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Thursday, April 22, 2004
  Orontea: Act III, Scene 17
Marc'Antonio Cesti (1623-1669)
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, CD 4 Tracks 21-22

With this kind of racket, Alidoro would not have gotten much sleep at all. The two violins produce most of the noise. All that we need of them is a little sonic wall paper to set a mood of slumber. But sonic wall paper was not a concept that interested Cesti, his public, or the violinists. And I am sure that the violins are a part of what made this tune the big hit that it was. They are able to anticipate the singer, preparing our ears for her notes. In the comfort of her melody, we can imagine that Alidoro is surrounded by silence and sleep.

Orontea's voyeuristic aria is a drift from the seconda prattica. Composers wanted chords to convey meaning. By this time, chords have meaning. Not to discourage Mr. Cicognini, but the Queen's song would still be effective if she were to hum the tune. Perhaps it would be an improvement because it might encourage the violin players to play softer. But the words are not entirely superfluous.

What I like about this tune is the setting of the word larve. As Palisca mentioned, the listener encounters this leap several times before this climactic moment. The fist time, brilliantly, is in the second violin part. What makes the leap unique when we hear it for the last two times from the singer, is that it concludes a melisma. This melisma, heard the first time, is the well-prepared climax of Orontea's petition to phantoms of love. 

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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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