Orfeo ed Euridice
Act II, Scene 1, (excerpt)
Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714-1787)
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, CD 7 Tracks 17-21
It seems that I like the Beggar’s Opera less the more I do not listen to it. For me, it has come to represent that moment in the creative flow of music when our efforts turn away from a lyrical, growing complexity capable of engaging our full imagination. It is a spiteful neglect that indulges our hurtful appetites. Yet, somehow, we work through those celebrations of bad taste and find ourselves again preoccupied with a clarity of line and simplicity in construction that inevitably leads to increasingly complex events.
As they say, reform was in the air when the shrewd Mr. Gluck wrote his Orfeo
. Gluck’s unification of the opera paved the way for Berlioz’s strange dream and the Wagnerian epic. The composer Gluck brings to my mind, however, is Edgar Varèse
. If this excerpt is a fair example of his work, Gluck, like Varèse, was thinking in densities. As he might have admitted, Handel’s cook wrote better counterpoint. Gluck was interested in mass.
What I like about this return to the underworld are the repeats in the Presto
at track 19. Even though Mr. Gluck took the dal segno
away from singers, there remained a good use for repeats in the orchestral sections.