Tamesis Issue 252
Are you a singer/keyboard player who is coming to the Stephen Jones workshop on January 30th? Stephen would like to borrow a small organ/keyboard during the day and you would then play it yourself, presumably after being given a chance to practise, during the run-through of the Tomkins Third Service.
This edition of Tamesis is probably the biggest ever and I’m most grateful to all our contributors for the wonderful collection of articles it contains. I hope some of you will think about writing something for the January issue.
I’m looking forward to seeing lots of you at the Baroque chamber music day, Greenwich and the Christmas event. I’m pleased to say that we have plenty of volunteers for Greenwich. This will be the last time the festival is held there for a year or two, due to renovations, so do come and enjoy the musical atmosphere and some of the concerts, masterclasses and demonstrations. The Christmas event is filling up nicely but I would particularly welcome some more altos, tenors and basses.
At the age of 88 my very good friend Don Gill has finally hung up his curtal, though he continues to play in the recorder group that he and I were in when it started in 1969. Can anyone beat 46 years for an ongoing early music group? Long may it continue. Don was a founder member of TVEMF and on the committee for many years, dealing with the Charities Commissioners' interminable forms amongst other duties. He is a fine craftsman and made many early instruments such as curtals and crumhorns as well as tutoring a course at West Dean College on making portative organs. Sadly he no longer drives and doesn't feel up to a TVEMF workshop these days but I thought those who remember him from the early days of TVEMF would be glad to hear he is still pretty fit and well.
These days I'm only working a couple of days a week so have time for some recreational computer programming (yes really) with a musical slant to it. Some of you will have come across the fruits of my electronic cut-and-paste program that makes instrumental parts from full scores by reassembling the stave lines in a different way (a bit reminiscent of Eric Morecambe's “all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order”). I'm a big believer in not losing any of the hard work that has gone into producing modern editions of early music but there are a number of cases where the typesetting sources may not survive. In other cases such as the PMS system that ran on the Acorn Archimedes computer, the source files may not be readily usable, though Philip Hazel has ported his system to Linux. Other typesetting systems may simply cease to be supported, so I am working on a program which will translate at least straightforward examples in a number of formats into MusicXML, which ought to be readable well into the future.
I'm looking forward to the traditional TVEMF Christmas event on the 6th of December, directed by the inimitable Philip Thorby. I gather it has a pastoral theme this year – I'm guessing shepherds rather than Mouton. That reminds me that I enjoyed our workshop studying the music of John Sheppard with Justin Doyle and also the Venetian workshop with Emma Murphy.
You’ll find your membership renewal form with this Tamesis. If you don’t already do so, please consider paying by standing order.
Meeting the Monster
The TVEMF event on 26 September at the Wesley Memorial Church Hall, Oxford, was devoted entirely to the music of John Sheppard. This was our third visit in the last two years to the venue and, as with David Allinson’s day of Marian motets in September 2013 and James Weeks’ Rosenmüller day the following April, we were regaled with a highly interesting programme, on this occasion experiencing the sharply focused and invigorating direction of Justin Doyle.
For your reviewer, there are two particularly pleasurable features of TVEMF singing days. One is the opportunity to become acquainted with relatively little-known (or even totally obscure) composers. Sheppard has certainly attracted less attention than his better-known contemporaries, John Taverner, Robert White and Christopher Tye. Of the forty volumes of Early English Church Music (Stainer & Bell), which include the entirely undistinguished Sir William Leighton’s ‘Tears or Lamentations of a Sorrowful Soul”, five are devoted to Taverner, and three to each of White and Tye, but only two to Sheppard.
The other is that so many of our distinguished and erudite directors wear their learning lightly, so that the events are enjoyably informative. To this tradition, Justin was no exception, interpolating his commentary on the early Tudor musical landscape and the Sarum rite with (to borrow a phrase from Ernest Bramah) ‘weird antics of a gravity-removing nature’, some of which we were required to emulate during the warm-up. Those of us who had been exposed to David Allinson’s brain-scrambling Z YZY XYZYX usque ad insaniam warm-up exercise may have thought that there were no further worlds of lingual dexterity to conquer, but were rapidly disillusioned by the introduction of four flying fishes and five fat fireflies (both ascending and descending the scale) into the repertoire.
As with Gombert and Rosenmüller, Sheppard’s personal life has attracted adverse comment, but in his case (as the New Grove puts it) ‘his character has regularly been blackened as a result of misreading of, and scribal inaccuracy in, the college records’, the actual malefactor being, apparently, one Richard Shepper who was briefly (ca. 1548) a contemporary of Sheppard at Magdalen College, Oxford.
Sheppard’s dates of birth and death have not been firmly established, but he was born ca 1515, so his childhood years must have coincided with the last years of the lives of William Cornysh the younger, John Browne and Robert Fayrfax, all of whom were contributors to the Eton Choirbook; Sheppard’s six-part Magnificat is in a style which, according to the New Grove, seems to belong to the tradition developed by the Eton Choirbook composers and continued by John Taverner. His life spanned a period of religious turmoil, with Henry VIII’s break with Rome and Thomas More’s execution after refusing to subscribe to the first Act of Supremacy (1534) near its halfway point. It appears that much of that which has survived was composed during the reign of Mary; there is comparatively little extant of the English music composed during the reign of Edward VI.
The programme began with a four-part respond for Compline, for use between Quadragesima and Passion Sunday, In pace, in idipsum dormiam et requiescam. Justin took us through this in detail, with a considerable amount of re-editing of the plainchant. The gently melismatic section following the plainchant paints a picture of the eyes yielding to dreams and the eyelids to slumber; and after repetition of these two sections, the vigorous setting of the Gloria provides a sharp contrast. The numerous repetitions made this a work of quite substantial length, and in order to leave an adequate amount of time for the Monster, we spent only a short period on the seven-part Libera Nos, one of Sheppard’s two settings of this antiphon for Matins during Trinity.
All references which your reviewer has found that relate to the main item of the event, the six-part antiphon Media vita in morte sumus, which incorporates a plain chant Nunc dimittis, emphasise its scale, and one cannot dissent from Justin’s appellation of it as “The Monster”. The New Grove does not comment specifically on it, though the part of the article relating to his Office music is replete with references to its richness, sonority and vigour. Peter Phillips has said of it that it is ‘a unique achievement in its length, expressive power and liturgical function’. The programme booklet of the Stile Antico recording (under the Harmonia mundi label), which also includes the Te Deum and the responsory Gaude, gaude gaude Maria, states that ‘the colossal antiphon Media vita ranks among the largest-scale pieces of the entire century, and is certainly among the most powerful in terms of its cumulative emotive effect’, and that its scale seems to point to a purpose beyond its liturgical function as Lenten Nunc dimittis antiphon at Compline. Rival theories are that it was composed in memory of Nicholas Ludford (ca 1485-ca 1557) (whose eleven complete and three incomplete Masses make him the most prolific English composer of Masses) and that the influenza epidemic of 1557-59 provided the impetus for it.
Under Justin’s direction we negotiated the 71-bar first verse (media vita…juste irasceris) followed by the respond Sancte Deus, sancte fortis, sancte et misericors salvator (a further 76 bars) after which we tackled the plain-chant nunc dimittis and the verse which followed it, non proiicias… ne derelinquas nos Domine (35 bars), at the end of which is the direction ‘repeat from A that is, the sancte fortis’ which follows each verse) to the end. It would be fair to say that we enjoyed a highly interesting and vigorous grapple with The Monster, but lack of time prevented us from going the full distance, so the entreaties contained in the final two verses, noli claudere aures tuus and qui cognoscis occulta cordis, parce peccata nostris, remained unsung.
It remains only to record our sincere thanks to Justin for directing such an excellent event, to Nicola Wilson-Smith for organising it and for all those who ensured that refreshments were available during the day.
A Venetian Day 10th October 1015
We had a hard-working and musically rewarding day on 10th October when Emma Murphy made a very welcome debut as a conductor at the invitation of organizer Hugh Rosenbaum at St. Andrew’s church in Ealing. Emma has been a recorder and choral tutor on the Ascot Early Music courses for several years, always giving fresh insights into the well-known repertoire of consort and poly-choral works, and challenging us with new finds. So she did not disappoint at the event in Ealing, working with a large contingent of 63 singers and instrumentalists on works by three roughly contemporary Renaissance composers, in glorious large-scale works.
Billed as “ A Venetian Day” meaning in the early 17th century, she gave short informative talks about the context of each one – and there were three, instead of the two original announced. We started with Monteverdi’s intricate Dixit Dominus from Selva Morale et Spirituale in 9 parts, two choirs with instruments and voices on all lines. Small sections were rehearsed with the emphasis on 'singing' and phrasing by the instruments to match the word sense. We all improved our time keeping and tone when we obeyed Emma's instruction to breathe (for singers with the mouth shape of the vowel to be followed), well in advance of the phrase starting, and clearing a phrase ending to allow new entries from other choirs to come through. There was some very florid writing for both equal choirs which I thought came across best from the cornetti, played by David Fletcher and Wayne Plummer, and we were able to put everything together well after understanding the challenges of each section.
We next turned to the extra piece, Hassler's Exulatate, justi, in Domino, for 4 choirs, where rhythmic complexities needed quite a lot of work. Counting rests in this work as well as the others was challenging with frequent shifts between duple and triple time.
The day ended with Giovanni Gabrielli’s Magnificat ‘Anima Mea’ for 3 choirs of 4 voices, which was the least complex of the works. To some extent I felt we might have gained more confidence by starting the day with this, as had been originally planned. It was a better work to allow a sight reading run through to give a feel overall before working on the individual sections.
As always at these events we were able to field a large range of instruments, including recorders, violins and viols, a theorbo, sackbuts, cornetts. curtails and a kortholt (a double reed enclosed within the cap like a crumhorn) which I had not heard before. The three works required rearranging parts and seating and so took some time to organise. Emma also had to contend with two different editions of the Monteverdi, with different bar lengths and note values, and some instrumental parts without the text.
The venue was comfortable but it would have been wonderful to be in a more resonant acoustic the way it was (is!) in St Mark’s in Venice, with the possibility of greater separation of the choirs for the true polyphonic effect.. And, adds organizer Hugh, we probably would have benefitted more from working more on the original two pieces than adding the third, although the Hassler was well worth doing.
Emma managed to keep us on board throughout with good humour and certainly left me wanting more. I do hope she will make further appearances at our workshops.
A Venetian Day with Emma Murphy
I wonder how many people who have watched the video (ASIN "B000084HAJ") of Eliot Gardiner's performance of Monteverdi's 1610 Vespers from San Marco in Venice at the end of the Eighties spotted that our tutor for the Venetian Day event was one of the (very) young trebles who took part?! This must surely be one of Emma Murphy's earliest of many credentials making her the ideal choice of tutor for this workshop.
We started the morning with Monteverdi's rather substantial Dixit Dominus secondo a10. As sometimes happens in such events we ended up with some instrumental parts with different bar numbering to the vocal score... I was very impressed with Emma's ability to
juggle both sets of numbers when rehearsing specific sections of the work; in fact, I thought Emma handled the large ensemble of voices and choirs masterfully... actually getting real results on improving everyone's word-stress (something I have seen other directors try and fail with). Getting everyone to speak their line on a number of occasions was most helpful in this respect.
This work was quite substantial with many sections with different feels... some very virtuosic indeed... Emma worked us through most of these and the sometimes tricky joins before our lunch break (saving the most virtuosic section for the beginning of the afternoon). I was repeatedly struck by her unflagging enthusiasm and energy throughout this, despite having to map bar numbers back and forth in her head whenever we stopped... a most enjoyable morning indeed.
After lunch we worked on the trickiest passages in the Monteverdi piece and had a final run-through performance. I thought we all did pretty well considering. The second piece we worked on was Hassler's Exultate, justi, in Domino... this is one of those pieces I am convinced would have been much easier to play from a bar-line-free edition! The editor had done a sterling job switching between two- and three-minim bars to try and get the bar-lines to help with the emphasis... but I am afraid to say that the final effect was just a bit confusing. There were many players and singers looking significantly confused for quite a while after we started working on this and entries often seemed to come in the wrong place (...or perhaps it was simply the postprandial slump kicking?) We finally got to a stage where a run-through was a possibility by about 4:15pm in the afternoon and it was alright but not as impressive as the first piece.
The third and final piece of the day was Giovanni Gabrieli's Magnificat "Anima mea" a 12. I am a great fan of the "Big G" as fellow brass players like to call the composer in question and I had not previously come across this particular piece. I really wish we had had more time to work on it. It was an interesting looking piece with three 4-voice choirs, the top high (SSAT), the middle a more normal SATB and the bottom a very low ATBarB, but the bottom bass line went many ledger lines below the bass clef into territory few men are equipped to venture. Emma did manage to get some of this piece into reasonable shape, but time was against us all and by the time of our final run-through I think we had only had our appetites whetted.
In summary, a most successful first TVEMF workshop from a new musical director. I do hope that we see Emma tutoring a TVEMF workshop again soon. I would certainly like to have her enthusiasm, energy and crystal-clear beat conferred upon us again.
Hope Amidst Turmoil in Tudor England: Trogir
In September, a small number of TVEMF members participated in a Lacock Course held in the delightful historic town of Trogir in Croatia. Three centuries of Venetian rule has left its distinctive mark on the town, and its cobbled alleyways and squares are very reminiscent of a miniature Venice without canals. For those with a desire for yet more history, Split, with the Roman Diocletian’s Palace, was just a bus or boat ride away.
The atmosphere of the course was inclusive and friendly and most participants ate together every night at some of the town’s many restaurants. Being a coastal town, the fish was excellent and fresh and the platefuls of meat could be described as generous. The Croatians cannot ever be accused of not loving their meat!
The subject of the course was ‘Hope amidst turmoil in Tudor England’, and comprised a selection of music from the early years of Henry VIII’s reign to that of Charles I, written under the period’s ever-changing religious and political constraints. The course was devised and directed by Patrick Craig, who, as well as impressing us with his love and knowledge of the music (not to mention his unflagging enthusiasm and good humour), provided us with illuminating accounts of the dangerous political and religious background that composers had to survive and work under. We started with the pre-Reformation Omnes Gentes Plaudite by Tye, moving on to music by Sheppard, Taverner and the three Thomases, Morley, Weelkes and Tomkins, composed through the turbulent periods when the established religion moved between Catholic and Protestant, with severe penalties for those who did not conform. Our programme ended with four pieces from Byrd’s great Gradualia ac Cantiones Sacrae, a collection of pieces for the Catholic liturgy, composed and printed at a time when there were strict penalties against Catholic worship and it was illegal to use the music for its intended purpose.
Our rehearsing was interspersed with fascinating short talks on the background to each composition and on the eventful, and sometimes colourful, lives of the composers. With Thomas Morley’s Laboravi in Gemitu, we learnt that although authorship was claimed by Morley, this may have been plagiarised from an earlier work by Phillipe Rogier, a Franco-Flemish composer working at the Spanish court. With Thomas Tomkins’s Almighty God, Fountain of All Wisdom, we learnt of his many misfortunes, which included being stripped of his recent appointment as Composer of the King’s Music, when the son of the previous incumbent successfully claimed that he had been promised the position after his father’s death. Returning to his post as organist of Worcester Cathedral, Tomkins later witnessed the desecration of the Cathedral by Parliamentary soldiers including serious damage to his organ, followed by a direct cannon ball hit to his house and then by the disbanding of the choir and closure of the cathedral. With Thomas Weelkes’ Laboravi in Gemitu, we heard that he was a troublesome employee and that the Dean and Chapter of Chichester Cathedral dismissed him for being drunk at the organ and using bad language during divine service. He was reinstated, but did not reform, even reputedly urinating on the Dean from the organ loft – not normally considered a good career move.
Byrd in contrast was an austere and virtuous man, whose only “sin” in those times was in being a committed Catholic. He is notable for commanding such great respect that he managed to escape the severest penalties for recusancy, in spite of making no secret of his Catholicism and being taken to court on many occasions. However, in his early life at Lincoln, Byrd managed to incur the displeasure of the puritanical cathedral chapter who suspended his salary for eight months because of his refusal to desist from elaborate organ playing. He was eventually instructed to play the organ only for the guidance of the choir before the main canticles and, for the singing of the anthem, he was to leave the organ bench and join the choir, which would have limited his playing to the minimum.
The musical standard of the week was very good and the selection of music varied and satisfying, although we suffered from the perennial problem of too few tenors. The week culminated in an excellent and well-attended concert in the town’s small Cathedral.
Cambridge Choral Liturgy weekend
For the third year in succession, this event was held in St Catharine’s College. The thirty-one singers who took part, many of whom are TVEMF members, are becoming veterans of this event, and once again we were very happy that our friends from Denmark, Finland and Holland were able to participate. We did not, as in the previous two years, have the benefit of Edward Wickham’s direction, as he was taking a sabbatical, but we were as delighted that David Allinson agreed to direct the event as he expressed himself to be in the foreword to the music which he kindly provided.
David’s programmes are always interesting, varied and a joy to perform. The centre piece was Victoria’s Missa Ascendens Christus  for five voices, except in the Agnus Dei where the tenors as well as the sopranos are divided. The Mass is based on Victoria’s own motet, composed twenty years earlier. David said in his foreword that it seemed to him ‘an almost perfect High Renaissance Mass’ and went on to describe it as ‘teeming with melodic invention, perfectly cantilevered phrases and shimmering with textural variety’. To these descriptions were added, during the course of rehearsal, a number of the gastronomic similes without which no Allinson workshop is complete, and your reviewer is pleased to perpetuate the newly-minted concept of marinading the music, the novel requirement to assume the facial expression of one who has gone to the refrigerator and found his cheesecake missing, and the direction that the K in Kyrie should be a Special K, which leaves him unable to escape the conclusion that purists and Puritans alike would stigmatize our erudite and entertaining Director as a cereal offender. Readers will no doubt welcome the assurance that there will be no gastronomic wordplay related to any further items of the programme, despite the opportunities provided by the next item discussed.
That item is the introit, Ave Maria, gemma virginum by Jean Mouton, which we sang from a score edited by David himself. It is a quadruple canon at the octave, with SSAA imitating TTBB. In David’s words, here we reach back to the more abstract Franco-Flemish idiom of the early sixteenth century, but no less infused with emotional warmth; and elsewhere if has been described as being dense, sombre, and urgent, and as seemingly representing a multitude of troubled souls crying out to the Virgin.
The remaining item in the programme was the Communion motet, Accepit ergo Jesus panes, by Manuel Cardoso, which depicts the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand. Cardoso is, perhaps, not so well known to us as Victoria or Mouton. According to the New Grove, he was baptised in 1566, and if that is correct, he was eighty-four years of age when he died in Lisbon in 1650. His musical career began at the age of nine, when he was enrolled as a chorister in the choir school maintained by the cathedral at Evora. In 1588 he joined the Carmelite order, which by then had a long-established tradition of the propagation of learning, including the study of music. In his lengthy musical career thereafter, one of his most important patrons was the future King John IV of Portugal, and the parody masses in his second book of masses were all based on motets by John IV. The New Grove says of his musical style that he was the first Peninsular composer after Victoria to master the finer elements of Palestrina’s technique, specifically mentioning word-painting. We saw that in the motet, particularly where the sustained lines depicting Jesus giving thanks are followed by the more rapidly moving portrayal of the distribution of bread, while the eventual satiation of those who have consumed the loaves and fishes is beautifully rendered in the setting of the concluding words, quantum volebant. We, too, may truly say that our appetites for Renaissance sacred music were amply satisfied by the programme which David devised and directed.
Finally, our sincere thanks go to Edward Wickham for making St Catharine’s available to us, to Neil for organising the event, enlisting David to direct it, and producing the music (including the additional booklet of the Credo, which we ran through quickly on the Saturday afternoon), and to David, whose excellent direction enhanced the pleasure of participating in the event.
The Re-opening of Gesualdo’s Castle on 12th September 2015
Don Carlo Gesualdo's newly-restored castle with its pale local limestone gleamed in the autumn sun and we seemed in another world from that of the allegedly crazed composer whose home it had been. The occasion was a grand reopening of the building which dominates the modest town of Gesualdo, set amongst the rolling hills, olive groves and vineyards of Campania, about an hour's drive north of Naples.
Guest of honour was Marie Stravinsky whose grandfather had done so much to put Gesualdo's music before the public. Also present and speaking at the event were the English musicologist Joseph Knowles, composer Emmanuele Torrente and the directors of the three existing Gesualdo Consorts: Harry van der Kamp from Amsterdam, Marco Berrini from Milan and myself from London. Performing the madrigals, courtesy of the Danish embassy, were Bo Holten and his remarkable ensemble Music Ficta.
Happily the state of the building is now very much at odds with the sadly neglected building Igor Stravinsky described so atmospherically back in the 1950s, and transformed from the virtual ruin that Werner Herzog portrayed in his film Death for Five Voices. To be fair, by the time Herzog arrived, the major earthquake of 1980 in the region had severely damaged not only the castle, but the whole town much of which has also been faithfully restored. Those buildings left as they were after the earthquake give a very clear idea of the scale of the disaster, and the surviving radio recording of the one-and-a-quarter minute tremor is chilling indeed.
But this was a time for celebration and a none-too-dour image of Gesualdo dressed in the kit of the local football team even appeared on the sugar sachets in the town bars. The famous picture including his portrait almost has pride of place behind the altar at his church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, but Italian taste has upstaged it with a twice-life-size model of Padre Pio who studied in Gesualdo and embraced more conventional Catholic values.
Work on the castle is still in progress and the main rooms above the courtyard at the back of the building were tantalizingly closed up when we were there. The rest of the interior is notable for highly-decorated walls and ceilings, and though I was unable to ascertain the date of these, they looked to be 18th century rather than contemporary with Gesualdo himself. What was very clear was the modest scale of the whole place. The performances at the opening had to take place in the courtyard against the famous portico engraved with the composer's name - and many, many titles (Prince of Venosa, Count of Conza, Duke of Caggiano &c). There did not appear to be any rooms that would accommodate more than a handful of performers and a minimal audience, if any. The same is true of the church already mentioned where the Responsories would have been performed. The size of the building suggests single voices and perhaps the Versus and Tutti sections merely reflected the convention of the form.
Most fascinating is the fact that the room where Gesualdo installed his own printing press has been identified. Entry is from the ramp up to the castle: definitely a tradesman's entrance. He set up his own press to supervise the accurate publishing of his complicated and unexpected scores and, indeed, his madrigals were the first vocal music to be printed in score as well as parts - an innovation at the time. One can imagine the printers standing to attention there awaiting the Prince's inspection of the latest galley-proof! The new edition of Books V & VI of the madrigals has been printed in Gesualdo continuing the tradition but not as yet in the very room.
Giuseppe Mastrominico, who has overseen the whole project and is an expert on the history of both town and composer, was keen to dispel some of the myths about Gesualdo. It seems he had installed an ingenious drainage system and conduits to enable the water-source in the castle to be shared with the whole town, and several attractive fountains remain. He also had the environs of the castle rebuilt in a concentric circular plan to ensure everyone in the town benefitted from an equal amount of sunlight. Giuseppe was also keen to point out the Spanish influence in the area at the time. Gesualdo's murdering of both his adulterous wife and her lover seems extreme and shocking to us, and music-history has made much of it, but in fact this was the Spanish custom - they both had to go. Likewise his status as a prince meant he had no choice but to honour the family name and see justice was done.
So the celebrations definitely accentuated the positive. It was an event for politicians, dignitaries, scholars and the townspeople themselves, and the musical entertainment reflected this. Speeches varied in brevity, suitability and their languages. A room was dedicated to Stravinsky in what is to become a study centre and the courtyard rang to the sound of various local musicians. But the most revealing moment was the sound of Gesualdo's late madrigals expertly performed in the twilight surrounded by the terracotta-coloured walls of the palace courtyard and know that these very notes would have been heard here some four hundred years ago.
You can see Gerald’s photos of the castle and the speech he made at the celebrations on
The Flying R ecorder
October 4th 2015 at The Hawth, Crawley
I'm not really an enthusiastic concert-goer, preferring to play or sing rather than listen, but I was tempted to go to hear Piers Adams and Howard Moody because of their reputation. I was certainly not disappointed – Piers Adams is a superb showman and the concert really fizzed with energy. He plays more notes per second than any other musician I've heard but Howard Moody was undaunted and heroic in his accompaniment. For example in Cafe 1930 by Piazzolla for 11 saxophones (!) he stood in for 10 of them whilst Adams played the lead.
The programme included a number of familiar pieces from the 14th to 18th centuries as well as music from later periods, the playing of which on a recorder is probably illegal in several countries. In the hands of these two it all seemed perfectly plausible, if occasionally reminding one of a 33 rpm record played at 45 rpm.
Being an afternoon concert, a number of parents had come with children who had been invited to bring recorders. They were allowed to play a series of chords to accompany a couple of pieces but I reckon they have rather a way to go to catch up with the performer on the stage. For another piece Howard Moody handed out a large number of
chime bars to be played in alternating chords under his direction, which made a very pleasant effect, and the audience clearly enjoyed the experience.
Piers Adams appears with his usual group Red Priest at the Greenwich Early Music Exhibition on Saturday 14th November in the beautiful chapel of the Old Navel College. For non-purists it will be brilliant.
"The fortepiano's loud clangour excites us to arms..."
On 15 October Renate and I found ourselves, almost by chance, at a concert (part of the Geelvinck Fortepiano Festival) in the Geelvinck Hinlopen Huis, Amsterdam. We had no idea of the programme, but were soon captivated by Trio Belfontis (fortepiano, violin and cello) and special guest Guy Sonnen in Bernard Vigourie's Bataille de Maringo. (We had spent the morning in the Rijksmuseum looking at the outsize painting of Waterloo.) A later piece, Die Schlacht von Waterloo, by Johann Wilhelm Wilms, was for fortepiano alone and narrator (an occasional "Charge!" or "Fire!"). If you have heard Richard Burnett perform Mozart's Turkish Rondo at Finchcocks you will know to expect the unexpected in the way of "stops". Haydn and Hummel were to be expected, but there was so much gunfire in the Napoleonic pieces that they could best be described as Saloon Music. (And truth to tell, there was a certain amount of Kitsch - which I love.) The final item of the evening was Schumann's Die Beiden Grenadiere, where Guy Sennen brought out the savage irony - "Morts pour la Patrie."
The publisher of Musica Repartita (Dr J.H. van Krevelen - email
musica.repartita @ tele2.nl) was present, and Renate could not prevent me from buying the Vigourie and Wims, plus another piece - La Bataille de Waterloo, by C.F.Ruppe - in inexpensive facsimile. Going through the catalogue at leisure I noticed Three Divertimenti per il Testudo Tedesco by Earl Christy - I thought this to be the sort of thing that the late David Johnson would unearth in The East Neuk of Fife, but Earl Christy turns out to be a young American Lutenist! There were two volumes, Lautenwerke, and Kammermusik mit Laute, (Bernhard Joachim Hagen) and Le Manuscrit de Foix (Bass viol - discovered by Coen Engelhard) - plus some thirty pieces that I did not know. (As I always say - there are pieces that we do not know that we do not know...) I was able to resist the CD of (mainly Carulli) duos for guitar and fortepiano. Some day I will do some Practice.
Free course on reading early music manuscripts
TVEMF member Jan Elson has sent me some information about an interesting course by the University of Basel. It’s title is 'From Ink to Sound: Decoding Musical Manuscripts'. It’s a free online course on FutureLearn lasting seven weeks starting on 2nd November. That date will have passed by the time you read this but it’s possible to catch up.
There is a lot more about the course on the web site, but to summarise they say that it will enable you to understand the theoretical and practical principles of reading musical notation from the Middle Ages until the Early Modern Period which, now that I’ve read the first week’s course material, means the 16th century. The course includes recordings of early music provided by musicians of the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis.
I did the first week’s work yesterday and it didn’t take very long, being just a general overview. The rest of the course will include early neumes and square notation, early 13th century modal notation, notation of the Ars Antiqua and Ars Nova, mensural notation of the 14th and 15th centuries, ending with keyboard and lute tablature of the 16th century. This is all predicted to be covered in three hours work a week!
You probably won’t want to type in this extremely long link but I’m sure you’ll find it if you type the name of the course into a search engine.
Is this the end of instrument making in London?
The remaining instrument courses at London Metropolitan University are now under notice of closure - the Commercial Road building is being sold, and small courses are being cut. Many of our best-known early instrument makers were trained there or at itsearlier incarnation, the London College of Furniture and it would be very sad if the futureof instrument making in this country was threatened by this closure. If you feel stronglyabout it you might like to sign the online petition at this address:
Marna Gowan, the Secretary of BMEMF, has asked me to give you the sad news that
Hannah Davies died in October. She was at different times Chairman and Secretary of
BMEMF and the driving force behind so much of what they have done, and she had many
friends in the other forums including ours.