Press Play: “Ogni Pena Piu Spietata” by Giovanni Pergolesi


In the 21st century, we don’t often equate opera with controversy. But in 1750s Paris, comic opera was at the heart of a pretty heated feud.

As traditional French opera refused to budge from its established traditions, the more light-hearted “opera buffo” of Italy started to gain momentum. Opinions were strong, leaflets were distributed, and the “Querelle des Bouffons” began. It was the 18th-century equivalent of hip hop’s east coast/west coast rivalry of the 1990s.

And at the centre of it all was Pergolesi, whose innocuous “La Serva Padrona” started it all at its 1752 Paris performance.

Key moment: Although it’s a mournful piece, there are a couple of sparkly little decorations, like the one at 5:18.

That makes me think of: Because the pizzicato strings sound a bit like a ukulele, and because Pergolesi’s name ends with “lesi”, I’m reminded of “The Lazy Song” by Bruno Mars.

Andrew Moore is our blogger-in-residence, and author of the music blog Beautiful Song of the Week.”

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Press Play: “Ave Verum Corpus” by William Byrd

William Byrd was a polyphonic genius, a composer to royalty, and the proud owner of one of the pointiest beards in history. Anything he composed is worth a close listen, but this one has to be one of my favourites.

Key moment: Beginning at 1:46, the sopranos sing the lines “O Dulcis, O Pie, O Jesu…” followed closely by the rest of the choir. Almost like a call-and-response where the response comes just a bit sooner than expected. It’s so nice that we hear it again a minute later.

That makes me think of: Call-and-response can be found all over the musical landscape, but it probably originated here.

Andrew Moore is our blogger-in-residence, and author of the music blog Beautiful Song of the Week.”

Press Play: “Hail, Gladdening Light” by Charles Wood

Whether or not you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, you’ve got to admit that March 17th has a celebratory atmosphere to it. Spring’s around the corner, young kids are off school, and college kids are busy pretending they’re Irish, and hitting every bar they possibly can within 24 hours.

“Hail Gladdening Light”, by Ireland’s own Charles Wood, has that same celebratory feel to it. Two choirs, huge dynamics…it feels like it goes from fortissimo to pianississimo in a matter of seconds. And if the huge high-A at the end doesn’t make you want to raise a pint of Guinness, nothing will.

Key moment: For all its hugeness, I like the quiet moments, like at 0:43, when it almost fades away to nothing.

That makes me think of: Those quiet, delicate moments remind me of another Irish talent: Fionn Regan.

Andrew Moore is our blogger-in-residence, and author of the music blog Beautiful Song of the Week.”

Press Play: “Weep O Mine Eyes” by John Bennet

Like most things humans do, crying is really weird when you think about it. Why should our bodies decide to expel water from our eyes? Or to put it another way, why should our bodies decide that our eyes should have the same reaction to stubbing a toe, cutting onions, or watching a commercial about orphaned puppies?

If you’re interested, some interesting stuff has been written about crying. And even if you’re not interested, you’ve got to admit that the strange human habit of weeping has inspired some great music over the years.

Key moment: 1:30, when the tenors and basses swell a bit on the words, “swell so high”. Reminds me of those big, stuttering intakes of breath that we sometimes make when having a good cry.

That makes me think of: The last line, about drowning in tears, makes me think of this great song by Ray Charles.

Andrew Moore is our blogger-in-residence, and author of the music blog Beautiful Song of the Week.”

Press Play: “Zen Love Song” by Roxanna Panufnik

Before seeing this video, I was unaware of the contemporary ear candy produced by Roxanna Panufnik. But then again, I was also unaware that I could be so captivated by a paper bird. Life can be surprising like that.

Key moment: In the opening phrases, I love the upwards glissandos in both the flute and the voice. They come back at the end, just before the bird flies away into the sunset, accompanied by a deliciously crunchy chord in the piece’s final seconds.

That makes me think of: The flute, along with the general meditative feel, makes me think of Song 2 by DJ Krush.

Andrew Moore is our blogger-in-residence, and author of the music blog Beautiful Song of the Week.”