Renaissance Songs of Love and War
Réveillez vous, Boulognois Clément Janequin (ca. 1485–1558)
Quam pulchra es Claudio Monteverdi (1567–1643)
Tota pulchra es Orlando di Lasso (1532–1594)
Surge, propera amica mea Johannes de Lymburgia (fl. 1408–1430)
Ego flos campi Alonso Lobo (1555–1617)
Plaisir say plus Nicolas Gombert (ca. 1495ca. 1560)
Porta negli occhi Costanzo Festa (ca. 1485/1490–1545)
Amor tante virtu Philippe Verdelot (1480/1485–ca. 1430/1532?)
La guerre Janequin
Una donna l’altrier fissa mirai Festa
“Io v’amo, anima mia” Luzzasco Luzzaschi (ca. 1545–1607)
Madonna, il Vostro petto è tutto ghiaccio Alessandro Striggio (ca. 1536/1537–1592)
Missa L’homme armé: Sanctus Antoine Brumel (ca. 1460–1512/1513)
Missa L’homme armé: Agnus Dei Johannes Tinctoris (ca. 1435–1511)
Ego rosa saron Gioseffo Zarlino (1517–1590)
Shannon Canavin, soprano
Gerrod Pagenkopf, countertenor
Matthew Anderson & Jason McStoots, tenor
Ulysses Thomas, bass-baritone
Friday, November 7, 2014 at 8pm
First Lutheran Church of Boston, 299 Berkeley Street, Boston
Notes on the Program
Inspiration for concert programs comes from many places. A single piece, composer, or locale may provide the basis for an entire program, or an idea may spring from a work of art or literature. Tonight’s program was inspired by a trip to the Museum of Fine Arts last spring, as my daughter and I perused the Art of the Americas collection, filled with soldiers and armor. From that initial spark comes tonight’s beautiful and exciting collection of songs of love and war.
Among the great composers of his age, Clément Janequin looms as something of a sport, a master storyteller, an audacious joker, a lover of the bawdy anecdote, an imperishable tone poet, a keen observer who turned street cries to music through the medium of the chanson. While his contemporaries practiced flowing contrapuntal austerities and exquisite charm, Janequin's onomatopoeic glees are alive with a sensation of the actual that lends him a close kinship to his great contemporary, François Rabelais, and has kept his music in performance from his time to now.
The Second Siege of Boulogne was an engagement late in the Italian War of 1542–1546; a First Siege took place in 1492 led by Henri VII and took the lightly defended lower town. Fifty years later as allies of the Holy Roman Emperor in his war against the French, the English returned to Boulogne led by the son, Henry VIII. The Dauphin's army descended on Montreuil, forcing the Duke of Norfolk to raise the siege; Henry VIII himself left for England at the end of September 1544, ordering the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk to defend Boulogne. The two Dukes quickly proceeded to disobey this order: leaving some 4,000 men to defend the captured city, they withdrew the rest of the English army to Calais. The English army, outnumbered, was now trapped in Calais; the Dauphin, left unopposed, concentrated his efforts on investing Boulogne. On October 9, a French assault nearly captured the city, but was beaten back when the troops prematurely turned to looting.
Little agreement exists concerning the origin and date of composition of the Song of Songs (i.e., the most excellent song), which bears an attribution to King Solomon in the first line of its text. The Song is a collection of lyrics totaling fewer than two hundred verses that likely survived in an ancient oral tradition. Scholars have noted that the style of poetry displays a kinship with a genre of love lyrics found in ancient Egyptian collections. Extravagant imagery appealing to the senses of smell, taste, and touch, along with detailed descriptions of the male and female body and stylized terms of endearment (dove, sister, king) link the Song to other ancient Near Eastern cultures. The Song was probably codified into its final canonical form around 450–400 BCE. The acceptance of this group of sensual love lyrics into the Jewish canon has resulted in various attempts to explain its meaning in religious terms. Christianity explained the Song as an allegory, often linking it with God’s love for humanity in general and the Virgin Mary in particular. As the cult of the Virgin expanded during the Middle Ages, parts of the Song were sung at various Marian feasts. In the case of the feast of the Assumption, for example, it serves as the central Biblical text, since Mary’s Assumption into heaven is not described in the Bible.
Claudio Monteverdi was an Italian composer, gambist, and singer. Monteverdi's work, often regarded as revolutionary, marked the transition from the Renaissance style of music to that of the Baroque period. He developed two individual styles of composition: the heritage of Renaissance polyphony and the new basso continuo technique of the Baroque. Monteverdi wrote one of the earliest operas, L'Orfeo, an groundbreaking work that is still regularly performed. He was recognized as an innovative composer and enjoyed considerable fame in his lifetime.
Quam pulchra es, from Sacrae cantiunculae, does not use the antiphon text used variously for feasts of the Virgin Mary, but the work is certainly appropriate to a Marian Feast. The words are selected from the Song of Songs 7:6 (Quam pulchra es et quem…); 4:1 (Quam pulchra es amica mea…); 2:10 (Columba mea formosa…); 5:2 (Dilecta mea); and 2:14 (Vox enim tua…). The Roman antiphon chant is paraphrased in the Cantus part. Monteverdi’s work is based on a setting of the same text by Costanza Festa, first published in a four-voiced version in 1521.
Orlando di Lasso was a dynamic, cosmopolitan, and versatile Flemish composer who was influenced by styles of the French, Venetians, Germans, and others, though especially the Italians. He is primarily known for his motets, but he produced more than 2,000 works of various forms. In his later years, Lasso concentrated on sacred forms of music, foregoing the frivolous works of his youth, including his inspired madrigals. The text of Tota pulchra es consists of verses drawn from chapters 2 and 4 of the Song of Songs. Several of these verses appear separately or combined in offices of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Tridentine liturgy, but this specific combination seems not to be found there. What sets Lasso’s settings of the Song of Songs apart from those by composers such as Palestrina is his way of expressing the emotion of the text, where individual words are of the highest importance and can trigger an immediate musical effect, but more than this, the overt character of the text is clear from the outset.
By the standards of his day Johannes de Lymburgia was a prolific composer: 46 pieces survive, all settings of sacred Latin texts. Yet with only one exception his works are confined to a single manuscript, which may suggest that his music did not achieve a wide circulation. Little is known about the composer’s life. He was probably a native of Limburg in present-day Belgium and may have received his early musical training at Liege. It is likely that he is to be identified with the Johannes de Lymburgia who was a cantor at the cathedral of Vicenza in 1431. A connection with Vicenza is certainly suggested by the motet Martires dei incliiti in honor of the patron saints of that city, and also by the supposed provenance of the manuscript in which his works are found, generally considered to have been compiled at Vicenza during the third or fourth decade of the fifteenth century. Bright in character, Surge, propera amica mea combines imitation with homophony, with relatively simple motivic content and short phrases, which is typical of music from this period using the fifth mode (Lydian).
During the entire Baroque period, Alonso Lobo's music was highly regarded in Portugal, Mexico, and Spain. Some of his work, such as a six-voice Lamentations for Holy Saturday, earned a popularity that far outlasted his life. Lobo's known styles range from a typically Spanish (and beautiful) blending of the Palestrinian idiom with a lively, erudite profundity to the majestic polychoral manner of Tomás Luis de Victoria. Victoria, who has kept his reputation as the greatest Spanish composer of the time, considered Lobo his equal. Found in a unique source at Lerma, Ego flos campi has been restored with text missing from the original.
Born in the town of La Gorgue, in southern Flanders, Nicolas Gombert was one of the most famous and influential composers between Josquin Desprez and Palestrina, inheriting his style of imitation directly from these predecessors and bringing it to such a highly developed and flexible level that it would pervade music for the next two hundred years. Prolific in both sacred and secular music, Gombert composed some 75 chansons for three to eight voices. These secular works resemble his sacred works in style, and were probably sung by the same highly trained chapel sings, but within the context of the court. Only occasionally does Gombert’s secular style approach that other popular Parisian chanson. Although the chansons present a strikingly melodious aspect of Gombert’s music, it is never far from the expressive density of motive that results from his technique of pervading imitation.
The importance of Costanzo Festa in the early history of the Italian madrigal has long been recognized. Although in no way as prolific as either Verdlot or Arcadelt, Festa’s madrigals, particularly those for three and four voices, were staples in the publishing world of the 1530s and 1540s. Alfred Einstein has well summed it up in his appraisal that Festa is the early master of the three-voiced madrigal. In the opinion of his contemporaries, this particular category seem to have been his major contribution, if we may judge from the number of prints presenting his works in this form. The appearance between 1543 and 1565 of six editions of approximately the same collection for three voices, as well as the prominent place of Festa’s name on the title-pages of other prints for three and four voices, emphasizes the importance of his place in the estimation of his time for these works.
Philippe Verdelot also played a major role in the early development of the Italian madrigal. But despite his importance, we know surprisingly little about his life and career. He was born in France, and from 1523 to 1527 he served as maestro di capella at the cathedral and the baptistery in Florence. He was already in Florence as early as 1521, but his precise whereabouts during prior years are unknown; Venice, Rome, and Florence are likely candidates. Even the date of his death is a matter of speculation: he may have died during the siege of Florence in 1529–30, when one-quarter of the population perished. Another possibility is that he fled Florence after the return of the Medici and lived in Venice during the 1530s, though no evidence, either from his music or from documents, indicates that he was still alive after 1530. Most of Verdelot’s madrigals became accessible to a wider audience during the 1530s through a series of publications that in essence constituted a collected edition.
One of Janequin's most remarkable, effective, and popular chansons, La guerre was composed to celebrate Francis I's victory over the Swiss at the Battle of Marignan in 1515. Its extraordinary presence in the repertory makes it a necessary point of orientation for any study of music and arms, for it defined the musical style of war for sixteenth-century audiences. Pierre Attaingnant published Janequin’s four-voice setting in 1528; the following year he published an intabulation in his “very brief and easy” lute tutor, and his widow issued a four-part Pavanne de la guerre with three gaillardes in 1556. By then Nicolas du Chemin had already published a new version of the polyphonic chanson with a fifth voice that had been added by Philippe Verdelot (1555), intabulations abounded, and it had become a hit as a dance tune. Just as quickly, Janequin worked the song into a Missa La bataille, which was published by Jacques Moderne in Lyons in 1532, and it was the basis of several other mass settings by composers such as Francisco Guerrero and Juan Esquivel. Although Marignan brought no military gains, the song it inspired became a monument to the king’s strength of arms. Ultimately, it developed into a universal emblem of victory in war, and battle masses became so popular that they attracted the attention of Tridentine reformers, who worried that such music “refresh[ed] the ear more than the mind and seem[ed] to incite lasciviousness rather than religion.”
La guerre’s wonderfully noisy evocation of clanking armor, drum tattoos, rim-shots, trumpet fanfares, calls to arms, harquebus fire, and marching troops was strikingly original, particularly given the general resistance of the so-called Parisian chanson to any sort of text illustration in music. The song dramatizes the actual progress of the battle, beginning with the assault of the advance guard—Francis I rode at its center—and, in the second part, narrating the attack of the main army or bataille, with its artillery and infantry battalions that turned the tide at Marignan and brought the victory that returns the song to the more lyric strains typical of the Parisian chanson at its end. For the battle, Janequin matched the text’s bullet commands, short lines, and quickly reiterated rhymes (“courage prenez après suyvez, frapez, ruez”) with much actual military music. Fusae set long strings of nonsense syllables (“fan frere le le fan fan fan feyne”) in rhythms that could have been lifted directly from the tremendous side drums that issued infantry commands in the field, so closely do they resemble the military drumming recorded by Thoinot Arbeau in Orchésographie (1589) in both rhythm and the vocal syllables with which Arbeau underlays the patterns. So accurately did Janequin render the sounds of war that La guerre was said to quicken fury in male listeners. In one account, Noël Du Fail related that “when, before the great Francis, one sang the war song Janequin wrote for the victory that Francis had had over the Swiss, there was not a man who did not look to see if his sword was safe in its scabbard and who did not stand on his toes to look braver and taller.” La guerre created a stile concitato for composers of art music a century before Claudio Monteverdi claimed to have invented it, and just as Monteverdi would claim for his Combattimento di Tancredi et Clorinda, Du Fail attributed to Janequin’s chanson the ability to imitate not just the action of battle, but the passions of those who fought.
A pupil of Cipriano di Rore in Ferrara, Luzzasco Luzzaschi was composer and organist for the Este family in Ferrara and served at the court chapel there from 1567, becoming organist by 1576 and also being employed at the Accademia della Morte and (possibly) the cathedral. Little of his published keyboard output of toccatas and other forms survive, but his influence was substantial, as witnessed by his position as Girolamo Frescobaldi's teacher. The court in Ferrara was renowned for its virtuoso female singers, and Luzzaschi's music exploits this potential to the fullest, and he was among the first composers to write out detailed vocal ornaments. “Io v’amo, anima mia” is one of the most brilliant and most characteristic of Luzzaschi’s late style. As in most pieces characteristic of Luzzaschi’s late style, the expressive effects are textural, not harmonic; the thin textures and the refusal of any cadential attachment strongly project the fragility, timidity, and vulnerability of the lyric voice in this poem.
Alessandro Striggio was born in Mantua, evidently to an aristocratic family. Records of his early life are sparse, but he must have gone to Florence as a young man. He began working for Cosimo de' Medici in 1559 as a musician and in 1560 he visited Venice, producing two books of madrigals in response to the musical styles he encountered there. In the 1570s he continued to work for the Medici, but there is some evidence he began to travel away from Florence. During the 1580s he began an association with the Este court in Ferrara, one of Italy's avant-garde centers of musical composition. Striggio composed music in the progressive madrigal style he heard there, evidently commissioned by the Medici; this music unfortunately is lost. In 1586 Striggio moved to Mantua where he remained for the rest of his life, although he retained a close association with the Medici, composing music for them at least as late as 1589. Striggio was highly influential, as can be seen by the wide distribution of his music in Europe in the late sixteenth century. His influence was especially large in England; this may have been due in part to a visit in 1567, and also may have been related to the activities of Alfonso Ferrabosco, the Italian madrigalist who was resident in England for most of his life, and helped popularize the Italian style there.
After the first mass that used a French secular song titled L’homme armé appeared in the middle of the fifteenth century, the practice of using this tune became a tradition in Renaissance polyphony. Although modern compositions using L’homme armé have been produced, the bulk of the forty-some masses that use the tenor were primarily composed from around 1450 to the end of the seventeenth century by most of the greatest composers from Dufay to Palestrina, including Busnois, Obrecht, Brumel, Tinctoris, Mouton, Carver, Regis, da Silva, Morales, and Carissimi. L’homme armé started as a monophonic melody that was likely sung by soldiers marching to battle around the tenth century. The composer of the original monophonic melody is unknown; it may have been written at the Burgundian court soon after the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, inspired by the ruling duke’s plan for a Christian crusade against the Turks. Some believe it arose as a French rallying call towards the end of the Hundred Years War, others that it was a favorite drinking song reworded in the 1450s to suit turbulent times. The song is thought to have been taught by rote, and not notated down until after the masses were composed. The earliest monophonic notation of the song is found in a manuscript in Naples at the Biblioteca Nazionale Vittorio Emanuele III that contains the melody and as well as six anonymous masses based on it. However, because the use of the melody used in these masses and other early masses are so widely different, it is not clear if the notation of the melody is an honest representation of the melody’s original form. The L’homme armé tune describes a man that is armed is a man who is to be feared. The man calls for all people to arm themselves and join the fight with the phrase “To the assault!” It then repeats the phrase about the armed man who should be feared.
Antoine Brumel may have been the only major Franco-Flemish polyphonist of the Josquin generation to be born within France proper, perhaps near Chartres. He held a master's position in Geneva from 1486, and left in 1492 under mysterious circumstances. He is mentioned again at Laon in 1497, and was placed in charge of the children at Notre Dame in 1498, where he soon resigned. In 1501, he was in Chambéry, and finally took the prestigious appointment at Ferrara in 1506, after a year of negotiations. The Ferrara chapel was disbanded in 1510, and nothing concrete about Brumel is known afterward. His style progresses from an irregular approach to rhythm in overlapping parts to more emphasis on strongly declamatory passages. His increasingly chordal style is often taken to reflect Italianate tendencies, a trait he shares with Weerbecke. A comparison with the n umerious settings of L’homme armé by his contemporaries shows that Brumel treats it with complete flexibility. In his tenor he avoids schematic manipulations, such as inversions, transpositions, and canonic treatments, giving it an extremely free and florid elaboration of the original. While parts of the melody are heard in all four parts, it is primarily carried by the tenor.
To the serious student of musicology, Johannes Tinctoris is well known; few, if any, historians would admit ignorance to his twelve treatises comprising probably the most complete compendium of music theory of the late fifteenth century. Though few in number and perhaps not as significant as his theoretical writings, Tinctoris’s compositions are important products of the period. We know very few documented facts about the life of this famous theorist and composer. He studied law and theology at the Catholic University of Leuven (Louvain), which he left before 1476 to take up a position as chaplain to Ferdinand I, king of Naples. He was a member of the Papal Chapel (1484–1500) and established a public music school in Naples. To Beatrice of Aragon, Ferdinand’s daughter, he dedicated his dictionary, Terminorum musicae diffinitorium (c. 1476; printed c. 1495), which contains 291 definitions in alphabetical order. Tinctoris may have been in Rome in 1492, for he is thought to have written a work for the coronation of Pope Alexander VI in December of that year. It should also be mentioned that the sole source of his Missa L’homme armé rests in the library of the Sistine Chapel in Rome; Klaas van der Heide suggests that Tinctoris may have composed this mass for the festivities at the return of the King Ferrante’s second son, the Duke of Calabria, after his victory over the Turks in the battle of Otranto in 1481, which the Vatican would have overseen. The music of Tinctoris’s Missa L’homme armé is every bit as exhilarating and carefully thought out as his treatises, and presents a considerable challenge for both performer and listener. The voice parts frequently start out with an imitation of the motive from the secular melody, but continue freely thereafter.
Gioseffo Zarlino was without doubt the most highly regarded music theorist of the sixteenth century. Although also a published composer, his present-day reputation rests on his status as a theorist and position as maestro di cappella at the at the basilica of San Marco in Venice. Insofar as Zarlino is known as a composer at all, it is primarily through his self-citation of his compositions in his theory treatise Le istitutioni harmoniche (Venice, 1558). Despite his status as one of the most renowned writers about music from the sixteenth century, information about Zarlino’s life in the years before the publication of his theoretical works and employment at San Marco remains sketchy. He is thought to have been born in 1517 and educated in Chioggia. By April 1540, Zarlino was a priest and from at least 1536—and possibly earlier—until September 1541, he was actively employed at Chioggia Cathedral, first as a singer and then as organist from 1539. He was appointed to serve as the mansionario of the Scuola di San Francesco in 1541. Zarlino’s reasons for leaving Chioggia for Venice are unknown, although it is claimed that he was forced to yield his position as organist by “invidious” persons. Even less is known of Zarlino’s time in Venice; he undertook musical studies with Adrian Willaert, logic and philosophy with Cristofor da Ligname, Greek with Guglielmo Fiammingo, and Hebrew with a nephew of Elia Tesbite.
Zarlino’s studies were brought together in an eight-mode, modally ordered cycle based on the Song of Songs, which he began sometime between 1544 and 1549. The work was an extraordinary undertaking: most notably, it appears to be the first polyphonic cycle setting texts from the Song of Songs, and it sheds light on important musical, theoretical, and theological questions central to our understanding of sacred music in Venice in the 1540s.
-- Shannon Canavin