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Thursday, July 08, 2004
  Trio Sonata: La Raspona
Giovanni Legrenzi (1626-1690)
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, CD 5 Tracks 26-27

Fearless Legrenzi sends his joyful violin players into happy competition. The seventeenth century tangle of two violins that is La Raspona reminds me of the thirteenth century tangle of three tenors that is Sederunt. The violins have chords to play with (leaps and showy arpeggios) where the ancient singers contented themselves with melodic intrigue. However, in both pieces it is the combination of voices that holds the listener on the edge of his or her seat. As we may recall, Perotin balanced this complexity with an unmoving bass part. Here, of course, the continuo keeps the two violins from getting lost.

In spite of the score's division into two parts, Allegro (track 26) and Adagio (track 27), the narration comes across more as a palindrome. The Allegro slows down into the Adagio and the Adagio speeds up into the conclusion.

What I like about Giovanni's echoing chamber piece is the beginning of the Adagio. For a mere two bars, the violins take on a very operatic style. After this, we gradually return to the competitive voice exchanges of the opening. It is as if, after grabbing our attention, Legrenzi slowed the music down to insure that we appreciated each violin fully. 
Dear Isaac,
How great to find some rigorous analysis combined with a real sense of joy in these recordings. I am not much of an early music person but have studied enough to realise that it does not deserve its beards-and-sandals image. I particularly like your comparisons to other pieces (Sederunt), which for me make the Legrenzi seem much more alive than it would be were it preserved in an academic glass case.

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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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