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Harmonia Time Capsule: 1711

The city of Mobile in what is now the state of Alabama enjoyed its first Mardi Gras parade in 1711.  Mardi Gras, a centuries-old celebration of decadence that takes place in preparation for Ash Wednesday and the forty days of Lent, came to Mobile soon after the settlement became the capital of French Louisiana.  In observance of Mardi Gras, Mobile’s Boeuf Gras, or “Fat Beef” Society paraded down the settlement’s streets with a cart carrying a large papier-mâché cow's head.

In Germany, Johann David Heinichen, not to be confused with the beer, wrote and published the first version of his treatise on thoroughbass, or continuo.  This 1711 treatise came to form the foundation for a far lengthier work.  Der General-Bass in der Composition served as both a practical guide to the art of figured bass interpretation and a method for composition.  Numerous emendations were made to it, including how to adopt principles of classical rhetoric into musical composition.  The fruits of Heinchen’s thorough undertaking attracted the attention of music theorist Johann Mattheson, who noted the treatise in his own musical writing.  In addition, a well-traveled music historian named Charles Burney dubbed Heinichen “the Rameau of Germany.”

That same year, London’s Queen’s Theater resounded with a premier performance of Handel’s opera Rinaldo.  The opera’s plot centers on the military conquests of the crusader Goffredo and the amorous conquests of the knight Rinaldo.  Goffredo and Rinaldo wend their ways through conflict, confusion, and magical occurrence, ultimately arriving at victory and peace.  Although met with scepticism on the part of critics, Rinaldo was a hit with the public.  The first Italian language opera written for the London stage enjoyed repeated performances well into the eighteenth century.

Music heard in this time capsule:

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