Polyphony and the Sublime

Wed, 02/01/2017 - 6:00pm

Faculty and students from the School of Music and Dance will present “Polyphony and the Sublime,” a concert inspired by the JSMA’s recent acquisition of a late 18th-century landscape painting by William Hodges (British, 1747–97). Nature is often the major player in landscape paintings of this time, overwhelming the human figures and embodying the concept of the Sublime. The Sublime, which was explored by British philosopher Edmund Burke in A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful (1756), is something that inspires both fear and attraction—something that can create a sensation of pain and pleasure simultaneously, what Burke called delight or “negative pain.”

The aesthetic of the Sublime in music is usually contemplated in relationship with Joseph Haydn’s late compositions, in particular The Creation. This performance will address another approach to sublimity—reflecting Burke’s “negative pain”— through instrumental versions of some of the lesser-known highlights of Renaissance and Baroque polyphony. Opening with the beautiful Lamentation upon the death of Ockeghem by Josquin Desprez, the program will explore some of the most sublime moments of counterpoint with some instrumental Ricercari, madrigals by Carlo Gesualdo and Claudio Monteverdi, a motet by Giaches De Wert, and consort music by Henry Purcell. The program will conclude with the six-part Ricercar of Johann Sebastian Bach’s The Musical Offering.

“Polyphony and the Sublime” is organized by Marc Vanscheeuwijck, Associate Professor of Musicology.