Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Something old, new and very fine

Late night proms are the place for the different and the deviant. Malcolm recalls John Dankworth and the music of Ellington and Basie bursting into the cultural stratosphere thereby. And quite right, too.

Last night was exceptional, however.

Now, Malcolm's generation did everything: if you can remember the Sixties, you weren't there. And, as a result, some of us never made it here.

Stereo LPs for a start. About 1958 Pye Records (in the UK: it was Audio Fidelity in the USA) brought stereo to the market: Malcolm's generation briefly thought this was the ultimate ear-candy, if only because our prized Dansettes were instantly obsolete. Later, we realised the hell to which the most sin-stained sound engineers should be consigned involves endless bombardment by total separation, as instruments leap across the sound-stage unpredictably.

And so to last night's concert. Alessandro Striggio was a Mantuan, but moved into the court of the Medici at Florence. Cosimo Medici employed him as a diplomat, which brought Striggio to London (where his music inspired Tallis) and Munich (the motet Ecce beatam lucem seems to have been commissioned for a Bavarian Royal wedding). Inevitably much of Striggio's work has been lost, but one piece resurrected itself.

Around 1566, Striggio composed Missa sopra Ecco si beato giorno, which takes polyphony to new levels. Towards the conclusion, in the Agnus Dei, five separate choirs, each of twelve different voices, produce sixty (count them if one can) different voice-parts. As Striggio traipsed across Europe — Vienna, Brno, Munich and Paris — he left copies of his composition behind. All went missing, until Davitt Moroney (now at UC Berkeley) located one in the French National Library.

Last night, for the first time in nearly half-a-millennium, the work was revived.

Occasionally, just occasionally, the human singing voice transcends itself: a single soprano can somehow find the harmonics in the masonry of King's Chapel, and make stone resonate. Last night, the cast iron and brick of the Albert Hall were assaulted by sheer weight of numbers. Catch it for the next week on the BBC Radio 3 website. No sound engineers needed for a wall-to-wall sound.

Eat your heart out, Spector. Sphere: Related Content

1 comment:

Jason h said...
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