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Staging of the Paragone debate within a French Baroque opera.

By on Mar 18, 2023 in History of ideas, Music, Painting, Paragone, Poetry | 2 comments

At the end of the XVIth century, a group of Florentine writers and musicians gathered under the auspices of Count Bardi to recover the ancient splendour of classical Greek drama. They specifically sought to integrate verse into a new musical style based on recitative, combining speech and song into musical cadences. Bardi and his friends may not have been fully aware of it, but they were inventing opera. Exactly one century later, another son of Florence would ironically be called upon to lay the foundations of quintessentially French opera. It was the composer Jean-Baptiste Lully, born in 1632 as Giovanni Battista Lulli, who, in collaboration with the playwright Philippe Quinault, created the template for all subsequent tragédies lyriques, as this form of musical theatre was named, until the arrival of Jean Philippe Rameau in 1733. The new musical genre born with the opera Cadmus et...

Miracle in Cremona? The science behind Stradivarius

By on Mar 22, 2017 in Music | 2 comments

An aura of unattainable perfection surrounds the violins created by Cremonese luthiers, particularly those made by Antonio Stradivari and Giuseppe Guarneri ‘del Gesù.’ For many, the Golden Age of violin making (1550-1750) represents an unsurpassed pinnacle. Almost all of the most acclaimed soloists have played on these historical instruments, and still, no objective study permits to establish their supposed tonal superiority over modern ones. Authentication of old Italian violins does not take the quality of their sound into account, relying instead on other parameters (visual inspection, historical research of the instrument, the dating of the wood, etc.). Correlating their performance with specific attributes is not only important for historical reasons but also to guide further improvements in the construction of violins. Recently, Fritz and collaborators decided to test...

Baroque music in France and Italy

By on Mar 22, 2017 in Music | 0 comments

“Antonius Stradivarius Cremonensis faciebat anno 1666”, reads the signature on the first of a famous series of string instruments that would become legendary. Between the “Sunrise” violin from 1677 and his last work, the aptly named “Chant du cygne” (Swansong) from 1737, Stradivari produced around one thousand and one hundred instruments. From this rich legacy, about six hundred have survived to the present day in the hands of musicians and collectors or locked in the safety vaults of investors. Many more could be merely slumbering in their cases, unbothered by the passing of time. Forgotten in taxicabs, stolen, resurfaced in night-clubs or confiscated by the Nazis, these instruments secured for themselves a leading role in a long and outlandish saga. The changing hands through which they passed, recorded in the evocative names with which they conquer auctions (for instance, the “Lady...