September 10, 2017

 

tout-par-compas


4:00 pm, Sunday, September 10, 2017
Early Music at St. James
St. James Episcopal Church
119 North Duke Street
Lancaster, PA 17602

MUSICAL GAMES, PUZZLES, AND RIDDLES OF THE RENAISSANCE

A CENTURY OF MUSICAL INGENUITY, 1410-1510

MUSIC FOR HOLY ROMAN EMPEROR MAXIMILIAN I

Argentum et aurum (chant antiphon)
Missa Argentum et aurum, Kyrie
Missa Argentum et aurum, Gloria

Regensburg 4306 (1501)
Henricus Isaac (ca. 1450-1517)
Henricus Isaac

A PICTURE SONG IN THE SHAPE OF A HEART

Belle, bonne, sage

Baude Cordier (ca. 1410)

THEME SONG OF THE ORDER OF THE GOLDEN FLEECE

L’homme armé
Il sera par vous conbatu/L’homme armé, 3vv
Missa L’homme armé, Kyrie
Missa L’homme armé sexti toni, Gloria

Anonymous
Guillaume Du Fay (ca. 1397-1474)
Johannes Ockeghem (ca. 1410?-1497)
Josquin Desprez (ca. 1451-1521)

A MUSICAL RIDDLE

Prenez sur moy

Johannes Ockeghem

MUSICAL PORTRAITS OF OCKEGHEM AND ST. ANTHONY

In hydraulis
Anthoni usque limina
Antoine Busnoys (d.1492)
Antoine Busnoys

A PICTURE SONG IN THE SHAPE OF A CIRCLE

Tout par compas, 3vv

Baude Cordier

THE MASS OF THE DICE

Missa Di dadi, Sanctus

Josquin Desprez

TOUR DE FORCE MUSICAL CANONS

Missa Malheur me bat, Agnus Dei, 6vv

Josquin Desprez

 

Pomerium

Kristina Boerger, Martha Cluver, Melissa Fogarty, Chloe Holgate – sopranos
Michèle Eaton – mezzo-soprano
Peter Gruett, Emerson Sieverts – countertenors
Nathaniel Adams, Neil Farrell, Patrick Fennig, Michael Steinberger, Christopher Preston Thompson – tenors
Kurt-Owen Richards, Peter Stewart – basses

Commentary on the Program

by Alexander Blachly

    Today’s program was designed to complement the exhibit of Renaissance playing cards mounted at The Met Cloisters in early 2016. Among the sets on display was a complete deck of finely-detailed, hand-painted fifteenth-century playing cards in the permanent collection of The Cloisters. All of the sets showed ingenious ways to illustrate numbers, suits, and face cards, reminding us that the late Middle Ages was a period fascinated by games and puzzles. This fascination extended to music. We find pieces from that time, for example, notated fancifully in the shape of a heart or a circle, or in the shape of a circular labyrinth to illustrate the theme of the lyrics (that the beloved is trapped in a maze which frustrates the lover’s attempt to reach her). The different movements of Josquin Desprez’s Missa Di dadi show augmented durational values in the tenor voice by way of dice in the margin (e.g., one die showing five and another die showing one, to indicate that breves are to be augmented in performance in a ratio of five to one). Johannes Ockeghem’s chanson Prenez sur moy, a three-voice canon, indicates the starting pitches of its three voices by sharps and flats on the staff lines above and below the middle one, on which the canon’s first note is written. By defining the notes a third above and a third below the starting ones as the hexachordal syllables mi or fa in a piece with no sharps and flats in the key signature, the actual starting notes of the three voices can be identified. Today’s program features still other musical games, such as Isaac’s first Kyrie from his Missa Argentum et aurum, which uses only dotted breves in the top voice, dotted semibreves in the altus, dotted longs in the bassus, and dotted maximas in the tenor. As an example of popular medieval and early Renaissance games, playing cards provide a window into an intellectual culture that delighted in games.

    Paintings from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries that show people playing cards depict men and women who belong to the nobility. Card and board games at that time, like hunting, hawking, and jousting, were the privilege of the wealthy. In taking as the inspiration for a musical program Cloisters Collection 1983.5151-.52, a hand-painted complete deck of 52 pasteboard playing cards from the South Netherlands ca. 1470-80, we are reminded that the musical counterparts of medieval playing cards were created for the courts. In the case of the playing cards in the Cloisters collection, these were the courts associated with the Netherlands, such as the Imperial court in Vienna or the Burgundian court, which traveled from city to city throughout the duchy of Burgundy. We have therefore chosen as the principal composers of our program Guillaume Du Fay, from the Burgundian city of Cambrai; Johannes Ockeghem, composer from the Netherlands who served in the prestigious position as treasurer of the Abbey of St. Martin in Tours; Henricus Isaac, who at the end of his life was imperial court composer to emperor Maximilian I in Vienna; Josquin Desprez, who came from an area in the Netherlands not far from Condé-sur-L’Escaut, on the border of the imperial county of Hainaut; and Antoine Busnoys, who was active in aristocratic circles connected with the French court in the Loire valley, later in Tours, later still as chantre in the service of Charles Charlomais, who became duke Charles the Bold of Burgundy in 1467.

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