A voyage in musical chiaroscuro, I Viaggi di Caravaggio can be heard on the recent CD release on MV Cremona. Among the composers in the program are some of the greatest masters of the early seicento – Sances, Merula, Kapsberger, Mazzocchi, and others.
Caravaggio was a revolutionary painter and and confrontational personality whose canvasses absorbed the naturalism and discoveries of the ways of light made by his scientist contemporaries. His sense of realism included his choice of models for various female saints, sundry “fallen women” – prostitutes who were lovers not only of the artist, but of various members of the clergy as well. The paintings offer a perspective on the complicated life of the artist, his time, and the thin line that separates sacred from profane passion in the baroque aesthetic.
Like the paintings, the musical works were composed with a masterful chiaroscuro in which sacred scenes are rendered with intense changes of vocal color between light and dark, each little motet offering a drama of theatrical dimensions. At first impression, the program is a straightforward presentation of early seventeenth-century sacred music, but like the great master whom we honor with the music of his time, the concert hides a more dramatic, complex, and subversive truth than that which first meets the eye.