Thursday, 6 October 2011

The Baroque

It is time for Fantasy Bob to consider linkages between the history of cricket and the history of music.

For it was on 6 October 1600 that Jacopo Peri's Euridice received its first performance in Florence, held to mark the beginning of the baroque period in music.  The period lasted roughly 150 years, JS Bach died in 1750,  at which time the first signs of the pre-classical were being heard.  The baroque is characterised by its use of counterpoint, tonality and the through or figured bass.  Its greatest works still dominate concert halls and CD sales to this day. Its harmonic structures underpin most of today's pop songs. The word itself comes from the Portuguese word barroco, meaning "misshapen pearl", an unflattering description of the ornate and heavily ornamented music and architecture of this period.

Henry Purcell
Cricket developed as a game in  between these years and can therefore be considered to be a product of the baroque period.  Period batsmen bewigged and frock coated might well have strode to the wicket accompanied by the latest hit from Purcell or Handel, the most celebrated English Baroque composers.   Except they didn't have T20 matches and they didn't have super powered PA systems.

The laws of cricket were first pulled together in 1744, in the late Baroque period.  Purcell had died in 1695, so his cricket works have uncertain reference to a codified set of laws.  This may be confirmed by the fact that his earliest composed anthem is 'Lord who can tell' - obviously to be sung by an umpire struggling without recourse to an agreed set of laws.   But Handel was still churning out the hits and in 1744 composed his oratorio Semele which features the celebrated aria 'Where e'er you walk' - a song to encourage honesty in Baroque batsmen - and their successors. 

The laws were revised in 1774 when LBW was introduced.  This comes as a surprise to FB for the LBW law seems one of the more baroque aspects of cricket.   But in 1774 Mozart was 18 and the classical period was in full flow - Mozart composed his Bassoon concerto and 4 important symphonies 27-30 in that year.  So LBW is not a baroque decoration.

Beethoven as a young cricketer
The MCC was founded in 1787 and Lords Cricket Ground was opened the same year, when Beethoven was 17.   In that year Beethoven went to Vienna for the first time, and may or may not have met Mozart for the only time - historians are divided in their speculations.  It must have been like Viv Richards meeting Brian Lara but in German.  It is not known whether any conversation the two greats may have had made reference to the MCC or Lords Cricket Ground.  Beethoven and Mozart's conversation is similarly unreported.

In 1788 the MCC's first code of laws was published and this remains the basis of today's game.  Mozart's last 3, and greatest, symphonies, 39,40 and 41, date from that year too.

So is cricket a product of the baroque or not?  The MCC could also be described as baroque in much of its approach to things over the years.  But its laws are firmly a product of the classical period.  All this history stuff - it's confusing isn't it?


  1. More from Handel:

    "Water Music" - first performed after rain stopped play

    "Eternal Source of Light Divine" - written for the inauguration of the new floodlights

    "L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato" - contrasting bowling styles

    From the coaching manual - "Let thy hand be strengthened" and "How beautiful are the feet"

    The heavy roller song - "Every valley shall be exalted... and the rough places plain"

    The fast bowler is warming up - "And who may abide the day of his coming, and who shall stand when he appeareth?"

    "Il Pastor Fido" - sometimes translated as "The Doughty Groundsman" (or, "The Vicar's Dog")

    "Behold, I tell you a great mystery" - the Duckworth-Lewis method

  2. Very good - have you been practising?