by kerry mccarthy
oxford, 304 pages, $39.95
Judging by the tracks programmed by my local classical music radio station, no composer of merit existed before the Baroque period. DJs with soothing voices regularly serve up Vivaldi, Handel, Scarlatti, and Bach, especially during rush hour. Vivaldi’s Four Seasons ought to be renamed the Four Busiest Drive-Time Hours.
But for the most cherished moments of listening, in rush hours or unrushed ones, I increasingly find myself turning to earlier composers. Over a lifetime of listening to music, I haven’t encountered anything more moving than the major works of Johannes Ockeghem, Josquin des Prez, Guillaume Dufay, Hildegard von Bingen, Orlande de Lassus, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Thomas Tallis, and my favorite of this pre-Baroque period, William Byrd.