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Airy Entertainments

Airy Entertainments

  • Door Venere Lute Quartet
  • Release 14-6-2011
  • Media-indeling CD
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Airy Entertainments: Program Notes: Amsterdam 1600 By Tom Moore Imagining alternative histories can be an absorbing enterprise. Every so often creative novelists explore how our lives would have been different if history had zigged rather than zagged at a particularly important juncture. Often their novels examine a future in which a different belligerent had won a war, whether World War II, the American Civil War, or the contest between England and the Spanish Armada. As a musician, I wonder "what might have been" if not for the Reformation, and particularly, what was lost in England and the Netherlands, both centers of glorious musical and religious art in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. The polyphony that added grandeur to the Catholic liturgy demanded highly trained singers and composers, and for nearly two centuries, a large percentage of those skilled musicians came out of choir schools in what is now northern France, Belgium, and Holland. The Calvinist Reformed Church, however, called for psalms sung in unison by the congregation. Although many composers used the Geneva Psalter melodies in elaborate contrapuntal settings, these pieces were intended for after-dinner entertainment in the home rather than for use in church services. Cut off from a living liturgical tradition and institutional funding, sacred polyphony in the Netherlands withered away. Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562-1621), known as the "Orpheus of Amsterdam," was arguably the last outstanding figure in this complex and erudite compositional tradition in the Low Countries. Sweelinck himself seems to have remained a Catholic as the political establishment and society around him embraced Calvinism, and he is known to have been in contact with notable Catholic émigrés from England, such as the composers John Bull and Peter Phillips. Despite the upheaval of the Reformation in the Netherlands, Amsterdam was remarkable for it's religious tolerance, welcoming several waves of religious refugees. Jewish conversos, who had practiced their traditions clandestinely after expulsion from Iberia in the 1490s, were able to resume their normal Jewish lives. The difficult position of Catholic musicians in Elizabethan and Jacobean England, exacerbated by the evangelism of Catholic priests, the invasion of the Spanish Armada, and the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, encouraged emigration across the North Sea. Bull and Philips both left England for employment in the Southern Netherlands, which was under Catholic control. Amsterdam also provided a haven for Huguenots from France and Belgium. When Nicolas Vallet assembled his working lute quartet in 1614, the group was populated entirely by refugees: Vallet, a Huguenot, had fled persecution in France; his fellow lutenists, Richard Swift, Robert Tindel, and Eduard Hancock, were recent émigrés from England. Alongside the great sacred polyphony of this period was the practice of ensemble improvisation over familiar tunes and harmonic patterns. Surviving sources for this genre are rare, not necessarily because the practice was uncommon, but because the economics were not conducive to publishing editions of such works, which might just as easily be improvised from existing vocal or instrumental part books. The few surviving sources in tablature specifically scored for lute quartet, Vallet (1614), Adriaenssen (1584), and the Thysius manuscript (1595-1646), all have their origins in the Low Countries at the turn of the seventeenth century. Vallet's quartets were featured in the Venere Lute Quartet's debut recording Sweet Division; Airy Entertainments includes all the Thysius and Adriaenssen music for lute ensemble, completing the Quartet's exploration of this delightful repertoire. Tom Moore, is a musician, critic, and translator based in Rio de Janeiro, writes on early music and performance practice. Sources for this Recording The Thysius manuscript takes it's name from Johan Thijs, a seventeenth-century Dutch lawyer and scholar. A notation in the manuscript suggests that Thijs purchased it from the estate of Adrian Joriszoon Smout, a minister of Amsterdam who was probably the original owner and copyist. Thysius is a monumental treasury of sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century lute music, containing almost 900 pieces, including works from England, France, and Italy as well as the Low Countries; Sweelinck and John Dowland are among the composers represented. It is also the largest single source of music for lute quartet. Because of a mislabeling of the parts in the manuscript (see the following essay), this collection of lute ensemble music has, until recently, been avoided by modern players. The lute quartets in Thysius occupy a middle ground between Pacoloni's trios and Vallet's quartets, introducing a fourth lute (the contratenor), and using lutes of seven courses (Pacoloni writes for six courses, Vallet, ten). The result is a richer sound than Pacoloni without overloading the individual parts, an ingenious balance of sonority and texture. The Thysius quartets are characterized by tunefulness, coherent (though eccentric) polyphony, "walking basses," and imaginative divisions, often in several parts simultaneously. One senses that some of the quartets may have been intended to accompany actual dancing, perhaps in a masque or ball; for instance, in Si vous estes belle, which is in ABA'B' form, fermatas are written into each of the parts at the end of the B section, perhaps signaling to the players that they should pause to accompany a particular gesture in the dancers' choreography before carrying on with divisions. Such pauses have been observed on this recording in an attempt to evoke the spirit of the dance. Emmanuel Adriaenssen was a native of Antwerp. He and his brother established a school for lutenists, running afoul of the musicians' guild in the process. A few of his solo pieces appear in the Thysius manuscript. His lute trios and quartets from Pratum Musicum (1584) are arrangements of vocal works, and may be performed with or without voices. Unlike Vallet's volume of lute quartets, Adriaenssen's collection contains no dance music; his quartets are all intabulations of well-known madrigals and popular songs. Although Sweelinck's keyboard works survive in numerous manuscripts, only his vocal music was published in his lifetime. His psalm settings (Psalm 23) use the French translations of Marot and Bèze, and are based on the melodies of the Geneva Psalter; he also set music from the Catholic liturgy and composed Latin motets (Psalm 130) and French chansons (Susanne un Jour). Sweelinck's keyboard variations (Phillips Pavan, Lachrimae Pavan, All in a Garden Green) reveal his affection for the musical currents that crossed the North Sea along with the rain and refugees. The Art of Intabulation During the sixteenth century, an era before scores were in common use, lute tablature became an efficient medium for the preservation, dissemination, and study of polyphonic music. The art of intabulation - putting instrumental and vocal part music into the lute's 'finger' notation - is an ongoing tradition that allows lute players to converse across the centuries. The Venere Lute Quartet's arrangements are informed by the intabulation techniques described in the treatises of Vincenzo Galilei (late 1560s) and Adrian Le Roy (c. 1571), and by the published lute ensemble music of Giovanni Pacoloni (1564), Giovanni Terzi (1599), Emmanuel Adriaenssen (1584), and Nicolas Vallet (ca. 1616). When intabulating vocal polyphony for lute quartet, as in the Sweelinck psalm settings on this recording, the smallest lute generally carries the soprano line, while the other three lutes capture lines in their optimal ranges: alto, tenor, baritone or bass. In addition, all the players may double the bass, fill out the harmony, and add melodic ornamentation. The vocal model is thereby transformed according to the lutenist's tactile sensibilities. Similar principles apply when arranging keyboard music for lute ensemble, except that the polyphony and voice-leading must be "teased " from the keyboard's idiomatic textures - not difficult in Sweelinck's Phillips and Lachrimae pavans, rooted as they are in the English consort tradition. The Venere Lute Quartet: One of few professional lute ensembles today, the Venere Lute Quartet is named after the Italian Renaissance luthier Vendelio Venere, who (like Antonio Stradivari) was regarded among the finest luthiers of his age. Members of the Quartet are busy lute professionals in four of America's leading early music centers (Boston, New York, Chicago, and Minneapolis) who share a love of ensemble playing, lute scholarship, and audience education. Longtime colleagues, they began playing together while teaching at Lute Society of America Seminars. The exquisitely crafted 'family' of Renaissance lutes on which the Quartet performs are all strung in gut and are modeled after instruments from Vendelio Venere's workshop by modern luthiers Grant Tomlinson and Andre Perkouhnkov. The set of soprano, alto, tenor, baritone, and bass lutes on this recording is sized according to Pythagorean proportions; that is, in relation to the vibrating string length of the bass lute, the baritone lute, tuned a step higher (9:8), is used in the Thysius and Adriaenssen quartets, and in the Sweelinck vocal pieces; the tenor lute is three quarters as long and tuned a fourth higher (4:3); the alto lute is two thirds as long and tuned a fifth higher (3:2); and the soprano lute, used here in the Sweelinck keyboard transcriptions, is half as long and tuned an octave higher (2:1). Instrument makers and musicians of the Renaissance were highly influenced by the theoretical and philosophical ideas attributed to Pythagoras, such as the relation of pitch to the length of a vibrating string and the belief that the 'symphony' of sounding numbers in music expressed the orderly workings of the universe. Indeed, for many humanists of the Renaissance, the harmony of the universe was most clearly revealed in the well-tuned, well-played strings of the lute. The Quartet performs a wide range of Renaissance and Baroque music, and is actively adding to the surviving lute ensemble repertoire with it's own arrangements. Venere's mission provides opportunities for composers to explore the unique sound of the lute ensemble, and editions of the Quartet's arrangements encourage student, amateur, and professional lutenists to keep this tradition alive.

Details

Titel: Airy Entertainments
Releasedatum: 14-6-2011
Label: CD Baby
Media-indeling: CD
UPC: 884501545341
Objectnummer: 155382X