Wednesday, November 21, 2012
On 7th of November we were up at York University for a co-lecture about Hamlet and the lyric.
Seth Lerer, Dean of Arts and Humanities at University of California at San Diego gave a talk for the first part of the event. To call him a ‘Renaissance Man’ would be an understatement given the wide range of his scholarship. Seek out his appearances on various podcasts. Check his Amazon books too.
We talked about some of Ophelia’s songs, her association with the lute in one contemporary stage direction (focused on here by Prof. Deanne Williams, the organizer of the event), some songs that she should have been singing if she had been a good girl and broadened out to some melancholy emblems that are associated with Hamlet and that occur in contemporary song lyrics.
Seth had talked about how so many songs and poems seem to be coming from the wrong mouths. The bookish Hamlet writes the worst doggerel lyric poem in a letter read out by Polonius. The rude mechanical grave digger sings a song with words taken from the posh anthology of courtly poetry Songes and Sonettes, known as Tottel’s Miscellany. And Ophelia sings, with her lute in hand some of the rudest ballad songs. But not only that, we found that the texts she sings that appear to be less rude are actually associated with other near-contemporary ballad texts that where an older, richer man seduces, or attempts to seduce, a younger woman.
Download us singing that here if you haven't already.
Sunday, November 11, 2012
Aria in Ottava Rima Cosimo Bottegari (1564-1620)
So ben mi c’ha bon tempo Orazio Vecchi (1550-1605)
Donna s’el cor di ghiaccio Ippolito Tromboncino (fl. 1540s-60s)
Rifuta ogni diletto Bottegari
Ancor che col partire Cipriano di Rore (1516-65)/Bottegari
Amarilli mia bella Giulio Caccini (1551-1618)
Tutto’l dì piango Jacopo Peri (1561-1633)
Vedrò’l mio sol Caccini
O miei giorni fugaci Peri
Aria in Terza Rima Bottegari
Timor et tremor Bottegari
Madonna, il vostro petto Alessandro Striggio (c 1535-c 1595)
Amor, che deggio far? Fabricio Dentice (d. 1581)
Ballo alla Tedesca/Romanesca/ Bottegari
Torna, deh torna Caccini
Aria di Fiorenza Giovanni Kapsberger (c.1580-1651)
Dalla porta d’Oriente Caccini
The Medici family at the end of the 16th century were not as magnificent politically as they had been a century earlier. But despite being under the sway of superpowers, over several generations they were increasingly ‘aristocratized’, becoming Dukes of Florence in 1532 and upsizing to Grand Duke of Tuscany in 1561. This meant their education moved away from hard headed matters that might help a banker-politician, the occupation of the earlier Medici, to a more rarefied course of Humanist, that is, Ancient Greek and Latin, studies. This development was great news for the arts. The pet intellectuals of Ferdinand, Grand Duke from 1587, imitating, as they thought, the Ancients, invented Baroque music and opera. But ‘The New Music’, as Caccini called his publication of the earliest Baroque solo song (see the title page below), was performed side by side with the great Renaissance composers if the workaday manuscript of Cosimo Bottegari is anything to go by.
The composer for solo voice almost inhabits a position between musician and drama director, then, telling the performer where the speech is agitated and quick, where the exclamations of the voice rise or fall into despair and below the musical clef. Jacopo Peri and Giulio Caccini were the leading composers in this style. A contemporary of theirs opines that Peri’s ‘solo madrigals’ as they called them were more true to the texts, while Caccini’s had more grace.
Cosimo Bottegari’s first employment was at the court of Duke Albrecht V of Bavaria in Munich. Here he seems to have got into a professional rivalry with the Kappelmeister, Orlando di Lasso, one of the greatest names of late renaissance music. Lasso pioneered the Mannerist, dissonant music of the Gesualdo, Marenzio and early Monteverdi which can be heard in his Timor et tremor, a piece for a six part choir arranged for one voice and lute by Bottegari.
After the death of Duke Albrecht Bottegari moved to Florence. He had visited the court of Cosimo, the first Grand Duke of Tuscany, on diplomatic missions, and on the accession of Ferdinand de’ Medici he appears to have become a permanent court fixture, and, being knighted, rose above the station of that of a salaried performer to one of ‘gentleman’.
Bottegari’s book is the only source (except for one duplicate in another manuscript) of music of Ippolito Tromboncino, the most famous singing teacher in Venice in the late 1500s. Tromboncino was friends with the satirist Pietro Aretino and the painter Titian but the dearth of surviving songs by him makes it difficult to assess whether he is the equal of those two luminaries.
Ancor che col partire seems to be a song but the melody is always present in the lute part, arranged from the four voices of the original madrigal and sometimes decorated in the ‘accompaniment’. Solo performance seems an option at least. This madrigal had been around for about half a century when Bottegari arranged it for lute. The manuscript makes clear that arranging the lower voice parts for lute was one way of performing a madrigal as is demonstrated by the versions of partsongs by Striggio, Lasso and the Neapolitan lutenist Dentice, who sang to his own accompaniment in, a contemporary Englishman tells us, in the Spanish ‘fayning’ (ie. falsetto) fashion.
The Bottegari manuscript has a number of tunes with no words marked with rubrics like ‘Aria in terza rima’ or ‘Aria in Ottava Rima’ or ‘Sonneto’. These are records of an earlier tradition of having stock tunes on hand to sing different poetic forms to. We have selected texts from the most famous poems in ottava rima (a passage from Orlando Furioso which introduces Ariostos’s epic and our performance) and terza rima (a famous passage from the Inferno where a couple is seduced into lovemaking by the book they are reading.) If a passionate courtier had rushed up to Bottegari and begged him to sing a new terza rima he had written to his love, the lute player would have had a tune which fit the poem handy.
The Romanesca bass and chord changes can also be found in Spanish music in the 1530s, where it is called Guardame las Vacas (‘Guard my cows’). Bottegari’s lute version moves through the chords very quickly but Caccini’s Torna, deh torna builds a decorative voice part over a slow moving version of the bass, a parallel, perhaps, with Baroque architecture. Almost every composer of the early Baroque has a variations on Romanesca, be it for voice(s), violins, lute, guitar, theorbo or harpsichord.
Aria in Ottava Rima – Ariosto
Of ladies, cavaliers, of love and war,
Of courtesies and of brave deeds I sing,
In times of high endeavour when the Moor
Had crossed the sea from Africa to bring
Great harm to France, when Agramante swore
In wrath, being now the youthful Moorish king,
To avenge Troiano, who was lately slain,
Upon the Roman Emperor Charlemagne.
Cosimo I, Grand Duke of Tuscany in ceremonial armour
So ben mi c'ha bon tempo – Anon.
Well do I know who is having a good time fa la la
Well do I know, but I'm not naming names fa la la
I know who is her favourite fa la la
But I won't blab the name around fa la la
I certainly could tell you fa la la
Who goes, who comes, who stays fa la la
She'll tease to make you crazy fa la la
To lead you to despair fa la la
But bowing and hand-kissing fa la la
Are all in vain, I know fa la la
It's no good acting stupid fa la la
By going up and down fa la la
You might as well go hang yourself fa la la
Though that's not worth a fig fa la la
Let him who wants to waste his time fa la la
Walk ever to and fro fa la la
And ever talk and smile and cry fa la la
He'll do it all for naught fa la la
Donna s'el cor di ghiaccio – Anon.
Lady, if your heart is not ice-cold,
why don't you grieve for my grief?
Your scorn leads me to the realm of death
as though I were unworthy of life.
If my pain does not paint your countenance
with compassion's hue,
who then will prevent my death?
Rifiuta ogni diletto – Caterina di Bologna
Reject every delight and every pleasure
if you want to have eternal life with Jesus.
Most certainly you'll never be his bride
unless you tread the path that's straight and narrow.
He invites you to himself with bile and vinegar
that you will drink without complaint and willing.
You will deceive yourself in ways most foolish
if without wings to Heaven you'll try flying.
Good deeds have value if they're done while living
for after death what good are they to others?
Amarilli mia bella – Guarini
Amaryllis, my love,
don't you believe you are my heart's desire?
Believe it! And if doubt assails you,
take this arrow, tear open my breast,
and you will find writ boldly on my heart:
Amaryllis, Amaryllis, Amaryllis is my love.
Tutto'l dì piango – Petrarch
All day I weep; and then at night,
when wretched mortals take their rest,
I find myself crying, redoubling my ills.
So I spend the time that's mine in tears.
With sad moisture I consume my eyes
and my heart with pain, and I am the worst of creatures
for the arrows of Love pierce me deeply
and keep me ever banished from peace.
Alas, from dawn to dawn, from night to night,
I have already run the greater part
of this death that is called life.
Another's failing grieves me more than my own ills:
for living pity and the help I have relied on
see the fire burning and do not come to aid.
Vedrò'l mio sol – Guarini
I will see my sun again.
I will see, before I die,
the longed-for day
when your bright eyes
again will shine on me.
Oh light of my life, my joy.
Sweeter it is for me
to live in torment for you
than in pleasure with another.
But death must come to me,
for I will not withstand
my suffering much longer.
And if I'll die,
with me will die the hope
ever to see the dawn
of that bright day.
O miei giorni fugaci – Rinuccini
O fleeting days, o life too brief,
you are fast vanishing,
and now I hear, or so it seems to me,
the trumpet of Judgement Day
that summons me before you,
O Lord most just and fair.
I hear its awesome sound
resounding in my heart.
Lord have mercy on my soul.
My Lord forgive me.
William Blake's depiction of The Lovers' Whirlwind from Dante's Inferno
Aria in Terza Rima – Dante
On a day for dalliance we read the rhyme
of Lancelot, how love had mastered him.
We were alone with innocence and dim time.
Pause after pause that high old story drew
our eyes together while we blushed and paled;
but it was one soft passage overthrew
our caution and our hearts. For when we read
how her fond smile was kissed by such a lover,
he who is one with me alive and dead
breathed on my lips the tremor of his kiss.
That book and he who wrote it was a pander.
That day and on we read no further in it.
Timor et tremor – Anon.
Fear and trembling come upon me
and the gloom has fallen upon me.
Be gracious to me, o Lord,
be gracious to me,
for my soul takes refuge in you.
Give ear, o God, to my supplication
since you are my fortress
and my strong refuge.
O Lord, I have called upon you.
Let me not be confounded.
Madonna, il vostro petto e' tutto ghiaccio – Anon.
My lady, your heart is made of ice
and mine is all afire,
and so it's my desire
to melt with my own flame
the ice within your chest
by coming breast to breast
and holding in embrace.
O happy will the day and hour be
when in your arms I'll die a blissful death.
Amor, che deggio far? – Anon.
Love, what must I do?
What counsel do you give
to one like me deprived
of light and comfort?
Take pity on me,
and at the very least
restore to light my heart
that dies, alas, unfairly
Torna, deh torna – Rinuccini
Come back to me, my dearest one,
come back to me.
Without you I am bereft of heart.
Where do you hide?
No more I see you.
No more I hear from you, my love.
Fly now to my embrace.
Dispel the pain that
does my heart consume.
Hear now the plaintive sound
of this my feeble voice
amidst the tears and sighs.
Dalla porta d’Oriente – Menadori?
From the gates of the East
came the bright shining dawn,
sparkling in the heavens,
and it tinted the clouds
and with dewy breezes
opened the lilies and scattered roses.
Then as over our blessed realm,
it shed its sweet rays,
it saw appear among us
the brightness of another light.
Daylight brought another dawn
to dispel the darkness.
To clear the veil of darkness
a sweeter more charming
and lovely damsel
illuminated the pink clouds of heaven,
and with purple flames
fired the morning breezes.
From her amorous lips
Love issued with fresh darts;
spirits were decorated
with exotic pearls
and a sweet ruby fire
lit up miserable hearts.
From her tresses,
loose in the breeze
gold took its laughter
and her snowy white cheeks
were dappled with purple,
and on her alabaster neck
Thursday, November 1, 2012
On Monday we did a class at the lovely campus of Glendon College, York University. The course was called ‘Performing the Baroque’, a Drama course taught by Guillaume Bernardi.
In this music the written out lute parts imitates the different voices of an imaginary choir, something that Vincenzo Galilei, father of the famous astronomer, and co-inventor of Baroque music says is an import into vocal music from instrumental music, though he was probably wrong about that. ‘Thus the cithara players, wishing to make up for this defect (that is being unable to deliver poetry) introduced on their instruments a way of playing several airs together in consonance.’ Like a good late Renaissance man, Vincenzo thinks that musicians should imitate the Ancients, who would declaim ‘lyric’ poetry to the lyre (now replaced by some kind of lute). Further, and still in the spirit of the Renaissance, he wrote, ‘the most important and principal part of music is the imitation of the concepts of the words’ and that the best musicians would observe ‘the man infuriated or excited, the married woman, the clever harlot, the lover speaking to his mistress as he seeks to persuade her to grant his wishes, the man who laments…’ As an example of this prescription we performed Amarilli mia bella, the greatest hit of the early Baroque, from Vincenzo’s colleague Giulio Caccini from his Le Nuove Musiche. The part for the lutenist or chitarrone player (an instrument also called ‘theorbo’ and recommended by Caccini as the best accompanying instrument) is now only a slow bass line, over which chords are improvised. The accompaniment gets out of the way so the poetry can be uttered in the rhythm of speech.
Caccini was involved in what is usually credited with being the first opera. So we moved on to perform one of the most influential pieces from an early opera, performed at a court wedding to a small audience of cognoscenti, the Lamento d’Arianna, by Claudio Monteverdi with words by Rinuccini. Arianna has been dumped on a beach by her husband, and is almost schizophrenic with grief, anger and every other emotion in between. Of course this is a treat for a composer to show off how a princess speaks, shrieks and rants as she goes through the catalogue of emotions, and the performer gets to show off what we’ll call her ‘musico-rhetorical’ skills too. Hallie talked about how the formalized gestures used by actors, singers and in fact, anyone who gave a speech in the Baroque moved from one pose, held it, then to another. The music of Montevedi reflects this as she runs the gamut of affections.
But of course, writing for a bunch of courtly eggheads in a salon is quite different from tickling a ticket buying public’s ear. As opera moved to opera houses from court chambers there were increasingly tuneful sections built on repeating chord structures and bass lines. We demonstrated this with some chunks of Barbara Strozzi’s Lament, which imitates Monteverdi’s in some parts, but integrates some of those more tuneful parts over a bass that is easier for the ear to hang on to. (The Strozzi is not from an opera, but uses some of the same stylistic characteristics.)
Barbara Strozzi was possibly a courtesan as well.
Building decorations on top of a solid superstructure is, of course, a crucial part of Baroque architecture, so adorning a repeating ‘ground bass’, as such basses were called in English, with a highly decorative vocal line is a sort of musical counterpart to that. We performed Caccini’s Torna, deh torna which is built on the Romanesca chord changes, changes better known in English as ‘Greensleeves’.
After all these hardcore intellectual compositions, we finished off with an ear tickler to demonstrate that everyone still liked a light canzonetta. We sang Caccini’s Dalla porta d’oriente, to a text probably by Maria Menadori.
Much of this music will be heard on our upcoming concert at St. Mike’s College on Nov. 13th.