Andrei Strizek

Music | Musings

Alessandro Moreschi, the Last Vatican Castrato

Here's a recording of the last Vatican Castrato singing the Bach/Gounod Ave Maria. We read about and discussed this recording in my Philosophic Inquiry in Music Education class last semester - it was mentioned in Nicolas Cook's fine book Music: A Very Short Introduction. It's interesting to hear his vocal style and how different it is from today's standards, and wonder how much of that has to do with the recording quality at the turn of the century, and how much of it is actually based on performance standards of that time. It brings up some good points that Richard Taruskin talks about in some essays in his The Danger of Music and elsewhere: how much of "performance practice" (especially for Renaissance and Baroque music, but increasingly in Classical and Romantic music too, as seen in the Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique) is informed by our modern (or post-modern) understanding of those time periods, and how much can we say is original to the time period? Will we ever be able to separate ourselves from our current place in history to accurately represent how Bach would have heard his music performed, or will there always be a tinge of our time and era in those performances? And what does that mean for someone like Glenn Gould, to take an extreme example, who's recordings are generally regarded as being historically inaccurate, especially when compared to someone like Rosalyn Tureck? Can we appreciate both Gould's and Turcek's recordings?

Well, with all of that to mull around in your mind, here's the clip of Alessandro Moreschi. Understandably, the recording quality isn't the best, but it's still worth watching. Any comments, thoughts, and ideas are appreciated. I obviously don't have any final answers on this topic.


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