Medieval and Renaissance
Nov. 22, 2022
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On this edition of Arizona Encore we’re heading back to the basics of music, traveling back a few centuries to the medieval and Renaissance periods to explore simplicity in music and join in the intimate experience that music creates.
The episode begins with sacred works by Hildegard of Bingen, who was a rarity in her time. Fairly described as a genius, Bingen was a dramatist, writer, theologian, medical practitioner, herbalist, mystic, visionary, and of course, a composer. We hear two of Hildegard’s devotional works, both antiphons for unaccompanied voices: the first is “O Frondens Virga,” which translates to “O blossoming bough”; and “O virtus sapientiae” — “O strength of wisdom.” Performed by True Concord, for the first antiphon, and the second is performed by Helios.
Staying in the Middle Ages but jumping ahead a couple of centuries, we visit Franco-Flemish composer Jacob Senleches. Senleches worked in the compositional style called ars subtilior, or “subtler art.” Arising in France and Spain, this style was admittedly less subtle that what you heard in those pieces by Hildgard. The piece we hear on this episode by Senleches, is titled “La Harpe de Melodie,” performed by Helios, who will follow the piece with “S’on me regarde,” whereas the composer of that work is unknown.
We then move into the Renaissance era hearing works from the Flemish, Spanish and English schools of composition, beginning with Cipriano de Rore. Rore wrote both sacred and secular madrigals, in which many of them he wrote in the Italian polyphonic style.
We’ll hear some of that polyphonic style in the next work, the Kyrie from a mass Rore wrote for seven unaccompanied voices. After the Kyrie, we’ll hear a responsory written titled “Jesum tradidit impius,” by composer is Tomás Luis de Victoria who was born thirty years after Cipriano de Rore in Spain. Victoria was a Catholic priest and he dedicated his musical efforts solely to sacred works, writing many of them down so that we may remember them.
Last in this set, England has its voices heard through a work by Thomas Tallis: “If ye love me.” Tallis’ compositional employment was primarily in service to the church, but he had to go through some denominational gymnastics to keep it. He was Catholic all his life, but during the reign of Henry the Eighth, he wrote for the new Anglican canon. When Mary became queen, he wrote Catholic again, then Anglican once more under Elizabeth the First. Again Helios performs these three brief liturgical works from the Renaissance.
Staying in the Renaissance era we spend some time with the lute, courtesy of lutenist Ronn McFarlane. Starting with “Passemez” by the French Renaissance composer Adrian Le Roy who stayed on the secular side of the tracks in this era. He served several aristocratic houses, and besides his work as a musician and composer, he was also a music publisher who taught student musicians.
We then hear six short pieces by the lute master himself, John Dowland, who was known in his own time and even today as the greatest composer of lute music and songs.
We close this episode with three works by the Spanish composer Alonso Mudarra who was born in 1510, and known as a composer and instrumentalist whose specialty was the vihuela, an early, narrow-bodied guitar. Chatham Baroque performs these three pieces by Mudarra with the first of three songs, “Claros y frescos rios,” features soprano Nell Snaidas. The second is an instrumental titled “Romanesca guardame las vacas.” And soprano Snaidas returns for the third, “Isabel, perdiste tu faxa.”