elegance - masterpieces of the renaissance and baroque
If I asked you what ‘Renaissance’ meant, I suspect many of you would either know or be able to guess it means rebirth. But what exactly was reborn after so many centuries of medieval culture?
It started around 1400, with poetry and art and then architecture emerging to create a new world. Artists looked to the classicism of Ancient Greece and Rome to create order out of chaos, to replace the perceived messiness of mediaeval times with clean lines and works that were attractive to the human eye.
Renaissance music took longer to appear, although it was certainly emerging by 1500. The change started with composers such as Dufay, Ockeghem and Josquin des Pres, who bridged the late medieval period and led us firmly into a new musical idiom, aiming to please the ear.
Harmony, graceful melodic lines, all contributed to an Age of Elegance.
Born in 1500, Cristobal Morales was a notable composer in this new style. Specialising in sacred music, he is recognised as the most influential Spanish composer of the early Renaissance. In Per Tuam Crucem, lyrical and melismatic vocal lines overlap and intersect into exquisite harmonies.
By your cross, save us, O Christ our Redeemer,
Who by dying hast destroyed our death,
and hast restored our life by being resurrected.
Have mercy on us, kindly Jesus,
you who mercifully suffered on the cross and gave your life for us.
Leaving the Spanish church, we travel north to the chambers of England and France. During the 16th century, madrigals became one of the most popular forms of secular music, along with love-songs, often accompanied by the lute. Claudin de Sermisy published the delightful Tant que vivray in 1527:
While I flourish as a youth,
I will serve Love, the powerful God,
In deeds, in words, in song, in dance.
For some time I have languished,
But now I am rejoicing
Because I have the love of a fair woman.
She is allied to me, she is my betrothed,
Her heart is mine, mine is hers.
Away with sadness, live in joy,
Because love is so good.
When I want to honour and praise her
When I want to adorn her name with poetry,
When I see her and meet with her often,
The envious can only murmur,
But our love will not be less enduring
As long as the wind blows.
For in spite of envy, all my life
I will love her and sing of her.
She is the first, she is the last
That I have loved and will love.
In the late 16th century, English composer John Dowland became renowned for his madrigals and lutesongs. We start a bracket of music by Dowland with Woeful heart with grief oppressed, one of several English love songs arranged for four-part choir by John T Pope.
Woeful heart with grief oppressed
since my fortunes most distressed,
from my Joys hath me removed,
Follow those sweet eyes adored,
those sweet eyes wherein are stored,
all my pleasures best beloved.
Fly my breast, leave me forsaken,
Wherein Grief his seat hath taken,
All his arrows through me darting,
Thou mayest live by her Sun shining,
I shall suffer no more pining,
By thy loss, than by her parting.
In 1596, Dowland wrote his instrumental Lachrimae antiquae novae, performed here by the Lyrebyrd recorder consort. By 1600, Dowland had recreated his already famous Lachrimae as the lute-song Flow my tears, possibly the best known of all his songs.
Flow, my tears, fall from your springs!
Exiled for ever, let me mourn;
Where night's black bird her sad infamy sings,
There let me live forlorn.
Down vain lights, shine you no more!
No nights are dark enough for those
That in despair their lost fortunes deplore.
Light doth but shame disclose.
Never may my woes be relieved,
Since pity is fled;
And tears and sighs and groans my weary days
Of all joys have deprived.
From the highest spire of contentment
My fortune is thrown;
And fear and grief and pain for my deserts
Are my hopes, since hope is gone.
Hark! you shadows that in darkness dwell,
Learn to contemn light
Happy, happy they that in hell
Feel not the world's despite.
These three Dowland works are then followed by another great instrumental composer of the time, Anthony Holborne, whose Pavans, Galliards, Almains and other short Aeirs, both grave and light, in five parts, for Viols, Violins, or other Musicall Winde Instruments was published in 1599. Today, Lyrebyrd’s recorder consort perform the playful In peascod time.
Another well-known English madrigalist was Robert Jones, whose Elizabethan love song Go to bed, sweet muse was first published in 1605.
Go to bed, sweet muse, take thy rest;
Let not thy soul be so oppressed:
Though she deny thee, She doth but try thee,
Whether thy mind will ever prove unkind,
O Love is but a bitter sweet jest.
Muse not upon her smiling looks,
Think that they are but baited hooks:
Love is a fancy, Love is a frenzy,
Let not a toy then breed thee such annoy;
But leave to look upon such fond books.
Learn to forget such idle toys,
Fitter for youths and youthful boys:
Let not one sweet smile,
Thy true love beguile,
Let not a frown forever cast thee down;
Then sleep, and go to bed in these joys.
We now move to Italy and three choruses from Andrea Gabrieli’s rarely-performed Edipo tiranno. Written in 1585 (the year of his death), the work was designed to accompany a performance of Oedipus Rex by Ancient Greek writer Sophocles.
Wretched human child, albeit this applies to everyone as long as you live(d),
as nothing I regard (respect) you in as much as this man never lived happily,
how much more could we hope for? and all his desires I pay the price for,
and gladly that if we’re lucky, in the end, no vultures,
the raging storms don’t drown us then to look at your example, miserable Oedipus
and thinking about the various uncertain states of your fate
Among the dead men I do not hold myself very blessed
But compared with you I am in the greatest peaks of happiness
By each held in full blessed rays of light
Then back to France for the final piece in our first half. Cipriano de Rore was renowned for his complex madrigals. Mon petit cueur is a lovely example, with a profound weight reminiscent of his sacred works, yet also very much a love song:
My little heart is not mine
It is yours, my sweet friend
But one thing I beg of you
Is your love - Keep it for me.
Rarely heard by modern audiences, the crumhorn was at its most popular during the Renaissance, particularly in Germany. Lyrebyrd’s mixed consort of crumhorns and cornemuses will play a short fanfare that might have been heard to welcome in a Renaissance feast. Caro Ortalano (Dear Ortalano) was written by the late-16th -century Italian composer Giorgio Mainerio.
We then move into the 17th century, to the work of Heinrich Schütz. Bridging the gap between Renaissance and early Baroque, Schütz brought the Italian style to Germany. His joyful Cantate Domino includes sprightly flowing lines creating satisfying counterpoint.
O sing unto the Lord a new song:
let the congregation of saints praise him.
Let Israel rejoice in him that made him:
and let the children of Sion be joyful in their King.
Let them praise his Name in the dance:
let them sing praises unto him with tabret and harp.
For the Lord hath pleasure in his people:
and helpeth the meek-hearted.
Let the saints be joyful with glory:
let them rejoice in their beds.
Let the praises of God be in their mouth:
and a two-edged sword in their hands;
To be avenged of the heathen:
and to rebuke the people;
To bind their kings in chains:
and their nobles with links of iron.
That they may be avenged of them,
as it is written:
Such honour have all his saints.
We then return to Italy, and the late 17th century composer Maria Xaveria Perucona. A nun of aristocratic birth, Perucona published only one book of cantatas, which included the engaging Cessata tympana.
Stop the timbrels, stop the battles,
let the instruments triumph. Alleluia.
Sound all the trumpets, O stars, sing beautifully,
Because the torch of the world has risen,
the guide of heaven who loves us
Oh how sweet, my Jesus, to see your glorious triumphs of love.
May all mortals rejoice while you are free to protect your pains in so much happiness
Unlock the gates of your empire in so much joy.
O most famous, O most noble inhabitants of heaven,
Show and shout for the scattering flowers,
the scents to be translated,
Sing to the glory that has risen the true life that loved us. Alleluia.
Also in the second half of the 17th century, Henry Purcell developed his own form of English Baroque. We perform two contrasting works by Purcell – first one of his most famous songs arranged for choir: If music be the food of love.
If music be the food of love,
sing on till I am fill'd with joy;
for then my list'ning soul you move
with pleasures that can never cloy,
your eyes, your mien, your tongue declare
that you are music ev'rywhere.
Pleasures invade both eye and ear,
so fierce the transports are, they wound,
and all my senses feasted are,
tho' yet the treat is only sound.
Sure I must perish by our charms,
unless you save me in your arms.
We then perform a rarely-heard sacred work by Purcell: Early, O Lord, my fainting soul from c1680.
Early, O Lord, my fainting soul
Thy mercy does implore;
No traveller in desert lands
Can thirst for water more.
I long to appear as I was wont,
Within thy holy place,
Thy pow'r and glory to behold,
And to partake thy grace.
For life itself without thy love
No relish can afford;
No other joys can equal this:
To serve and praise the Lord.
I'll therefore make my pray'rs to thee,
And bless thee whilst I live;
This, like the choicest dainties,
will Both food and pleasure give.
When others sleep, my wakeful thoughts
Present thee to my mind;
And in the night I think how good
My God has been and kind.
Since thou alone hast been my help,
To thee alone I fly;
And on thy watchful providence
With cheerfulness rely.
Dangers, whilst thou art near to me,
Do threaten me in vain,
When I keep close to God, his care
And pow'r will me sustain.
We finish today’s concert with a charming recorder duet by Italian Baroque composer Biagio Marini – Sonata per doi Flautini – and then travel to the courts of late-17th -century France for the majestic celebratory song Salve puerule by Marc Antoine Charpentier.
Hail, little boy,
Hail, little tender one,
O little son, how good you are.
You give up the heaven,
You are born in the world
So that you may make yourself like us wretched mortals.
O supreme goodness!
Today lofty deity becomes lowly humanity.
The eternal one is born,
The immeasurable one is caught
And he is concealed beneath the guise of guilt.
O virgin who bears a child,
May thy blessed womb produce a son by the help of God.
Rejoice, flower of virgins,
Rejoice, hope of mankind
O spring which washes away an abundance of sin.
Programme notes by Anna and Kenneth Pope, March 2022
Performance: March 5 and 6 2022
Adelaide Fringe Festival
St John's Anglican Church, Halifax Street, Adelaide
Per tuam crucem Cristobal de Morales (1500?–1553)
Tant que vivray Claudin Sermisy (1490?–1562)
Woefull heart with grief oppressed John Dowland (1563–1626) arr. JT Pope
Lachrimae antiquae novae John Dowland (1563–1626) Lyrebyrd recorder consort
Flow my tears John Dowland (1563–1626) Anna Pope, Tim Kersten, Eleanor Pope
In peascod time Anthony Holborne (1545?–1602) Lyrebyrd recorder consort
Go to bed sweet must Robert Jones (1577?–1617) arr. JT Pope
Edipo tiranno Andrea Gabrieli (1533–1585)
Mon petit cueur Cipriano de Rore (1515?6–1565)
Caro Ortalano Giorgio Mainerio (1530–1582) Lyrebyrd cornsacks
Cantate Domino Heinrich Schütz (1585–1672)
Cessate tympana Maria Xaviera Peruchona (1652?–1709) Anna Pope, Rosemary Byron-Scott, Rachel Sag, Kenneth Pope, Penny Dally, Melinda Pike, Nick Coxhill, Tim Kersten, Eleanor Pope
If music be the food of love Henry Purcell (1659–1695)
Early, O Lord, my fainting soul Henry Purcell (1659–1695) Anna Pope, Carolyn Wilkins, Melinda Pike, Nick Coxhill
Sonata per doi Flautini Biagio Marini (1594-1663) Rachel Sag, Garth Rowe, Tim Kersten, Meg Pope
Salve puerule Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1643-1704) Rachel Sag, Melinda Pike, Carolyn Wilkins, Garth Rowe, Tim Kersten, Tim Muecke, Eleanor Pope, Meg Pope