L’Estro Armonico (and, tangentially, Gene Simmons)

Nowadays you can find even obscure pieces of classical music but a click away on YouTube (such as the Wolf’s Glen scene from Weber’s Der Freischuetz, I mean, that’s amazing really).   In the past, music majors such as my high-school choir teacher and Juilliard alum David Pool would have to dig through a Schwann catalog to find vinyl pressings or tapes of obscure-but-required pieces for their studies, generally recorded by equally obscure ensembles.

Pool used to joke that as a result of all this, he and and his Juilliard classmate Charles Emerson Winchester III had between them the most extensive collection of recorded works by the Chamber Society of Lower East Cleveland.

For my part, as a starving young student I amassed my trove of classical records by signing up repeatedly for Columbia House and Musical Heritage Society “introductory memberships” (“9 albums for 1 cent”), which taught me valuable life lessons about reading the fine print and how to outscam the scammers.

Happily, I also encountered all sorts of relatively obscure treasures, and Vivaldi’s L’Estro Armonico performed by I Solisti Veneti became my favorite. The other day on YouTube I found this version I may decide I like even better. An excellent listen, and a great introduction to the joys of classical music for the novice or any metalhead — especially with the bass cranked through the roof.

The Red Priest was a genius and a notorious musical icon of his day, composing for royalty, delighting in crossdressing genderplay in his operas, and maintaining the sort of lifestyle that got him, a man of the cloth, barred from entering a city because of his sexcapades. Were he alive today, one suspects an interview with him would sound an awful lot like this.

That's a Mona Lisa smile if I ever saw one

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