The savage beast

I have always been impressed by those people that have a facility for prayer. I am afraid that I am one of those silly people that just can’t stop their over-active minds from chattering and burbling on: no sooner do I sit down to try to pray than a problem with a work project will occur to me, an embarrassing recollection resurface or I will recall the pressing need to think of something to write for CP&S (which will lead me down a different primrose path of displacement activity). 

I often find that I really only manage to still the tyrant thought when I am losing myself in a piece of music, losing myself in labyrinthine patterns of notes. 

I came across this piece some twenty years ago, played here by the peerless Palladian Ensemble, and was haunted by its combination of vivacity and melancholy, evoking images of a lonely hearth in a vast night, awaiting the glorious dawn of the Kingdom of Heaven. 

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22 Responses to The savage beast

  1. JabbaPapa says:

    Some have a facility for prayer, which is both a blessing and a charism.

    Those of us lacking it should not be jealous or anything, the Lord simply has other plans for us.

    My own prayers tend to be punctual and direct, rather than regular and peacefully spiritual – though I often supplicate the great Apostle James during travel difficulties, there’s more of a familiar complicity there from my times on the Camino de Santiago … 🙂

    According to Your Will, Lord, not mine 🙂


  2. golden chersonnese says:

    Very nice little ditty, Raven, the violin work is really something.

    I hear the guitar beneath rhythmically strumming out a fixed set of chords, just like a guitar Mass, really. Infinitely more charming than a guitar Mass, of course, but it’s in triple time, just like the annoying Gloria I have to endure each week.

    I see Matteis was a Neapolitan who lived in England mostly, during the reign of the later Stewarts from Charles II onwards.

    Thanks again, Raven.


  3. annem040359 says:

    For me, it has always been a struggle to pray, but at least I say a very brief thank-you to God for each new day. Otherwise not a big time person of prayer, but wish I could learn more about having a better prayer life.


  4. toadspittle says:


    Why “The savage beast?”

    Congreve avers, “music hath charms to soothe the savage breast.”

    Of course, some breasts can be just as beastly as beasts, but still…


  5. The Raven says:


    To be quite honest, the misquotation seemed rather more appropriate to my condition than the original.


  6. golden chersonnese says:

    Well after that quibble, am I allowed to point out the little spelling mistake on YouTube?

    I’m quite confident it should be bizzarrie as in:


  7. golden chersonnese says:

    Oops. bizzarrie, i.e. !


  8. JabbaPapa says:

    Nope, not a mistake, as both spellings are correct.

    Personally, I use “bizzarro”, “bizzarria”, etc (and I believe the spelling with “rr” is considered both more elegant and more fun), but the two spelling variants are in frequent use.

    FWIW though, the original title of the work does appear to use the “rr” spelling.


  9. The Raven says:


    I’m only responsible for the solecisms in the title of this article, not for the delights of a seventeenth century English transcription of an Italian title!


  10. golden chersonnese says:

    Yes Raven, I was careful to point out the glaring error was on YouTube’s part and nothing to do with you.

    I tried praying last night with it, Raven. Alas, that did not help me beat upon that old Cloud of Unknowing any more than usual. I’ll try it again tonight.

    Matteis was quite a stir in Restoration England, it would appear, and led the life of a dissolute pop-idol in later life – in Norfolk somewhere, Colkirk?. But Even Purcell was impressed and picked up many practical pointers from him. Sounds right.

    Here’s a good read on the fellow, Raven. Have you seen it?


  11. The Raven says:


    I thought one pendentic comment deserved another 😉

    Yes, Matteis was quite a colourful chap. Before he and his acquaintances arrived in England, we were listening to consort music, played on viols: stately and beautiful music, but lacking the sparkle and opportunities for individual virtuosity that the upstart violin offered.


  12. kathleen says:

    There is no one I believe, not even the greatest saints on occasions, who does not fight distraction in prayer. I often find beautiful music like this piece offered by Raven helpful when praying the rosary. The agitated wandering mind is soothed, and keeping distractions at bay is made easier with this little “foretaste of Heaven”.


  13. golden chersonnese says:

    pendentic, Raven? Can I use that in Scrabble?

    What I want to know is can I blame him for guitar Masses.


  14. The Raven says:

    Only the iPhone version, Golden (concatenation of fat fingers and auto-correct to blame for that interesting new neologism!).

    I suspect that Matteis would have been as mortified as we are at the quality of music at Mass.


  15. teresa says:

    Golden, that was not a guitar, but a baroque instrument called “tiorba” (therbo), it was generally used for the basso continuo, here you can watch them playing:

    From Wikipedia:

    “Theorboes were developed during the late sixteenth century, inspired by the demand for extended bass range for use in opera developed by the Florentine Camerata and new musical works based on basso continuo, such as Giulio Caccini’s two collections, Le nuove musiche (1602 and 1614). Musicians adapted bass lutes (c.80+ cm string length) with a neck extension to accommodate open (i. e. unfretted) bass strings, called diapasons or bourdons. The instrument was called both chitarrone and tiorba. Although theorbo and chitarrone are virtually identical, they have different etymological origins, chitarrone being a descendant of chitarra italiana (hence its name).

    Similar adaptations to smaller lutes (c.55+ cm string length) produced the liuto attiorbato and the archlute, also similar-looking but differently tuned instruments.

    In the performance of basso continuo, theorboes were often paired with a small pipe organ. The most prominent players and composers of the chitarrone in Italy were Giovanni Girolamo Kapsberger and Alessandro Piccinini. Little solo music for the theorbo survives from England, but William Lawes and others used it in their chamber music, and it also appeared in opera orchestras. In France, theorboes were appreciated and used in orchestral music just as well as in chamber music, until the second half of the 18th century (Nicolas Hotman, Robert de Visée). Court orchestras at Vienna, Bayreuth and Berlin employed theorbo players still after 1750 (Ernst Gottlieb Baron, Francesco Conti).”


  16. golden chersonnese says:

    Lovely clip, Teresa, thank you very much.

    Alas, I see that performance was in a church, which even strengthens my suspicion that this Matteis chap is ultimately to blame for guitar Masses. Need to ask Manus.

    I listened to Raven’s clip again and indeed noticed that it might not be a guitar strumming away there under the violin. But whatever it is, I’m absolutely sure it was a sufficiently close relative to get ‘my fight or flight’ mechanism engaged.

    I see, however, that Matteis was in fact also a great guitarist and that he could perform so powerfully “as to be able to contend with the harpsichord in concert.”

    Behold, Teresa, this Matteis’ opus:

    THE FALSE CONSONANCES of MUSICK Or Instructions for the playing a true Base upon the Guitarre, with Choice Examples and Cleare Directions to enable any man in a short time to play all Musicall Ayres..

    That with Choice Examples and Cleare Directions to enable any man in a short time to play all Musicall Ayres bit leaves us in no doubt, I feel, that Matteis is the real villain here.


  17. golden chersonnese says:

    Now what a strange thing.

    This type YouTube got the right number of R’s in ‘bizzarrie’ right, but nicked a T from ‘Matteis’.



  18. rebrites says:

    Playing this weekend at the festival Mass of Sto. Tomas Apostol in Moratinos (Toad´s home parish)… Is this guitar Mass music so bad?


  19. The Raven says:

    I remember going to Mass in Santa Cruz de La Palma and watching with mounting horror as a series of men came into the church carrying guitar cases and filing into the choir stalls.

    When the sanctuary bell rang the players began and, I’ll be honest, I was transported: they played well and the hymn was led by an impressive tenor; the whole affair was the absolute antithesis of the usual “folk Mass” or “guitar Mass” we get in the UK.

    The only alarming thing about their playing was that they had an instrument that imitated birdsong, which was quite unexpected.


  20. golden chersonnese says:

    Well, Raven and rebrites, I am crushed.

    Time to ‘fess up’, as they say, and admit that one in the past did often listen to this before attending to one’s daily examination of conscience and compline just before retiring:

    I protest, however, that there must be a world of difference between this and a guitar Mass, surely?.


  21. Mimi says:

    There seems to be an awful lot of prejudice against guitars! The guitar is a wonderful, beautiful and versatile instrument. It’s not its fault if some buffoons use it for imposing complete crap on captive congregations! 😉


  22. golden chersonnese says:

    Well, Mimi, we’ll see if that remark succeeds in winkling out Mr Manus.

    He has grown very ‘hands-off’ lately


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