Music For and Through the Ages
I’ve listened to this disc half a dozen times already, yet I still don’t know if I can adequately do justice to its sublime vocal magic. It’s comprised of a number of songs inspired by the Song of Songs, a book in the Bible that celebrates both divine and physical love. The composers, to name but a few, range from the late-Medieval period (John Dunstable), through the Renaissance (Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina), Baroque (Marc-Antoine Charpentier) and early 20th century (William Walton). Those accustomed to contemporary sounds may have a difficult time accessing the sensual nature of this period music, so subtle and discreet is it (the disc’s sexy cover photo notwithstanding). But it takes no effort at all to be swept away to another time by the gorgeous melodies of all the composers represented here, as well as by the inspired singing of the chamber ensemble known as Les Voix Baroques. Abetted by an able group of performers on period instruments, they evoke a rich vein of emotional transcendence in the music and romantic imagery in the lyrics. My favorite lines come from Charpentier’s “Dilecti Mi”: “My soul sighs, fainting towards you. My heart, mouth, tongue, senses express the languor of love.” If only today’s popular music lyrics were so eloquent. Many of the songs are written in a minor key, and cast a mournful, contemplative mood, but one that is never oppressive or despairing. This is music to which attention must be paid to gain access to its secluded core—where a calming oasis for mind and spirit awaits those eager to escape for an hour or so a culture of increasing psychic dissonance.
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