Wild and Wooly Baroque
23 Thursday Aug 2012
One of my favorite blogs is Greg Sandow on the Future of Classical Music. He always has a fresh look at classical music. He looks its problems in the eye and comes up with ways to deal with them. I like his post from 11-21-11 entitled “Not So Refined” about the Baroque era – what it was really like (he defends Rene Jacobs’ “rough and explosive” Handel recordings). You should of course read the original, but here’s a summary. The common stereotype of the Baroque era is one of refinement and elegance. Au contraire. If you were to watch, say, a Handel opera, you might find them anything but: “The nobility sat upstairs in the theater, their servants stood downstairs. Everybody talked, all through the performance; people shouted things at the stage. The emphasis was on… spectacle…. flying chariot pulled by fire-breathing dragons. Singers ornamented their music wildly. … The musicians in the orchestra improvised. Of the stage effects… didn’t quite work.” There’s more. Read it – it’s wonderful; you will imagine that era differently from now on. Does anyone know if there is a book that details concert life like this in the 17th-19th centuries?