Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Music from the time of Rubens

I've been on a Rubens kick lately, and seeing some of his great pictures last month in London and Edinburgh really emphasized for me what a genius he was. Two recent books, Rubens and His Legacy and Master of Shadows: The Secret Diplomatic Career of the Painter Peter Paul Rubens, showed that Rubens was much more than just a painter. His political career was wide-ranging, his accomplishments as an entrepreneur were outstanding, and he consorted as an equal with all the top intellectuals and artists of the age. I was really interested to read about his diplomatic and artistic connections at the court of the Gonzagas at Mantua, where he connected with Claudio Monteverdi.

Jean Tubery and Ensemble La Fenice present this fascinating new project L'Atelier de Rubens: Musica Belgicae, which assembles music from Antwerp and other Belgian centres during the period when Rubens built his studio and an international reputation as Europe's greatest painter. I knew, and was very impressed with, the Tubery's similar project in 2015, Velazquez and the Music of His Times; the current disc meets those very high standards of scholarship and presentation.

The composers aren't very well-known: Nicolo à Kempis, Cornelis de Leeuw, Jan/John Bull, Jan-Jacob van Eyck. The only names I knew were Jacobus Clemens non Papa and that prolific artist Anonymous. But there are many felicitous moments here: many of the pieces are reminiscent of better known Italian music of the period, and there are some really special works included. The Symphoniae for cornetto and strings have an appealing Monteverdi/Gabrieli sound, with a Northern lilt. Philipp van Wichel's La Ciacogna has a real pan-European sound; I love to hear a Chaconne in whichever guise it's presented! I also loved the carol Een kindeken is ons gheboren (To us a little child is born), and the three pieces based upon it by different composers. I plan on including these in my Christmas playlists!

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