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8.554064 - Early Music (The Glory of)

The Glory of Early Music

Early Music has become a blanket term to cover a multiplicity of musical forms, ranging from the primitive to the sophistication of the Renaissance and the complexities of the Baroque, even, at times, extending to anything very much earlier than the present day. The present collection of short instrumental pieces consists largely of music written or conceived before the Baroque, a period generally dated, with simplifying convenience, to the year 1600. In the centuries covered, there was little distinction made between music for voices and music for instruments. While dances would be considered proper only to instruments, other music might be considered and, in the sixteenth century published, as apt for either one or the other, or, indeed, for a mixture of the two.

One of the most popular composers of earlier music must be the versatile and long-lived Anon. Inevitably some music must lack a named composer. This is more obviously the case with traditional music, like the Turkish Düdül and Macedonian Nevestinko oro, or the Spanish cowherd's Guardame las vacas, the subject of so many sets of lute and keyboard variations in sixteenth century Spain. Anonymous compositions here include an early example of a French Estampie, dated to the thirteenth century, surviving in a royal manuscript from that period, and examples of the Saltarello, a little hop, a dance included in similar collections, together with the well known Lamento di Tristano.

The music of the fifteenth century French composer Guillaume Dufay, canon at Cambrai Cathedral, is represented by an instrumental version of his ballade J’ay mis mon cuer (‘I put my heart’). The Netherlands composer Jacob Obrecht belongs to the next generation, although included in about 1475 with Dufay in a short list of composers of contemporary distinction. Largely occupied with church music, like Dufay and other composers of the period, he also wrote secular music, including the present Stat ein meskin (‘A maiden stood’).

A slightly younger contemporary and compatriot of Obrecht, Arnold von Bruck was a chorister in the chapel of Charles V, and continued in the service of the Habsburg family, with all its international connections, principally at the court of Ferdinand I. Holder of various church benefices, Arnold von Bruck wrote sacred and secular music, the latter including So trinken wir aIle (‘So drink we all’) and Es ging ein Landsknecht (‘There went a knight’), five-part and four-part songs respectively, which, in the custom of the time, allow instrumental performance.

Other composers of Obrecht's generation include Heinrich Finck, Kapellmeister to Ferdinand I in Vienna for the last six months of his life, in 1527, after a career that had taken him principally to Poland in the service of three Polish kings. Heinrich Isaac served as court composer to the Emperor Maximilian I and spent some years in Florence as cathedral organist in the service of Lorenzo de' Medici. Ludwig Senfl, a native of Zürich, was a pupil of Isaac and also served as court composer to the Emperor Maximilian, succeeding Isaac in that position.

Italy, which attracted composers and musicians from Northern Europe to its princely courts and papal chapel particularly in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, is represented in the present collection by a Balletto by the Brescian lutenist and composer Vincenzo Capirola and by a Ricercar from the lutenist Francesco Canova da Milano, a musician who spent much of his life in the papal service or in the service of various princes of the Church.

The English composer Robert Morton, who died in 1476 or later, bridges the gap between England and the continent, spending his career largely in the service of the Dukes of Burgundy and it has been suggested that his rondeau Le sauvenir marks a connection with the Bouton family, prominent at the court. This was among his most popular works and survives in fourteen different contemporary sources.

The great age of English music came rather later. While the so-called Mulliner Book, compiled by Thomas Mulliner in the middle of the sixteenth century, is a collection of music for keyboard, it was rather the generation of William Byrd, a contemporary of Shakespeare, that brought musical distinction again to the country. A versatile composer, Byrd is represented by a Pavan and a Galliard, fashionable dances of the time, while music of greater complexity comes from Orlando Gibbons, a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal under King James I. Similar traditions are continued by Thomas Tomkins, whose career as a cathedral organist was cut short by the defeat of the King in the Civil War and the subsequent rule of Oliver Cromwell. John Jenkins happily survived this partial political paralysis of English musical life, returning as theorbo player in the King's Musick on the restoration of the monarchy in 1660.

The present collection brings together music of the Middle Ages and music of the so-called Renaissance, a period that, musically speaking, may be taken to extend from 1453, the Fall of Constantinople, to about 1600, an inevitably arbitrary dating. The changes that take place in instrumental music during the period covered are considerable. While medieval practice had preferred to distinguish between melodic lines in polyphonic performance, by the sixteenth century families of instruments had been developed, the consort of viols or of recorders, groups that produced a blended sound, rather than one of great contrasts. Similarly the structure of polyphonic music had changed, with each part now similar in character to the other, rather than sharply differentiated. While these distinctions may apply to polyphonic music of any contrapuntal pretentious, dance music called for something rather different, its rhythm and dominant melody of principal importance. The Glory of Early Music includes examples of music played on a variety of instruments, loud and soft, for the open air or for domestic or court use.

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