The true radical genius of Monteverdi

18febleadpicAlexandra Coghlan at The Spectator:

‘Eppur si muove’ — And yet it moves. Galileo’s defiant insistence that the Earth revolves round the Sun, his refusal to submit to the Inquisition, is a familiar one. It’s the battle cry not of a reformer but of a revolutionary, a passionate teller of truths.

It’s a credo he shared with composer Claudio Monteverdi. Born barely three years after the astronomer, Monteverdi faced his own inquisition. Defying those who would make music an immoveable sphere, bound in place by harmonic proprieties and structural conventions, he made works that rejected tidy formalism in favour of messy, fleshy humanity. His was music that moved in every sense, that lived as vividly as those who inspired it. He may celebrate his 450th anniversary this year, but Monteverdi was the first modern composer.

‘It solicits the ear and roughly, harshly strikes it… those dissonances are crude, ugly and insupportable.’ Provoking critical scorn with his experimentation long before Stockhausen or Boulez, Monteverdi’s musical prescience cannot be overstated.

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