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Preview: Early Music - current issue

Early Music Current Issue

Published: Mon, 11 Sep 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Last Build Date: Tue, 12 Sep 2017 03:44:08 GMT




Margaret Bent

Funeral music


RangeMatthias, British royal and state funerals: music and ceremonial since Elizabeth I (Woodbridge and Rochester, NY: Boydell Press, 2016), £50

What next? Recent work and new directions for English medieval music


Reasons for the relative neglect of English medieval music are suggested, including the late availability of editions, and the extensive dependence on fragmentary sources. Recent work is noted, and areas for future research identified, including in prosopography, music theory and analysis, especially with a view to identifying how English musical grammars and genres differ from those of continental Europe. As the place of historical musicology in university studies is being squeezed by newer concerns, a plea is made to rectify the poor-relation status of English medieval music, and for the cultivation of skills needed to study it.

Chromatic alterations in Josquin’s Basies moy


In Renaissance music, it is generally understood that in particular contexts, certain notes that are written diatonically are to be performed chromatically, i.e. a semitone higher or lower than written. The rules that govern which notes should be chromatically altered in this manner are relatively well codified and enumerated by contemporary theorists. However, in actual music the application of one rule often results in the violation of another, often iteratively. Josquin’s Basies moy provides a particularly difficult case study in this phenomenon. Basies moy was initially published in two versions—one in four voices, and another with two additional lower voices; chromatic alterations that work without problem in one version are often problematic in the other. Furthermore, because the piece is a canon, an alteration that is effective in one place may present problems when it is repeated in the imitating voice. This article attempts to elucidate some challenges that commonly arise when applying chromatic alterations to Renaissance music by studying the challenges in Basies moy in light of work by contemporary theorists, and by presenting possible solutions to these challenges.

Venice, Rome, Naples, Ferrara


This small batch of discs presents the music of four figures, all of whom had extensive composing careers in late 16th-century Italy. All lived and worked in some of the most important Italian musical centres: two (Gioseffo Zarlino and Claudio Merulo) are connected with Venice, one (Carlo Gesualdo) with Ferrara, and the other (Tomás Luis de Victoria) with Rome. For all of their historical parallels, however, these recordings showcase an array of distinctive late Renaissance styles, with many of the works that feature demonstrating differing artistic manifestations in the post-Tridentine world.

Continental Baroque: music for diverse flutes


The seven CDs featured in this review were all issued between 2012 and 2016, and taken as a collection they form a wonderful representation of the diversity present in the performance of 18th-century music today.

Airs italiens à 3 voix : a recently identified autograph manuscript of Charpentier


In the mid-1660s, the young Marc-Antoine Charpentier spent three years in Rome. Deeply affected by all that he heard there, he remained throughout his life strongly influenced not only by Carissimi and his oratorios, but also by the numerous other composers active in Rome at that time. His admiration for Roman music is clear from the many copies that he is known to have made of it, although until now only two were thought to have survived: the Missa mirabiles elationes maris sexdecimus vocibus by Francesco Beretta and the oratorio Jephte by Carissimi. However, the present authentication of an autograph manuscript entitled Airs italiens à 3 voix sheds new light on Charpentier’s taste for the music of Rome, in this case secular. This manuscript, conserved in the Music Department of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, shelfmark Vm7 18, contains pieces by Giacomo Carissimi and Lelio Colista on secular Italian texts, as well as two airs by Charpentier himself. It confirms Charpentier’s fondness for the music of Carissimi (while also supporting the attribution of these particular arias), and it reveals his taste for the works of Colista (here preserved as unica). The Airs italiens à 3 voix is the only surviving manuscript dating from Charpentier’s years in Rome and thus probably preserves his earliest known compositions.

Three-voice textures in the mid-15th-century English Mass cycle


In writing any form of polyphony, composers had to balance a range of competing priorities. These formed a matrix of related and sometimes conflicting rules and conventions that governed the contrapuntal possibilities in any given situation. Within the medium of the Mass cycle, or at least those cycles that utilize pre-existent material in the form of a cantus firmus, a further range of constrictions is given by the very nature of this material. It is within this field of different compositional concerns that composers sought to develop their musical argument and to give voice to their own compositional identities. It seems fair to say that an understanding of style, be that pertaining to a composer or an entire national, chronological or generic group, can only be reached through an understanding of these competing compositional principles, how they were prioritized, and of what room they allowed for individual answers to common compositional questions.The stated aim of the conference from which this collection of essays is drawn was to ‘face the music of medieval England’. The focus of this contribution is to provide a window through which we might hope to do that, in the context of a small and self-contained repertory, namely the three-voice Mass cycle as cultivated in mid-15th-century England. This discussion outlines some apparent norms and offers new perspectives on some Mass cycles that appear to sit outside of them—perspectives which might shed light on issues of authorship, provenance and chronology. Specifically, I turn my attention to issues of range and grammatical function within a particularly unusual anonymous cantus firmus Mass cycle from the Strahov Codex, and within three Sine nomine cycles by Bedyngham, Standley and Tik. My hope here is not just to face the music but what stands behind it as well.

‘Quels charmans concerts’: four divertissements for Venus in three tragédies en musique of the 1690s


Three operas featuring the goddess Venus as a main character premiered in rapid succession on the stage of the Académie Royale de Musique in the late 1690s. La naissance de Vénus (1696), Vénus et Adonis (1697) and Hésione (1700) all depict significant events in the goddess’s mythology: her birth, her love affair with the mortal huntsman Adonis, and her affair with the Trojan prince Anchises, a union which produced the hero Aeneas. While the librettists for all three works (the Abbé Pic, Jean-Baptiste Rousseau and Antoine Danchet) created a similar character type for the goddess—self-absorbed, vain and obstinate—the composers (Pascal Collasse, Henri Desmarets and André Campra) did not respond with equally similar musical settings—with one exception. In all three works, at least one divertissement features the goddess as an object of adoration. A consideration of these divertissements as a group reveals how the composers and librettists of these three works manipulated existing conventions of staging, music and text to create a new type of divertissement to showcase the goddess. By placing the divertissements early in the work, linking them through setting and décor, providing the goddess with an identical group of followers, using triple metre and high-voiced scoring, and allowing the goddess herself to act in the divertissement context, these three works both established Venus’s power and authority and created a distinctive realm for her to rule. In so doing, the creators of these works both emphasized the disruptive qualities of the goddess and normalized them as characteristic of a realm ruled by love.

In praise of music: motets, inscriptions and musical philosophy in Robert Dow’s partbooks


The Elizabethan music partbooks of Robert Dow, Fellow of All Souls, are notable not only for their elegant calligraphy but also for their inclusion of Latin inscriptions that offer praise for particular composers or comment on the nature of music. Debates surrounding these partbooks have focused on the extent to which they may, or may not, reflect Catholic sympathies on the part of Dow, but this is not the subject of Dow’s Latin inscriptions. More apparent is the contribution that these partbooks make to debates regarding the virtues and vices of music-making, a topic that was a particular preoccupation in Oxford circles during the 1580s, just as Dow was copying. Analysing the connection between the inscriptions that draw on myths and commonplaces regarding the powers of music and the motets that they accompany, I argue that these juxtapositions reveal Dow’s deep awareness of the issues and rhetoric deployed by recent authors in praise of music. Rather than projecting Catholic sympathies, Dow more obviously presented himself as a defender of music, and his thoughtfully placed inscriptions invited users of these books to reflect on music’s role in pious living, good health and honest social pleasures, while also insinuating the unnaturalness and ungodliness of music’s critics.



The work of medievalists has been radically changed by the development of new technologies. Today, like never before, scholars are able to access digital images of the most obscure sources via DIAMM and other repositories, share ideas and work-in-progress through social media, and benefit from the opportunity to attend specialist symposia via video conferencing. The medieval world may be historically distant, but its source materials become ever more accessible, making the discipline increasingly inviting to new researchers.

Iberian treasures


HidalgoJuan, Celos aun del aire matan, ed. SteinLouise K., Recent Researches in the Music of the Baroque Era 187 (Middleton, WI: A-R Editions, 2014), $350

Songs in circulation, texts in transmission: English sources and the Dublin Troper


Though the term ‘medieval song’ is most often associated with continental repertory, recent scholarship has begun to illuminate the vibrant culture of song that co-existed with it in 13th-century England. An examination of approximately 125 surviving songs from English sources shows that, though many possess a formal relationship to specific medieval liturgical genres (especially the sequence form), the songs do not often have liturgical usage. In fact, the repertory is almost entirely contained within miscellany manuscripts. Therefore, it is of interest that 17 of these songs are found again in the 14th-century Dublin Troper (Cambridge, University Library, Add. Ms. 710), making it the most significant witness to a wider (and later) transmission of 13th-century English song.This article presents case studies of two songs that appear in the English song repertory of the 13th century and then reappear in the Dublin Troper, with alternative texts, around a century later. It highlights the new discovery of these contrafact relationships and considers the songs from the perspectives of notation and transmission. By comparing the songs in miscellany sources to the later versions collected within a liturgical context, we can begin to build a more complete picture of the influence that both scribal practice and manuscript culture had on the collection of notated song.

Music and image/image and music: the creation and meaning of visual-aural force fields in the later Middle Ages


This study considers the relationship between English late medieval polyphony (both Latin-texted and vernacular) and visual art that is related to it by common religious and devotional themes and by the shared contexts, public and private, that they shared. It considers devotional poetry as evidence of modes of personal engagement (both clerical and lay) with particular subjects and imagery, and relates these to art and music looked at in tandem. In principle its themes and mode of enquiry relate to devotional imagery of all types, but its particular focus is on Midlands 15th-century alabaster sculpture, which evolved exactly coevally with the highly developed English polyphonic tradition under discussion. Both these traditions enjoyed regional, national and international reputations in their own time. It also examines, by way of contrast and control, another instance in visual art that is in many ways complementary to alabaster imagery: 15th-century Flemish religious and devotional painting.

‘L’A.B.C. della Chitarra Spagnolissima’


EisenhardtLex, Italian guitar music of the seventeenth century: battuto and pizzicato (Rochester, NY and Woodbridge: University of Rochester Press, 2015), $90 / £60

Handel: chamber, church and theatre


This latest batch of Handel CDs divides into three: a group of recordings of chamber sonatas, a disc of his Roman church music, and two new recordings of English oratorios—works originally performed on the stage of London theatres. In Flute sonatas (Hänssler Classics hc16005, issued 2015, 48′) the Munich-based flautist Dorothea Seel and the Italian harpsichordist Luca Guglielmi play five sonatas: in E minor, hwv359b; G major, hwv363b; B minor, hwv367b; D major, hwv378; and E minor, hwv379. However, only the last two are genuine flute works: hwv359b, 363b and 367b are simple transpositions of sonatas originally written respectively for violin, oboe and recorder. Seel and Guglielmi play nicely on instruments after Denner and Ruckers, though the balance rather favours the harpsichord, their performances struck me as rather lacking in character, and the CD is extremely short measure. They also face stiff competition. For instance, Lisa Beznosiuk’s fine 2001 recording, also a single CD (Hyperion cda67278), includes eight pieces, though admittedly three of them are the so-called ‘Halle sonatas’, two of which seem to be spurious. Instead of scraping the barrel with transposed or dubious Handel sonatas, flautists might consider recording his two original flute sonatas with a selection of the rich repertory written for their instrument by his colleagues in London, such as John Loeillet, Francesco Barsanti or John Baptist Grano.

Investigating the experience of late medieval worship


Late medieval liturgies enacted: the experience of worship in cathedral and parish church, ed. HarperSallyBarnwellP. S.WilliamsonMagnus (Farnham and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2016), £95

The history of medieval English music on record


Now that we have simple access to vast quantities of recorded music it is all too easy not to notice that many great albums have still to be invited to this digital party. Great swathes of our recorded history, which Tom Moore neatly described a few years ago in Early Music America as ‘Our disappearing LP legacy’,11 are waiting to be rediscovered and time is running out as many libraries find they just do not justify the shelf space. Such challenges make historical record collecting rather adventurous; it takes intrepid listeners on voyages through sound archives (physical and online), record shops and digital download sites. It follows therefore that we must ask ourselves why preserving old recordings is important. Are we merely attempting to ensure a future for our nostalgia? The answer, as I hope to demonstrate, is much simpler than that: only by understanding how we have arrived at today’s performance styles will we really understand why we currently perform the way we do, and in addition to this bracing dose of self-awareness the story of early music performance is fascinating and enjoyable in its own right, since performances which might sound hopelessly naïve on first listening develop a fascinating hue once their backstories are revealed.

Renaissance instrumental music


CoelhoVictor and PolkKeith, Instrumentalists and Renaissance culture, 1420–1600: players of function and fantasy (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016), £64.99 / $99

Iberian keyboard music


Spanish and Portuguese keyboard works from the 16th to 19th centuries form a repertory that shares certain broad characteristics with pan-European practices as well as exhibiting some unique features. While the sonata became a popular genre in Iberia during the 18th and 19th centuries, early keyboard music of the region also boasts the distinctive genre known as tiento, often played on the organ, as well as a wealth of intabulations of vocal music, often performed on plucked keyboard instruments. In terms of instrument design, Iberian organs differ significantly from other European instruments, and usually have a single keyboard split at middle C and different registrations possible for each half. While Iberian harpsichords, clavichords and fortepianos have a variable rate of survival, many Iberian pipe organs are preserved in religious institutions in Spain and Portugal, as well as in the vast territories of their former colonial empires. This review examines a range of recent recordings of Iberian keyboard works, dating from the 16th to 19th centuries, some of which contain performances on unique historical instruments.

Music, text and structure in 14th-century English polyphony: the case of Ave miles celestis curie


The present article demonstrates the complexity of musico-textual relationships in Ave miles celestis curie, a 14th-century polyphonic song whose generic markers relate it to both English troped chant settings and to the motet. Ave miles celestis curie was written in honour of the St Edmund, king and martyr, whose cult flourished in England, particularly in East Anglia. Through a fresh analysis of the tenor parts, lyrics and structural elements, I argue that previous discussions of Ave miles celestis curie have overlooked some of the musical and textual troping on which it is based. Furthermore, Ave miles celestis curie is used to interrogate assumptions about the limitations of analysing English music in comparison with contemporary French motets; rather than being only generic in sentiment, I argue for fresh investigation into individual pieces to reconsider the presence of subtle relationships between music and text.