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Novantica - FMB 2019

Montreal Baroque is now open for proposals for the June 2019 edition!

The subject matter Sprezzatura is subtle but begs all participants to take risks, forget your studied togetherness and allow your fantasy or fancy to take precedence over the strictures of your education! Eloquence and rhetorical music-making are the flavours of Montreal Baroque 2019!

When I mentioned the title Sprezzatura to my Italian friends they threw up their hands laughing because nowadays the word has come to mean waste or garbage!

Sprezzatura, as defined by Baldassare Castiglione in his Book of the Courtier (1528) , “is a certain nonchalance, so as to conceal all art and make whatever one does or says appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it“. In the arts Sprezzatura translates as a cultivated negligence in which rough textures, uneven edges and a rainbow of colours are contrasted with refinement so that a seemingly natural beauty results. A similar aesthetic is found in Japanese and Chinese philosophy with the concept of shibui which imbues the fine arts with all that seems natural.

In 1676, Thomas Mace wrote;

When two violins play in consort, If perfectly in tune with one another, it is better when one musician goes a little before or behind the other….with a certain “je ne scais quoi” with frequent dissonances and a pleasant seasoning obtained”.

In other words, an ideal in ensemble performance is one in which the musicians would preferably not play precisely together! What a concept in today’s metronomic world in which precision and uniformity are considered prime attributes for any self respecting ensemble!

The idea of a certain “je ne scais quoi” or an ease of delivery, seems to be universal to all European writing about music from the Renaissance to the high baroque. From Praetorius to Haydn and Caccini to Quantz the notion of freeing up time or a loose relationship between tactus and time-taking in honour of elegance of expression and natural eloquence is an integral part of musical performance.

Send us your creative concert proposals by May 15th so that we can announce the following year’s ideas at the 2018 Festival this June!


Susie and Matthias