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Not for the casual reader, this admirable sequence of nine studies will appeal most strongly to anyone with a special interest in music of the Enlightenment period. Kramer refers to ‘a book of snapshots’ because ‘each of them captures a moment’, but this is not to imply any superficiality, nor any suggestion of the modern mania for ‘soundbites’. These snapshots are what we might describe as moments of truth – ‘the smile, the gesture, the telling action that invites us into the piece and that, upon further reflection ... guides us into its less accessible recesses, deepening for us its befores and afters.’

The first two selected musical examples are a few extraordinary bars from the opening movement of Mozart’s C major string quintet and a moment from the second movement of C P E Bach’s boldly original Sonata in F minor (from the third collection ‘für Kenner und Liebhaber’). Then, after a chapter on the pre-eminence of Klopstock’s verse, Kramer examines Gluck’s setting of Klopstock’s Der Jüngling (later version), C P E Bach’s ‘unsettling’ lied based on the same poet’s Lyda, and Beethoven’s sketches for never-to-be-realised lieder settings of Klopstock texts.

The remaining chapters focus on an extract from Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride, Cherubino’s music from The Marriage of Figaro, especially the extremely anxious passage ending with the Page’s leap from a window (hence this book’s title), and, finally, Konstanze’s soliloquy in Act 2 of Die Entführung aus dem Serail.

Before all of these psychologically penetrating discussions, which represent the bulk of a scholarly and rewarding book, Chapter 1 concerns ‘The Chromatic Moment in Enlightenment Thought’. For the great philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, ‘it is the element of surprise – Überraschung is his word – that, in some measure, defines Enlightenment sensibility’ … ‘Unhappy are those whom reason has hardened against the onset of such a surprise.’ Here Kramer’s purpose is ‘to understand … how, in the music of the Enlightenment, the tension between … the diatonic and the chromatic plays itself out in music that seems often enough [a rather weakening qualification] an exploration of this very tension.’

PHILIP BORG-WHEELER Read the full review on Agora Classica

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