I was listening to this recording of Monteverdi coming home from the office today.

It is magnificent.

I found myself wondering why increasingly I find myself only listening to music composed before the end of the eighteenth century.

I have only a partial response.

First, I think is the balance between sacred and everyday (secular would be the wrong word). They interpenetrate in a way that allows both to be respected. Like carnival, it creates spaces where the known sacred can be held in suspension and the joy of everyday celebration can unfold.

Second, paradoxically, because the holy, both the hallowing of the everyday and the invitation to transcendence, is the ultimate reference point. Everything in the music is a signal of that transcendence.

Third, because though it is holy, it is sublimated passion. A desire that is earth informed by heaven.

Fourth because it has stillness at the heart. It takes emotional turbulence and gives it direction and hope.

I love it.


  1. There's a funny thing - just bought that same CD myself. And it is rather good...

  2. Interestingly, there was an Oxford-based counter-tenor called Nicholas Clapton, who used to give similarly lively performances, but toned it down after a few years - evidently he must have been advised to 'tone it down' and become a serious musician, which was rather sad.
    L'Arpeggiata are among just a few ensembles who know how to bring early music to life.

  3. I agree (though the situation is improving). It can be like Victorian versions of Tudor architecture where they are all painted black and white (and still are) even though evidence shows that in the medieval and early modern period, they could be highly coloured. 'Authentic' does not mean lifeless, quite the opposite.


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