Le musiche sopra l'Euridice
, a) Prologue, Tragedy: Io, che d'alti sospir
Jacopo Peri (1561-1633)
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, CD 3 Track 54
Peri's prologue is a platform for the performer. As we are so distant from the debut of this opera, it is hard to imagine this prologue sung through all seven verses. There is simply not much music to listen to for that long. I adore the text Rinuccini provided and it is easy to imagine the directness it must have had for its premier audience. The sparseness of Peri's contribution must have been a choice to stay out of the way. With such a strong text, a good performer's instinct to embellish with emotional flourishes would be more effective than what a composer could write down.
It is curious that our composer was not specific in his choice of instruments. Taking advantage of this antiquated practice, the performers here are not shy to change the instrumentation during their rendition. The lack of information in the score reveals a reliance and trust that this antique composer had with his performers. In modern scores it often happens that the details a composer provides are not the best choices. Not every composer is able to imagine being the performer. And it is always the performer who knows the details better than anyone.
What I like about this prologue is that is square, strong, and predictable. These are good qualities in an introduction. This can not be the most inspired piece of the program. If it was, we would all go home before our star took the stage. But it still needs to be and is a good opening act.