Thames Valley Early Music Forum
Tamesis Issue 274
There have been two rather good workshops since the last Tamesis – Ingegneri with Gareth Wilson in Northwood in June and Lechner and Lassus with Peter Syrus in Ickenham last Saturday. I managed to get to both of them and very much enjoyed playing all the unfamiliar music. Many thanks to our three reviewers in this issue.
We are trying out a new venue for Eduardo Sohns on August 10th – the Greenside Community Centre in Marylebone which is within walking distance of both Marylebone and Baker Street stations. It’s also very easily reached by bus. It sounds as if it’s going to be a fascinating workshop and I’m really sorry that I can’t be there. It’s on the day I leave the Beauchamp course which is also the day before the Baroque Week starts. I hope one or two of you will review it for the September Tamesis.
Most of you are really good at helping out at events. We don’t usually ask people specifically because it doesn’t seem to be necessary so if you see something that needs doing please do it yourself or find someone who can.
I know a lot of people don’t do Facebook because they think it’s just a social thing. This is far from being true. I follow a number of groups related to early instruments and performance practice, as well as my other interests (mainly sailing, gardening and, at the moment, politics). It’s particularly well worth belonging to the TVEMF Facebook page where a lot of concerts and courses are advertised after they’ve missed Tamesis and the website. At the weekend I went to a fabulous performance of l’Orfeo by I Fagiolini which I would have missed if it hadn’t been mentioned on our Facebook page only a few days before it happened. We also use it to ask for specific voices or instruments for TVEMF workshops, and other local forums sometimes post there too.
Musica Antica Rotherhithe are giving us £3.50 off the £10 ticket price for their concert on Saturday 27th July. The discount code for forum members is ‘TVEMF’ and you’ll find all the other details in the Concerts list. It starts at 7 but it’s probably worth getting there early because home-infused gins, wine, beer and other refreshments will be sold before the concert and during intermission in support of Holy Trinity Rotherhithe Church.
A reminder that copy date for Tamesis is the first Monday of odd-numbered months (January, March etc) and the newsletter will appear as soon as possible after that. Please try to get your information to me as soon as you have it, as listings go in the first available issue and stay in until after the event. And please don’t ask to have things put on the website between issues because the web listings are taken from Tamesis. Of course you can always post them on the Facebook page yourself.
Sadly, another of my long-standing musical friends, Audrey Turner, died this month - you can read her obituary elsewhere in the magazine. She was an enthusiastic sackbut player and came to many TVEMF events as well as my Wokingham and Wycombe groups. Many of her friends were at her funeral in Beckenham where we mustered a seven-part group of cornetts, sackbuts and curtals to play some of the kind of music that she adored. It was a time for renewing old acquaintances whilst reminiscing about Audrey, one of a kind, and much loved.
Our next event is a workshop with Eduardo Sohns, an early music specialist who teaches at the Conservatory of Music in Buenos Aires. He is over here during August so we have taken the opportunity to use him as a tutor – see enclosed application form. This seems a good chance to improve the Anglo-Argentine relationship!
20th May1934 - 2nd June 2019
Audrey died unexpectedly in her sleep at home having been scheduled to go off for a day's playing the next morning. A goodly number of you will have encountered Audrey at the many courses and TVEMF events that she attended. It may surprise some who only knew her in later life that when younger she played hockey for Monmouthshire and worked for a motorcycle magazine. She sometimes tested motorbikes and was even featured posing on the bikes in the publication! For many years she rode a 1000 cc machine and her love of fast travel continued when she switched to a car. Unfortunately her sense of direction was not terribly good and at least a couple of time she failed to arrive at her intended musical destination. Audrey had an identical twin sister, Shirley, who played recorder but was never such an enthusiast. When Shirley died a few years back, Audrey felt it very much and went into something of a decline but did recover gradually, thanks to her family and friends.
Audrey began her musical life as a recorder player and became very proficient, then somewhere in the early 1980s she took up the viol and started to go on viol courses. However, not many years later she discovered the sackbut, fell in love with it and of late she much preferred it to the other instruments. She was so keen that she would drive 70 miles each way to play music with my group in High Wycombe. We will miss her very much.
See below for quotes from some of Audrey's friends.
“she was such a character, and a hoot to play beside.”
“a real one–off!”
“a dear soul with a love of the sackbut and sorrowful music.”
“an amazing, colourful character ....a real individual.”
“her enthusiasm never left her.”
A Day of Polychoral Music by Marc' Antonio Ingegneri
On a chilly but pleasantly sunny Saturday in June, in a church just inside the north-west perimeter of Greater London, a TVEMF day looking at the way in which instrumentalists might have been used in conjunction with singers in the performance of sacred music was directed by the choral conductor and composer, Gareth Wilson. All of the day's music was by Marc' Antonio Ingegneri, a composer of the late Renaissance who worked in northern Italy. Ingegneri was born in Verona in the mid 1530s and worked all his life in Cremona where he became Music Master of the Cathedral in the 1570s, and the music Gareth had chosen was from his 1589 publication, Sacrae Cantiones. The publication had been dedicated to Niccolò Sfondrato, the Bishop of Cremona who in the following year was elected Pope - the short-lived Pope Gregory XIV. From sacred music for from seven to sixteen voices, in multiple choirs, and envisaging instrumental participation, Gareth had chosen and edited a selection of polychoral pieces for us which are to be included in a recording he is planning to make with the choir of Girton College, Cambridge (which he directs), along with students of Historic Brass from the Guildhall and the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama led by Jeremy West.
With the recording uppermost in his mind, Gareth's enthusiasm was evident from the off, and there was an atmosphere of privilege and excitement amongst all of us that we were in some small way going to be making a contribution. Indeed this would be the first time that Gareth had actually heard some of the music. Could it have been his vivid descriptions of such occasions where this music might have been performed –pictures he painted of the splendour which the inclusion of instruments was designed to create - that inspired us that day? For the cornetts, sackbuts and curtals were all on fine form, and the choir, singing in a strong and assertive manner, were by no means overshadowed. Perhaps the notation was rather faint and small, Gareth's studiously pencilled markings a little too enthusiastic, and the absence of bar numbers frustrating; but his clear and expressive conducting easily helped us through whatever difficulties we might have been experiencing, his ability to illustrate musical points at the piano was wonderfully enlightening, and his obvious love for the music an inspiration for us all. But it was especially nice to think that he might have profited from the day as much as we all did, and I am sure that we all look forward to the possibility of us working with him again.
Marc’Antonio Ingegneri at Northwood 8th June 2019
Despite having taken no notes, I was moved to write a review of this workshop by its excellence. Gareth Wilson was an ideal tutor. He spoke audibly, with good projection and enunciation, so I was only rarely dependent on my helpful neighbours to know the bar to start on at any given moment, which is a considerable plus. Both his instructions and his beat were very clear, and he made good eye contact with the relevant section of choir or band for new entries. No excuses then for losing one’s place but, as he eschewed woolly one slow beat in a bar conducting, anyone getting lost could find their place fairly easily. The vocal scores were helpful in this respect also. In polychoral music, I find it helpful to see all the parts as it is easy to find one’s own line when one turns the page. It also gives a good visual clue to the general structure of the piece. All this may seem over prosaic to many, but when you are completely deaf in one ear, and have poor eyesight, getting these basics rights contributes more to enjoyment of a workshop than humour and scholarship.
Not that these were lacking, but the focus was on achieving a creditable performance of eight out of the twelve pieces Gareth had brought with him. After a brief, but in my view quite adequate, warmup, we divided into three choirs and began to engage with this unfamiliar but very accessible composer. As the music mostly lay comfortably for singers, the notes were mostly not difficult to find and the rhythm not unduly complicated, the initial impression was of simplicity. (This may have been in part because some of the more florid lines were given by Gareth to instruments, a decision he was not sure was authentic, but was fully justified by its effectiveness in tutti sections, where instrumental lines cut through the intense sound with great clarity.) This impression of simplicity was gradually dissipated as we became more familiar with the music.
Structurally, all the pieces had a very similar format. Choir 1 begins, followed by choir 2, then choir 3, culminating in a tutti of considerable impact. Most of the pieces were in 4/4 time, but generally with a 3/4 section in the middle. Within that format, however, Ingegneri achieved considerable variety of mood by playing with density or lightness of textures, sometimes pairing two vocal lines – not necessarily from the same choir – sometimes using overlapping or abrupt and forceful interjection or fleeting but surprising dissonance. Gareth alerted us to the subtleties of the music and by the end of the day I thought we were making a very good sound, and (thanks to his balance of some careful work on certain sections of some pieces and an opportunity to experience in a broader way a variety of Ingegneri’s compositions so we got a real feel of his style), achieving a satisfying level of competence.
If I have a criticism, it is that we all stayed throughout in the same choirs. I understand the reluctance to change something that was working well but feel an opportunity to broaden the musical experience still further was missed. As a member of choir 1, which I see as the steady workhorses of the ensemble (eg we altos rarely left the note G in the first piece) as against the prancing ponies and soaring steeplechasers – mostly tenors and sopranos – of choirs 2 and 3, I would have welcomed an opportunity occasionally to sing a more florid line. Nevertheless, this did not really detract from a very satisfying workshop and thanks are due to Gareth, and to David Fletcher for his organisation, and to other helpers for a very enjoyable day.
Lassus and Lechner, Peter Syrus 6.7.2019
The opportunity to perform the work of a (hitherto) largely unknown Renaissance composer is always an exciting challenge. It can enable us to peer behind the veil of our musical Canon to understand ‘what else was really going on’ thereby offering us a wider and richer perspective on developments in music history. Such was the case with Peter Syrus’s excellent workshop on Lassus and Lechner.
Leonhard Lechner (c1553-1606) was a younger contemporary of Orlando Lassus. In his in his youth he sang under the master at the Munich Hofkapelle imbibing much of the older man’s compositional style and technique. He went on to serve many eminent German and Bavarian princes and was widely popular as a composer in his time publishing sets of German songs, masses and motets.
The focus of the day was Lechner’s parody mass (1584) based upon Lassus’s motet Domine, Dominus Noster (1577). Lassus himself composed a parody version of his own very popular motet and the work is immediately striking in its extremely condensed structure. Sections are very short, with the text iterated at a fairly rapid pace creating a syllabic homophonic texture more reminiscent of madrigal technique than of the high Roman contrapuntal style associated with Palestrina and Victoria. Peter was able to reveal how closely Lechner followed his master’s original motet and mass with regard to idiom and technique, by singing/playing through sections and comparing back-to-back, as it were, to show similarities and differences.
The morning session began with Lechner’s mass setting sung with instrumental doublings (cornetts, sackbuts, curtals et alia). Once the general feel of textures and ideas was grasped, Lassus’s original motet Domine, Dominus Noster was then sung so we could sense the underlying world of the original model. At this stage, by way of contrast, Lechner’s 5 part setting of Gelobet Seist Du was sung alongside a slightly older setting by Johan Walter. The session ended with the Sanctus and Benedictus of the Lechner mass.
The afternoon session began with motet settings of In Me Transierunt by Lassus and Lechner, once again revealing how Lechner could be guided by the older master but also be quite independent in musical phrasing and style. The assembled singers and instrumentalists were then split into a three-choir ensemble to sing through Lechner’s Laudate Dominum quoniam bonus est, a magnificently celebratory piece dating from later in his career (1604). After this the Lassus Mass on Domine, Dominus Noster was sung, and, with the help of Peter’s scholarly detailed notes we could see the very direct correspondences to Lechner’s version. The forum ended with a performance of the Lechner Credo, In Me Transierunt and the Lassus Domine, Dominus Noster motet.
For those who were interested in investigating further, Peter drew our attention to a number of CD recordings of Lechner, mostly by German groups easily available online. And for those who wished a more scholarly approach, mention was made of Anne Smith’s book: The Performance of 16th Century Music (OUP, 2011).
News of Members’ Activities
TVEMF member Rosemary Edwards has asked me to mention a concert she is giving on Friday 6th September at 7.30pm. Billed as " A Tale of two Cities", the League of Harmony (Rosemary playing baroque cello and Mike Parker, single action harp), will be playing a programme of sonatas and duos, contrasting the styles prevalent in 18th century London and Paris, at Wolvercote Baptist Church, Godstowe Road, Lower Wolvercote, Oxford OX2 8PG. Tickets will be available from www.ticketsoxford.com (01865 305305) or on the door at £10.