The Golden Age Revived
Every era has had its coterie of sensitive souls, nostalgic for earlier, purer and more beautiful times; some of them merely bemoaned what was lost, but others strove to revive and refashion previous cultures . Through the Renaissance a recurring fascination with Greek and Roman art, literature and philosophy informed the work of the finest artists, writers and composers. While often they turned out to be working on inaccurate information, still the results at times were wonderful – witness, for example, Monteverdi’s generation, in its search for the expressive power of Classical Greek tragedians, which resulted in the prototypes of opera in Europe – or, in a similar spirit, the search for Greek “pykna” (“points of colour”) in the chromatic madrigals of Gesualdo and his colleagues, themselves the spur for Stravinsky’s experiments four centuries later.
One could see the late sixteenth century in Italy as a Golden Age of song, and another such came to fruition in England around 1600; in the time of Shakespeare, Spenser, Sidney and the young John Donne, the eloquence of poets was matched in song by Dowland, Danyel, Campion and others. This tradition continued all through the seventeenth century, surviving upheavals, even the Civil War and the beheading of a king, and underpinning the efforts of Lawes, Blow, Purcell and the rest.
Renaissance and early baroque players saw the lute as their lyre of Orpheus; queen of instruments, it was a thing of great subtlety, whose magical sound could soothe the most savage or desperate soul, and also offer ideal partnership for any eloquent singer who sought to relive the age of Arcadia, land of primal innocence where men and gods lived side by side: a scenario recreated again and again in the courts of Europe. Confronted on the other hand with the harsh realities of actual life, with its events of struggle, violence and betrayal, artists looked again to Classical literature for models and archetypes.
More about Emma Kirkby
For 40 years Emma Kirkby’s uncommonly crystalline voice, her extraordinarily agile coloratura and her facility to communicate text have been adored by lovers of Renaissance and Baroque music, and have served as the primordial model for many specialists in this repertory. Even today, her recordings of repertoire from Dowland to Bach and beyond are considered ‘definitive’. This is a rare and precious opportunity to hear this master of her craft in recital at Princeton, where she’ll be performing a program of 17th Century English repertoire from Dowland to Purcell called ‘The Golden Age Revived’.
This concert, made possible by generous donations to the Glee Club Fund, replaces the previously scheduled performance by Latvian Voices on October 9th, 2015.