Sunday, 15 October 2017

Crystal Mirror Shattered – A Contralto from Venice

Venice again.

It is a town where the streets are made of water and the residents go after their business by boat.
Is it more than weird? 

Probably yes, even today. 
However, it was neck and neck with dragons and cephalopods in the lying competitions in the pubs in the havens. And as we know cephalopods produced diamond in flower bulbs. 

Indeed, it is as big abnormality as, for example, the mirror. 
Mirror image which is not real either optically or anyway science and mysticism reach consensus as an exception. Just an appearance, a perfect and nice lie. A Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side; 100 percent alibi, Agatha Christie was right. A reflected image and if we expect the original we are utterly mistaken. 

Gordian amalgamation of the right and left, women’s main beauty aid, the symbol of flirtatiousness. No accident that Venetians were fond of mirrors so much that cast glass covered with tin-mercury amalgam was first used in Venice. It resembled mirror much more than the polished metal sheets used earlier; their waviness and distortion remind of the water of lagoons.
And that it flows like water but much more slowly. Madness yet true. Let us measure a broken window splinter with a slide calliper - one from top and one at the bottom. Surprise guaranteed. Telling lies is not real itself either, angles change in time, the image changes too.

The first genuine big mirrors were cast during the Sun King (Louis XIV of France); Venice kept buying tons of glass of unimaginable size, then they started to produce them on their own.

The annealing of the mirrors was not resolved. 
I think because annealing as a word did not exist … it is something in the glass industry. The result was that a Venetian mirror is unstable and vulnerable, it was expensive not only because of the frame. A failed hanging is enough to go snap. Or a sub-miniature earthquake indicated only by gauges. 

Or a stronger sound of a given frequency. 
Well, we are coming to the point - music. 
Like a special singing voice like that of Sara Mingardo

She was born in Venice so the circle is complete. 

The record contains cantatas and arias, the period is the early 17th century when many things changed in music; Venice is a real leading actor with its opera houses. The orchestra and cembalo are conducted by Rinaldo Alessandrini, we can pin our faith on him. He was right and so were we.

Let us see the first track right away. 
The others are delightful too but this one is so good that the record became almost nose heavy; it is worth buying the album just for this track.

Lament or lamentation is a beautiful genre originating in Renaissance; the word suggests complaint or whining but it is much more than that, we will see that their beauty radiating regardless of this is intense without any underlying theory.

Tarquinio Merula, organ player in Cremona, left a delightful piece of the Venetian School to us in a collection from 1638, it is the famous Hor ch’e tempo di dormire which is a 'canzonetta spiritual.' 
The genre promises nearly airy entertainment, although this spirituale attribute slightly overshadows our cloudlessness. At first hearing it is like a lullaby, a beautiful song with a simple obligato which is an ostinato-bass of 2 (yes, two) sounds. It is pretty long, almost 10 minutes, probably it is hard for the child to fall asleep … is it as much as that? Well, no, it is much more complicated than that, we are accustomed to it in the simple melodies of the Renaissance, it is worth to look behind it. The lyrics provides some help, the rest is made felt.

Virgin Mary is rocking baby Jesus while breastfeeding him. The relentless monotony of the rocking creates some trance; listening to it attentively we are covered with some fine veil. The number in the stanzas is the ominous but pre-consummation 11, then the harmonious image of the resting child alternates with the visionary future, crucifixion and bitterness.
Nearing the end, in the 9th phase the woman practically goes mad. Increasing, huge, heart-breaking crying and whining, it breaks any mirror or glass into splinters. Then the single change of accord, beautiful harmony floods in, and she is singing, tamed, about that the only thing she can do at the moment is rocking and loving him. It is a very nice and long arc, such comprise is a rarity; it also means that we need some patience to reach the end, however, it is worth to join the bountiful timeliness of the Renaissance.

Obviously, to faithfully perform it has suddenly become a complicated project - it is and it is not a lullaby, it is and it is not an apparition, it is and it is not monotonous, we are and we are not happy, we have gone mad in the meantime but only for the time being.

Sara Mingardo’s voice compares to nothing, huge medium range, at a high volume she can question our systems and even the possibility of artificial restitution of sound. Hers is one of the most special voice I have ever heard.

The other tracks are coming one after the other. Monteverdi and Carissimi, Salvatore and Legrenzi, aces of the newly released monody, and, of course, if it is Venice then the alt-maniac Vivaldi cannot be left out and even a Handel aria is contained in the record.

Each track reserves some nicety. Change tone on the go? It is not simple, I heard it from few divas; it is heard in many places here. Change from whisper to shout while wishing the woman’s maddening to culminate in at least a dozen places. Her grasp of dynamics is so big that Naivé invited hi-fi studio experts for this record; practically, a separate recording system was construed. 

And a curtain in front of each glass surface…A recording dedicated to a given voice - what a pleasure.

And all this with straight singing, there is no vibrato common later which, like an old mask, covers the true expression.

What is it like live? 
I had the opportunity to experience it once. You certainly remember the lowerable concrete monster of 20 tons covered in wood in the major hall of the Palace of Arts. [Budapest]

Arias went one after the other and at the raises when she forgot herself she made the monstrous swing vibrate so much that it traversed
Sitting there I was afraid, seriously. And I thought that if I survive this night I go after her to every concert, I will be absorbed in her voice, I will serve her, sleep on her doorstep…

This voice can flip mirrors; if it has such effect on glass it must have the same on crystal too. I am thinking of those what like freezing up music and our hearts. 

And it happens to us like to Han Solo in Star Wars that we lie like a piece of coal; our life functions are alright but the music does not get inside.

Or in a milder case like Gerda’s brother in Snow Queen.
We walk about, we can even chat or even argue about music but with a heart of ice, with ice music, ice notes, ice stars, ice blue and ice existence. 

This voice melts us out, breaks the cover off and shakes us extensively, then deep inside something warm dissipates. 

Colour blue will be nice again.

Highly, highly recommended. 

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Translated by Kenesei Andrea

Thank you for the images.
Especially for the first one.
Created by Erik Johansson. His website: