Early Music (The Glory of) (Christopher Wilson/ Ensemble Villanella/ Joseph Payne/ Laurence Cummings/ Rose Consort of Viols/ Shirley Rumsey/ Timothy Roberts/ Timothy Roberts/ Unicorn Ensemble) (Naxos: 8.554064)
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The Glory of EarlyMusic
Early Music has becomea blanket term to cover a multiplicity of musical forms, ranging from theprimitive to the sophistication of the Renaissance and the complexities of theBaroque, even, at times, extending to anything very much earlier than thepresent day. The present collection of short instrumental pieces consistslargely of music written or conceived before the Baroque, a period generallydated, with simplifying convenience, to the year 1600. In the centuriescovered, there was little distinction made between music for voices and musicfor instruments. While dances would be considered proper only to instruments,other music might be considered and, in the sixteenth century published, as aptfor either one or the other, or, indeed, for a mixture of the two.
One of the mostpopular composers of earlier music must be the versatile and long-lived Anon.
Inevitably some music must lack a named composer. This is more obviously thecase with traditional music, like the Turkish D??d??l and Macedonian Nevestinkooro, or the Spanish cowherd's Guardame las vacas, the subject of somany sets of lute and keyboard variations in sixteenth century Spain. Anonymouscompositions here include an early example of a French Estampie, datedto the thirteenth century, surviving in a royal manuscript from that period,and examples of the Saltarello, a little hop, a dance included insimilar collections, together with the well known Lamento di Tristano.
The music of thefifteenth century French composer Guillaume Dufay, canon at Cambrai Cathedral,is represented by an instrumental version of his ballade J'ay mis mon cuer ('Iput my heart'). The Netherlands composer Jacob Obrecht belongs to the nextgeneration, although included in about 1475 with Dufay in a short list ofcomposers of contemporary distinction. Largely occupied with church music, likeDufay and other composers of the period, he also wrote secular music, includingthe present Stat ein meskin ('A maiden stood').
A slightly youngercontemporary and compatriot of Obrecht, Arnold von Bruck was a chorister in thechapel of Charles V, and continued in the service of the Habsburg family, withall its international connections, principally at the court of Ferdinand I.
Holder of various church benefices, Arnold von Bruck wrote sacred and secularmusic, the latter including So trinken wir aIle ('So drink we all') and Es
ging ein Landsknecht ('There went a knight'), five-part and four-partsongs respectively, which, in the custom of the time, allow instrumentalperformance.
Other composers ofObrecht's generation include Heinrich Finck, Kapellmeister to Ferdinand I inVienna for the last six months of his life, in 1527, after a career that hadtaken him principally to Poland in the service of three Polish kings. HeinrichIsaac served as court composer to the Emperor Maximilian I and spent some yearsin Florence as cathedral organist in the service of Lorenzo de' Medici. LudwigSenfl, a native of Z??rich, was a pupil of Isaac and also served as court composerto the Emperor Maximilian, succeeding Isaac in that position.
Italy, which attractedcomposers and musicians from Northern Europe to its princely courts and papalchapel particularly in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, is represented inthe present collection by a Balletto by the Brescian lutenist andcomposer Vincenzo Capirola and by a Ricercar from the lutenist FrancescoCanova da Milano, a musician who spent much of his life in the papal service orin the service of various princes of the Church.
The English composerRobert Morton, who died in 1476 or later, bridges the gap between England andthe continent, spending his career largely in the service of the Dukes ofBurgundy and it has been suggested that his rondeau Le sauvenir marks aconnection with the Bouton family, prominent at the court. This was among hismost popular works and survives in fourteen different contemporary sources.
The great age ofEnglish music came rather later. While the so-called Mulliner Book, compiledby Thomas Mulliner in the middle of the sixteenth century, is a collection ofmusic for keyboard, it was rather the generation of William Byrd, acontemporary of Shakespeare, that brought musical distinction again to thecountry. A versatile composer, Byrd is represented by a Pavan and a Galliard,fashionable dances of the time, while music of greater complexity comesfrom Orlando Gibbons, a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal under King James I.
Similar traditions are continued by Thomas Tomkins, whose career as a cathedralorganist was cut short by the defeat of the King in the Civil War and thesubsequent rule of Oliver Cromwell. John Jenkins happily survived this partialpolitical paralysis of English musical life, returning as theorbo player in theKing's Musick on the restoration of the monarchy in 1660.
The present collectionbrings together music of the Middle Ages and music of the so-calledRenaissance, a period that, musically speaking, may be taken to extend from1453, the Fall of Constantinople, to about 1600, an inevitably arbitrarydating. The changes that take place in instrumental music during the periodcovered are considerable. While medieval practice had preferred to distinguishbetween melodic lines in polyphonic performance, by the sixteenth century familiesof instruments had been developed, the consort of viols or of recorders, groupsthat produced a blended sound, rather than one of great contrasts. Similarlythe structure of polyphonic music had changed, with each part now similar incharacter to the other, rather than sharply differentiated. While thesedistinctions may apply to polyphonic music of any contrapuntal pretentious,dance music called for something rather different, its rhythm and dominantmelody of principal importance. The Glory of Early Music includesexamples of music played on a variety of instruments, loud and soft, for theopen air or for domestic or court use.