A page from the Eton Choirbook representing a motet by composer John Browne, whose reationship with the fabled school started as a choirboy in the 1460s.
There was an in-joke among English choristers in the late 15th century: “The French sing, Italians shake, Germans wail and the Enlish rejoice” (Galli cantant, Italiae capriant, Germani ululant, Anglici jublilant, in the original Latin).
The national slurs are silly, of course, but it’s pretty much impossible not to reach a state of bliss after listening to a new album featuring seven pieces chosen by English a capella choir Tonus Peregrinus from the Eton Choirbook, one of the rare sources of English sacred music from the closing decades of the 1400s. Continue reading →
Today marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Claude Debussy, one of Western music’s revolutionaries.
As with the varying styles of Impressionist paintings, the long view represents something defined, but the closer you get, the more his compositions start to fall apart into the individual components that our minds work imperceptibly to piece together into meaningful shapes.
The long view is so sleek and seductive that listeners long ago began taking Debussy’s art for granted.
Camille Saint-Saëns in his element — on a steamship.
Repeat something enough times with conviction, and people start to believe it, whether it has to do with politics, economics or art.
French composer Camille Saint-Saëns, who bridged the Romantic and Modern eras thanks to an 86-year lifespan, was treated as a relic of a bygone age by his obituarists and university lecturers.
It’s a status that does not square with a legacy of rich craft he left behind, and which deserves a fresh look and listen now that we can have some perspective on the aesthetic steamroller of Modernism. Continue reading →
Godfrey Ridout (1918-1984) was a descendant of Thomas Ridout, the first Surveyor General of Upper Canada during the administration of Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe.
So let’s take a moment to appreciate the work of someone who left a mark as a composer, conductor, and teacher at the Royal Conservatory of Music and the University of Toronto.
He even reached the city’s wide classical music audience by writing witty programme notes for Toronto Symphony Orchestra concerts during the early years of Sir Andrew Davis’s tenure as music director. Continue reading →
C.P.E. Bach signed a guestbook with a clever little play on the famous family name.
Musicologists, historians and performers like to believe that interpretation is based on pretty clear rules. But when it comes to any music written before Thomas Edison invented his wax cylinder, interpretation is really the product of educated guesswork, sometimes handed down from composer to pupil to pupil to pupil.