The Galaxy – All the music you can Handel, and more!

Portrait of George Frideric Handel from the Ro...

Georg Frideric Handel, from The Royal Collection (Image via Wikipedia)

When understanding the depth of the works of Georg Frideric Handel, I think it is good to start with some of his keyboard works.  Handel had written most, if not all, of his material for keyboard prior to 1717, but did not publish his first volume of keyboard compositions until 1720.  This was prompted in part because, as he put it in the preface to the volume, “Surrepticious (sp) and incorrect copies of them had got abroad.”  Eventually, he would publish and republish a number of harpsichord works, both as individual pieces and as larger suites.  Tonight we heard first an individual piece, the Passacaile in G minor, HWV 432, then we heard the Suite in F minor, HWV 433, both performed by harpsichordist Bob van Asperen.


A band named after an animal this big should be heavy, right? (Image via Wikipedia)

For several weeks now, I’ve been trying to insert some Mastodon into the playlist, primarily material from their most recent album, The Hunter.  I finally managed to do so tonight, mixing a few new tracks in with some material from older albums Blood Mountain and Leviathan.  We heard Black Tongue (from The Hunter), Hand of Stone (Blood Mountain), Blood and Thunder (Leviathan), Dry Bone Valley (The Hunter), Capillarian Crest (Blood Mountain), and ended the set with Hearts Alive, from Leviathan.

I love it when I have the opportunity to premiere new material, and I have the opportunity tonight to play material that is both old and new at the same time.  Allesandro Striggio (b. 1536/37, d. 1592) was a member of the court of Duke Cosimo I di Medici, and was a friend of Vincenzo Galilei, the father of the infamous Galileo Galilei.  Striggio’s son, of the same name, would eventually write the libretto for Monteverdi’s Orfeo.  He wrote both madrigals and dramatic music, and by combining the two is credited with creating the musical form known as madrigal comedy, an important precursor to opera.  The first mention of tonight’s work, the Missa Ecco si beato giorno, comes in early 1567, when Striggio made a rather difficult journey from Florence to visit Vienna, Munich, and Paris as part of a diplomatic mission for Cosimo I de’ Medici, impressing those in attendance (including the great composer Orlando di Lassus, who was at this time working in Munich).  He eventually made his way to London, where the mass is believed to be one of several works performed.  Enough of an impression was made that noted English composer Thomas Tallis composed his own 40 voice masterwork Spem in Alium in response.  Striggio’s mass was believed lost until musicologist Davitt Moroney unearthed it in Paris in 2005.

For further reading:

At San Quentin

Johnny Cash at San Quentin album cover (Image via Wikipedia)

We finished the show with a Johnny Cash set, taken from his Live at San Quentin album.  The San Quentin album was one of his first recordings without his longtime guitarist Luther Perkins, who had passed away 7 months earlier.  The differences between the San Quentin album and the previous Folsom Prison album are striking, as Cash replaced Perkins with not one but two guitarists (including Carl Perkins), and also added a drummer.  We heard Big River, I Still Miss Someone, Wreck of the Old 97, I Walk The Line, Darlin’ Companion (with June Carter Cash), I Don’t Know Where I’m Bound, Starkville City Jail, and San Quentin.


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