Monday, March 21, 2011

We are going to the Renaissance Society of America conference in Montreal to give a paper on Friday in a session about this young man.

He's Henry, Prince of Wales, first son of James I. He would have been Henry IX, and Charles would not have been king and not got his head chopped off and no Commonwealth and no Restoration with more constrained constitutional monarchy and there might have been a British absolute monarchy like Louis XIV and then there might have been a more emphatic revolution than the Glorious Revolution and Britain would be a republic. But none of that happened because Henry died of typhoid at age 18. Thomas Campion wrote the words and John Coprario the music for a cycle of seven songs about this loss. The songs are addressed to James, his queen Anne, Charles, his sister Elizabeth, her husband Frederick, the most disconsolate Great Britain and the world.

The paper will be about how the song to Anne has her displaying many more symptoms and symbols of what we might call 'clinical' melancholy that James's song. Remember how Elizabeth II was criticized for not being emotional enough when Diana died? Well, she couldn't really; it would be undignified and in fact James himself wrote that the monarch's actions had to be well tempered. Luckily James had Mannerism at his (or at least his court composer's) command. Coprario quotes the musical melancholy emblem of the Lachrimae incipit in James's song, so the in-the-know would hear, if not see, that James was just as melancholy as Anne.

If only Elizabeth had had Campion and Coprario at the funeral instead of Elton John.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Here are the notes and translations for Saturday's concert. You'll never get the chance to hear most of it again.

At the beginning of the 18th century the public concert or public opera finally eclipsed the court chamber as the engine for music making; The German Handel made and lost fortunes selling tickets to Italian opera in London, virtuosi with publicity machines toured the great music centres playing concerti with orchestra, even the Concert Spirituel was a ticketed concert. But chamber music still flourished, especially in the Parisian intellectual salon. Here men like the encyclopaedist Diderot, liberal thinkers like Rousseau and even a pre-imperial Napoleon would gather, literally, at the foot of the bed of great ladies. These patronesses were the first ‘bluestockings’, this hosiery being the fashion for the literary ladies who attended these events. And after a hard afternoon’s reporting to one’s patron how the encyclopaedia or the thinking or the revolution plotting was coming along, one would need to unwind with some chamber music.

Putting patrons on seats at public concerts had required the Italians develop a melodic style with clear chords progressions which, when introduced to Paris, was termed Style Galant. Rousseau was an apostle of this style where beautiful cantabile melodies are carried to the ear by simple harmonies with no turgid polyphony. The Genevan wrote of the music of French composers like Rameau ‘There is neither a clear beat nor a melody in French music because the French language is not susceptible to either. French song is only a continual squealing, intolerable to every unbiased ear; French harmony is brutish, without expression and suggests nothing other than the filler material of a rank beginner; the French “air” is not an air at all; and the French recitative is not at all a recitative. From all this I conclude that the French do not have music, and that if they ever do have it, it will be all the worse for them.’

Giacomo Merchi was an Italian who settled in Paris in 1753 and played in the salons. Porro (née Pierre-Jean Porre) was from Provence but thought it well to affect an Italian name when he moved to the capital in the 1780s. The popularity of the guitar as accompanying instrument is attested to by the many prints of song published by these and other composers, as well as its ubiquity in parlour scenes painted in the period.

The violin sonatas presented this evening are from a collection called L’Art du Violon published in Paris in 1800. This anthology featured works by Italian virtuosi like Nardini and his teacher Tartini as well as works by Germans and the Spaniard who affected a French name who worked in England, Chabran. Chabran taught guitar as well as violin in London.

In reading the texts of tonight’s music you will notice that shepherds and shepherdesses once again populate our poems. While those who inhabit the literature of earlier centuries gave their listeners an ideal of perfect love to emulate, tonight’s pastorals reflect a desire, even a nostalgia for a more natural way of living far removed from the complexity and artificiality of 18th century society. Unfortunately the deluge of revolution swept away not only the artificiality of faux-pastoral aristocrats but also the grace and artifice of Rococo art.

Un jour sur la coudrette
One day in the courtyard,
Love came to say hello to Lisette.
The simple shepherdess saw him,
and right away the poor dear blushed.

The child Love, seeing her sudden trouble,
redoubled his attentions,
and said "you know well how to charm,
shepherdess; you must love once more."

With a sweet smile, at a loss for words,
with a very silly heart that sighed,
the gentle bachelorette was quiet, but her youthful soul was moved.

Seeing that she quaked with fear,
the god quickly seized her heart;
now he was master of it, he laughed,
and then the little traitor left.

While the victim sobbed, the ingrate, proud of his crime, fled;
pity young girl Lizon
and profit by this lesson.

Voyez dans ces vergers
See in these orchards the spring that snakes around;
it waters the young saplings a hundred times.
One with the elm, this abundant vine
rises and clings to its branches.
This other, without support, lies languishing;
these amorous palm trees unite in lullabies.
It is of the pleasure of loving that the nightingale sings;
these waves and these woods, these fruits and these birds,
all are a living lesson in love, for you.

Au fond d’un bois Solitaire
Deep in a solitary wood,
One day, the shepherd Tircis,
Finding the shepherdess alone,
Spoke to her of his love.
"You know," he said, "cruel one,
How strong my fidelity is:
An eternal hardship
Has never repulsed me.

If my soul was light,
My fate would be more sweet;
More than one friendly shepherdess
Has wanted revenge on you for me.
Ah! how easily with others
I could have found happiness,
If other eyes than yours
Could have charmed my heart."

Sighs interrupted
This lover's complaints;
The tears that followed them
Spoke more strongly.
The shepherdess became tender,
And finding herself without witnesses,
Was forced to yield;
I have seen some yield to less.

En vain j’adresse
In vain I address an unwelcome plea to the Heavens; the Heavens no longer listen to my pained voice. Redoubtable Love, flighty Fortune, even friendship - sole blessing of the unhappy - seem to reunite to intensify my misery. I fulfill my destiny; I was born to suffer. My heart has nothing left on earth; I can no longer love and I cannot die.

Pure and Holy friendship, sweet charm of life, I sacrificed love to you; but what it cost at least grants peace to my faded heart. They say that you are enough for happiness; far from soothing me, you compound my misery...

Pour Jeanette
For Jeanette, my bagpipe
Plays a song each day.
The sprite on the tender grass
accompanies my sounds with her voice.
I am the happiest shepherd
of Paphos and of Cithere;
she is not severe with me at all.
I have found the art of pleasing her,
and the love of my shepherdess
I vow forever.

Every day, to my crook
she ties a thousand flowers,
and decorates my bagpipe
with all colours of ribbons.
All over the village
she has carved my name into the elm,
and if there are some pastures
in her heritage,
in returning to the village
she leads my flock there.

Be happy, dear lover,
remember that I've received your trust;
without sharing I commit myself,
to live for always under your law,
and your flame, through which my soul
feels the liveliest ardor for you,
is an Eternal flame,
so that in a cruel absence
it will make its only sweetness
to console my faithful heart.

Astre des nuits
Star of the night and your pleasant hours,
Delay the return of the light.
Stop, you leave sensitive hearts
To sob in the shadow and sigh of love.

Ah! Who can defend themselves from loving you?
I adore you and say it to none but you,
This simple avowal that I dare to make heard,
Is already a sweet enough joy.

Accompanied by shadow and mystery
I will return; each night in this place
You will hear its solitary echo
Repeat to you my sighs and my vows.

Me promenant
Walking near home, without thinking, my heart was taken, my poor heart, without thinking about it my heart was taken; a certain pretty face almost rendered me mute today [with surprise] that destiny did such a favor for me, my poor heart etc.
An appetizing mouth, an elegant waist, little cute feet, little mischievous eyes, nothing like her here or there, my poor heart suddenly was taken, etc.

Quel tourment
What torment, ah, what martyrdom,
That is so hideous to suffer;
To sob in one's soul and not dare speak.
Alas, alas, I feel myself dying.

Happy in their bitter pain
Are those who can at least shed tears.
But always to suffer in silence,
Ah, that is the worst kind of pain.

Charmant Iris
Charming Iris, if, on a scale,
One were to weigh your unfairness;
Yes, I would be sure that your inconstancy
Would be equal to my lightness.
Let us, then, give each other release
From our debt of infidelity.

At each instant, by a new offering,
Let us court, Iris, the god of hearts;
Let us never attach our flighty natures;
Let us fly from turn to turn in love;
Perhaps, Iris, in this lovely voyage,
Our hearts will meet one day.

Charmant valon
Charming dale, the sweetest wilderness where often alone I have sought nature,
I hear already your brook that murmurs, I see at last your willows always green.
Sing the willow and its gentle greenery.

Yes, there they are, these amorous wood-pigeons,
These hills, these woods, these meadows, this pure stream,
Ah! Rich and simple nature, must you offer yourself,
so beautiful, to the eyes of the unhappy!
Sing the willow &c

It may be that soon - these are my final vows -
Some shepherd ,seeing my tomb,
Will say in passing, "his righteousness was wronged;
he was sensitive, and died unhappy."
Sing the willow &c

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Here's a couple of pictures of us rehearsing Saturday's Rococo concert. 8PM, Heliconian Hall, 35 Hazelton Ave. Details here. Rococo is sometimes a dirty word in classical music and the music is pooh-poohed, but I am really enjoying this concert. The composers' names are not very well known. Porro has his own Wikipedia page. Merchi is talked about in James Tyler's book on the early guitar which is here on Google Books. That book also says that Chabran was a guitar teacher as well as a violinist, so he probably wouldn't have minded the guitar accompanying his sonata. That's why the cat can hang out inside the unused harpsichord.

Canzonetta – Un jour sur la coudrette Pierre Porro (1750-1831)
Ariette – Voyez dans les vergers Francesco Alberti
Romance - Au fond d’un bois Solitaire Giacomo Merchi (1730-aft.1789)
Sonate in D Maj Pietro Nardini (1722-1793)
La Plainte de Fabian – En vain j’adresse Porro
Pour Jeanette Merchi
La Serenade – Astre des nuits Porro


Me promeant du Logis Merchi
Quel tourment Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778)
Sonate in G Major Charles Chabran (fl 1752–1785)
Le Quittance Mutuelle – Charmante Iris Merchi
Le Saule du Malheureux – Charmant valon Porro