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Monday, April 19, 2004
  L'Orfeo, c) Messenger: In un fiorito prato, Orfeo: Tu se' morta, Chorus: Ahi caso acerbo
Claudio Monteverdi
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, CD 4 Tracks 9-15

This music is better than the music written before. The memory of Peri's inferior version, which we heard near the end of disk 3, inevitably tempts us to make a comparison. Learning how well Monteverdi improved the telling of this scene and the application of recitative, a listener may become inclined to pity composers born too soon in history. But one must remember that music history is not a scientific history. Though Monteverdi's Orfeo speaks more beautifully than Peri's, the music of one age is not necessarily better than the music before. After all, this music also surpasses much that has been written since.

Monteverdi, following Striggio's lead, dwells on Orfeo's resolve and farewell. One could argue that the Peri-Rinuccini team squandered this moment. Their Orfeo rushed off stage neglecting to say good-bye to the terra, cielo, and sole. But Monteverdi, armed with a superior libretto, progressed to this moment carefully. Once here, we are won over by Orfeo's talent as well as his dedication to Euridice.

What I like about this piece is the way it gives the performers room to take risks. Monteverdi has written just enough for the performer to understand how the music should progress. It is up to them to allow their full talent and passion to fill the auditorium. Monteverdi, pioneer of opera, understood that an opera performance was mainly about the opera performer.

Also read about Monteverdi's career

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In January 2004 I starting writing an opinion for each selection in the Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music. Now, more than a year later, I am almost finished. Soon, I will have an archive full of opinions on the music we so carelessly call "classical." And no one can stop me.

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Director of the Contemporary Performer's Workshop... Music Teacher for St. Aloysius Gonzaga School... Principal 'Cellist of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra... Composer

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