Posts Tagged ‘ Polyphony ’

Francisco Guerrero ( 1528 – 1599): Prudentes virgines

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July 28, 2015

Francisco Guerrero's five-part motet Prudentes virgines (wise virgins) sets a text based on the Gospel parable of the ten virgins (the parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins) it was first published in Venice in 1570.  Guerrero was greatly admired by his contemporaries not least Alonso Lobo who based his Missa Prudentes virgines upon Guerrero's motet. Enjoy :-)

mfi

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Peter Philips (1560-1628): Regina Caeli laetare

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April 10, 2015

The Regina Caeli is one of four Marian antiphons traditionally said or sung after compline. It is said throughout Eastertide –  the fifty day period from Easter Sunday to Pentecost, and during that period can be said in place of the Angelus. Philips'  setting while it is for two choirs is more Roman than Venetian in its style it was a moderately conservative piece for its time eschewing the extremes of dissonance and chromaticism that were so popular amongst the Italian avant garde. Instead Philips made use of highly coloured and expressive harmonies and confined his use of contrapuntal imitation to the antiphon's opening bars. Philips as a loyal Catholic who had fled his native England in order to freely practice his faith was determined that his music would uphold and glorify the teachings of the Church particularly the one which held that any sung texts should be clearly discernible. I think he succeeded very well the text being sung is clear and is clearly illustrated, so despite the various compositional tricks that he employed such as contrasts between long and short notes and the passing of phrases from one side to the other, the congregation could easily follow and absorb the text and its musical illustration. It's a joyous piece sung at a joyful time the effect on his listeners isn't recorded but it have been almost like listening to a madrigal. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Hans Leo Hassler (1562-1612): Ad Dominum

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March 28, 2015

Hassler was very influential in his day both Bach (O Haput voll Blut und Wunde) and Schütz (Psalmen Davids) quoted his music. The son of a stonecutter and part time musician in Nuremburg he was sent to Venice to study music and composition. In Venice he came under the influence of the Gabrieli's  studying under Andrea Gabrieli he stayed in Venice for eighteen months and returned to Germany taking up a position in Augsburg  as chamber organist to Octavian Fugger II. Word of this talented musician and composer spread  the Landgrave of Hesse tried to "poach" him from the Fuggers while the emperor granted him a potentially very lucrative patent to copyright his works. When Fugger died in 1600 the town council tried to keep him in Augsburg by making him the town's musical director but Hassler returned to his home town a year later to take up a similar posting, in 1607 he travelled to Ulm where he married severing all ties to Nuremburg. In 1608 Christian II of Saxony commissioned a composition from him and then appointed Hassler to his staff, he continued as a member of the Saxon court rising quickly to Kapellmeister until his death in 1612.

Musically Hassler was both conservative and ecumenical, ecumenical in that although he himself was a protestant he was quite happy to compose for both the Catholic and Lutheran churches and conservative in that he never wrote a piece that used that hallmark of baroque music the basso continuo  confining his religious compositions to the polyphonic idiom that had been at its height fifty years earlier not only that but you'll often hear the cantus firmus as a motif in every part of his composition. Having said that he was musically conservative I had better qualify that statement somewhat by saying that it was his religious music that was so conservative, he wrote a considerable quantity of secular music such as madrigals, instrumental works, and dance songs, in all of which genres he allowed himself to be somewhat more free-handed. His motet Ad Dominum cum tribularer (In my distress I cried unto the Lord) which takes its texts from the opening verses of Psalm 120  is another exception to the conservatism rule. It's very chromatic with none of the traditional diatonic harmonies, and as you listen you can hear what he was trying to do – to make his music match the text to portray both tribulation (cum tribularer) and its cause a deceitful tongue (lingua dolosa).

mfi

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Thomas Tallis (±1505-1585): Miserere nostri, Domine

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March 5, 2015

The phrase "Miserere nostri, Domine" (Have mercy on us Lord) appears twice in the Liturgy once as  the third verse of psalm 122 and again as the second last verse of the Te Deum. The phrase itself is an alternative form of the more familiar Miserere nobis found in the ordinary of the Mass. It's one of three texts collectively referred to as "Miserere" texts, Miserere Mei, Miserere Mihi, and Miserere Nostri and all three texts are of interest to us as music lovers because during the reign of Elizabeth II a tradition developed amongst English composers of setting the 'Miserere' texts to canonic musical settings as a demonstration of their technical mastery of the compositional arts. If you like Elizabethan polyphonic music and the text being set is one of the Miserere texts you can be pretty sure you're in for a treat.

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Heinrich Isaac (±1450 –1517): Missa De Apostolis

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June 16, 2014

I can't tell you very much about this very prolific South Netherlands composer's early life neither his birthday which could be any time during the five-year period 1450-55 nor his birthplace are known. He was a layman who and appears not to have attended university what he was was a very accomplished composer some of whose music was being published in Innsbruck by the mid 1470s. He worked variously for Duke Sigismund of Austria, the baptistry of S Giovanni in Florence, Florence Cathedral the Servite friary of SS Annunziata and Lorenzo de Medici. His work for the Medicis seems to have included acting as teacher to Piero and Giovanni de Medici  (Giovanni de Medici became Pope Leo X in 1513 ) both of whom became his patrons. The changing political circumstances in Italy led him to seek employment elsewhere and he wound up working for Maxilmillian I for a while. However his Medici patrons did not forget him and arranged for him to become provost of the chapter of Florence Cathedral. He died in Florence in 1517. His music is both beautiful and interesting but it's as a teacher that he was most influential – the list of his pupils includes such names to conjure with as Adam Rener, Balthasar Resinarius,  Petrus Tritonius, and last but by no means least Ludwig Senfl.

His Missa De Apostolis was written for the Viennese court and is based on on a selection of Gregorian chants taken from the repertoire of the Feast of the Apostles (which is why it doesn't include a Credo as Viennese practice was not to set the Credo). It has a six-voice texture which was very unusual for the period and is an alternatim setting, it's a very terse piece whose constant alternation between chant and polyphony means that many of the polyphonic sections consist only of a single phrase. Isaac solved the musical problems that this brevity presented by making heavy – and spectacular, use of both of sonority and dissonant cadential writing. It's almost English in its sound. Enjoy :-)

markfromireland

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