Monday, June 05, 2006

CD Review: Scarlatti-Concerti Grossi

A Crisp and clear recording, and the best of the orderly, structured music of The Enlightenment in my opinion. One can hear the optimism and confidence of the time ringing thru the music of The Scarlattis. Around 1701, Domenico (b.1685 - d.1757) was named organist and composer of the vice-regal court at Naples, where his father was a respected maestro. About a year later he took a leave of absence and travelled with his family to Florence where his father, Alessandro (b. 1660 - d. 1725), hoped for employment from Pnnce Ferdinando de' Medici. Sadly, Alessandro didn't get the job, so his father canned Domenico in 1705 and sent him off to Venice to find employment. Some think that Domenico first met Handel in Venice. (The two eventually formed a strong friendship.) Domenico also spent time in Rome (where he wrote seven operas for Queen Maria Casimira) and in Portugal.

By the invention of the machine gun (esp. the Gatlin gun in 1861), things have changed in classical music, and one does not hear such calm, rational, even mathematical structures appearing as the main motiffs from composers of the day.

Even earlier, however, the committment to reason was fading fast. First, in 1853, Richard Wagner publishes the librettos to Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring Cycle): Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Seigfried and Die Götterdämerung. The Ring Cycle is considered one of the most ambitious musical projects ever undertaken by a single person, and everything is now "over the top", poetic and romantic. Second, in 1860 the slave trade introduces West African rhythms, work songs, chants and spirituals to America, which strongly influence blues and jazz, and which attracts many of the best musical minds of the era.

For some time now, there has been no room for any philosopher kings in contemporary (i.e post-enlightenment) society. Given the continuing craziness of the early 21st century, don't look for any to soon arise.


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