Great Britain’s island status has often been evoked to explain many a peculiarity of its residents. What later became proverbial as “splendid isolation” in the diplomatic arena has deep cultural roots. The members of Musica Alta Ripa, specialists for the special in early music, have explored the period between 1650 and 1700 and discovered plenty of individual gems. Insane Harmony now reveals this treasure trove to the rest of the world!
The astonishing result: while Italians and Frenchmen were competing for musical primacy everywhere on the European Continent, a very characteristically British tonal idiom reigned supreme during this short period of history before foreign influences increased in importance. A certain conservative obstinacy also explains the continuing popularity of “Divisions on a Ground” during this time; elsewhere these variations on an ostinato bass had long fallen out of fashion. In his “Fantazia” Henry Purcell proves to be a magnificent dramatist who elaborates even the smallest motifs contrapuntally and with great virtuosity while producing enthralling harmonic modulations.
Retrospective and at the same time modern – Purcell manages to be both at once. He unabashedly combines the old court “Pavane” with the avant-garde “Chaconne” to form a phenomenal movement pair. Bizarre ideas paired with what is often melancholy expression distinguish the works of his contemporaries. They include the rich palette represented by Williams Lawes, who was killed by a bullet during the turmoil of the English Civil War, Thomas Tomkins, whose music continued to reflect the strong influence of the Elizabethan era, and William Williams, who could no longer completely withstand Corelli’s influence.
Musica Alta Ripa’s espousal of an epoch that so far has not received much attention turns out to be a genuine instance of good fortune. With their special feel for the peculiar resonances of English music, these Hanoverian baroque specialists present a royal audio feast and with it genuine enrichment not only for early music enthusiasts!