The Secrets of Da Vinci [Barnes & Noble Exclusive]

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The phenomenal success of the Da Vinci Code phenomenon has opened up various possibilities for parallel musical projects. Sony's Da Vinci: Music from His Time, for example, uses the story as a springboard for the presentation of a package of Renaissance favorites. Preferable, perhaps, is The Secrets of Da Vinci from Decca, even though its cover is misleading: the disc doesn't have anything to do with Leonardo or with the Da Vinci Code story directly. Instead, it introduces the listener to the ways in which music can carry hidden meanings, codes, and symbols. Music, whose hearers range more widely in familiarity with individual selections than do hearers of linguistic utterances, is ideally suited to carry such hidden meanings. The Secrets of Da Vinci includes several types of subsurface musical meaning, from hidden religious codes (of which Mozart's The Magic Flute is correctly pegged as a good source) to garden-variety symbols. The numerological aspect of Bach's music is perhaps a bit overstressed; you can find the Golden Section almost anywhere if you try. Some people enjoy this kind of thing, but a Renaissance work that did depend more specifically on proportions (like, say, Josquin's Missa di dadi, the fascinating Mass of the Dice) would have been a better choice -- Leonardo's Renaissance era is underrepresented here. On the plus side, the Romantic pieces that touch on representations of the feminine have interesting resonances with the Da Vinci Code story. The selections are all drawn from albums in Decca's catalog, and the Decca reissue machine has, as usual, done a reasonable job of remastering them into a sonic whole. This disc hardly scratches the surface of a complex subject with a centuries-long history, but if you just spotted it after coming out of the movie, it's a good one to pick.

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