Virtuosic writing for the court’s horn players

Sweet autumn. © Charles Thibo

A little melancholy is appropriate at this time of the year. The opening verse of that poem by Rainer Maria Rilke comes back to my mind: “Herr, es ist Zeit, der Sommer war sehr groß…” I quoted it at full length a year ago in a post on Johannes Brahms. Yes, the summer was impressive and it is time to say good-bye. And so I have picked a piece from the Baroque composer Jan Dismas Zelenka (1679 – 1745): the Capriccio No. 1 in D major (ZW 182), recorded by the Camerata Bern.

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A lutenist is a good companion for autumn

Colour. © Charles Thibo

A pleasing tune to enchant you and me, a lively melody to keep us company on a fall day, a companion unburdened by the evils of the world, cheering us up in case we need it or simply giving us some comfort by being there – such is Antonio Vivaldi’s Concerto for Viola d’Amore and Lute in D minor (RV 540), performed by Rachel Barton Pine (viola), Hopkinson Smith (lute) and the ensemble Ars Antigua.

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Inspired by Monteverdi’s reflection of the cosmic order

At the dawn of a new time. © Charles Thibo

Music as the reflection of the cosmos as it has been created by God – for centuries this idea was at the core of any composition in the Christian world. The order of the seven known celestial bodies – moon, sun, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn – was reflected by the seven tones to be used in music, while the use of chords, metres and intervals was strictly regulated to avoid anything that would contradict the celestial order. Most composers up to the Italian Claudio Monteverdi would respect this.

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Interlude: Mozart’s father and the dopamine issue

This is what the formula of dopamine looks like in the chemistry book. It’s commonly called “the happiness hormone”. It is produced by the brain and transmits a signal between two nerve cells. Not any signal, no, it plays a major role in reward-motivated behavior. The anticipation of most types of rewards increases the level of dopamine in the brain.

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