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.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The ideal of enlightened transcendence

Just over a year ago I reviewed the first volume in Tempesta di Mare's Comédie et Tragédie series. I especially enjoyed Jean-Fery Rebel’s Les Elements, but the entire disc gave me a strong feeling of the civilized order of Enlightment Age music. We have more of the same in this second disc, from three different composers living in the same world, and the Philadelphia-based baroque ensemble Tempesta di Mare.  I wondered if the temperature of the first disc was a bit cool, and I wonder the same about this one. In Leclair's suite from Scylla et Glaucus, the Airs des demons don't sound especially demonic. Red Priest are perhaps a bit over the top (their album is called Nightmare in Venice), but this Air has got drive:

However, I'm always ready to hear the siren call of Enlightenment, of civilization and order. The theatre in 17th century France was full of spectacle and engines bearing Gods and artificial lightning and thunder (the equivalent of today's "special effects"). There was underlying it all, though, this wonderful ideal, part ancient and part modern, of enlightened transcendence. Leclair's music, and Charpentier's, and especially Rameau's, embodies this ideal. As fun as the "mad, bad and deliciously dangerous" shiny bits can be, Tempesta di Mare delivers something more valuable.

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