Originally published in 1651 by John Playford, the first edition of The English Dancing Master contained over one hundred country dances and ballad airs. This extremely popular volume, which went through several editions over the subsequent 75 years, described the method of performing these dances, and gave a melodic line for each. As many musicians have done since the first publication of this work, Musica Pacifica have created their own arrangements of melodies from The English Dancing Master. Today, we will hear five of these virtuosic arrangements. First is “Newcastle,” which incorporates a two-part setting by violinist David Douglass, following that is the lively “Rufty Tufty,” and then a morose air called “Irish Lamentation.” The fourth dance is an up-tempo “Scotch Cap” and rounding out the selection will be the whimsical “Jack’s Maggot.”
A masterful musician who detested performing publicly, Nicola Matteis was an Italian-born violinist, guitarist and composer who spent much of his career in England. While we don’t have many hard facts about his life (we don’t even know his precise birth or death dates) we do know that Matteis had a reputation for being an arrogant and “inexpugnably proud” man who would only stoop to giving public concerts when his finances demanded it.
Importing an Italian performance style, Matteis became a key figure in the development of violin playing in England and his compositions displayed a variety of bowings that exceeded any found in English music up to that point. Matteis’ major contribution to the literature was four books of Ayres for the Violin, published between 1676 and 1687. Today, we will hear two movements from his Suite in d minor from Book Four of that work, performed by The Wayward Sisters. First is a melancholic adagio marked “A Grave Thing”. This is followed by a dancelike “Ground with Several Divisions”.
On this edition of Ars Antigua Presents, we’ll hear selections from Shakespeare’s Songbook: music and dialogue from the Bard’s plays.
Popular songs of Elizabethan England played an important role in many of Shakespeare’s plays. Shakespeare frequently chose to insert these songs to reveal the thoughts and emotions of his characters or to help set the scene. Today’s selections provide a rare sonic glimpse at the rich soundscape of Shakespeare’s theater.
Robert Johnson, an English composer and lutenist, was a contemporary of Shakespeare. We will hear two of his best-known songs, “Full fathom five” and “Where the bee sucks,” which are settings of dialogue from the Bard’s final play, The Tempest. Following these, we will hear a brief ‘Shepherd’s Dance’ by Dutch composer and music publisher, Tielman Susato. This festive, early-16th century tune would have provided a fitting accompaniment to the shepherd’s scene in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale.
This month we’re featuring Musique de Joye—joyous songs and dances from 16th century France.
Social and political conditions in France during the 16th century were particularly favorable to the growth of popular music. During the long reign of Francis I (1515-47), French composers developed a uniquely new song form, the chanson, which was distinctly national in both poetry and music. While chansons were typically written for voices in polyphony, in the mid-16th century hundreds of chanson transcriptions for the lute and arrangements for solo voice with lute accompaniment were also published.
One of the most prolific and versatile of all 16th century composers, Roland de Lassus [1532-1594] penned over 150 chansons. Covering subjects as diverse as nature, biblical themes and bawdy narratives, Lassus’s chansons were popular in his native France as well as the Munich court, where he spent most of his career. Today we’ll hear his setting of “Bonjour mon coeur,” with text by a French contemporary of Lassus, the poet Pierre de Ronsard [1524-1585].
After “Bonjour mon coeur,” we will hear an anonymous chanson, arranged for solo lute, “Branle simple,” followed by “Changeons propos,” by a master of the Renaissance chanson, Claudin de Sermisy.
In these performances we will hear members of the Chicago Early Music Consort, under the direction of Gary Berkenstock:
Phillip W. Serna—bass viol
Today we’re featuring two beautiful soprano arias by George Frederic Handel, whose vocal music made him the toast of London in the first half of the eighteenth century. We’ll hear “Lascia ch’io pianga” from the 1711 opera Rinaldo and “Tornami a vagheggiar” from Alcina, written a quarter decade later.
Both are examples of the ternary “da capo aria” form, in which the first “A” section returns near the end, sometimes with a great deal of embellishment and ornamentation improvised by the singer. Vocalists and divas of Handel’s time loved the opportunity to put their prowess on full display, and audiences delighted in filling opera houses like the Queen’s Theater and the Covent Garden to take in the spectacle.
This performance is presented by Ars Antigua under the direction of Jerry Fuller with Kathryn Mueller, soprano.
Today we’re featuring one of the most recent winners of the Walgreens National Concerto Competition, which celebrated its 15th anniversary this year. This annual contest, sponsored in conjunction with Midwest Young Artists, selected bassoonist JJ Sechan as the winner of the Senior Division’s Early Music category.
JJ has been enrolled in MYA since the Fall of 2007, and is a member of Quintethero, MYA’s top woodwind quintet. It’s a group that has been featured on WFMT’s Introductions and on NPR’s From the Top, and was also selected as the winner of the 2010 Chicago Chamber Music Competition. JJ was chosen as Principal Bassoon of the 2010 Illinois All-State Honors Band as well as Principal Bassoon of the MYA Symphony Orchestra and District 7 Illinois Music Education Association Festival a number of times.
JJ plans to attend either the Conservatory at Oberlin College or the Juilliard School in the fall, majoring in bassoon performance and microbiology.
Here is JJ Sechan performing the first movement of Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto with the orchestra at Midwest Young Artists.
These pieces are played on members of the viola da gamba family, a name that literally translates to “viol of the leg”. Even the smaller instruments are held upright between the knees, in a distinctly different fashion from the violas da braccio, or “viols of the arm”, the predecessors of the modern-day violin. Gambas are fretted and come in various sizes, including the treble and bass versions that we’ll hear today accompanied by the largest member of the gamba family, the violone.
Hello, and welcome to the March 2011 edition of Ars Antigua Presents, a free monthly podcast of music from the Renaissance, Baroque, and Classical eras. Today we’re featuring a suite of instrumental music from Jean-Phillipe Rameau’s opéra-ballet Les Indes Galantes, first performed at the Paris Opéra in 1735. In it, we hear the allure that anything exotic had for so many Baroque artists and composers, as a story of Cupid seeking out love in distant climes is told. After an overture, representatives of four nations make their entrance onto the stage- the Turks, the Incans, the Persians, and native Americans. Though Rameau never traveled to any of the foreign lands he depicts, he nevertheless had a grand time depicting the ways in which their citizens universally fall victim to Cupid’s machinations.
In this performance from the Music Institute of Chicago, we’ll hear violinist and leader Garry Clarke direct the Baroque Band. Jean Phillipe Rameau’s first suite from Les Indes Galantes.
Today we’re featuring music of Heinrich Schütz, a composer born around 1585 who, more than anyone else at the time, established a tradition of high craftsmanship and intellectual depth in German music, moving it from the periphery of the arts into the central position that it would occupy for the next three centuries. In this performance, the City Voices, Oriana Singers, and Ars Antigua join together for “Alleluja! Lobet den Herren”, a setting of Psalm 150.
Happy New Year from Ars Antigua Presents! We begin with a song written by Karl Friedrich Zelter, a contemporary of Mozart whose pupils included Felix Mendelssohn and Giacomo Meyerbeer. Zelter found a friend and kindred artistic spirit in Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and the two of them often discussed musical matters and the importance of the song in arts and society. Of Zelter’s 210 solo Lieder, 75 are to texts by Goethe, including “At Midnight”.
Performers: Peter van de Graaff, bass; Sharon Peterson, piano [3:42]
We’ll also hear a piece from that concert to celebrate Mozart’s 255th birthday later this month- the famous Rondo alla Turca, music that imitates the sound of Turkish janissary bands, thought to be the oldest type of military marching band in the world.
This month’s Handel Gloria for soprano, two violins, and basso continuo is a newly-discovered find at the Royal Academy of Music’s library in London. The manuscript- not in Handel’s hand but bound in a collection of Handel arias owned by singer William Savage- was left to the Academy by his student RJS Stevens on his death in 1837. Handel may have composed it during his early years in Germany prior to his departure for Italy. Handel later borrowed music from this Gloria for use in the Laudate pueri dominum and Utrecht Jubilate.
In 1769, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was appointed Konzertmeister at the Salzburg Court by the Archbishop. Beginning that same year, Mozart and his father made three tours of Italy, where the young composer studied Italian opera and produced two successful efforts, Mitridate and Lucio Silla. In 1773, Mozart was back in Austria, where he spent most of the next few years composing. He wrote all his violin concertos between 1774 and 1777, as well as Masses, symphonies, and chamber works. Among these was this Divertimento in Bb Major (K. 137), the second of which is known as the “Salzburg Symphonies,” though it is only scored for strings.
Here are Elizabeth Blumenstock and Patricia Ahern, violins, Elizabeth Holzman, viola, John Mark Rozendaal, cello, and Jerry Fuller, double bass, playing Mozart’s Divertimento in Bb Major, K. 137.