to mention the liver and entrails. Though the recordings under review here present a wide range of musical responses to secular and sacred love from Italy, c.1500–1700, they share something in common: all but one of the discs warn of the dangers of desire.

Refreshing Bach

Sat, 10 Feb 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Organists choosing to set themselves the Herculean challenge of rendering afresh Bach’s greatest œuvre for the instrument might, one would imagine, consider in the foothills of their ascent the maxim of Pablo Casals: ‘The most perfect technique is that which is not noticed at all’. It is a given that recordings of Bach’s only bespoke collection of music intended for the organ alone will always prove value for money. Its 27 individual compositions framing the third part of Bach’s ‘Keyboard Exercise’ present a summation of the stylistic traits of the era, both old and new, infused with Italian, German and French accents. However, the challenge for the interpreter is to be able to present this expansive musical journey from a commanding viewpoint whereby a perfect technique is such that it goes unnoticed, whilst allowing the richly varied musical topography of the music to speak for itself, ideally nuance-free.