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Musikalische Exequien, Op. 7
A requiem in all but name, the first of its kind to be published in the German language (using predominantly Lutheran texts).
This work, written for two choirs and by a wide margin the most famous of Allegri's, gained a mythical stature thanks to its only being performed at the Sistine Chapel during the services of Holy Week. A ban on transcriptions of the work existed until the late eighteenth century, and even then certain performance practices unique to the Chapel have been lost to time. Nevertheless, the work is gorgeous, especially the haunting soprano line that peaks at their high C.
The Portugese equivalent to Palestrina, this is a very nice Requiem that falls under the radar compared to more popular versions.
Sesto libro di madrigali
Gesualdo's works are interesting in that they raised eyebrows across the scene when they were first published, were promptly forgotten about after his death, then revived over 300 years later by the serialists (Schoenberg and Stravinsky, particularly). Even if these madrigals can't be considered "atonal" per se, they certainly stretch the boundaries of tonality in a manner not seen before and very infrequently seen afterwards until the 20th century. Listen to "Moro, lasso, al mio duolo" (English: "I die, alas, in my suffering") for the end-stage Renaissance version of proto-Schoenberg.
Vespro della Beata Vergine
It's still unclear if this work was intended for continuous performance or if the various movements are merely individual pieces considered suitable for Vespers celebrations. Regardless, when taken as a collective, this is one of the most progressive works of the Western classical canon to date, displaying Monteverdi's compositional proficiency over a wide variety of genres and instrumental combos. A grab bag of the best elements from the late Renaissance and early Baroque, in other words.
Already a widely-known composer of madrigals, Claudio Monteverdi wrote his first opera in 1609, and it is a pivotal one in the early history of the genre. The piece modernized the setting of Peri's
, staying truer to the original story and adding a more diverse array of instrumentation to the proceedings, including brass and winds. Such was the vastness of its popularity that it remains semi-regularly performed up to the present day.
Perhaps time has rendered this, the earliest-surviving complete opera, a bit ham-fisted in its thematic treatments. But credit must go to Peri, a prolific composer despite his style growing out-of-fashion quickly, for helping establish operatic tropes like the contrast between recitative (speech-like singing) and arias (dramatic singing) and the soloist/ensemble contrast so early on.
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