Friday, September 4, 2020

Modern Baroque

No. 344of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages is this week's Friday Blog and Podcast. Mobile followers can listen to the montage on our Pod-O-Matic Channel, and desktop users can simply use the embedded player f ound on this page.


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This week’s montage looks at work from twentieth century composers that model themselves or repurpose music in the baroque tradition.

The first composer on the list, Igor Stravinsky, went through what has been largely characterized as his “neo-classical” period from about the end of the First Workd War to the early 1950’s. In that time, as an example, he composed his ballet Pulcinella, where he “reworked”  music by Pergolesi, and managed to strike a good balance between keeping to the baroque aesthetic whilst staying true to his modernist slant. The work I retained, his “Dumbarton Oaks” concerto, was heavily inspired by Bach's set of Brandenburg Concertos, and was the last work Stravinsky completed in Europe.

Another set of composition inspired by seminal Bach compositions is Benjamin Britten’s series of three compositions for solo cello, dedicated to Mstislav Rostropovich. The suites were the first original solo instrumental music that Britten wrote for and dedicated to Rostropovich, who gave the first performances of each work. There's something very Britten-ish about the way these Suites manage to be profoundly affecting, while still showing emotional restraint.

The final two works on the montage both re-purpose music from other composers, the first (à la Stravinsky) spit-shining baroque music for a odern setting and the latter taking modern folk songs and setting them in a baroque style.

The arrangements by Strauss of Couperin's keyboard pieces to form a dance suite were part of a "Ballettsoirée" (ballet evening) which premiered on 17 February 1923 (as part of the Vienna Fasching or carnival). They revisit social and theatrical dances in the manner of Louis XV based on books 1–4 of Couperin's Pièces de Clavecin (composed over the period 1713 to 1730).

The final work, one of André Gagnon’s Turluteries after the songs of Mary Rose-Anne Bolduc (1894 –1941, née Travers - not to be confused with Mary Travers of Peter Paul and Mary fame…).  Known as Madame Bolduc or La Bolduc, she was known as the Queen of Canadian Folk Singers in the 1930’s; Bolduc is often considered to be Quebec's first singer-songwriter. Her style combined the traditional folk music of Ireland and Quebec, usually in upbeat, comedic songs. Her surviving recordings showcase her distinctive singing style, which often featured turlutage, which derives from Irish and Scottish musical traditions. This term inspires the name of the pair of suites Gagnon composed for himself at the keyboard, released in 1972.

For those of us familiar with the tunes, the baroque camouflage doesn’t totally hide the familiar ditties. The pastiche I retained, with the addition of the looming oboe, renders these works in a perfectly baroque setting.

 I think you will love this music too


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