Saturday, August 28, 2010

guillaume dufay / o gemma lux

I'm still rather new to Dufay and just about any pre-Baroque composer, yet I can't help but feel compelled to share these fancies. Harmonia Mundi herein culls together thirteen compositions from the beginning of Dufay's career, toward the end of the Medieval period. These polyphonic pieces are the perfect Sunday morning comedown; as the sun peaks through the blinds, I can't think of a better compilation to wake me, cleansing me of weekend night sins (yeah, I attend church at my own apartment--suck it latter-day saints).

More than just a documentation of Guillaume Dufay's early period, these compositions are all of the isorhythmic motet style--some of the last, famous Medieval (early Renaissance) iteration of this form. The style is traditionally viewed as a very rigid one for its period, almost scientific. In the isorhythmic setting, a single parameter is chosen and is developed almost arithmetically. A single voice, denoted as the tenor, carries this progression, with the other voices following--in these thirteen compositions, the tenor is the instrumentation. Although that sounds emotionless, more akin to the construction of a mathematical sequence, the Huelgas Ensemble and Paul Van Nevel avoid miring in this technicality, providing spiritual, affirmative renditions. (

Thursday, August 19, 2010

j.s. bach | brandenburg concertos

well, we've been gathering cobwebs here in the dept of fancy people music writing, but i tell you it's time once again to buckle into our high-heeled loafers, fuss with our ruffly neck accoutrement, puff out our chests like dandified apes, and eschew any such pretense that essays to mitigate the pretense of fanciness.

and so, it is with great pleasure that i invite you to join me in appreciation of herr bach's brandenburg concertos. two recordings of them, in fact. why not. the first i came to was the pinnock / english concert recording from archiv, which immediately satisfied my desire for a brandenburg that was just totally infatuated with the music's ample provisions for lushness and virtuosity. if you want BIG FUCKING bach, yes, it's here, and it's big fucking wonderful. in the second, by martin pearlman & boston baroque, i found the spirit of the music — once unencumbered by such concerns — could be pretty freewheeling. i don't think i have a preference; just depends on the circumstances, i suppose. they're both period performances, incidentally, although for whatever reason the pearlman sounds a bit more periody to my ears... more idiosyncratic anyway (and probably more fun, too, for that matter... but, then again, what cares we for fun)

the music itself doesn't really need much introduction. pretty much anyone who's ever turned on the radio in the U.S. has at least heard part of the 6th concerto (lead-in music for american public media programs (thanks wikipedia, for reminding me where i was hearing that)). so, they're all like that — fruity and grandiloquent in the most delightful ways: fancy dances for to strut your high stockings, yes, and some of the most dazzling organizations of sound yet given forth from the human race.