Michael Praetorius: Terpsichore

What better way to snap oneself out of a blue funk than to dance? I chose today’s work because it is one of those albums that always cheers me. One day in my first or second year of college, I heard a piece on the local classical station that I couldn’t believe was “serious” music.

The announcer said it came from a collection of dances, entitled Terpsichore by Michael Praetorius. But I had heard the piece in another form, maybe in a cartoon or some children’s show popular in my youth. I tracked the album down and immediately bought it. It was one of the first albums that introduced me to music from the Renaissance, which had a bit of a renaissance itself about ten 20 years ago in the US.

Praetorius lived from 1571 – 1621 in and around Dresden. The son of a pastor, Praetorius was a prolific composer, churning out some 1244 songs. Terpsichore is important because it was a compilation of dance songs for instruments only at a time when composition was moving from predominantly vocal based works to instrumental. Composers were starting to write for instruments alone as they were being refined to have truer and more reliable sounds. This album introduced me to a number of the older instruments, like crumhorns, rackets and sackbuts, whose croaky, wheezy and raspberry sounds I’ve come to love. Just what you need to blow the blues away.

Recently, I found this television performance by the New York Pro Music under the direction of Noah Greenberg.


It must date from late 1950s or early 1960s US television.  Back then TV was new and people were touting it as a way of brining culture and mass education into the living room of families.  People thought the Internet would do the same thing again about 20 years ago.  What happened?



Praetorius Biography

Download MP3s or buy CD of Praetorius: Dances from Terpsichore

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