Thames Valley Early Music Forum
Tamesis Issue 269
I’ve had a busy summer going to Beauchamp renaissance week, the baroque week and, last weekend, Medieval Music in the Dales. So busy in fact that I haven’t found time to write about any of them in time for this edition. I hope you’ve all been having an equally musical time and enjoying the fine weather. Do send me your reviews of any summer schools you’ve been to.
There are two forms with this Tamesis and I hope they’ll have been printed in different colours. I’m also still taking bookings for the Venetian music workshop, so please send me the coloured slip rather than a photocopy as it helps me to tell them apart. You’ll see that I’m not doing email bookings for the November and December workshops because it helps with organisation to have the information on paper in front of me.
By the time you read this the full scores for the Andrew Griffiths Venetian workshop will be available on line for you to look at. There will be chorus scores to print shortly if you’ve agreed to do that. Please note that the top part of the Bassano Ave Maria and the Giovanni Gabrieli Sanctus will be instrumental only. I would welcome more applications for this workshop as one of the pieces is in 16 parts. I’ve had surprisingly few applications from instrumentalists, including recorders, and I need at least one violinist. More lower voices would be good too. Andrew’s workshop on German chori spezzati last year was absolutely excellent and I’m sure this one will be just as good. There’s a copy of the booking form on the back cover.
The music for Patrick Craig’s Christmas workshop will be online soon too. There wasn’t room to list it on the form but it looks like a most attractive list of pieces by Victoria and Palestrina:
Victoria: Ave Maria (a 8), Magnificat Primi toni, Gloria (from Missa Alma Redemptoris), Sanctus (from Missa pro Victoria)
Palestrina: Alma Redemptoris (a 8), Hodie Christus natus est (a 8), Surge illuminare, Nunc dimittis (a 8)
Please note the unusually early closing date for the baroque day. This is because I shall be spending the preceding three days at the Early Music Festival at Blackheath where TVEMF and NEMA are being given a table on the stage courtesy of Jacks Pipes and Hammers. Help on the stand for an hour or two (or as long as you like) would be most welcome. Please let me know if you can do this. I’m always surprised that I don’t see more forum members at the exhibition and the concerts. They make a glorious day, or even weekend, out.
For most people the holiday season is over but some of my friends are in Venice preparing for a concert in the Chiesa di San Rocco. I'm ambivalent when it comes to music courses in foreign countries. Perhaps Venice is an exception, since there is so much to see even in the relatively short period of free time that courses usually allow. I have been in places which although undoubtedly beautiful don't provide enough sightseeing opportunities for such brief moments and ideally one needs a further week to explore the area more fully.
I recently enjoyed a trip to Antwerp that was not for the purposes of music but did have musical overtones. Arguably the city was the centre of the musical world in the mid-sixteenth century when publishers such as Susato, Phalèse and Plantin were flourishing and Flanders exported musicians to much of the rest of Europe. Antwerp has a splendid collection of early musical instruments in Museum Vleeshuis – just about every instrument one could wish for is on display and if you have a suitable phone you can go to their web site, click on the number of an instrument and hear how it sounds. The descriptions in the museum are only in Flemish but I had no difficulty in recognising the instruments, apart from one comprising a single string stretched over a large bladder and played by a notched stick. I decided not to trouble with that one!
TVEMF's autumn events are upon us, and I'm looking forward to singing some Pachelbel – a one-hit composer who surely deserves more exposure. Then we have a workshop with Andrew Griffiths on the development of Cori Spezzati in Venice, which promises to be very exciting, though a few more violins, sackbuts and curtals would be particularly welcome.
“As I was going to St Ives…”
“What !”, gentle reader, you might well exclaim, ”is this meant to be about ?”, given that, as a matter of sober fact, thirty-nine participants assembled on Saturday, 14 July not at St Ives, but at St John’s United Reformed Church, Northwood, for a workshop for singers and instrumentalists, directed by Peter Syrus, and devoted to works by seven composers, the well-known Lassus, Tallis, Sheppard, Wert and the lesser known Sutton, Pevernage and Pipelare. Therein lies the first clue to this apparently eccentric title. Readers may recall the preponderance of the number seven in the old riddle about the man with seven wives, all burdened with seven sacks and ending ‘kits, cats, sacks, wives, How many were going to St Ives ? (Hint-the answer is not 2801, which is the sum of 70 + 71 + 72 + 73 +74).
The programme was likewise built around the number seven. With masterly ingenuity, Peter constructed it so as to consist of a work in seven parts by each of the seven composers, in one of which (Memorare Mater Christi, by Pipelare) the seven parts were assigned to the seven sorrows of Mary. Peter’s excellent editions, from which we sang, contained translations of all the texts and other information about manuscript sources and authorship of the texts, which added greatly to the interest generated by the programme.
We began with two movements from Lassus’ Lagrime de San Pietro. This work, dedicated to Pope Clement VIII, and composed in the last year of Lassus’ life when he was suffering from bouts of ‘melancholica hypocondriaca’, as it was then diagnosed, consists of twenty-one movements, and is (Allan W. Atlas, Renaissance Music, W.W. Norton & Co., 1998, p.598) :-
‘imbued…with a sense of symbolism based on the number seven; the work’s twenty-one movements are divided into three cycles of seven and set for seven voices throughout. Lassus’ contemporaries, for whom the symbolism of numbers was part of everyday life, would have been mindful that seven was the number of mortal sins, Sorrows of Mary, Joys of Mary and was also Peter’s number of forgiveness: ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him; up to seven times ? (Matthew xvi, v.21)’.
By the time that Lassus composed the Lagrime, he had published over 200 madrigals, setting poems by well-known poets including Petrarch, Ariosto, Tasso and Bembo as well as Tansillo (Leeman Perkins, Music in the Age of the Renaissance, W.W. Norton, 1999, p.931). Lagrime is a setting of twenty stanzas from Tansillo’s unfinished meditation (consisting, at his death in 1568, of 1,277 eight-line stanzas) on The Tears of Saint Peter; to these twenty madrigali spirituali Lassus added one motet (Vide homo), the Latin text of which may (as Peter’s annotations informed us) have been composed by Lassus himself.
Quel volto, the twelfth movement of Lagrime, with which we began, vividly depicts, in a mere 35 bars, the gamut of emotions experienced by St Peter in the aftermath of his betrayal, and their outward signs, pallor and suffusion with blood-and all this without for a moment losing the vivacity of the madrigalian form, realised by the way in which dialogue shifts between various groups of voices. Vide homo, the motet setting which closes the cycle, packs a great deal of emotional turmoil into a short compass. Whereas, in Quel volto, Peter can be seen as reproaching himself for his betrayal, in Vide homo, the crucified Saviour reproaches man for his ingratitude.
Following the two Lassus movements, we went back in time by a little over a century and encountered a very different style. Little is known of John Sutton who, Peter’s edition informed us, flourished in the latter part of the 1470s. A John Sutton, MA is known to have been a Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford in 1476 and to have resigned it the following year on being appointed to a Fellowship at Eton. The 236-bar Salve Regina is from the Eton Choirbook and is his only known composition. All but two of the compositions included in the Eton Choirbook are Marian, and, as Willem Elders (Symbolic Scores: Studies in the Music of the Renaissance, Brill, Leiden, 1994, p. 99,) observes, this can be primarily explained by the fact that the number seven is a Marian number. It is not unknown for Marian compositions to be divided into seven strophes, Kellyk’s Gaude flore virginalis being an example. Peter set out the Salve Regina text in his edition in a similar manner, with a concluding O dulcis Maria, salve taking up the final sixteen bars. It may be (though this is pure speculation on the part of your reviewer) that Sutton was emphasising the significance of the number seven in the Marian context, because, in addition to the four sections of the official Salve Regina text, the setting includes three tropes, Virgo mater ecclesia (bars 97-124), sung by voices I, II and VII, two sopranos and bass, Exaudi preces (bars 157-75), voices IV, VI and VII, superior and inferior countertenors and bass and Funde preces (bars 189-219), in which all seven voices participate, but, as Peter’s annotations told us, probably in the form of soloists or a semi-chorus. Salve Regina settings of that period may be even more generously troped; an article by Charles Cole (www.newliturgicalmovement.org/2013/07/a-beautiful-salve-regina-from-sarum.html) tells us that the Sarum Processional Salve Regina of 1502 includes the three tropes mentioned above and a further two and that some, at least, were intended to be sung by cantors. Sutton’s substantial and complex work, with its extended melismatic passages, kept us occupied for the remainder of the morning, after which we were accorded a generous lunch break.
The period between lunch and tea was predominantly devoted to English composers. We sang two settings of an antiphon for Trinity Sunday, Libera nos, salva nos, by John Sheppard, who, like Sutton, was a fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford. Those of us who took part in Justin Doyle’s workshop at the Wesley Memorial Hall, Oxford, in September 2015 will have had a brief acquaintance with that work, which itself is brief, the two settings taking up 63 bars. There are several recordings available, and the notes to the Hyperion recording tell us that among the statutes of the College was ‘an ordinance that this very text be recited twice a day’. Although Sheppard’s early 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, Libera nos, salva nos, unlike much of Sheppard’s work, is not in that tradition. The work is relatively slow-moving and its gravity is emphasised by the unusual placing of the cantus firmus in the bass part.
Tallis’ Suscipe quaeso mihi is another substantial work, whose themes are the confession of sins and the admission that man is, by his nature, sinful and can only be redeemed from the consequences of his sinfulness by divine grace. The text is adapted from the writings of St Isidore of Seville. The New Grove suggests that Suscipe quaeso mihi was composed at the same time as his Missa Puer natus nobis est, which was almost certainly written for the visit of Philip of Spain when he married Mary in 1554 (Andrew Gant, O Sing unto the Lord: A History of English Church Music, Profile Books, 2016, p.95). However, there is an alternative view (Kerry McCarthy, ‘Tallis, Isidore of Seville and Suscipe quaeso mihi’, Early Music, 2007 (3), 447-450) that ‘it is worth reconsidering as an Elizabethan piece, perhaps among the last works of a mature composer who still responded eagerly and sensitively to the stylistic developments around him’. It was published in 1575 in the somewhat ambiguously titled Cantiones, quae ab argumento sacrae vocantur (‘Songs which by their text may be called sacred’). McCarthy says of it that Tallis:-
‘begins Suscipe quaeso in pervasive imitation, introducing all seven voices in turn with magisterial sangfroid, and he maintains a highly flexible texture for most of the piece, with strategic use of homophony and semichoir cells’
We see this strategy in operation, for example, in short passages at the beginning of both parts (the initial semi-choruses being voices II, IV and V in the prima and I, III, IV and VII in the secunda pars,), in each case followed by a longer homophonic section and then a dialogue between the same combinations of voices.
Leaving England for Flanders, we encountered Andreas Pevernage, who was born eleven years after Lassus and died three years before him. The work which we studied was a setting of Ego flos campi from his 1578 collection of Cantiones aliquot sacrae (no such ambiguity as displayed by the title of the Byrd/Tallis compilation). The text is taken from the Song of Songs, ch.2, one of those highly erotic passages which had so excited the disapproval of the Council of Trent and the Calvinists who seized spiritual control of Bruges and its surroundings in 1578 and were not displaced until 1584, and indeed the New Grove tells us that religious troubles compelled him and his family to flee from Courtrai (the place of publication of the Cantiones) to Antwerp, where they remained for six years and to which they returned when he was appointed choirmaster of Notre Dame in late 1585. The New Grove article sums him up as ‘a workmanlike composer, with a marked preference for spacious harmonies’.
Another generous break (tea and cake) intervened before we embarked on the last of the works studied. This was a journey into the earlier unknown, the composer, Matthaeus Pipelare, being a late fifteenth-century composer who spent most of his working life in Antwerp. Pipelare wrote in a variety of genres; his works include masses, motets and chansons. The New Grove refers to the contrast between the short notes in syncopated rhythms which are found in his earlier Marian compositions, the Salve Regina and what it describes as ‘the more careful declamation’ in Memorare Mater Christi, the final work which we studied. This work was composed for the Feast of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a feast apparently enacted originally by a provincial synod of Cologne in 1413 to expiate the crimes of the iconoclast Hussites. Its original object was exclusively the sorrow of Mary at the Crucifixion and death of Christ. Its celebration eventually came to spread over most of Europe and to commemorate all seven of the Sorrows, and indeed Pipelare’s setting explicitly assigns each voice to one of the seven, though it does not identify which is which. The cantus firmus lies in the third voice (tertius dolor), and is sung on the text ‘Nunquam fuit pena maior’. This, as Peter’s comprehensive annotations told us, is the tenor of Johannes Urreda’s Spanish villancico ‘Nunca fué pena mayor’. Urreda (1430-82) was born Johannes de Wreede in Bruges but spent his working life in the service of the Duke of Alba and of Ferdinand and Isabella. Our encounter with this work was, at any rate for your reviewer, the least successful part of the day, as it required both tenors and basses to be divided and we were rather under-resourced for division of the lower voices into four parts. Lack of time meant that we were unable to engage with the remaining item, Giaches de Wert’s madrigal Tirsi morir volea, which records the amatory vicissitudes of Thyrsis and his unidentified lover (usually Chloris, who often has to be detached from Damon, but Milla, Dorinda and Amoret have made appearances in other texts).
We are all greatly indebted to Peter for a fascinating and characteristically informative day of seven-part music in a variety of styles. Warm thanks are also due to David Fletcher for organising the event, to the volunteer dispensers of refreshments, and to the TVEMF management for locating and arranging for our use of this new, convenient and sufficiently commodious venue.
Early music workshop in San Sebastian, Spain, 27-29 April 2018
This was the first workshop Adam Woolf (sackbut) had organised in San Sebastian, on the Bay of Biscay in Spain. It was held in Santa Maria del Coro, a large baroque church in the Old Town, with a large gallery where we rehearsed.
The course started with rehearsals before and after supper on the Friday evening, but the string players (three violins and a cello) had an extra session on the Friday morning with a local baroque violinist called Mau Ziemkiewicz, who also took part in some of the rehearsals and the final concert. Wind players had the option of individual lessons with Adam on the Friday or Monday.
The course itself was intensive, with rehearsals Friday evening, all day Saturday, and two rehearsals on Sunday. We played a few pieces (from the gallery) during a mass on Sunday morning and a concert (with a large audience) in the evening. However, there were smaller group pieces as well as larger ensembles, so not everyone was needed for the whole rehearsal time, and there was time for exploring the town as well as playing. Participants came from several European countries, and consisted of students, young professionals and amateurs. There were 15 sackbuts, 3 cornetts, 3 violins, a cello and a few singers, and Adam chose pieces to suit this combination of instruments and singers, mostly by Giovanni Gabrieli, but also pieces by Victoria, Massaino, Guami and Guerrero.
I really enjoyed this workshop. Adam is a good tutor, and the standard of the players and singers was high, so rehearsals and the performances went smoothly. A further workshop is being held in San Sebastian 9 – 11 November, and I have already booked to go - http://adamwoolf.com/education/san-sebastian-donostia-early-music-workshop/. You need to book your own transport and accommodation, but there are plenty of pensiones in the Old Town, which is small and so nowhere is far from the church we play in, which is also in the Old Town. There’s a bus from Bilbao and Biarritz airports which takes about an hour and goes to the main bus station. The Old Town is about 15 minutes walk from there, and there are taxis next to the bus station, which can take you to the edge of the Old Town. I flew Easyjet to Bilbao in April, and have booked Iberia for November – both airlines allow you to take an instrument as cabin luggage.
Conference on Vocal Sound and Style 1450 to 1650
The National Early Music Association and the Brighton Early Music Festival are joining together to put on a Conference on Vocal Sound and Style 1450 to
1650 in Brighton on 20/21 October 2018. Papers will be given by a number of distinguished contributors on topics such as style, ornamentation, vibrato, pronunciation and rhetoric. There will be live vocal illustrations, a masterclass with young professional singers, round-table discussions and a singing workshop led by Deborah Roberts. There are links to the booking form and programme from the NEMA web site www.earlymusic.info