Tamesis Issue 275
I was very sorry to hear that Clifford Bartlett had died, just a couple of days short of his eightieth birthday. I’ve known him for a very long time, from the Beauchamp House course, in the Eastern Early Music Forum, and of course he was the prime mover (and music provider) of the joint forum events for many years. He started me off reviewing CDs for Early Music Review too, a job I really enjoyed even though it seemed to take a lot of time. David has written an obituary (on page 5) and Clifford was given a half-page obituary in the Times on September 8th. Here is the link or you can search for it. It’s interesting to read and if it’s behind a paywall I can send you a copy. I was very sorry not to be able to go to his funeral which took place while I was on holiday. I’m pleased to say Elaine is continuing to print Tamesis and I’m sure will be pleased to receive other music and printing orders.
There will be very few committee members at the Ealing workshop on 28th September so it would be good if as many of you as possible could offer to help with catering (cutting up cake, making sure the urn doesn’t boil dry etc), chair moving and any other jobs you see that need doing. Needless to say, help is most welcome at all workshops, not just this one.
You’ll find the form for the baroque day with this issue. It will be on Sunday 24th November. Because we need to hire the classroom block on a Sunday so that the corridors aren’t full of children and the instruments can be left in the classrooms during breaks, the school needs TVEMF to cover the cost of the caretaker for the day. For this reason the price has had to rise a bit but I hope you’ll still think it’s worth it for a whole day’s playing.
The other day someone said to me that she doesn’t book for the baroque day because she doesn’t feel her technique is up to it. It’s true that you need to be able to sight-read well and not get lost, but not everybody wants to play fast. I know most people’s capabilities when I organise the groups so I can do my best to make sure people are compatible, but that’s why it’s important to describe your abilities on the form if I don’t already know you. Please contact me if you have any questions.
I’m happy to receive requests for particular pieces or combinations of instruments, from trio sonatas to Brandenburg concertos, and I can organise groups to play your own music provided you give me details in advance (and remember to bring it with you). Instrumentalists love to play with solo singers and I’ve got a box of music for soprano or tenor with obbligato instruments. I’ve got less for other voices so you’ll need to bring some with you (specifying the line-up in advance). Pitch is mostly 415 but there’s usually one group at 440. I rather hope the few remaining people who haven’t got 415 instruments will be inspired to buy one, but no pressure!
I’m not sure yet what’s happening about the Blackheath Early Music Exhibition as unfortunately Jacks Pipes and Hammers have been given a smaller space this year and haven’t got room to host us. I’ll be contacting the other forums to see what they want to do.
There are a couple of workshops that haven’t been confirmed in time for this Tamesis, but please put them in your diary anyway. The dates will go on the website as soon as we are sure of them.
Chairman s Chat
Clifford Bartlett, who died recently, was a significant figure in the early music world, as shown by the luminaries who attended his funeral. Dame Emma Kirkby sang Purcell's Evening Hymn and also joined in the other choral pieces. Others that I spotted included Sir Roger Norrington, Peter Holman, Andrew Parrott, John Rutter and Jeremy West. If you have taken part in a performance of the 1610 Monteverdi Vespers or indeed a baroque opera you will almost certainly have used Clifford's King's Music edition. We will miss his genial presence at Forum and other events and his scholarly, unassuming advice. You may not realise it but for several years his company, and latterly his wife Elaine, has been handling the printing and posting of this Tamesis magazine, for which we are truly grateful.
Being an expert in a particular field is no guarantee of being able to teach it. Eduardo Sohns was recommended as a tutor but I'm afraid his quiet speaking voice and hesitant English made the opening session painfully slow. Things improved later when Bruce Ramel took over to conduct the musical examples but some people had already left by then. If anyone who did so would like free entry into a subsequent TVEMF workshop then I'm sure we can arrange that. I think we have a pretty good track record over more than 30 years of workshops, so perhaps can be forgiven for the odd one being less than satisfactory.
Clifford Bartlett was a renowned publisher of early music whose editions of baroque operas, oratorios and other works were used by many of the leading performers around the world. He was one of the first to embrace computer typesetting of music, using Philp Hazel's PMS system, which produced elegant, legible prints which were a pleasure to use. These were published under the King's Music label until disaster struck when he was defrauded and made bankrupt. Some editions subsequently appeared under the name The Early Music Company but King's Music continues under the direction of his widow, Elaine. The two Bartlett children have required a huge amount of attention over the years, so one wonders how their parents remained calm enough to do any other work.
Clifford worked in the BBC's music library for some years and then became music librarian at the Royal College of Music, developing an encyclopedic knowledge of music of all periods. He was always prepared to use this knowledge to help others and his generosity in this respect is legendary. He was a fine accompanist, able to realise a figured bass with style. What a remarkable man we will miss him greatly.
Workshop Saturday 10th August 2019
Intimations of the Baroque in Renaissance Music
This was an unusual workshop that addressed a rather scholarly theme from an intellectual standpoint. Both the venue and the workshop director were new and took some getting used to.
Eduardo Sohns is an established Argentinian authority on early Renaissance and Baroque stylistics. His limited command of English proved to be something of a communication barrier for much of the morning session but we did learn that Spanish music of this period falls into two distinct categories, one of which (Villancicos) was largely driven by an emotional response to text, the other to more serious and prosaic material. We concentrated on the former.
Owing to limitations on the supply of both ink and paper Spain at this time had no public printing industry and the Church kept overall control of what was allowed to appear in print, so our musical examples were originally printed respectively in Venice (1561) and Prague (1581).
As the opportunity to sing together, which had induced many to sign up for the workshop, began to appear remote, by mid-morning people had started to slip away in numbers, which drew a comparison after a while with Haydn’s Farewell Symphony as the gaps grew ever wider.
Things perked up when Bruce Ramell, who helped to organise the day, stepped up to the plate and got us singing from the musical examples, initially by familiarising the remaining group with the basic melody and then gradually adding in the other three vocal parts to illustrate how the harmonies developed over a ground base (not always found in the bass part), in different versions of a main tune, eg Riu riu chiu.
After lunch we really had some fun with Bomba, a dramatic and lively piece telling of a ship’s crew’s responses in fearful and prayerful measure to an impending shipwreck, with rescue and a safe haven to conclude, after invoking the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary in several of her preferred forms of salutation (Montserrat, Guadaloupe, Loretto). This could be read as a metaphor for grace achieved through faith at risk from heresy and unbelief; or not, according to taste.
Thus the day ended well after all for those who survived the earlier choppy waters. Thanks are due, as ever, to the doughty organisers and stalwart committee members who kept the ship afloat.
Intimations of the Baroque in Renaissance Music 10th August 2019
Number to word the transition from a focus on number to a focus on word was the theme of this workshop in Marylebone. Eduardo Sohns, an early music specialist visiting from Buenos Aires, discussed the development of Spanish music in the first half of the 16th century and showed how the seeds of the shift from the Renaissance to the Baroque could be seen in this period.
In the morning session Eduardo described how composers in the Renaissance period would often use pre-existing melodies and improvise around these using the Folia framework. A compositional formula would be used where the melody was in the tenor line and the other voices would sing at certain intervals around this, for example the top line a 6th above the tenor and the bass moving between a 3rd and a 5th below. Vocal music would often consist of a line sung by one voice part, followed by a response from all four parts. Eduardo played illustrations showing how these techniques are still in use in the music of Latin America today.
Eduardo’s analysis was based around several works from the Cancionero Musical d’Elvas, which dates from about 1500, and the Villancicos de Diversos Autores, published in 1556. Songs included the exciting and well-known ‘Riu Riu Chiu’. Two versions of ‘No tienen vado mis males’ provided material for Eduardo to illustrate the move towards a greater emphasis on reflecting the meaning of the words in the music. Compared with the earlier version, the 1556 version builds emotion through repetition of key words and phrases and combines this with music which accentuates the emotion.
The afternoon session was devoted to a single piece, ‘La Bomba’ by Mateo Flecha (1481-1553), published in 1581. This is a long, lively work for four voices which describes an impending shipwreck, the desperate efforts of the crew, their prayers and their eventual saving from the perils of the sea. The panic and actions of the crew are vividly reflected in the words and the music.
Eduardo’s style of presentation was not to everyone’s taste. The content was very interesting but it was hard to follow at times because of his limited command of English, even with the assistance of his son. And unfortunately he included very little practical music-making in the first hour or so. Bruce Ramell then very kindly stepped in and helped by conducting performances of the works, while Eduardo provided guidance on notable features of the music and pronunciation of the Spanish. Overall, however, I found it an enjoyable day and I learned a lot.
News of Members Activities
Norma Herdson is putting on another of her popular baroque workshops at Bourne End on Sunday November 10th. The theme this time is Music in England between 1692 and 1786, with works by Stanley, Abel, Avison and Henry Purcell. TVEMF member Barbara Moir will be the soloist in Abel’s Harpsichord Concerto No. 5 Opus 11 and the conductor is Michael Sanderson. Pitch is A=415. Chorus and solo singers are needed as well as the orchestra. For more information contact Norma - 01628 621367; 07866551843 nherdson @ gmail.com