Guilio Caccini: Perfidissino volto

Written by Benjamin Sosland

In category: Song of the Day

Published February 8, 2018

For the last 10 years, I’ve spent nearly every waking hour thinking about early music, as the administrative director of Juilliard Historical Performance. So I could not let the opportunity to share songs with the erudite NYFOS audience pass by without at least one example of repertoire from whence it all started. This is a piece from the early days of sung drama by Giulio Caccini. It’s from a set of songs called Le nuove musiche (The New Music) that aimed to explore new possibilities of expression. Imagine being there for the first time this piece was ever heard!

So, early music. Why do I still feel the need to defend it? Can we just agree once and for all that it’s music, and needs no adjective? That it can speak to us as directly now as we assume it did when it was new, just like Beethoven, Brahms, or Stravinsky. (No one seems to think that Shakespeare is irrelevant because we don’t talk that way anymore, or Michelangelo’s David is less expressive because marble is just soooo 15th century.) Here I must quote my esteemed colleague, the great Baroque violinist Robert Mealy: “All music of the past, whether from 1950 or 1650, is historical performance today: for all of us, we’re trying to understand how to speak these other musical languages as eloquently and as passionately as possible. The basic philosophy of 17th- and 18th-century historical performance is that it’s easier to make this music come alive if we use the tools that were designed for this music.” Amen.

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Benjamin Sosland holds several artistic and administrative positions that reflect a wide-ranging musical curiosity. As the founding administrative director of Juilliard Historical Performance, he has been responsible for creating, implementing, and overseeing the School’s newest degree program, which The New York Times has credited for the renaissance in early music in New York. Under his leadership, the department has established itself as one of the leading programs of its kind, combining a rigorous curriculum with frequent performances on the national and international stage. Mr. Sosland has helped develop key partnerships with Les Arts Florissants, the English Concert, the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, and with the Utrecht Early Music Festival where Juilliard was the first-ever conservatory-in-residence. He is a frequent preconcert lecturer at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center and he has served on the jury at the Van Wassaenar International Early Music Competition. He has been the research associate and program editor for the New York Festival of Song and a score consultant for the Metropolitan Opera’s Live in HD series of satellite transmissions since this groundbreaking series of broadcasts began. Trained as a tenor, he has performed with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, the Gotham Chamber Opera, and American Opera Projects and has been the guest of several summer music festivals, including the Marlboro Music Festival, the Ravinia Festival’s Steans Institute for Young Artists, and the Aspen and Bowdoin Summer Music Festivals. Mr. Sosland holds degrees from the Eastman School of Music and The Juilliard School, where he is the assistant dean for the Kovner Fellowships, overseeing the school’s elite scholarship program, and a member of the Graduate Studies faculty. His course offerings have included such topics as entrepreneurship for musicians, the dramatic works of Monteverdi, Paris between the wars, and the literary operas of Benjamin Britten.


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