What I Like About...
Sunday, May 02, 2004
  Motet: O quam tu pulchra es
Alessandro Grandi (ca. 1575/80-1630)
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, CD 4 Tracks 35-37

If Grandi had lived to be 350 he might have heard tonality dismantled by the same desires that motivated its development. The early Italian Baroque composers and German expressionists were looking to increase music's ability to convey the visceral. To my ears, recitative is like Sprechstimme, the seconda prattica is like the emancipation of dissonance, and figured bass was a way to harness innovation like a tone row. In a private journal, perhaps, Alessandro of advanced years would complete a long commentary on the commentaries each generation had for itself.

Unlike the German expressionists, Grandi and friends sometimes applied the visceral innovations of their time to subjects that did not involve someone being mistreated. In this case, Grandi gently presents the Song of Songs. This text, in addition to being a good read, should be a reminder that the sacred and secular are not separate worlds. And the happiness of our narrator is not a totally unrelated thing from the unhappiness of those unlucky in love. Illustrating this, Grandi took advantage of the line, "For I pine for love." For these few words the narrator indulges in the languid chromaticism of madrigal.

What I like about Grandi's masterpiece is his frequent use of the descending line. It reminds me of Mondrian's flowers. You may recall, Mondrian saw great beauty in things beginning to wilt.

Also read about and read the Song of Songs

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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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