All Things That Matter Press, publisher of my newly released novel, A House Near Luccoli©, is running an Excerpt Tour beginning October 1st. Many of the authors at ATTMP will be participating in it, providing links back to blog posts containing excerpts of their published works which can then be shared.
I warmly thank those who have already ventured into the world of the Italian Baroque composer Alessandro Stradella (1639 – 1682) as I have researched and imagined him. I would love to tempt a few more of you with the following three excerpts:
A House Near Luccoli© focuses on chance encounters, beautiful music, and the paradox of genius through an imagined intimacy with one of the most legendary and undervalued figures of Italian Baroque Music.
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In the middle of the night Donatella rose to a dare and the third floor, bare steps as uncertain as candlelight on an unknown artist’s commission of cherubs and festooned fruits and flowers in muted greens, grays, and sienna. The floor of the apartment didn’t keep her entry quiet but it seemed only her carefulness was disturbed. The trestle table was set up in the salon, too close to the fireplace with its escalloped oak mantle and triangular copper hood illustrating Vulcan and Venus. Windows on both sides were almost hidden by red curtains with gold scrolling around the Garibaldi coat of arms, the moon somehow casting light on the secrecy of her endeavor. She unpacked Signor Stradella’s clothes, carrying the pieces one at a time or in piles to the bedroom and shelves of the wardrobe that threatened to be too small. He has more of what’s necessary and unnecessary than a woman, a much indulged woman. She opened another trunk holding the rewards of beautiful music, smiles and connivances, too, doubtful he carried the family heirlooms while by invitation or escape running around and hiding. Whatever explained the collection, he was aristocratic in everything but bedding and especially fortunate in moveable assets, even indifferent about some of them with silver candlesticks and snuffers, trays, bowls, spoons, toothpicks, and boxes as tarnished as his reputation.
Silver wasn’t unusual in a city where even the lowest had the chore of it in their homes, while gold wasn’t to be seen in any ordinary way, and she supposed he took pride in what he had of it, from buttons and medals to a locked tobacco caddy studded with diamonds.
She sensed some fraud, too, and quickly deposited a reliquary with the scapular in the chest at the foot of the bed. Otherwise she arranged with an eye for practical and creative importance, or just not knowing where else to put things without cluttering incidental surfaces and the narrow mantle. A candelabrum belonged on the trestle table as did a bookstand and bundle of folders with ribbons untied for a chance of revelation, placed next to a decorated writing slope for composing more than little notes to honorable ladies.
Three lutes huddled against the emptiness of a corner, stepsisters born separately of rosewood, maple, and ebony, sharing an inheritance of long necks, head backs, full bodies with rosettes like intricately set jewels on their breasts. Theirs was harmonious rivalry, recalling a master’s touch and understanding. On the settee a leather case contained a violin resembling a dead man on the red velvet of his coffin, not mourned but celebrated by nymphs dancing through vines on the friese high around the room.
Donatella was more impressed by him writing slower than he scratched out, biting his hand and grabbing his hair, throwing back his head and closing his eyes. He hadn’t shaved or buttoned his shirt and didn’t seem to remember he had sent for her.
“Tromba or cornetta?”
She assumed he was speaking to Golone, who set out his clothes for the evening and left with a smile that knew what would never happen.
“I told them to decide.” He stood stiffly as she moved into the untidy salon. “But still they ask.”
“What’s the difference?”
It was as if she had thrown water on him. He shuddered, his back arched even before he sat at the harpsichord to play barely broken chords like a boat rolling on little trills of foam.
He motioned her over. “You copied by hand, now voice.”
“Sì, sing. With me. One breath.” His fingers were moving again, his voice letting hers lead, for courtesy and because she couldn’t outperform him. “And so you played the tromba.”
“It felt like drowning might.”
He slapped his thighs. “There are too many phrases like that. Why do I make it so difficile?”
She wouldn’t guess.
“Hmm?” He played the trumpet line again, trying and refusing to break it into something easier and less wonderful. “If only there was more talent in Genova.”
The mirror now above the console table was as elegant as she wasn’t, her hair less carefully arranged than Nubesta’s, the lace around her neck that might have improved her needing to be washed and starched. She looked tired from weeks of candles being excessively burned—her hands, too, blistered from the lye soap normally avoided with a long stick in the laundry coppers but desperately used to scrub off stains that had grown beyond her use of quill and ink for writing in a journal.
“What did you want me for?”
He went back to the table, offering some pages. “This duetto. It seems soprano and basso won’t share a copy. Like a bed.”
She couldn’t hide her embarrassment as she reached out.
“Oh, you haven’t taken care.” He didn’t exactly caress her hands, or merely examine them, either.
“It looks worse than—”
“Olio d’oliva. Cooled. Rub it on gently.”
She stiffened as he showed her.
“Certamente, I don’t mean to make you suffer.”
“But how do you clean the ink off?”
He presented his stained fingers.
“You don’t have to hide what you do.”
“Except with the direction of my eyes?”
She picked up her next assignment, feeling unworthy of his gaze.
“Presto? There’s not much time.”
Sleep could never be more important.
Donatella believed it would because there was no unloving him as he was, available and irresistible, artful yet authentic, larger than life but vulnerable. Making his acquaintance was unforgettable, seduction unavoidable, consequences bestowed like blessings. It was easier to believe he converted assassins than encouraged them and that he meant to fondle hearts, not break them. His wasn’t a minor nobility, with the title Il Maestro di Grande Spirito e lo Stile Fervente, raising voices of angels from the aspirations of singers and offering chances for instrumentalists to perform miracles. So he gave an almost sacred consent to listening for salvation, revealing the purpose of a life not as undisciplined as it seemed. Every note was part of an arrangement between the gifts of God and man, with counterpoints carefully conducting discussions, harmonics cohering different expressions like a rainbow does its colors, language and instruments making passages into the same emotive poety. Yet there was always inovation, interpretation, even impulsiveness and evasion, love never far from its theme, fulfillment not necessary to end with, drama as essential for content as the spectacle of a sunset burning up the sky when it never actually did.
Thank you for having the interest and taking the time to read!
A House Near Luccoli© is available at Amazon in Paperback and Kindle Edition, and at Barnes and Noble as a NOOK Book.
©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.