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Thomas Christ: ReRenaissance is happy, the Portuguese viol playerFilipa Meneses invite to the interview.

How to get from Portugal to the Schola Cantorum in Basel? With which instrument did your musical life begin?

Filipa Meneses: I devoted my entire childhood and youth to studying classical piano. The piano was the most important thing in my life and left no room for other pursuits.

I then studied piano at the Amsterdam Conservatory and it was there that I discovered the viol for the first time. It's amazing that as a music student I didn't know this instrument before. I think that says a lot about the early music scene in Portugal at the time. Or maybe I was just too engrossed in my piano studies :)

With the viola da gamba I immediately felt that there was no turning back - from the first moment I had an unstoppable urge to play this instrument and this music. I went home, searched the internet for everything I could find about the instrument, bought an instrument, gave my last piano recital, and picked up the gamba the next day to start practicing. For the first six months I practiced alone, exploring the instrument for myself and thinking about what a relaxed posture on this instrument should be like, how the bow should be held, etc. This half year was one of the most poetic periods in my life. No pressure, just me and the discovery of this beautiful, sonorous instrument.

Eventually I found a teacher, started my bachelor's degree at the Conservatory in The Hague and got my master's degree at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis.

TC: Does an early music scene exist in Lisbon or in Porto – is it more likely to manifest itself in the Baroque than the Renaissance?

FM: Well, I would even say a very lively scene. Both Lisbon and Porto have Baroque orchestras, and there are several festivals with special early music concerts. In the field of Renaissance music, there is an amazing research department at the University of Coimbra that preserves the music of the ancient Santa Cruz Monastery: some 22 books are waiting for their music to be brought back to life. Incredible work is being done in this area in new projects such as «Bando do Surunyo» and «Capella Sanctae Cruz»: the research groups study the manuscripts and perform this music again.

TC: The gamba originated in Spain around the 15th century,  and I notice that the gamba players attach great importance to emphasizing that the instrument has little to do with the later violoncello. Can you tell us something about that?

FM: It's true that the cello is indeed descended from the violin family in terms of shape, number of strings and so on, and the gamba on the other hand is more of an evolution of the vihuela da mano, which is a lute-like instrument.

TC: Many Renaissance musicians also master a second or third instrument or are also at home with classical music or jazz – where do their preferences lie besides the viol?

As I said, the classical study of the piano was my focus for a long time, so I still have a certain longing for the romantic piano repertoire and chamber music, especially for the quintet repertoire, which I could learn and perform regularly.

I no longer listen to this music in my everyday life, but every time it comes up, it's like being a child again, fascinated by the discovery of these harmonies. It was not possible to buy classical music records in my hometown, so I saved my money and carefully selected a CD each time I traveled to Porto, which I bought and listened to over and over again for months.

That description sounds so dated today, in an age where we have the ability to access virtually all of these recordings from the comfort of our homes with one click. But I can't describe how lucky I was to take that one CD home with me.

TC: In the Renaissance, but also in the Baroque, the art of improvisation was very popular and all great musicians seemed to master this discipline. Has this kind of music-making gotten a bit lost today, or do people only dare to play without notes in narrow patterns?

FM: I think it depends on the instruments. If we think of cornett or violin, improvisation is present in daily practice. If you mainly play a bass instrument, then maybe not so much. But I think improvisation is very present in our research, yes.

I find the practice of spontaneous improvisation in concert quite challenging, but the «Über Kurz oder Lang» concert will be a good opportunity to see which parts are improvised and which are written. Everyone should come and listen!

Team ReRenaissance

The interview August 2022

To the concert on July 31, 2022
"Sing with the flute!"

La Fontegara by Sylvestro Ganassi

Thomas Christ talks to the recorder player and jazz saxophonist Andreas Böhlen. 

Thomas Christ: Of course, dear Mr. Böhlen, it is an honor and a pleasure for us to welcome you for our August interview, especially because you have pushed the boundaries of early music in your fields of activity and also with or via the art of improvisation are at home in modern jazz. 

Of course we would like to know how it all started for you – how did you get into the recorder? Or rather, why did you stick with the recorder?

Andreas Böhlen: When I was six, I really wanted to play the recorder and insisted on it until I got an instrument – and I've been playing with great joy ever since! It was part of me from the start. Chamber music in particular appealed to me. I also wanted to start playing the saxophone at an early age, and at the age of 10 it was finally possible. That meant a different circle of friends, different music, different rehearsal times - and therefore there were almost no direct points of contact when I was young or during my studies. Both instruments still offer me daily inspiration and wonderful experiences and discoveries.

 

TC: You are regarded as a master of improvisation – this skill, which can be learned, was part of the basic studies of all musicians in the Renaissance, but also in the Baroque period. Why do you think this discipline isn't as attractive to school leavers today and has rather mutated into an exceptional talent?red?

 

AB: I would prefer to describe other colleagues as true masters of improvisation, but I love improvisation and, despite all the preparation, being at the mercy of the moment. When improvising you have to listen and make music differently than when playing written music. This approach, and with it the result, fascinate me a lot.

I cannot (yet) judge whether this discipline is not as attractive to graduates. I can see that many are very interested and at a very high level, and that recorder students are also aware that improvisation in its various facets is an essential part of the “skill set” that is expected today.

 

TC:So-called cross-over projects, in which early music artists experiment with new forms of communication and thus address a new audience, seem to have been of great importance to you for a long time - but then you switch from the recorder to the saxophone. Are you immersing yourself in a new, different world, or how would you describe the improvisational overlap between early music and modern jazz?

 

AB: I wouldn't necessarily describe my projects as crossovers myself, but I dare to juxtapose early music and jazz and also draw inspiration from the other «genre». In my experience, early music musicians are strongest in their profession and jazz musicians in theirs. Usually I find the sharpening of a certain historical style more interesting than the mixing of many styles. When dealing with different styles, I often find a confrontation of different genres exciting. If, for example, jazz material forms the starting point for a “historical” piece and vice versa, you are sometimes treading on wonderfully thin ice.

 

TC: A historical question from a flute amateur: When does one start playing the flute «travers» and what was the main reason for this development, which led to the recorder being almost ousted from classical orchestral music? Was everything just getting louder?

 

AB: Other people can certainly give a much more competent answer than I can on this subject. Nevertheless, an attempt at an answer: I would like to assert that both types of flutes existed much earlier in non-European music than in European music. In the latter, the transverse flute and recorder coexisted for a long time, though probably not in common consorts during the Renaissance. The transverse flute then rose from a military instrument to an instrument of the nobility at the end of the 17th century. Hotteterre with its Principes de la flute traversiere and the instrument making art of the entire Hotteterre family have certainly contributed a significant part to this. The transverse flute can mix with the voice in a different way than the recorder, mainly because of the different possibilities of articulation. It also has more dynamic possibilities, which became important for larger venues and larger casts.

Perhaps a very gentle way of beginning and ending notes came into fashion, which the transverse flute can implement much better than the recorder? And then, at the same time, the baroque oboe with all its possibilities was invented! In addition, the transverse flute, which was very expensive compared to the recorder, became a status symbol for the upper class at the beginning of the 18th century.

For me, by the way, there are no reasons not to devote myself to the recorder!

 

TC: And finally, my favorite question about rediscovering Renaissance music. As is well known, Baroque music has enjoyed great popularity for several decades, both on the radio and in the opera world - can you imagine a similar development for the music of the Renaissance or does it remain more of a mediating niche with its primarily intimate character?

 

AB: That is certainly due to a large extent to the individual artists and not least to their interest in how and where they want to perform their music. I can imagine that Renaissance music can still be very attractive today, precisely because of its often exclusive character at the time. But there is still a lot to do for mediation, because it is mostly superficially quiet and unobtrusive music. It usually takes a long time to decipher layer after layer of this music. But exactly this process is wonderful, for musicians and listeners alike! In my experience, Renaissance music is often composed for a specific location and works very differently in other spaces. If you manage to encourage a certain joy of discovery in the audience, Renaissance music has a lot to offer, because it needs more audience participation than later music.

Hanna Marti Gesang Harfe

Team ReRenaissance

The interview July 2022

To the concert on July 31, 2022
«You Fay»

A cappella!

Thomas Christ talks to the singer, lutenist, harpist and researcher Hanna Marti.

Thomas Christ: We are very pleased to be able to invite an experimental and research-loving woman from Basel to our international musicians’ series today.

Hanna Marti: Thank you! However, I have to admit that I recently moved across the canton border and am now officially a Basel bidder ;-).

 

TC: At the Schola Cantorum in Basel, people primarily speak English, Spanish, French and maybe also German. As a Swiss, were you rather exotic, or do you feel more like part of a supranational cloud due to the joint musical work?

 

HM: The international scene at the Schola was a great enrichment for me. In fact, we were few Swiss when I studied there, but as I first came into contact with a conservatoire context as a twenty-year-old student, the experience felt more like arriving among like-minded people. It was no longer strange, it was everyone's practice to give so much time and energy to music on a daily basis. In addition, the language of the music is for the most part universally human and the origin actually moves into the background.

 

TC: How do you get from the electric guitar to the medieval harp? Rhythmic and melodic bridges can certainly be built from rock to baroque, perhaps more so than to classical music, but the path seems a little further to the intimate sounds of the Middle Ages, or am I wrong?

 

HM: For me there is no insurmountable contradiction, what interests me in medieval music is the human experience, what connects us people today with the people of the Middle Ages: We live the same emotions, often even the same inner conflicts, just transposed into, so to speak the culture of today. Even in rock music, or the music that I composed and improvised on the electric guitar as a teenager, I'm not interested in the big pompous gestures, but in really human expression. For me, this essence connects all musical cultures, but needs a lot of honesty. Music that is loud, electronic, dissonant, or skewed according to classical cultural norms, can be very intimately touching, just as classical or early music, while beautiful and harmonious, can remain completely superficial.

 

TC: You dedicate yourself with great success to the revival of silent songs from past epochs, of course, without corresponding sheet music - what are your sources of inspiration? What limits are set for you or do you set yourself?

 

HM: Fragments are often handed down from the piece I want to re-create, or from the musical culture from which this piece originates. From this sound material I create a kind of compendium of musical gestures, phrases - a kind of vocabulary. I then apply this to my piece in order to find a plausible re-creation. It is therefore a balancing act of improvisation, composition and reconstruction, in which my own creative intuitions should also play a role. The instruments that accompany me are always inspiring and bring in their very own tone and sound language: It also influences my singing, whether it is accompanied by a harp or a flute. This explanation is a bit simplified, I explain my process in more detail for example on my website or in youtube videos... or you can visit one of my workshops, for example next September in the Dales in Yorkshire! :-)

I don't set myself any limits: After intensive musicological studies, the main thing for me was to trust the knowledge I had acquired and to find the way back to immediate inspiration and now to allow myself to combine this inspiration with my knowledge, and you too acknowledge their importance in the creative process. I'm sure medieval musicians used their inspiration and musical intuition! So if I want to get closer to the creative world of these people, I have to leave the musicologist hat in the cloakroom...

 

TC: As is well known, little has been handed down to us acoustically, but the available image material from the Middle Ages as well as from antiquity is extremely rich. Do these colourful, iconographic impressions help to revitalize your projects acoustically?

 

HM: I think these iconographies are particularly helpful for understanding instruments or speculating about what instrumental ensembles existed...since they are often meant to be symbolic, I'm cautious about interpreting them directly for the music. When I was staging Hildegard von Bingen's Ordo Virtutum, I looked more closely at gestures in medieval illustrations. My instruments are based on pictorial material from the respective period, but apart from that I personally don't work much with pictorial sources.

 

TC: And finally, my «crucial question» on the attractiveness of early music in the present. As is well known, Baroque music has been experiencing a real boom for several decades – what are the chances of conveying the more intimate music of the Renaissance or the Middle Ages, or what are its limits?

 

HM: I personally believe that many people are overstimulated. In a world in which we are constantly exposed to sound and music, in which praise is given to what is loud, colorful and gaudy and hopefully produces a lot of clicks by being as radical as possible, we tend to close our ears - that has to do with self-protection do and is understandable. The music I create, alone or in ensembles like Moirai (www.moirai-ensemble.com), is not easy to listen to: you have to turn to it, read along with the translations of these strange ancient languages, surrender to it. The pieces are often long and tell stories full of symbolism. The music demands something from the audience, but I believe that my listeners often instinctively feel that something very special, personal and intimate is being given back to them for their effort.

Team ReRenaissance

The interview June 2022

 


 

To the concert on June 26, 2022
«Psalmy Davida»

Melodies from the Polish Psalter

Thomas Christ talks to the Polish native Singer, harpist and musicologist Agnieszka Budzińska-Bennett

Dear Agnieszka, ReRenaissance has the honor and pleasure of interviewing a well-travelled expert in early music.

 

TC:How does a graduate Polish pianist get from Stettin via Posen to Basel to the Schola Cantorum? Did you come to early music through musicology or is there – as so often – a key musical experience?

 

ABB: Ever since I was a teenager, my heart has been beating for early music. First it was baroque music. Key experiences were the voices of Emma Kirkby, Paul Elliott and David Thomas in the legendary "Messiah" with Christopher Hogwood - I still get goosebumps when I hear this interpretation. But then, when I was about 16 years old, I discovered the Middle Ages. It was the visionary recordings of René Clemencic, David Munrow and Gothic Voices (very difficult to get in Poland at the time). I still find them incredibly important today thanks to their transparency, their respect for the work and thanks to their incredible creative power – those were actually the great pioneers!

 

The «borderline experience» you mentioned was an excerpt from «Beowulf» performed by Benjamin Bagby (Sequentia), one of the greatest early music artists I have ever met. Imagine a fragment of an Anglo-Saxon epic poem, perhaps once sung (no surviving musical notation) and not a word of it intelligible, sung by a single singer accompanying himself on a six-stringed lyre. Sometimes you could pick out a word that sounded like a mix of English, German or Old Norse, but generally you couldn't make out anything (back when Ben performed this epic without subtitles!). And yet it was such an amazing experience, such a clear message in its own way, that each of us (and it happened during one of the legendary medieval music festivals in Stary Sącz in southern Poland) knew exactly when in this melodramatically recited text the dragon died third claw of his left hind leg and what was going on in the soul of the heroic Beowulf. That fascinated me endlessly. In that moment I realized with great clarity the power of words that can reach the listener so directly, both intellectually and emotionally. It occurred to me that one day I too would want to and be able to do something like this.

 

So I owe my career and my aesthetics to my mentor and friend Ben, through this influence I ended up in Basel, at that time the only place where you could study medieval music.

 

TC: You have dealt extensively with the roots of music, especially folk songs. We know the early music of Italy, France, Germany and England to some extent - what are the main differences to early music in Eastern Europe, especially in your musical homeland of Poland?

 

ABB: I have never dealt with folk music (I only took a few ethnomusicological modules during my studies), but with the oldest written witnesses to musical creativity in many countries - including Poland, which incidentally belongs to Central Europe. The differences are not that big: at the beginning there is liturgical music in Latin with borrowed material, then comes the local production in Latin and then also in the national language, there is a lot of exchange with neighboring countries (Germany, Bohemia, etc.) and one as well large repertoire transfer. Because of the relatively late Christianization (966), everything developed somewhat later than in Western Europe, but as early as the late 13th century fragments of the manuscripts from Notre Dame in Paris can be found in the southern Polish monasteries - whether they were actually listed is another question – and we know of local attempts to use the four-part system, which was extremely rare at the time. And in 15th century Poland we are indeed up-to-date: the international and local repertoires coexist harmoniously and there are composers who immediately incorporate the latest achievements into local practice, e.g. B. Nikolaus de Radom, who shortly after Guillaume Dufay (1400-1474) also used a "fauxbourdon" (a technique of improvising several parallel voices over a given melody) in his compositions. And in the Renaissance, Polish composers and musicians became known throughout Europe - a prime example is Wacław z Szamotuł, whose motets are printed in Nuremberg, alongside Orlando di Lasso, Thomas Crequillon, Clemens non Papa, Adrian Willaert, Philippe Verdelot, Nicolas Gombert and Josquin.

 

TC: Given the occasion, I'll take the liberty of traveling even further to the edge of Europe with my question. Not only did you perform early Icelandic music, you also devoted yourself to studying Scandinavian studies. Is there Scandinavian baroque or even Renaissance music, or was it not rather imported courtly or ecclesiastical melodies?

 

ABB: The CD series «Mare Balticum» by my ensemble Peregrina is dedicated to Scandinavia (4 albums, released by Tacet 2017-21). Christianity, which was introduced late, promoted very individual solutions, so the music from Denmark, Sweden or Finland is a bit different. On the one hand there are common imported melodies (also contrafacta) - as an example I can mention the measuring parts with well-known chorale melodies but in Old Finnish (we also recorded them!). On the other hand there are many experiments in the north, also in the field of polyphony, which are very peculiar. And so incredibly fascinating!

 

TC: Almost 35 years ago you founded your ensemble for medieval music "Peregrina" - we'll stay on topic again, because the name has a programmatic meaning in its meaning of the wanderer or pilgrim. Did musical styles spread with the migration of peoples and enriched or rather suppressed local melodies?

 

ABB: There were always various influences from the traveling musicians. Our Notker Balbulus (scholar and poet from Carolingian times) from Sankt Gallen mentions a manuscript brought from Jumièges which gave him a revolutionary idea (these are early sequences). On the other hand, many local idioms of chant were lost with the Gregorian reform. It's a never-ending game of cross-pollinating influences, but also a history of losing as new trends set in.

 

TC: My last question, as always, concerns the compositional, but also medial comparison of the Renaissance discoveries to the Baroque music played today. The latter has enjoyed great popularity for several decades, while Renaissance music remains somewhat intimacy. Is it because of the zeitgeist or the way media communicates it or simply because of the

relative "unexploredness" of that early music?

ABB: Renaissance music (like medieval music) demands a lot more from the listener. They are (unfortunately still) foreign sounds, foreign languages, complicated forms and genres whose context is not so easy to explain and understand. The speed of life and the "unspectacular" nature of the old art do not particularly favor the mediation of Renaissance music. But I have the confidence and see it on my many trips around the world that there is an ever broader and more conscious audience that appreciates and supports our work. That gives us a lot of strength. And that's a good thing, because the work has only just begun. 

Team ReRenaissance

The interview May 2022
 

To the concert on March 24, 2022
«In the Mayen»

Lasso to sing along

Thomas Christ talks to Jessica Jans, a singer and choir director from Basel.

 

TC: Am I correct in assuming that you, your sisters and you, were born into music? When did you realize that your life would be hard to imagine without singing?

 

JJ: My parents gave us a lot of music in a very natural way, without ever forcing us. That seems to have made a difference, because my sisters and I decided to pursue a career in music. However, we first “tried out” alternatives. Maybe that was important for us to make the decision for the music freely and from our own pieces. For me it was and is clear that my life will always contain a lot of singing, but the form can always change. A year after graduating from high school, I really realized that I wanted to make singing my profession and I don't regret the decision for a second.

 

TC: You made a name for yourself in particular through your performances with well-known baroque ensembles. As a singer, how would you describe the essential differences between baroque vocal music and that of the Renaissance?

 

JJ: For me, the vocal music of the baroque is often more extroverted, more magnificent and also stricter than that of the renaissance. There are many Renaissance secular songs from the Renaissance that are bold, witty, and obviously intended for a knowledgeable and educated audience. But there is also vocal baroque music that can be very intimate and free. The strong reference to rhetoric and the connection to language as the basis for the music are essential characteristics in both genres, but I usually find them even closer together in the vocal music of the Renaissance.

 

TC: Primarily young performers of early music show a great interest in so-called crossover projects, i.e. collaborations or improvisations with jazz musicians or experiments with formations from folklore. What do you think about?

 

JJ: I find cooperation of this kind very exciting and meaningful. I think it is very valuable to be open and not dogmatically follow one direction, but to benefit from each other and to be inspired again and again.

 

TC: Finally, I would like to ask my crucial question about the development of early music. Baroque music has left its insider niche for at least 30 years and enjoys a large presence both on the radio and in the opera. Does the great treasure of Renaissance music have a similar chance, or is it limited by its intimate touch?

 

JJ: Certainly the effect and affect of Renaissance music is different than that of Baroque music. So they will probably never achieve the same presence on the same stages. But that's not necessary either. The ReRen concerts show very nicely that the music of the Renaissance can certainly look out of the door of its niche. The great success of the new series in Basel gives reason to hope for a "re-birth" of this great music in normal concert life.

Thomas Christ: Dear Jessica, of course I am pleased to be able to ask a well-known woman from Basel in our interview series, which is the second time I know of it – what language is spoken in the music scene in Basel? Do you feel like a foreigner or part of a world music family?

 

Jessica Jans: The joy is all mine, dear Thomas!

In any case, I feel part of a world music family.
The variety of languages is great – and that’s exactly what I really value. Usually everyone tries to find a common level, and so many colors of the different languages and countries of origin mix. In the end, the music unites everyone involved without words. In fact, as a Basel native, it often happens that I am the exotic in ensembles and projects.

Team ReRenaissance

Interview April 2022
Jacob Mariani

Project and concert 2022 March 24th
« Grünewalds Grossgeige»

The presentation of a new instrument for ReRenaissance

 

Jacob Mariani, Oxford

Jacob Mariani.jpg

 

ReRenaissance is exceptionally pleased to invite a connoisseur and expert of early musical instruments to talk to us. The American Jacob Mariani is not only a well-known lutenist, viola da gamba and viola d'arco player, but also a sought-after "luthier" of historically inspired string instruments, in addition to his musicological studies.

TC: Dear Mr. Mariani, you seem to conquer early music not only as a virtuoso of sound, but also as a scientist and builder or rediscoverer of old instruments. How did this fascination come about? What made the beginning, the sound of the notes or the curiosity for instrument making?

 

JM: It came about through a fascination with historical music and participating in it: it was not always easy to find good medieval and renaissance instruments where I’m from, and so I began to trust my vision and design in building them. I had a lot of help and encouragement from other luthiers and performers from the generation before. These people are often very eager to pass on their skills, to forming a warm community around the subject. It is not cut-throat, it is a very open community.

 

TC: Perhaps you would briefly explain to our readers something about the rich history of violins and viols. There seem to be almost as many types of violins or fiddles in the Renaissance as there were violin makers, yet Spanish, Italian and South German violin families can be distinguished.

 

JM: I think a lot about the regional differences still needs to be explored. I am dealing with a period in which very few instruments actually survive, and so we are taking our information mostly from iconography. It’s tricky pinning down stable facts from this field. We can talk about tendencies. In general I see familiar stylistic elements forming in Italian images from the lira da braccio, which are translated to the violin and viola da gamba families. North of the alps, there is greater variety, with many shapes and styles (possibly coming directly from medieval fiddle culture) that sort of atrophied in the sixteenth century. You have a general Italian style winning out in the end, with evidence of all of these curious Germanic experiments around the year 1500.

TC: : The ReRenaissance concert in April will enjoy a premiere - the famous viola da gamba of the Isenheim Altar in Colmar, played by an angel, has been recreated by you and completed in March this year. The altarpiece by Matthias Grünewald must irritate the musicians only in view of the enigmatic bowing of the kneeling performer. But I am much more astonished by the strikingly strong lateral indentations of all three violas depicted. Are these Grünewaldian fantasies, which rather emphasize the elegance of the angel in form and color, or are they actually historically relevant models?

 

JM: So first of all, the secret is that I didn’t recreate or copy anything – I worked toward a model that would satisfy our ReRenaissance players through ‘lifting’ aesthetic elements from the painting. The goal was that viewers would see the instrument and instantly recognize Grünewald’s style, but say, «wait a minute, they changed this part…then this part…» realizing that nothing is mechanically copied. We followed ergonimics and acoustics first, and spent a lot of time consulting related iconography. It is my opinion that the indentations in the instruments in the painting follow the gestures of the «angels»--Venus, Lucifer (Mercury), and Apollo—the humanoid forms and gestures take primacy above the instrument shapes. The outlines and indentations merely follow these (strange) gestures. That being said, our iconographic sources seem to indicate many bizarre styles of intentations and outlines, and these should be interrogated as possibly indicative of real trends that are now lost. There is also the question of iconographies layered inside iconographies—as is the case for some instruments in the middle ages, that they seek to communicate an ancient concept, such as the horned lyre, in the outline of a completely different form and technology.

TC: In your replica, you hit the light basswood color well, but in the soundbox you depart strongly from the "two-partness" of the painted instrument. Have you been able to use any other sources from the period? Were violin varnishes already developed at that time?

 

JM: I tried to match the color oft he painting and assumptions of types of wood used. There is very minimal varnish—only enough to protect the wood, and only using very basic ingredients that were readily available all over Europe. There are no secrets here (and no synthetics!). We must also remember that the color of wood changes dramatically over the years. Right now the wood is quite fresh. I hope this viol will become hansomely honey-colored within a short time, perhaps closer to the painting’s hues.

 

TC: The great popularity of Baroque music that has been observed in recent decades seems, with our concert series, perhaps to become a theme for the largely undiscovered music of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Do you think that the richness and the rediscovery of the still unknown wind and the string instruments will contribute to this?

 

JM: Definitely. Our conceptions of performing medieval and renaissance musics have often followed our skillsets already developed through a familiarity with Baroque models. This mentality and assumption often infiltrates our approach to earlier music and instruments; the result is that many historical instruments and practices have been continuously overlooked, and others (which contributed greatly to the Baroque) have been undeservedly celebrated and featured as central to musics of the previous ages. The reception of the Baroque in Early Music performance threatens to shape our conceptions of earlier periods into something ill-representative of historical reality—this is a constant danger to new medieval and renaissance projects--; on the other hand Baroque success has paved the way for a movement of greater interest in detail and variety, perhaps increasingly hungry for the strangeness that comes with investigating earlier sources on their own terms. The ReRenaissance series might be part of this distiguishing movement, proof that Early Music communities are not satisfied with a singlular and generic approach which does not adequately engage with the periods which it claims to represent. In casting aside assumptions about aesthetics and performance, we are confronted with a wealth of interesting and challenging details and models. I have always wished to «build first», hoping that opportunities for new musics will follow once we have a different set of instruments, however strange these may initally seem. The Grünewald viol project follows this mentality, and shows that performers and audiences will rise to the occasion!

Team ReRenaissance

The interview March 2022
Ian Harrison

To the concert on March 27, 2022
« La Margarita »

Dances for a princess

 

Ian Harrison, Lecturer in Shawm and Pommer
at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis,

Thomas Christ: Dear Ian Harrison, You began your musical career as a professional singer in the Canterbury Cathedral Choir, to what experience do you/we owe your love for the old wind instruments? Where did you discover the shawm or the cornett?

Ian Harrison: Dear Thomas, Thank you for the pertinent questions.

Like many others, I discovered medieval or renaissance music at an English medieval market. When I was 12, I went to the Barsham Fair in East England with my family in the summer. After we die

had admired craft stands for a while, medieval music was suddenly announced in an amphitheater. I can't say exactly what was being played there, nor what instruments (with hindsight I suspect it was renaissance dance music - susato or something). From that moment I was hooked and hooked, and I spent all my pocket money on LPs of medieval and renaissance music, listened to the discs until the grooves went flat, and read the sleevenotes. I read it so many times that I knew it by heart. That's how I got to know the cornett and the shawm. According to the relevant CD texts, the cornetto was “the most diverse wind instrument” of the time. So I decided to learn zinc. But the shawm also sounded really great, and I also played the bassoon, a double-reed instrument like the shawm. After all, I didn't start learning these instruments until I was 21 - it was a long way before I was able to find these instruments and the teachers.

TC: The shawm, the pommer or the bombard, but also the cornetto and the bagpipe are instruments that many of our listeners may not be familiar with. Can you briefly tell us something about the history of the origins and places of origin of these instruments?

IH: This is one of my favorite topics, but I'll try to be brief.
It is impossible to name a single place of origin for the shawm or the cornett, because they are products of long development processes. Just as every child has at some point cut the end of a drinking straw and blown a note on it, people have played on straws, reeds and other reeds that grew in their area since time immemorial. Natural plant tubes are almost all acoustically cylindrical. As far as we can see from the images, the ancient Greek aulos or Roman tibia depicted on numerous vases were also cylindrical reed instruments. It is typical of these instruments that the players played two reeds each, one for each hand.

The European medieval and Renaissance shawm, on the other hand, has a conical bore, which gives it completely different properties. It is higher, louder and richer in overtones, and its conical profile has to be artificially drilled out by an instrument maker. Until now, the prevailing theory was that the conical shawms came to Western Europe from the Islamic world, either via North Africa to Spain or from the East as a result of the Crusades. However, I am not aware of any evidence to support this theory. "Folk" shawms were played in many different forms all over the world - very intensively in the countries east and south of the Mediterranean, but also in Western Europe - e.g. B. in central Italy, Istria, Brittany and northern Spain. In the course of the 14th century, a kind of shawm with a very long bell developed in Europe, which enabled the player to play chromatically over two octaves with a large dynamic range. This instrument was still played until the end of the 17th century.

Zinc also has its roots in prehistory. Animal horns, as opposed to plant stems, are almost always acoustically conical. Who first cut off the tip of a horn, blew through his lips and enjoyed the sound development through the conical bore - and when that happened - we will never know. Very few tones are possible on an animal horn. However, multiple tones can be produced by finger holes and tamping by hand. Such finger hole horns were z. B. played in Sweden. From the 11th century there are images showing conically drilled, lip-blown instruments made of wood or other materials. Time and again attempts were made to circumvent the irregularity of the natural horns and to build a standard instrument, which we now call zinc in German. In contrast to the shawm, which can be found everywhere in paintings and sculptures, the cornett never seems to have really gained a foothold in the early Middle Ages and remained exotic. But that changed abruptly in the late 15th century. Within 20 to 30 years, the cornett spread across Europe, replacing the shawm as the leading soprano wind instrument. A generation of players and instrument makers cracked the construction secret of the cornett, causing one of the largest and fastest revolutions in the history of musical instrument construction.

The pommer is a large and deep relative of the shawm. Together, the shawm and pommer form the first family of instruments in music history. Just as the shawm got its classical form over the course of the 14th century, the pommer developed at the same time - both, we assume, out of a desire to play polyphonic music in the style of the singers. The name «Pommer» is a translation of the French name «bombarde», which first appears in Strasbourg in 1326. The trademark of the Pomeranian is a barrel-shaped capsule with many small holes just above the funnel, the fontanelle. The keys next to the finger holes allow players to play deeper.

The very first images of the bagpipes come from Spain in the 13th century. So until further evidence emerges, we must assume that the bagpipes are a Spanish invention. The instrument is still very popular there today and is played in various traditional forms that are similar to medieval images. I will play a Galician gaita in our concert. The big question for me is whether just one person came up with the brilliant idea of combining a shawm and a sack that gave rise to all the bagpipes around the world, or whether several people independently had the same idea.

TC: We like to locate the music of the Middle Ages and especially that of the Renaissance in a courtly and – even more so – in an ecclesiastical context. We know little about early instrumental music in a folkloric environment. Weren't woodwind instruments also popular accompaniments to folk music and folk dance?

IE: Yes, certainly. We see that in numerous pictures. Most famous are the rural scenes of the Breughels, in which the bagpipes were played to the dance, alone or in pairs. The pairing of bagpipes and shawm was also very often depicted. Here's the big question: what did they play? From the beginning, the early music movement more or less consciously relied on written culture. We always need a written source, a manuscript, an early print, notes, tracts, descriptions, poetry. Oral folk traditions of the Renaissance have disappeared with very few exceptions. From time to time, however, folk music and written sources meet. Many of the medieval and Renaissance polyphonic compositions are based on a pre-existing piece, a cantus firmus. These melodies were often derived from Gregorian or other chants, but it was also common to use folk melodies as the cantus firmus. As an example, we play Heinrich Isaac's four-part piece E qui la dira dira on pommer, cornetto and trombone - and the original melody on the bagpipes to the dance.

TC: You travel with your ensembles for early music in Europe, the USA, but also in Asia, one group calls itself "The Early Folk Band" - two questions arise here, namely that of improvising due to the lack of clear notations and that of improvising Experimenting with other styles of the new music scene. Are you a fan of fusion or more of a separation of musical styles?

IH: At the turn of the millennium I thought that nobody would be interested in listening to “pure” early music anymore and that in the 21st century we would only produce early music in combination with jazz, world music, hip-hop and the like. So I'm always surprised how many people still want to hear concerts with "authentic" Renaissance music (not that I'm disappointed: I like it too!). But The Early Folk Band is one of the most authentic early music ensembles I know. We play music from sources before 1600 on historical instruments and also use contemporary performance elements such as pantomime, drama, humor and dance. Our project "Ars Supernova", on the other hand, was a conscious crossover to show how jazz and "old" musicians can improvise on themes from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

It is well known that the sources of the Renaissance and above all of the Middle Ages often only deliver a sketch of what was played at that time, and this gives this music a great attraction for me. The dance music in this program is a good example - it is notated unanimously in the manuscript source. Contemporary pictures of courtly dances very often depict an ensemble like ours, which definitely played in polyphony. Our challenge is to fill in the “missing” voices. We do this through a mixture of composition and improvisation.

TC: And finally, I always like to ask the stars of the Renaissance music scene the question of how to convey early music – while Baroque music has enjoyed great popularity among the general public for a few decades, the rich Renaissance music world remains largely undiscovered. Is that just due to the lack of mediation of a still little-known musical epoch?

IH: Every generation makes the mistake of thinking that their early music revival is the first. Baroque music has actually been very popular for a number of decades - about two decades. However, the most popular baroque pieces played and sung today under historically informed performance practice are mostly the same popular pieces that have been performed for a long time. It's not quite the case with Renaissance music - it's more about discovering music that nobody knows. In addition, in contrast to the Baroque, Renaissance music was not conceived for a concert situation. A baroque opera was meant for a full opera house, but a 16th-century chanson perhaps only for the people who played or sang it. When there are more people in the audience at a concert of Renaissance music than there are on stage, that is basically no longer historical performance practice. Nevertheless, we hope that this will be the case at our concert!

Team ReRenaissance

The interview February 2022
Claire Piganiol

To the concert on February 27, 2022
«Canti B»

Continuation of a secret revolution

 

dr Thomas Christ interviews the well-known harpist,
Flutist and music historian Claire Piganiol

Thomas Christ: Dear Mrs. Piganiol, you discovered early music at a young age while studying the modern, classical harp and thus found your way from Paris via Milan and Toulouse to Basel. How did this fascination with the world of early music come about?

Claire PiganiolDear Mr. Christ, thank you very much for the interview! I discovered early music through playing the recorder and I have to say that I chose the instrument for practical reasons at the time (finally something portable!). But early music and historical harps quickly fascinated me as a teenager — not just the repertoire, but also how to deal with it, the “pioneering spirit” and the freedom (improvisation, figured bass playing…) that these repertoires make possible, as well as the wide range of possibilities for ensemble playing.

TC: Your two instruments, the flute and the harp, are known to have a history of several thousand years, so they are, so to speak, among the first musical instruments of mankind. Nevertheless, little has been handed down about the construction and notation of the old, even medieval instruments. What are your sources for replicating today's medieval or renaissance harps?

 

CP: On the one hand we have some preserved instruments, for example the “Wartburg harp” (which Oswald von Wolkenstein – the singer, composer and poet around 1400 – may have belonged to) or two very beautiful double harps from late Renaissance Italy. On the other hand, we can turn to iconography and literature. The harp that I play in the February concert, for example, was copied from a painting by Hans Memling (the instruments are very easy to recognize thanks to a very precise depiction of aesthetics).

 

TC: I imagine it would be even more difficult to reconstruct the playing technique and also the tuning of the strings - there is probably a lot improvised and reinvented with knowledgeable empathy? Or which historical or art historical sources do you use for this?

 

CP: That's right! We do not have (unsurprisingly) any exact descriptions of the playing technique from that time, but there are isolated references to be found in treatises and literature, among other things. For example, a 13th-century commentary on the psalms gives us a few hints on how to play the «kithara», an ancient instrument name that was also interpreted as «harp» at the time. For string tuning, we know that harpists retuned quite a bit and used "special tuning". The harpists of today, like the harpists of yesteryear, must then find their own solutions!

 

TC: Is the Medieval-Renaissance harp primarily an accompaniment to song, or - like the flute - an instrument with its own voice, or - in other words - can it be compared to the lute in Renaissance repertoire?

 

CP: The harp is a self-sufficient instrument, and we have names and descriptions of virtuoso harpists in both the Middle Ages and the Renaissance—yet the harp was also particularly well suited as an accompanying instrument. In contrast to the lute, however, there are relatively few pieces of music that were explicitly composed or printed for the harp. The repertoire of keyboard instruments and lutes can usually also be played on the harp.

 

TC: One last question that I would like to ask all the stars of early music: We have observed, for the last few decades, that Baroque music is enormously popular, while the rich Renaissance music treasures remain largely undiscovered or lead a niche existence. What do you think? Is there a lack of mediation, will the Renaissancefreunde fan club grow or does it have its limits in our noisy and fast-moving times?

 

CP: I really hope that the Renaissancefreunde fan club will grow! One often hears the argument that Renaissance music is "dry", not yet "expressive" (with the idea in the background that early Baroque music was finally expressive), perhaps not yet virtuosic enough. But of course that's not the case and I have the impression that there is more and more curiosity and interest in this music. It is our job as musicians to present quality programs and make them understandable for the audience to try to gain new passions for this repertoire.

Team ReRenaissance

Interview January 2022
Dr. Agnese Pavanello

 

 

For the concert on 30. January 2022
«Reopening Gaffurius' Libroni»
Motets from the Cathedral in Milan

 

Dr. Thomas Christ interviews the Professor for Music History at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis.

Thomas Christ: Ms. Pavanello, ReRenaissance is extremely pleased to invite you, an experienced musicologist, a music historian, to an interview at the beginning of the 2022 concert series. After studying musicology in Pavia, your path did not lead you to Rome or Naples, despite your publications on Corelli, Tartini, Locatelli and Bonporti, but to Regensburg, Freiburg and Basel - can you explain that to us briefly?

 

Agnese Pavanello: When I was studying for a semester in Regensburg, I decided that I wanted to continue my education in the German-speaking area. I was fascinated by the German university culture, by the fantastic libraries that were easily accessible, and I felt enriched by all the input I received abroad as a young Italian. I came from the University of Freiburg to Basel on a research grant. I wanted to study Corelli's sources, which were collected at the Musicological Institute, more closely. At the Basel Musicological Institute I found a particularly fertile environment for developing further in musicology, and at that time I rediscovered my passion for early music and other historical areas, also thanks to my visits to the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis (concerts and events of various kinds). I loved working late into the night at the Musicological Institute - back then its library was always open to us students. A dream for me. Then I received a scholarship for Basel and worked for two years at the institute as an assistant. When, after many years of working as a musicologist in Austria, I received a research position at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, I had a definite feeling that professionally I had arrived in the right place.

 

 

TC: In our ReRenaissance concert series, we start the year with a cycle of motets and other pieces from the well-known Milan Libroni. You led a research project on these Libroni at the SCB entitled “Polifonia Sforzesca” – what is special about this project? How is this year's performance a premiere?

 

AP: The special thing about this project was that we wanted to create an online platform where you can make the Milan Libroni, which are among the most important music manuscripts of sacred vocal polyphony of the Renaissance, available digitally and explore them from new perspectives. We planned from the outset that this portal should not only contain a catalog and an inventory of the works (with detailed information such as concordances, bibliographies on the individual works, etc.) but also critical digital editions [of repertoire] from the Libroni and targeted studies on the Manuscripts and the repertoire they contain. In particular, we planned to make the repertoire of the so-called "motetti missales", motet cycles that were performed during the service, accessible in new critical editions in Open Access and to shed new light on them thanks to new research. We have achieved all these goals. Our international research team has been working on it for almost seven years - first only on researching the motet cycles, then on opening up the musical and cultural context of the Milan Cathedral under the Sforza dukes. This has resulted in several publications and online resources.

Right from the start we had the opportunity to work with musicians from the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis and to experiment with the music we studied. The ReRenaissance concert is a result of this collaboration. The composition of the program is a first - single motets, series of motets (a cycle and smaller motet cycles) and ordinary movements are combined, thus evoking a practice well documented for Milan. The special thing about this concert is the improvisational part. Based on the chorale melodies, the singers and musicians try out different improvisation techniques. This also demonstrates how close the relationships between different singing practices (monophonic and polyphonic traditions) were in the realm of sacred music. For example, in the case of the sequences (songs with rhyming and rhythmically similar verses): in the Middle Ages, parts were always improvised on the melodies of these monophonic songs! So in this concert we hear improvised polyphony - and that's something you don't get to experience very often in concerts.

 

 

TC: In the study of music history, historical bridges to neighboring disciplines are often built, and rightly so; [to subjects] such as instrument making; the courtly culture of that region; influences from other countries; but also painting at the time of the Libroni. Do you welcome these interdisciplinary, art-historical contacts or are they more of a sideshow in musicology?

 

AP: Interdisciplinary dialogue is essential in our field. It gives access to knowledge that would otherwise not be available and expands the spectrum with methodical approaches, which is essential for research and its practical implementation. At the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, we always strive for interdisciplinary exchange, as dealing with early music absolutely requires this. When dealing with church music of the Renaissance, it is necessary to work in an interdisciplinary manner, e.g. to grasp the theological dimension, which has shaped its form and content just as much as practical musical conditions. For example, if certain pieces were sung during the liturgy, it is clear that one should be familiar with the liturgy of the time, even just in terms of whether the function or the context of the performance influenced formal and stylistic aspects of the music in question (e.g. in the structure of a piece or in the distribution of homophonic or polyphonic sections). However, the liturgy of the Middle Ages is a discipline in itself, which requires specific historical research. It is very important for us musicologists to grow in this interdisciplinary dialogue in order to gain new insights and interpretation possibilities of musical works.

 

 

TC: How should one imagine the notation of these polyphonic compositions, how many of the voices are notated in full, how much is assumed or learned as “knowledge of variants” of the accompanying voices?

 

AP: The works heard in the concert are notated in four parts. On a double page of a choral book there are usually only the voices that make up the contrapuntal structure. We do not know exactly how many singers performed a part, or when and how instruments supported the vocal parts. It depends on the specific situation of the performance. Even then, at the end of the 15th century, individual voices were often split up into more parts in homophonic passages – or occasionally even divided into choirs in order to achieve a fuller, richer richer harmony. Even where lists of singers survive, we can only hypothetically reconstruct how many musicians actually took part in a musical event and how they were involved in a particular piece. That's why it's important to keep experimenting with the instrumentation (e.g. with the spatial arrangement, the distribution of solo and choral entries, timbre and ornamentation, etc.). Nowadays we can allow ourselves a lot of freedom in dealing with older repertoire - if one deals consciously with the specific repertoire. Regarding the transmission of monophonic musical: as mentioned above, we know that monophonic melodies were not infrequently performed polyphonically. A second voice was common in some chants such as in the sequences, but it could also improvised with several voices added. So in summary: The sheet music tells us only part of the story. We need an in-depth examination of the music in order to be able to experience or interpret it convincingly.

 

 

TC: Baroque music and its historically informed performance practice have enjoyed great popularity for several decades. Today, every opera house includes baroque operas in its program with increasing success. Has interest in Renaissance music also changed, or are we still at the beginning of a journey of discovery?

 

AP: I think the interest in Renaissance music is much greater than it was 30 years ago, but we are indeed dealing with music that still appeals to a relatively small audience because it is unknown to most. Perhaps we are not at the very beginning of a journey of discovery, but the potential of this music is far from exhausted. Even if we experience a quite exceptional and privileged situation in Basel, as we are often lucky enough to enjoy previously unheard music from the Middle Ages and Renaissance in concerts, the ReRenaissance series clearly shows the immense wealth of works the Renaissance era offers. This music deserves to be heard again and to enjoy a new life because of its beauty, its diversity and its expressiveness.

Team ReRenaissance

The interview October 2021 - 
Jean-Christophe Groffe

 

 

 

 

 

 

Go to the concert on November 28, 2021
"Un niño nos e naçido"
Villancicos in the run-up to Christmas.

Dr. Thomas Christ interviewed

the composer, singer and harpsichordist Elam Rotem 

Thomas Christ: You are not yet 40 years old and you are already one of the profound connoisseurs of early music, not only in Basel, but in the entire western music world. How did you get into singing? When did you discover the harpsichord?

 

Elam Rotem: I started learning the piano when I was eight. In high school (when I was around 16) I also started singing in the school choir. Gradually, I realized that the music I liked most - both on the piano and in the choir - were works from the earlier eras of music history. So it was obvious that I would have to switch to harpsichord or organ to play these repertoires. Since there are very few organs in Israel, the harpsichord was the more practical option (although harpsichords are quite difficult to find in Israel, they are still easier than organs). With the harpsichord I discovered more and more the music world of the 17th and 18th centuries and also earlier works when I was looking for vocal music. It became apparent that this is the repertoire that impressed me the most and I did everything in my power to learn and perform it.

 

TC: You founded the internationally known Ensemble Profeti della Quinta during your training in Israel. Can you tell us something about this and also about choosing a name?

        

ER: As my interest in the old repertoire continued to grow in high school, I started a small vocal group with friends. We sang motets from the 15th century in the hallways of the school (the place with the best acoustics we could find), which made us an interesting attraction for our classmates. On the last day of high school we gave our first official concert in a large drainage tunnel (again the place with the best acoustics we could find in the absence of churches or old palaces). We sang a mixed program, from motets from the 15th century to barbershop songs. The name of the group, NEVIE'I HAKVINTA, - literally in Hebrew: "The prophets of the perfect fifth" - was basically a joke. While we were using "prophets" as something biblical, serious, and historical, it sounded like the name of a heavy rock band. We agreed we had to change it, but in the absence of a better suggestion, it just stayed that way. When we moved to Europe and recorded our first album, we had to choose an international name. We found that when translated into Italian it sounds good and arouses curiosity.

 

TC: You are also known as a composer. Do you make full use of the compositional patterns of the 17th and 16th centuries? Is it possible to draw the line between imitation and inspiration?

 

ER: For me personally, it has always been quite natural to compose and I have cultivated it throughout my studies. As I studied older music-making practices, I found that in the old days musicians had to deliver and create music on a regular basis and rarely resort to older, well-known repertoires (as performers almost always do today). If we are imitating historical performance practices, there is no reason why we should not also imitate the historical practices of music-making - namely, composing and improvising. The boundaries between imitation and inspiration are fluid in every work of art.

 

TC: Do your “style copies” leave enough space for your own creative expression? Do you want to recognize certain early musicians in your compositions or do you rather lead the listener into the world of experience of the Renaissance and the Italian early Baroque?

 

ER: I imagine that I would have lived during this time and been active as a musician (and of course also as a student of the masters I hold dear). My goal is to learn the style in such a way that I am able to express both emotions and my personal ideas in a way that a composer from that time would do. And just like the music of a composer from this time, it would be a mixture of common idioms, influences from certain other masters and of course original moments. The composers I looked up to most while composing come from the Italian Baroque in the early 17th century; Composers like Emilio de 'Cavalieri, Claudio Monteverdi and others.

 

TC: In contrast to the world of the Baroque, the rich musical treasure of the Renaissance is still largely unknown. Do you have a reason for this?

 

ER: I think it is generally the case that the focus of the classical music scene is around the late 18th and 19th centuries, and the further the repertoire is from that, the less well known it is. If one searches specifically for the difference between the 16th century ("Renaissance") and the 17th century ("Baroque"), one can assume that the tendency towards monodies and catchy melodies of the later century was somewhat easier to grasp and hear is than the sometimes confusing polyphony of the earlier period.

Team ReRenaissance

The interview October 2021 - 
Jean-Christophe Groffe

To the concert on October 31st
"Chantez payment"
From Geneva to Basel »

Dr. Thomas Christ interviewed

Jean-Christophe Groffe,
the versatile interested
Musicians, singers and choir directors.

 Photo © Daria Kolacka

Thomas Christ : Of course, at the beginning we would like to find out something about your biographical career. How did you get into the guitar and how do you gradually develop into a baroque singer while studying musicology?

Jean-Christophe Groffe: That is due to some coincidences ... When I was a child we lived in the country and there was a guitar teacher nearby. This instrument accompanied me from my youth to my studies in musicology. During my apprenticeship I also studied choral conducting. We sang a lot for each other, like a “guinea pig choir”. I soon realized that singing is a central part of my life. I then studied singing in Paris ... and later in Basel!

TC: Could you have imagined a career as an opera singer with a preference for early music or would you have been an opera director? You are known for your enthusiasm for scenic work.

 

JCG: As I said, I discovered singing through polyphony. An opera career has never attracted me, an incredibly tough job and, in my opinion, ungrateful ... I admire some singers very much, but I have no desire to take up this profession! I like to mix singing with contextual thinking, to enrich it, to think about how to present music, how to make it accessible to the audience. That doesn't make me a director, but I love the variety of tasks in my practice.

 

TC: Your enjoyment of scenic performances has to do with an interest in crossing borders, not just from the musical to the visual arts, but also from the past to the present. Can you tell us a little bit about bridging the gap between the ancient and contemporary music?

 

JCG: Here you have to define what «early music» really means. I actually refer to any repertoire as "early music" that I do not create myself. As an interpreter, I work very often with composers and have had the pleasure of premiering countless works over the past twenty years. But when I work with an existing repertoire, I try to ask myself the same questions over and over again. Whether Josquin or Stockhausen, I try to understand music with a new, contemporary perspective by asking myself about the practices and contexts. The combination of Renaissance repertoire and 20th century music therefore seems natural to me.

 

TC: In the early music scene, it is noticeable that baroque music has enjoyed great popularity for several decades. In contrast, the rich treasure of the Renaissance works almost leads a shadowy existence. How do you explain this difference, this imbalance?

 

JCG: You just have to dig a little deeper to discover the Renaissance repertoire! And that musical treasure is accessible to everyone who is not afraid of the research effort. The baroque repertoire has become particularly popular on the opera stage. Baroque opera may not be a mainstream event, but it has undoubtedly resulted in the 17th century repertoire being present in the media. The Renaissance repertoire is often more intimate, which makes it more difficult to reach a very large audience. But maybe things will change!

 

TC: On the occasion of our October concert, which is preceded by a choir seminar, we are particularly interested in your credo as a choir director, all the more since amateur singers should learn and sing along with this concert. As a choir director, can you tell us something about your experience of amateur choir singing?


JCG: It is important to rehearse the works - whether vocal, instrumental or both - so that making music is fun again! That is the creed and the idea that guides me and which also corresponds to the musical practice of the Renaissance! Apart from the professional musicians, I am always delighted and amazed to see the joy people have in singing. Sing! It can only make the world better!

Team ReRenaissance

The interview September 2021 -
Catherine Motuz

To the concert on September 26th
with brass music from northern Spain

Dr. Thomas Christ speaks to the  Lecturer and  Specialist
for early trombone.
 ​

Catherine Motuz © Susanna Drescher Querformat.jpg

Thomas Christ : In September I have the pleasure of having a conversation with Ms. Catherine Motuz and especially about her instrument, the historical trombone, an instrument about the history of which I myself know very little.  Of course we know that the world's best interpreters of early music play, research and teach at the Schola, but the question is still allowed, how do you get from McGill University in Montreal to study early music in Basel?

Catherine Motuz: The interpretation of early music can already look back on a living tradition in the New World. Montreal has one of the most active scenes for historical performance practice, with about two dozen professional ensembles and high-profile programs at McGill University and the Université de Montréal. A baroque opera is even performed once a year at McGill (usually alternating between Handel and Monteverdi every year). Many of the faculty who started and then taught these courses had studied in Europe in the 1970s and 80s and then started new courses in North America. 
In my case, there was a zinc and trombone company at McGill University led by Douglas Kirk. Thanks to his knowledge of musical skills, musical repertoires and performance practice, I was able to enjoy early music for the first time as a second year bachelor student and was immediately enthusiastic. Dr. Kirk is also the main researcher for the repertoire of the upcoming ReRenaissance concert. He traveled to Lerma himself and published his research on performance practice as well as the edition of the later of the two manuscripts from which we will play. After playing in his ensemble, I completed a master's degree in early music with the historical trombonist Dominique Lortie, before going on to further studies at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis with Charles Toet in 2004.

TC: We know the baroque or natural trumpet from performances of early musical works, but we know little about the "sackbut", the renaissance trombone. Can you tell us a little bit about the history of the origin of the slide trombone?

CM: The trombone was developed around the middle of the 15th century, around the time it became customary to use voices in the bass range in vocal polyphony. Shortly before 1400, instrument makers learned how to bend a brass tube by filling it with lead and melting it out again after bending it. This made it possible to build longer, that is, deeper brass instruments, and with the addition of a double slide, the trombone was born. Of all the early instruments, it has changed the least in the past 550 years. The basic construction has remained the same. With the modern trombone, only the bell and bore have become larger, and additions such as a tuning slide and a water key have been added. The biggest difference is in the mouthpiece: the old mouthpiece had sharp edges that caught the air and made the sound a bit more diffuse, so that it can be mixed better with strings and voices and it is also easier to vary the timbre and articulation.

TC: In early drawings, trumpets and prongs are shown less often, but more often trumpets and prongs - is there a specific reason for this?

CM: The zinc is essentially the soprano instrument of the trombone family because, like the trombone, it is able to imitate the human voice in its tone quality, articulations, and the variations in dynamics and timbre, and of course because it is fully chromatic. The early trumpet was anything but chromatic and therefore could not double vocal parts as the trombone and zinc could.

TC: More than the other instruments of early music, the trombone comes closest to the human voice - how do the compositions of the Renaissance take this into account in sacred choral works or in the distribution of voices in instrumental works?

CM: In the Renaissance, the trombone was often mixed with voices in polyphonic contexts, either doubling one voice with a singer (what we call colla parte) or playing one voice alone while other voices were sung. 

In addition, most of the early sources that we know were played by trombones contain vocal music. An early example is the print of a short motet by Antoine Brumel from 1533, on which is written by hand: "What is good on trumpets". Later sources like the Copenhagen, Regensburg, and Lerma part books are full of vocal music that we know was also used instrumentally. The trumpet is mentioned in the scoring information in the accompanying documents or on the pieces themselves. 

With a more modern style in the seventeenth century, the trombone began to be played in an increasingly instrumental idiom, but here, too, the diminutions and short embellishments are usually still based on vocal techniques. From around 1620 a completely instrumental style developed in which the range of the voices went well beyond the octave or decimal, the framework in which vocal parts were usually set, and in which large jumps occurred.

TC: In contrast to the compositions of later epochs, early music is considered more intimate and quieter. Does this mean that the Renaissance trombone was more likely to be used on important festive occasions, outdoors or in larger instrumental ensembles?  

CM: The trombone is one of the few instruments that can be assigned to both loud and quiet ensembles. The "Alta Capella" is the loud ensemble - originally with shawms and trumpets (with and without slide), later with prongs, trombones and often with shawms or bassoons. Although these played outdoors on important festive occasions, e.g. B. processions and from town and church towers, but these occasions only made up a small part of the trombonist's work. Since its dynamic range extends into the softest notes, the trombone could also play in quiet ensembles, together with viols and plucked instruments that were played indoors. There is an interesting letter from a Zinkenist named Luigi Zenobi from the 17th century, who advised the wind players to cultivate their soft playing more than their loud ones, because it is the soft playing that will be heard in the apartments of the princes! 

Most of the wind instrument repertoire, however, dates back to when they were played in church. In Spain, where the handwriting on which our program is based, there is evidence of the colla parte game, but the winds also played in alternatim, that is, they alternated with the chorus playing the stanzas of a psalm, a magnificat or a song. Instruments were mainly used on feast days, but this does not mean that they were rarely used: in Spain in the 16th century there was an average of about one church feast per week!

Team ReRenaissance

The interview August 2021 - Corina Marti

On the occasion of the concert on August 29th
with tablatures for keyboard instruments
from the Amerbach company in Basel
.

Thomas Christ speaks to the specialist
the music of the Middle Ages and connoisseur of the early keyboard instruments

TC: Dear Corina Marti, of course at the beginning of our interview the question arises: How do you become a specialist in early music, through music history or through curiosity for unknown instruments?

 

CM: I never wanted to become a specialist, but rather a musician, an artist - I wanted to play the recorder and harpsichord all my life. It was just my curiosity that got me from the 18th to the 11th century, and then of course the instruments, and then 16 years ago I started teaching medieval / renaissance keyboard instruments. Two years earlier I started teaching the recorder for the Middle Ages and Renaissance here in Basel at the Schola - you quickly “grow up” and research and learn, and then you will probably become a specialist.

 

TC: The music of the Renaissance and even more that of the Middle Ages often has to be put together from fragments and minimally existing fragments and reconstructed - isn't that similar with the early keyboard instruments? Can you tell us a little bit about the forerunners of the harpsichord and their replicas? If there are no building plans, what role did painting in the late Middle Ages play?

 

CM: Painting naturally plays a major role, although you always have to be aware of whether it is a good representation of the instrument or rather a fantasy. There is a blueprint for the Clavisimbalum from 1440 - but there, too, you have to look and pay close attention to understand what makes sense and what doesn't. The descriptions of these instruments play another important role - fortunately there are quite a few. Fortunately, for the time of the Renaissance we have original instruments that have been handed down to us, e.g. B. also the clavicytherium from the late 15th century, which will be heard in the August concert.

 

TC: Our ReRenaissance series dealt in particular with English, French, Italian and German Renaissance music - you dealt intensively with Polish compositions of that time. Are there any significant differences to be seen or does Poland belong musically to the Northern European canon at this time?

 

CM: I think there is always a special "taste" in music, it depends on the composer, regardless of the century. There are e.g. B. small special composition techniques and then also ways in which something was intabulated, which can differ and possibly give an idea of what z. B. is typically Italian.

Poland, oh yes, unfortunately I was not asked here at ReRen for Polish music * - but my duo partner here for this concert Sofija Grgur and I are already working on the next program that will bring us back to the «East». I played a lot of Polish music thanks to my husband Michal Gondko. He directs the La Morra ensemble with me. Through him and musicologist friends I became very familiar with the Polish sources, or rather with the Central European ones - because this music is European, nothing else. Whether from the 14th, 15th or 16th century, we find music from Italy, France, Germany, etc. in Polish / Central European sources. Exactly what I love, all of Europe! Wonderful. There is no typical Polish style.

 

TC: Interpreters of early music, whether recorder or keyboard instruments, are regularly virtuosos of improvisation. Could you imagine helping to shape so-called cross-over projects, for example letting renaissance pieces and renaissance instruments appear in a jazz formation? Or should one refrain from such experiments?

 

CM: Everyone has to decide for themselves. I've played in some productions that were some kind of "mixes" crossover - if the concept is good and the music too, why not.

 

TC: The last question is aimed a little at the audience of early music - as is well known, baroque music has been experiencing a pleasing audience boom for a few (a few) decades, in particular baroque operas are in vogue all over Europe. The rich treasures of music between 1400 and 1600 are still largely hidden. In your opinion, what does it take to convey this early music professionally?

 

CM: This does not apply to me and the Ensemble La Morra, we have been playing around the globe for over 20 years - our programs are always from the 14th, 15th or 16th century - if this music weren't in vogue, it would be we didn't travel that much and we wouldn't have played that often, as our numerous award-winning CDs prove.  There is still a lot of music slumbering that should be played again: yes, that's true, but just as much music from the 18th century is slumbering.

What I think hurts the business is people who think medieval and renaissance music is easier to perform, is less virtuoso. Then there are concerts that are simply technically on a deep, unprofessional level, if possible with costumes, so from the atmosphere of the medieval markets. THAT damages our industry and the music - I prefer to go to a baroque opera.

* Editor's note: A program planned for January 2021 with music by Mikołaj Gomółka for the Polish Psalter has been postponed to June 2022.

Team ReRenaissance

The interview July 2021 - Masako Art

On the occasion of the concert on July 25th
around the poet and composer Serafino von Aquila
says harpist Masako Art about her own career
and the discovery of the hook harp
.

Thomas Christ speaks to the harpist Masako Art

Thomas Christ: How does a Japanese pianist find her way to studying the harp - if I may put it that way - from sunny Kyoto to rainy Scotland?

 

Masako Art: This is a long and private story that I don't really enjoy going on! It is better if I talk about why I play this lovely harp with the strange sound: Before I came to Basel, I spent 8 months in the north of Scotland, where I lived not far from the well-known harpist Bill Taylor. I started taking lessons from him and he initiated me into the art of the Renaissance harp, that is, to play the instruments as they were intended, namely with snares. A wooden hook is set up at the lower end of each string in such a way that it just touches the string and creates a rattling sound. This particular sound even made it into the ReRen YouTube jingle. I studied the playing of the Welsh harp manuscripts intensively and learned the appropriate dampening technique. And so I came to the Schola as the first female snare-hook harp player: Some knew that this technique was actually practiced in the 15th century (and, depending on the region, far beyond) - Crawford Young, my professor at the time, was very encouraging, and so was it Heidi Rosenzweig ... With a few exceptions, the rest of them have turned away from this harp technique or distanced themselves or even put me on the blacklist. Jokes aside: Today, two decades later, most SCB harp students play with snares. Paulus Paulinus reported in 1460 that only the organ and trumpet were louder than the harp, although the harps of that time - like the electric guitar - were built without a large resonance body, i.e. were relatively massive, with a very inefficient, narrow body , but with these strange, resonating accessories, the snare hooks.

TC: Simple models of the harp were already known and popular in antiquity, including in Asia. Are there Japanese or East Asian forms of music that could be compared to our harp or lyre music? Or did you dive into a completely new world with the European harp?

 

MA: Not really. There were the kugo known from China, but they went out of fashion as early as the 9th century when the Japaneseization reform of music and culture took place in the Heian period. These eastern harps came from the Middle East or Persia via the Silk Road. You can see them among the bodhisatvas who play various instruments in the Byodoin Temple in Kyoto. The music they performed - I'm really no expert on that - but had little in common with European music and European harmonies. Perhaps those harps have some resemblance in shape to our instruments, and perhaps even to the unison of our early medieval music. I'm not well informed about this and would have to do some research myself.

TC: In Europe you worked your way through many types of harps from the Middle Ages to modern times. How did your love for early music literature come about?

 

MA: When I started playing the piano in Japan at that time, I simply had to play far too much German and Austrian classical and romantic periods, and far too little from other eras, plus countless etudes by Czerny. At some point that became too much for me and I began to be interested in other harmonies, especially those of the Impressionists and early music. So John Dowland's songs and his harmonies seemed very fresh and immediate and I particularly liked the simple elegance of the music from the 15th century, its compact but perfect color of harmony. During my music studies at the Schola, I gradually climbed back in music history, and now again from the Baroque to the Classical, the Romantic and the present! Meanwhile I am happy again with Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. But I am glad that I experienced a complete new start with the three voices of the 15th century. So I now experience the later music in an incredibly more colorful and exciting way.

TC: In comparison to classical and post-classical epochs, early music has a strikingly rich selection of plucked instruments with the lute, theorbo, salterio, mandolin and the various types of harps. Why did this wealth disappear? Has the new music lost its intimacy?

 

MA: Maybe the plucked instruments are too quiet for the orchestra. Because the orchestras and also the stage music got bigger and bigger, the instruments heavier and louder. And so the possible uses for the plucked instruments withered, at least in larger ensembles. Plucked instruments are used more often in contemporary music, both in the ensemble and as a solo instrument.  

TC: How do you experience the public's increased interest in early music, especially the baroque? Will there be a similar revival of Renaissance compositions or will the lesser-known names of the time be reserved for a niche audience?

 

MA: That's a complicated question! There is now an interest in early music, but it is more market-oriented, i.e. it has little to do with historical performance practice, but is oriented towards star singers who may have a great voice, regardless of whether the singers are historical Employ performance practice or not. They sing something baroque and beautiful and that sells well; the audience's interest in the performance practice is usually low. Despite the interest in early music, performance-oriented projects sell less well, especially when it comes to singing. The audience would like to see “personalities” and experience a show, which is understandable. And the opera companies prefer voices that are more suitable for modern opera houses and their premises. So Handel and Monteverdi remain on offer, which is pleasing on the one hand, but often has little to do with historically informed performance practice. It's just complicated!

In instrumental music, on the other hand, the strict historical performance practice seems less strange and is well received; the musicians are not subject to the same market pressure as the singers. It seems to me that instrumental music is more of a win-win situation: the musicians enjoy their research, the beauty becomes audible ... and the audience likes it! 

Since Renaissance music is rather simple in drama and especially in sound, we are dealing with a more specialized audience here. On the other hand, I often experience the audience as open and curious about the unknown! I am very excited that this Renaissance concert series offers the opportunity for new discoveries! I think whether or not the lesser-known names are reserved for a niche audience depends a little on how we present the music and how we can attract people with open interest and curiosity. It is a very exciting question how one should present historical performance practice or a special repertoire or topics unknown to the history of music to an audience in a comprehensible and appealing way.

 

Team ReRenaissance

The interview February 2021 - David Fallows

 

Interview with mezzo-soprano Tessa Roos, a singer with charisma and a correspondingly large following in the early music scene. In the ReRenaissance Basel series, she will sing royal music on 27 June 2021 on the occasion of the 530th birthday of King Henry VIII..

 

 

 

Thomas Christ speaks to the Tessa Roos 

 

Thomas Christ: Of course, it is a pleasure and an honour to welcome you to our interview series, but I fear that you have had to answer my first question many times already: How do you get from South Africa to the world of early music on the Old Continent? Who discovered your voice?

Tessa Roos: Hi Thomas, thanks for the interview!

I’m incredibly lucky that I had the option and opportunity of coming to Europe to study Early Music. Coming from a musical family, I always sang in choirs and loved the choir world and how it was so often based in folk music. When one sings in choirs of fewer and fewer people, the repertoire often becomes either earlier or more contemporary, and I loved this. 

After doing a Bachelors in Classical music at Stellenbosch University, and a teaching diploma at Cape Town University, I realised I still wanted to study Early Music. There is an Early Music scene in South Africa, but not big enough to have a fulltime study programme, so I knew I had to come to Europe.

I found out that Evelyn [Tubb] and Tony [Rooley] were giving a course which specifically dealt with 16th and 17th century madrigals (AVES) and I just had to apply. Along with their ensemble programme, I was also accepted for a master’s and that’s when I became more acquainted with Renaissance as well as Medieval music.

 

TC: What are your favourite accompanists, the lutes, the viols, the flutes or other singers? Do you also accompany yourself instrumentally?

 

They are all amazing, and it mainly depends on the person playing the instrument. With each option you have mentioned one can focus on different things and one has different options and ways of playing together. Vocal polyphony is of course my first love, and I always feel comfortable in that setup. In Basel, of course, we are spoilt for choice of incredible instruments and players. Singing with a lute is a wonderful experience and the finesse and delicacy of it is something to savour, and as one is so exposed, I find it very honest; there’s no hiding. With flutes (transverse and recorders) it is interesting to work with an instrument that also uses the breath and plays mostly in the same range. We can mix colours in a different way.

But… I have totally fallen in love with the array of early bowed instruments we have in Basel. Viols, one or a consort, have the most incredible sound, and having the chance to sing with them is simply fantastic.

 

TC: In recent years – and even more so with the Corona lockdown – the possibilities of digital performance and thus the anonymisation of the audience have increased enormously. Do you see this as a curse or a blessing, as a dangerous loss of audience dialogue or as an enriching extension of your art?

 

As an emergency measure, when we’re dealing with all the pandemic rules, streaming concerts is a great alternative and we appreciate that we can still work as well as connect to people, even when we’re in separate places. Long term, however, I don’t see performers agreeing to having everything on video because it’s not an aspect of performing we signed up for. Of course, there are recordings that I love listening to, and I’m very grateful they exist, but the performing arts are not supposed to always be solidified.

On one hand, it’s great to perform, to share with a different variety of people, and as a listener, to see concerts I would never have been able to see had they not been streamed. On the other hand, taking the human element away from communication is such a strange thing to do and the loss of the audience dialogue doesn’t make sense as a long-term solution, or at least not for the types of videos and concerts in the Early Music scene. I feel performers and audiences will not be convinced of it as a real alternative. Music is about communication, so if there is no audience at all, but one must “pretend” there is an audience… this is where things become a bit comical. One can record a concert, but there must be some audience present, otherwise who is it for?

 

TC: The world of Renaissance and Baroque music allows perhaps more than that of classical music to play with embellishments or even small improvisations. Could you imagine helping to create musical cross over projects or have you participated in new music or jazz performances as a singer?

 

Yes, for a few years I dabbled in Jazz in South Africa and almost studied Jazz instead of Classical singing in Cape Town. I’m not sure I’d use the word ‘cross over’, but collaborations are wonderful. Collaborating with musicians or directors who have specialised in other time periods can be really invigorating and it’s also nice to reach other audiences, venues, composers, and concert traditions. I am still enjoying the fact that one can be so specialised in Early Music and with an audience so familiar to this scene, but connections with performers in circles other than our own can of course be hugely beneficial and refreshing.

 

TC: Of course, my interest in your multifaceted interests is no coincidence, because I read on a website: 'Tessa is working towards becoming a Wine Master'. Apart from the parallels between the noble music and the noble wine, this could close the circle to your South African origin. Or am I wrong with my conclusions?

 

No, you’re right. Since moving to Basel and being immersed in the music community here, I’ve unfortunately not had much time for this, but I hope to continue with this again soon! Different members of my family have owned/do own wine farms, and when you live in the winelands of Stellenbosch, I think it’s difficult to ignore the wine culture and scene around you. Ideally, I would soon be able to bring my wine studies back into my routine, but until then, I learn unofficially! 

Anker 4

Team ReRenaissance

The interview February 2021 - David Fallows

 

The well-known singer and Renaissance specialist
Together with a five-part viol consort, Monika Mauch interprets music from the part books of the calligrapher Robert Dow.

 

Thomas Christ speaks to the soprano

Anker 5

TC: As far as I know, you do not live in Basel and you did not enjoy your training at the Schola Cantorum. Can you briefly tell us what or what experience led you to discover early music?

 

MM: Somehow I have always been fascinated by medieval, renaissance and baroque music. When I was 17 I was allowed to sing Monteverdi's Marian Vespers in the choir. I was thrilled by this music then as it is now. When I started my vocal studies in Trossingen, Germany, I didn't even know that early music could also be studied. In my second year of study I was taken by a fellow student to the lessons of Richard Wistreich, the then singing professor for early music in Trossingen, with whom I also started to study a short time later. I was fascinated by how directly the rhetoric of the text in early recitatives, together with the continuo part and the associated harmony, triggers images in me that I can then convey to the audience. For many years I also sang medieval music, later on again and again renaissance music. Over the years I was mainly caught up in the early Italian and German baroque. The older I get, the more I am fascinated by the classical and early romantic periods. It is simply wonderful to perform music from earlier times, to familiarize yourself with the sources and theories and then, as a modern person, to create an informed and yet own interpretation. A task that is always exciting. When I moved to the German area around Basel in 2009, I was of course aware of the wide range of opportunities Basel offered by the Schola Cantorum and the excellent musicians there. It's wonderful to be able to take part in the ReRenaissance series.

 

TC: Not only in the instrumental, but also in the vocal area, there are great differences between the compositions of the Classical and the Baroque, so the corresponding fear of contact is understandable - how do you see this in the music of the Renaissance? Is every baroque interpreter also a renaissance singer?

 

MM: That's a very good question! I think that the modern early music singer is asked a lot if he is to be equally stylistically arrested in Gregorian chant, ars subtilior, consort, lute song, opera, motet, cantata and song. In my opinion this is impossible. It is not just a question of being informed and knowing, but also a question of body tension and muscle strength. A singer who interprets Renaissance music well, i.e. mixes himself optimally with the instruments and basically only adds the text to the overall interpretation, cannot necessarily stand out as a soloist in the Baroque and develop his own cadences and ornaments that not only convey the meaning of the text , but also focus on the possibilities of the individual voice. But there are definitely also singers who have a good command of both related styles. The term «baroque» (= crazy) in music was only created in the 19th century. Before that, the distinction did not seem necessary to us.

 

TC: The vocal ornament, that is, the art of decorating the basic melody, is part of the basics of the art of singing in both Baroque and Renaissance music - I have heard that you have many admirers in this discipline. Can you briefly explain to us how free or unfree one is in this art of improvisation that has not been noted down?

 

MM: The decorations of every era and every country are unique and mostly clearly defined. This means that it is based on a more or less well-known set of rules. The more you move in a single style and practice it every day, the more freely you can act in it and improvise “freely”, so to speak. I always need some time, even if I already know the particular style, in order to feel at home in it again. In my opinion, we still cannot match the skills of singers in the Renaissance, who were almost exclusively allowed to stay in the style of their time. Even if research and the range of courses in Basel have made great strides in this direction.

 

TC: Baroque music has enjoyed great popularity for several decades and we have noticed in our young Renaissance series that the relatively unknown music between 1400 and 1600 also found a large curious audience. Do you have an explanation for this?

 

MM: As already mentioned, the music of the Renaissance is based on a fixed set of rules that developed from the already extremely demanding and complicated ideas of the Middle Ages. Just as we can grasp the style of the Renaissance in literature, the fine arts and architecture, an architecture, a play with dissonances and consonances, a texture with multiple layers of interpretation is created in every piece of music, which can affect us on such diverse levels that even the modern listener cannot ignore this. In our Dow program, for example, the viol consort creates an overtone spectrum through counterpoint that moves me and certainly many others to tears. Then there are the wonderful old English, French and Latin texts that I have just translated for the program. At the moment I am being coached in the old English pronunciation in order to provide the most profound interpretation possible. I believe and hope that an audience can always feel such professional preparation, which is well-founded through years of specific study, and can grasp it in some form. Those who get involved should not be ashamed if they should be deeply touched.

 

TC: Of course, experiencing a live concert will never be replaced by digital live streaming, but the Corona circumstances force us to look for new forms of cultural mediation. Do you see a danger or an opportunity for the artistic and material advancement of the music scene in the digital offer?

 

MM: Another good and difficult question. At the moment, live streaming is often the only way to allow a concert to take place at all. This is vital for us musicians. A musician is useless without a concert. So I can't even ask the question of whether I like a live stream or not. It's just necessary. The dangers for the music scene, as in other areas, such as homeschooling or home office, lie in the fact that some * may no longer want to go back to the traditional form after the end of the corona pandemic. I would find that a real loss in the music sector. As beautiful as a concert experience in the live stream may be, in my opinion it cannot replace the physical, auditory and mental manipulation in a live concert by the musicians, but also by the audience.

Team ReRenaissance

The interview February 2021 - David Fallows

 

The well-known singer and Renaissance specialist
Together with a five-part viol consort, Monika Mauch interprets music from the part books of the calligrapher Robert Dow.

 

Thomas Christ speaks to the soprano

Anker 6

TC: As far as I know, you do not live in Basel and you did not enjoy your training at the Schola Cantorum. Can you briefly tell us what or what experience led you to discover early music?

 

MM: Somehow I have always been fascinated by medieval, renaissance and baroque music. When I was 17 I was allowed to sing Monteverdi's Marian Vespers in the choir. I was thrilled by this music then as it is now. When I started my vocal studies in Trossingen, Germany, I didn't even know that early music could also be studied. In my second year of study I was taken by a fellow student to the lessons of Richard Wistreich, the then singing professor for early music in Trossingen, with whom I also started to study a short time later. I was fascinated by how directly the rhetoric of the text in early recitatives, together with the continuo part and the associated harmony, triggers images in me that I can then convey to the audience. For many years I also sang medieval music, later on again and again renaissance music. Over the years I was mainly caught up in the early Italian and German baroque. The older I get, the more I am fascinated by the classical and early romantic periods. It is simply wonderful to perform music from earlier times, to familiarize yourself with the sources and theories and then, as a modern person, to create an informed and yet own interpretation. A task that is always exciting. When I moved to the German area around Basel in 2009, I was of course aware of the wide range of opportunities Basel offered by the Schola Cantorum and the excellent musicians there. It's wonderful to be able to take part in the ReRenaissance series.

 

TC: Not only in the instrumental, but also in the vocal area, there are great differences between the compositions of the Classical and the Baroque, so the corresponding fear of contact is understandable - how do you see this in the music of the Renaissance? Is every baroque interpreter also a renaissance singer?

 

MM: That's a very good question! I think that the modern early music singer is asked a lot if he is to be equally stylistically arrested in Gregorian chant, ars subtilior, consort, lute song, opera, motet, cantata and song. In my opinion this is impossible. It is not just a question of being informed and knowing, but also a question of body tension and muscle strength. A singer who interprets Renaissance music well, i.e. mixes himself optimally with the instruments and basically only adds the text to the overall interpretation, cannot necessarily stand out as a soloist in the Baroque and develop his own cadences and ornaments that not only convey the meaning of the text , but also focus on the possibilities of the individual voice. But there are definitely also singers who have a good command of both related styles. The term «baroque» (= crazy) in music was only created in the 19th century. Before that, the distinction did not seem necessary to us.

 

TC: The vocal ornament, that is, the art of decorating the basic melody, is part of the basics of the art of singing in both Baroque and Renaissance music - I have heard that you have many admirers in this discipline. Can you briefly explain to us how free or unfree one is in this art of improvisation that has not been noted down?

 

MM: The decorations of every era and every country are unique and mostly clearly defined. This means that it is based on a more or less well-known set of rules. The more you move in a single style and practice it every day, the more freely you can act in it and improvise “freely”, so to speak. I always need some time, even if I already know the particular style, in order to feel at home in it again. In my opinion, we still cannot match the skills of singers in the Renaissance, who were almost exclusively allowed to stay in the style of their time. Even if research and the range of courses in Basel have made great strides in this direction.

 

TC: Baroque music has enjoyed great popularity for several decades and we have noticed in our young Renaissance series that the relatively unknown music between 1400 and 1600 also found a large curious audience. Do you have an explanation for this?

 

MM: As already mentioned, the music of the Renaissance is based on a fixed set of rules that developed from the already extremely demanding and complicated ideas of the Middle Ages. Just as we can grasp the style of the Renaissance in literature, the fine arts and architecture, an architecture, a play with dissonances and consonances, a texture with multiple layers of interpretation is created in every piece of music, which can affect us on such diverse levels that even the modern listener cannot ignore this. In our Dow program, for example, the viol consort creates an overtone spectrum through counterpoint that moves me and certainly many others to tears. Then there are the wonderful old English, French and Latin texts that I have just translated for the program. At the moment I am being coached in the old English pronunciation in order to provide the most profound interpretation possible. I believe and hope that an audience can always feel such professional preparation, which is well-founded through years of specific study, and can grasp it in some form. Those who get involved should not be ashamed if they should be deeply touched.

 

TC: Of course, experiencing a live concert will never be replaced by digital live streaming, but the Corona circumstances force us to look for new forms of cultural mediation. Do you see a danger or an opportunity for the artistic and material advancement of the music scene in the digital offer?

 

MM: Another good and difficult question. At the moment, live streaming is often the only way to allow a concert to take place at all. This is vital for us musicians. A musician is useless without a concert. So I can't even ask the question of whether I like a live stream or not. It's just necessary. The dangers for the music scene, as in other areas, such as homeschooling or home office, lie in the fact that some * may no longer want to go back to the traditional form after the end of the corona pandemic. I would find that a real loss in the music sector. As beautiful as a concert experience in the live stream may be, in my opinion it cannot replace the physical, auditory and mental manipulation in a live concert by the musicians, but also by the audience.

Team ReRenaissance

The interview February 2021 - David Fallows

 

The well-known singer and Renaissance specialist
Together with a five-part viol consort, Monika Mauch interprets music from the part books of the calligrapher Robert Dow.

 

Thomas Christ speaks to the soprano

Anker 7

TC: As far as I know, you do not live in Basel and you did not enjoy your training at the Schola Cantorum. Can you briefly tell us what or what experience led you to discover early music?

 

MM: Somehow I have always been fascinated by medieval, renaissance and baroque music. When I was 17 I was allowed to sing Monteverdi's Marian Vespers in the choir. I was thrilled by this music then as it is now. When I started my vocal studies in Trossingen, Germany, I didn't even know that early music could also be studied. In my second year of study I was taken by a fellow student to the lessons of Richard Wistreich, the then singing professor for early music in Trossingen, with whom I also started to study a short time later. I was fascinated by how directly the rhetoric of the text in early recitatives, together with the continuo part and the associated harmony, triggers images in me that I can then convey to the audience. For many years I also sang medieval music, later on again and again renaissance music. Over the years I was mainly caught up in the early Italian and German baroque. The older I get, the more I am fascinated by the classical and early romantic periods. It is simply wonderful to perform music from earlier times, to familiarize yourself with the sources and theories and then, as a modern person, to create an informed and yet own interpretation. A task that is always exciting. When I moved to the German area around Basel in 2009, I was of course aware of the wide range of opportunities Basel offered by the Schola Cantorum and the excellent musicians there. It's wonderful to be able to take part in the ReRenaissance series.

 

TC: Not only in the instrumental, but also in the vocal area, there are great differences between the compositions of the Classical and the Baroque, so the corresponding fear of contact is understandable - how do you see this in the music of the Renaissance? Is every baroque interpreter also a renaissance singer?

 

MM: That's a very good question! I think that the modern early music singer is asked a lot if he is to be equally stylistically arrested in Gregorian chant, ars subtilior, consort, lute song, opera, motet, cantata and song. In my opinion this is impossible. It is not just a question of being informed and knowing, but also a question of body tension and muscle strength. A singer who interprets Renaissance music well, i.e. mixes himself optimally with the instruments and basically only adds the text to the overall interpretation, cannot necessarily stand out as a soloist in the Baroque and develop his own cadences and ornaments that not only convey the meaning of the text , but also focus on the possibilities of the individual voice. But there are definitely also singers who have a good command of both related styles. The term «baroque» (= crazy) in music was only created in the 19th century. Before that, the distinction did not seem necessary to us.

 

TC: The vocal ornament, that is, the art of decorating the basic melody, is part of the basics of the art of singing in both Baroque and Renaissance music - I have heard that you have many admirers in this discipline. Can you briefly explain to us how free or unfree one is in this art of improvisation that has not been noted down?

 

MM: The decorations of every era and every country are unique and mostly clearly defined. This means that it is based on a more or less well-known set of rules. The more you move in a single style and practice it every day, the more freely you can act in it and improvise “freely”, so to speak. I always need some time, even if I already know the particular style, in order to feel at home in it again. In my opinion, we still cannot match the skills of singers in the Renaissance, who were almost exclusively allowed to stay in the style of their time. Even if research and the range of courses in Basel have made great strides in this direction.

 

TC: Baroque music has enjoyed great popularity for several decades and we have noticed in our young Renaissance series that the relatively unknown music between 1400 and 1600 also found a large curious audience. Do you have an explanation for this?

 

MM: As already mentioned, the music of the Renaissance is based on a fixed set of rules that developed from the already extremely demanding and complicated ideas of the Middle Ages. Just as we can grasp the style of the Renaissance in literature, the fine arts and architecture, an architecture, a play with dissonances and consonances, a texture with multiple layers of interpretation is created in every piece of music, which can affect us on such diverse levels that even the modern listener cannot ignore this. In our Dow program, for example, the viol consort creates an overtone spectrum through counterpoint that moves me and certainly many others to tears. Then there are the wonderful old English, French and Latin texts that I have just translated for the program. At the moment I am being coached in the old English pronunciation in order to provide the most profound interpretation possible. I believe and hope that an audience can always feel such professional preparation, which is well-founded through years of specific study, and can grasp it in some form. Those who get involved should not be ashamed if they should be deeply touched.

 

TC: Of course, experiencing a live concert will never be replaced by digital live streaming, but the Corona circumstances force us to look for new forms of cultural mediation. Do you see a danger or an opportunity for the artistic and material advancement of the music scene in the digital offer?

 

MM: Another good and difficult question. At the moment, live streaming is often the only way to allow a concert to take place at all. This is vital for us musicians. A musician is useless without a concert. So I can't even ask the question of whether I like a live stream or not. It's just necessary. The dangers for the music scene, as in other areas, such as homeschooling or home office, lie in the fact that some * may no longer want to go back to the traditional form after the end of the corona pandemic. I would find that a real loss in the music sector. As beautiful as a concert experience in the live stream may be, in my opinion it cannot replace the physical, auditory and mental manipulation in a live concert by the musicians, but also by the audience.

Anker 10

Team ReRenaissance

The interview February 2021 - David Fallows

The well-known singer and Renaissance specialist
Together with a five-part viol consort, Monika Mauch interprets music from the part books of the calligrapher Robert Dow.

Thomas Christ speaks to the soprano

TC: As far as I know, you do not live in Basel and you did not enjoy your training at the Schola Cantorum. Can you briefly tell us what or what experience led you to discover early music?

 

MM: Somehow I have always been fascinated by medieval, renaissance and baroque music. When I was 17 I was allowed to sing Monteverdi's Marian Vespers in the choir. I was thrilled by this music then as it is now. When I started my vocal studies in Trossingen, Germany, I didn't even know that early music could also be studied. In my second year of study I was taken by a fellow student to the lessons of Richard Wistreich, the then singing professor for early music in Trossingen, with whom I also started to study a short time later. I was fascinated by how directly the rhetoric of the text in early recitatives, together with the continuo part and the associated harmony, triggers images in me that I can then convey to the audience. For many years I also sang medieval music, later on again and again renaissance music. Over the years I was mainly caught up in the early Italian and German baroque. The older I get, the more I am fascinated by the classical and early romantic periods. It is simply wonderful to perform music from earlier times, to familiarize yourself with the sources and theories and then, as a modern person, to create an informed and yet own interpretation. A task that is always exciting. When I moved to the German area around Basel in 2009, I was of course aware of the wide range of opportunities Basel offered by the Schola Cantorum and the excellent musicians there. It's wonderful to be able to take part in the ReRenaissance series.

 

TC: Not only in the instrumental, but also in the vocal area, there are great differences between the compositions of the Classical and the Baroque, so the corresponding fear of contact is understandable - how do you see this in the music of the Renaissance? Is every baroque interpreter also a renaissance singer?

 

MM: That's a very good question! I think that the modern early music singer is asked a lot if he is to be equally stylistically arrested in Gregorian chant, ars subtilior, consort, lute song, opera, motet, cantata and song. In my opinion this is impossible. It is not just a question of being informed and knowing, but also a question of body tension and muscle strength. A singer who interprets Renaissance music well, i.e. mixes himself optimally with the instruments and basically only adds the text to the overall interpretation, cannot necessarily stand out as a soloist in the Baroque and develop his own cadences and ornaments that not only convey the meaning of the text , but also focus on the possibilities of the individual voice. But there are definitely also singers who have a good command of both related styles. The term «baroque» (= crazy) in music was only created in the 19th century. Before that, the distinction did not seem necessary to us.

 

TC: The vocal ornament, that is, the art of decorating the basic melody, is part of the basics of the art of singing in both Baroque and Renaissance music - I have heard that you have many admirers in this discipline. Can you briefly explain to us how free or unfree one is in this art of improvisation that has not been noted down?

 

MM: The decorations of every era and every country are unique and mostly clearly defined. This means that it is based on a more or less well-known set of rules. The more you move in a single style and practice it every day, the more freely you can act in it and improvise “freely”, so to speak. I always need some time, even if I already know the particular style, in order to feel at home in it again. In my opinion, we still cannot match the skills of singers in the Renaissance, who were almost exclusively allowed to stay in the style of their time. Even if research and the range of courses in Basel have made great strides in this direction.

 

TC: Baroque music has enjoyed great popularity for several decades and we have noticed in our young Renaissance series that the relatively unknown music between 1400 and 1600 also found a large curious audience. Do you have an explanation for this?

 

MM: As already mentioned, the music of the Renaissance is based on a fixed set of rules that developed from the already extremely demanding and complicated ideas of the Middle Ages. Just as we can grasp the style of the Renaissance in literature, the fine arts and architecture, an architecture, a play with dissonances and consonances, a texture with multiple layers of interpretation is created in every piece of music, which can affect us on such diverse levels that even the modern listener cannot ignore this. In our Dow program, for example, the viol consort creates an overtone spectrum through counterpoint that moves me and certainly many others to tears. Then there are the wonderful old English, French and Latin texts that I have just translated for the program. At the moment I am being coached in the old English pronunciation in order to provide the most profound interpretation possible. I believe and hope that an audience can always feel such professional preparation, which is well-founded through years of specific study, and can grasp it in some form. Those who get involved should not be ashamed if they should be deeply touched.

 

TC: Of course, experiencing a live concert will never be replaced by digital live streaming, but the Corona circumstances force us to look for new forms of cultural mediation. Do you see a danger or an opportunity for the artistic and material advancement of the music scene in the digital offer?

 

MM: Another good and difficult question. At the moment, live streaming is often the only way to allow a concert to take place at all. This is vital for us musicians. A musician is useless without a concert. So I can't even ask the question of whether I like a live stream or not. It's just necessary. The dangers for the music scene, as in other areas, such as homeschooling or home office, lie in the fact that some * may no longer want to go back to the traditional form after the end of the corona pandemic. I would find that a real loss in the music sector. As beautiful as a concert experience in the live stream may be, in my opinion it cannot replace the physical, auditory and mental manipulation in a live concert by the musicians, but also by the audience.

Team ReRenaissance

The interview January 2021 - David Fallows

For the association ReRenaissance is the interview with professor
Dr. Dr. hc David Fallows a prominent and honorable start to the New Year, because David Fallows is considered one of the most internationally recognized pioneers of Renaissance music research in the musicological scene. His comprehensive “Catalog of Polyphonic Songs 1415–1480” is today every singer and instrumentalist of early music
first and indispensable reference source.

Thomas Christ speaks
with the author of the monthly column.

TC: Dear David Fallows, You studied in England, at Cambridge and at King's College in London, and you did your PhD in Berkeley, California, and taught at the University of Manchester until you retired. But you live in Basel, how did you come to work with the Schola Cantorum?

DF: Wulf Arlt invited me to present a paper for the Schweizerische Musikforschende Gesellschaft in about 1983, and many students and teachers at the Schola came. Soon after that I was invited to one of the Schola congresses; and very soon after that they decided that the Basler Jahrbuch für Historische Musikpraxis needed to have an editorial board. They invited me and from then I became a regular visitor to Basel. In due course I developed a relationship with Dagmar Hoffmann-Axthelm, who eventually became my second wife. She thinks it rains too much in Manchester, so we live mainly here, though we both love being in our Manchester flat.

Translated: Around 1983 I was invited by Wulf Arlt to Basel to give a lecture at the Swiss Music Research Society. Many lecturers and students from the Schola turned up. Shortly afterwards I was a guest speaker at one of the Schola symposia and a little later I was asked to join the editorial team of the Basler Jahrbuch für historical Musikpraxis. With this invitation I became a regular visitor to Basel and there I got to know Dagmar Hoffmann-Axtheim, who eventually, many years later, became my second wife. She thinks it's raining too much in Manchester, so we decided to settle in Basel. However, we still like our apartment in Manchester very much.

 

TC: Every researcher of the music of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance has his own musical past. When did the viol player and harpsichord player become a music historian of the 15th century?

DF: Yes, anybody in the world of music begins by playing instruments. For me it was piano, home-made bamboo pipe (very much the mode in England in those days), recorder, violin; then at the age of about fifteen I started playing French horn, which is probably the instrument I got furthest with. But in my very first lecture at Cambridge - 'Elementary palaeography' - we were given a viol piece by Robert White to transcribe: I fell in love with the music, and when the lecturer mentioned next week that the faculty possessed a chest of viols for use by students I was first in the queue. That lecturer, by the way, was Philip Brett, who eventually directed my doctoral dissertation; and the next lecture was about the English medieval carol, given by John Stevens. Both the viol and the carol have accompanied me for the rest of my life. The next step was when I heard David Munrow do a concert in Cambridge with dances by Susato. I went into the library the next day to consult the score and was entirely gobsmacked at how simple this glorious music looked on the page. After that there was no stopping me. But I came to music history quite a bit later: I simply realized that I was happiest when exploring the manuscripts and their history. On the way through I played all sorts of instruments, as I have done all my life, though nowadays it's mostly piano chamber music from Mozart to César Franck.

Translated: Yes, in the world of music everyone starts playing an instrument. For me these were the piano, the self-made bamboo flute (it was very fashionable in England at the time), the recorder and also the violin. But I got the furthest with the French horn, which I began to play when I was around 15 years old. But during my first lecture in Cambridge - "Elementary Palaeography" - I was supposed to transcribe a viola viol by Robert White. I fell in love with this music on the spot. And when our lecturer pointed out a set of gambas the following week that the students could use, I was first in line. Incidentally, that lecturer was Philip Brett, who years later accompanied my doctoral thesis. The next lecture by John Stevens on English 'Carols' of the Middle Ages was also of great importance. Both experiences, the viol as well as the "Carols", have accompanied me my whole life from now on. Another key experience as a listener was the discovery of the Renaissance composer and publisher Tielmann Susato at a concert in Cambridge with David Munrow. I studied the sheet music the next day and was overwhelmed by the simplicity and clarity of the presentation of this wonderful music. From that moment it was all over to me, nothing could hold me back. But I came to the actual history of music a little later. I found that researching manuscripts and their historical background made me happy. During these years of research, I played countless different instruments. Today I am increasingly drawn to chamber music with the piano - from Mozart to César Franck.

 

TC: The layman will notice that, although you have taught all your life in England, your works have mainly devoted yourself to the French Renaissance, above all to the composer Josquin des Prez, probably the most famous representative of the late 15th century. How did this love for France come about?

DF: During my years in England I worked almost only on non-English music, not just French, but Spanish, Italian and German. When I worked with Tom Binkley in Munich (1968-70) my pursuit was mainly English music, as it was when I studied in Berkeley. And on the very day that I sat down in Basel with my new desk and most of my library, planning to finish my book about fifteenth-century songs, I suddenly noticed I was working on English music again, which I did for the next ten years. Now at last I am working seriously on non-English music in Basel.

Translated: During my years in England I worked almost exclusively on non-English works, not only French, but also Spanish, Italian and German were there. The reason was simply that there were far more songs with French lyrics in the 15th century than in other languages. It was not until I was abroad, when I worked with Tom Binkley in Munich (1968–1970), that I devoted myself primarily to English music. The same thing happened to me in Berkeley, California. And when I came to Basel and sat down at my new desk with my library to finish my book on the songs of the 15th century, I realized that I had primarily turned to English compositions again, at least for the next 10 years . I think I ended up spending more time with English compositions if I just think of my two volumes on "Musica Britannica" and those on "Early English Church Music". My first work, however, was the Renaissance composer Guillaume Dufay. He's one of my favorite musicians and he's French. Finally today I am working more and more on non-English music again.

 

TC: Josquin des Prez can almost be described as a European court composer who was active in Burgundy, but also in Rome and Milan. Nevertheless, I allow myself to ask whether and how, using simple criteria, Italian or French music can be distinguished from English Renaissance music.

DF: I'm not quite ready to answer that yet. It will be there in the book, if I ever finish it. But the main question in the book is in fact the opposite: namely, How far does it make sense to see all the various language groups in fifteenth-century song as part of the same evolution? Obviously the answer is 'up to a point'. And that's what I am trying to clarify in my mind.

Translated: I'm not ready to answer that now. It will come up in my next book when it is finished. But the question in the book is posed differently: To what extent does it make sense at all to see the different language groups in the songs of the 15th century as part of the same historical development? Certainly to a certain extent. I am in the process of clarifying this.

 

TC: The audience's love for baroque music has experienced a veritable storm of enthusiasm over the past few decades. Our Renaissance series in the Barfüsserkirche, as well as our “Live Streaming” attempts, enjoy great popularity. How do you explain this increased interest in this relatively unknown early music today?

DF: If you offer people good enough music in good enough performances they will go for it. I just delight in how more and more people in Basel are getting pleasure from the music that has given me so much joy over the decades and continues to do so.

Translated: If an audience is offered music that is good enough and is also played well enough, success is certain. I am simply happy that more and more people in Basel are enjoying a musical genre that has filled me with great joy for many decades and continues to do so

Anker 1

Team ReRenaissance

The interview December 2020 - Ivo Haun

I n December concert erklin gt spiritual in Barfüsserkirche music by Orlando di Lasso, interpreted by a vocal sextet and an organo di Legno.

Thomas Christ interviewed the musical director of the evening program “Cantate”, the Renaissance tenor Ivo Haun.

Anker 8

TC: We know great singers from Brazil from the music world, but we know little about the early music scene in South America. So my first question is not how you get into singing in Brazil, but how you found your way to the music of the Renaissance and Baroque there.

IH: My path to early music was not a direct one. I started my studies at university with the classical guitar and only started singing two years later; first as a minor, but gradually singing played an increasingly important role in my life. My teacher at the time found that my voice was very suitable for baroque music and so I began to occupy myself more with this repertoire. At the same time, I also sang in a choir, and gradually vocals replaced the guitar. I not only enjoyed singing more, but also saw better prospects for my career.

TC: Is the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis known in your country of origin? How did you find your way to Basel?

IH: In Brazil there are some early music festivals and many teachers who studied in Basel or The Hague, for example. In this small environment, the Schola is of course very famous. When I moved to São Paulo in 2009 to sing in the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra choir, I met Marília Vargas, a soprano who had studied at the Schola. She became my singing teacher and we soon realized that studying in Basel would be a very good idea.

T C: You have been associated with the music of the early baroque and also with the baroque opera for a number of years and have also performed in prominent formations and ensembles, but the world of the baroque is very different from the virtuoso singing art of the Renaissance. Where does your love for or predilection for medieval and renaissance music come from?

IH: Interestingly, I used to have very little contact with pre-1600 music in Brazil. It was only during my studies in Basel that I discovered a fascination for earlier music. On the one hand, I am fascinated by the fact that this music demands great intellectual challenges from the performers and at the same time uses highly refined means of expression to touch the emotions of the listener. I find the fact particularly exciting that the music of the renaissance is not yet so well established in the music business and therefore offers more space for (re) discoveries. For example, the practice of improvisation, which is not normally associated with «classical» music, is an important but little-practiced aspect.

TC: In contrast to the instrumental lecture, the singing and especially the spoken chanting is closely linked to the body language, with supporting gestures. Was rhetoric and also acting technique part of your training?

IH: Yes, during my studies and afterwards I had the opportunity to learn a bit about historical acting technique and try to enrich my performance or my performance as a musician with this knowledge as often as possible. The goal of any rhetorical artistic performance is to touch, teach, and entertain. So that the content of our performance can develop its full effect on the audience, the physical design plays a decisive role.

TC: For the music layman, the musical sources of early music are not very productive and even for the insider they can probably only be implemented with a lot of improvisation practice. Can you tell us something about the improvisation technique that tries to stay true to the original?

IH: I think that's one of the most fascinating aspects of Renaissance music. Unlike the music of the 20th and 21st centuries, it was not the job of a Renaissance composer to accurately write down all aspects of the musical performance. The notated music of this time should be understood more like the tip of an iceberg (as the musicologist Nino Pirrota wrote a few decades ago). The music that is actually produced or performed requires a highly virtuoso art of ornament and compositional skills from the performers. In other words, the notated music is to be understood as a sketch that the musician must enrich or even add further voices, such as in Gregorian chants (and other secular genres). Today we call this Contrapunto alla Mente. “Remaining true to the original” had a completely different meaning at the time.

TC: You brought your guitar with you from Brazil - do you only accompany yourself with the renaissance lute today?

IH: Yes, after singing took the place of the guitar in my life many years ago, I found a perfect accompaniment in the renaissance lute. In the coming years I plan to perform with the lute more often and the audience of ReRenaissance will be able to experience me as a lutenist in September 2021.

TC: One last question I would like to ask the connoisseurs of medieval and renaissance music: While baroque music has found a wide audience in the last few decades, the compositions of the renaissance still serve a niche market. Has anything already changed - as is currently the case in Basel - or will anything change?

IH: I've already seen this development in my ten years in Basel (on myself and in my environment at the same time). In recent years several students at the Schola have discovered an interest in Renaissance music and teachers such as Anne Smith and Federico Sepúlveda have given very important impulses in this direction. It's a slow process, but we're already seeing results.

Team ReRenaissance

The November 2020 Interview - Grace Newcombe

 

 

The concert “Nowell, nowell” on November 29, under the direction of singer and organist Grace Necombe, takes you into the world of the English “carols” of the 15th and 16th centuries. The interview shows: Newcombe broke several taboos during her musical training in England.

 

Thomas Christ meets the connoisseur of the music scene of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance for a conversation.

Anker 2
Anker 9

TC: How does a young woman become a choirmaster in the traditional Hertford College and how does her interest in the music of the Middle Ages arise and grow, an area that has been dominated by men for centuries?

 

GN: In fact, my first musical training as a child and adolescent was almost exclusively determined by men: My musical training began as a church choir singer, which is still controversial in England today. Many people believe that a church choir is only for boys. So my later training as an organist and church choir leader also met with a surprise in many places. In the organ and choir conducting courses, I was always the only woman. When I tell people that I work as an organist at Oxford University, they are usually visibly irritated. It's a little frustrating. But both institutes at which I enjoyed my training, i.e. Salisbury Cathedral and Hertford College in Oxford, did a fantastic job of promoting gender equality. Salisbury was one of the first church schools in England to accept girls. And in Hertford I was looked after by a wonderful chaplain who was very supportive in my work in the church.

I owe a large part of my love for early music to the Salisbury Cathedral Choir. I've been singing Renaissance music since I was eight, and that preference lasted until I moved to Basel in my early 20s. It was here that I discovered the music of the Middle Ages and you could almost say that the more I settled in Basel, the deeper I slipped into the world of early music. And yet - had I not been allowed to sing along at Salisbury Cathedral because I was a girl, who knows if I would have discovered Early Music at all.

 

T C: Your musical training was not limited to singing, but obviously the piano, organ, clarinet and also the little harp played a role. Was the study of the voice always in the foreground?

 

GN: It's hard to believe, but the real decision to focus on singing came late when I entered the Schola Cantorum. As a teenager, the organ and the clarinet were my main instruments, of course I couldn't stop singing - this was always very important to me. But I had an unsatisfied curiosity about learning new instruments. So I dedicated myself to the drums, the saxophone, the violin and the small Celtic harp. At the university, the renaissance lute and the viola da gamba were added. Today I am happy to have learned to play many instruments, because it allows me to pick up new "foreign" instruments from the world of the Middle Ages and to accompany myself while singing, which is of course a lot of fun. I also feel it is an advantage that I did not have any classical vocal training before entering the Schola Cantorum, because I was confronted directly and specifically with medieval and Renaissance music in my professional vocal training.

 

TC: Your musicological specialties include research into the performance practice of songs and lyrics from the 12th and 13th centuries, i.e. the English High Middle Ages. Can you briefly tell us something about this musically rich time?

 

GN: The story of the English song in the Middle Ages is actually very interesting because it describes a multilingual singing culture. Put simply, the educated people spoke and sang a kind of Old French, while the uneducated made use of the English language. In addition to the rich tradition of Latin text sources, there was also an enormous vernacular fund of song texts, which differed greatly in their styles. The interest in polyphony arose surprisingly early on in these English songs and this was already very popular in the Middle Ages. The polyphonic folk song has been a well-known and popular art form since the 12th century. So it was clearly not an invention of court culture. In particular, in my dissertation on this topic, I came to the realization that the history of the style and playing style of polyphonic and unison songs in England differs greatly from that in the French and Latin cultures. The British Isles enjoyed an exceptionally rich and complex singing culture at that time, recognizable and manifesting in at least three different linguistic styles.

 

TC: Your most popular accompaniment instrument is not the guitar, nor the lute, nor the hand organ, but the small harp. How did this choice come about?

 

GN: The question about that harp is actually a story of kindness from other people. When I was young, I was given a Celtic harp, an instrument that I loved and admired. When I was asked to choose an instrument as a minor at the Schola Cantorum, the harp seemed to me to be the ideal choice. I was also fortunate to have received a grant from the Leverhulme Foundation in England. However, the Board of Trustees determined that “just a Celtic harp” could not be the ideal instrument for studying medieval music. So it was decided to finance not just one, but two harps, namely one for the music of the High Middle Ages and a Gothic harp for the late Middle Ages. That was fantastic, because thanks to the Leverhulme Foundation I was able to continue my studies with the medieval harp. And that's how I care for my three harps to this day. By the way, my little instrument is decorated in colors with ivy and small birds, just like the illuminations of medieval manuscripts.

 

TC: Does the renaissance begin to give way to instrumental performance practice with the advent of new musical instruments? Or does that just apply to changes in court music culture?

 

GN: We see the 15th century as the birth of instrumental music, which spread more and more during the Renaissance. From this time on, the first music manuscripts dedicated to specific instrumental ensembles can be found. But, as correctly noted, this development primarily affects court music culture. Incidentally, one of the challenges for understanding and researching the music of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance lies precisely in the fact that we mostly only know the perspective of the traditional sources, i.e. only those of the educated upper class. It is roughly as if in 500 years future musicologists would only come across sources of well-known operas and orchestral works and come to the conclusion that this and only this literature reflects the taste of our time. That is not the case, and then as now, people enjoy a wide variety of styles of music. Both instrumental and vocal music have a strong oral tradition. The so-called "birth" of early Renaissance instrumental music affects only one specific courtly trend that survived in writing. But that doesn't mean that vocal music has completely lost its meaning. It is delightful to imagine how other, new music trends develop and disappear again over the centuries without leaving any traces or sources.

TC: In the Middle Ages, recording notes in writing was still largely unknown. Based on what sources are medieval songs brought to life today?

 

GN: The earliest medieval notations should be understood more as auxiliary information than as clear vocal instructions - they refer to the basic voice and assume that the singer is familiar with the actual melody. In some cases, detailed notation appears in later song sources, which then allows us to fill in gaps. As early as the High Middle Ages, sophisticated notation systems were used, which in the late Middle Ages sometimes developed into wonderful, mathematically and logically well thought-out works. At the end of the 14th century, the musicians were already noticing highly complex melodies, in particular the rhythmic playing forms of the Ars Subtilior (style epoch between 1377 and 1420, note TC). These notations are created with professional pride and are enriched with puzzles and pictures.

Nevertheless, despite the sources, many questions about performance practice remain unanswered. So the question of the instrumentation, but also the question of possible accompaniment of unison songs. Old pictures, paintings or even descriptions can help here, but most of them lack important information. Certain painted instruments often show strange or even technically impossible details. Not all painters knew the details of the instruments, and their works convey a basic idea rather than reliable information about instrument making. As researchers and musicians, we try to use as many sources and references as possible and combine them into a whole.

TC: What is your prognosis for the revival of music from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance? Will it experience a boom similar to that which we have seen in baroque music over the last few decades?

 

GN: That's an interesting point. I think we are in a growing boom of interest for music from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, but not in the kind of market for baroque music today. Instead of an increased interest in the classical historical performance practice of medieval or Renaissance music, I find that many people live out their fascination for that early music in pop culture and in crossover experiments. Indeed, social media and YouTube channels offer hobby musicians from the Middle Ages and Renaissance new platforms and new audiences. An example of crossover, which I also enjoy and which even lives up to a higher standard, is the group Bardcore. This mixture of pop music and old song and text forms has become quite popular this year with the use of old instruments. Interesting in this regard is the Hildegard von Blingin` YouTube channel with well over 700,000 subscribers - and the musicians are quite talented! This is not my field of activity in medieval performance practice, but it is well done. And who knows - maybe this medieval crossover scene will inspire some listeners to turn to the classical form. Such crossover projects could be the spark for our music. The fascination is there, the boom just has to take root in our concert segment.

Team ReRenaissance

The interview October 2020 - Mira Gloor

Flutes are probably one of the oldest musical instruments in human history. On October 25th there will be a program dedicated to the virtuosity of the recorder that flourished again in the 16th century with a trio sonata line-up.

Mira Gloor, one of the three recorder players, speaks as a Swiss talent about her special experience, the recorder from an early age

at the S chola Cantorum Basiliensis,

the worldwide center for early music.

Thomas Christ interviewed

the recorder player Mira Gloor, who lives in Basel

TC: The Basel association ReRenaissance is particularly pleased to welcome a young Basel flutist - Mira Gloor, you seem to have been playing the recorder since you were born, can you briefly tell us something about your long-term loyalty to your instrument.

MG: Yes, the recorder has actually been with me for most of my life. I started playing the flute at the age of four and since then my love for this versatile instrument has grown steadily. Many used to have to learn the recorder in school and therefore have a very ambivalent relationship to the instrument. Since I've never been in this position myself and have always been able to enjoy great lessons from many different teachers, I had a happy start into the world of recorder music. And although I later had violin lessons, the recorder always came first for me. It was clear to me very early on that this instrument would be with me for the rest of my life.

TC: You did your training primarily at the Schola Cantorum, but as a Basiliensa you belonged to a vanishingly small minority at this school. How did you experience the international training competition, was it enriching or stressful?

MG: I think that even today you can still count the number of Basel residents at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis on one hand. It was a completely new experience for me at the beginning, because during my childhood I had perceived the music school at the Schola as a completely “normal” Basel music school and of course I knew nothing else. It was only during my studies that I became aware of the exclusivity of this special place. The internationality of the fellow students was an enormous enrichment for me. The cultural diversity, the different languages ​​and the mix of different age groups gave me a lot on my personal path. It is often said that the Schola is probably the worst place to learn German or even Swiss German. For me, however, in addition to all the musical experiences, it was also the best language school.

TC: Early music and modern compositions as well as folklore belong, as far as I know, to your repertoire. Are there clear preferences based on the literature or do these different musical worlds complement each other in your musical life?

MG: It is important to me to maintain a certain curiosity about the instrument, and that includes more unusual programs from time to time. The different styles help me to remain musically and technically flexible and, for example, to discover completely new sounds in contemporary music. With my two ensembles, I enjoy immersing myself in the different worlds of consort music from the Renaissance and chamber music from the early and high baroque periods.

TC: As is well known, the recorder did not make the step into classical music. Was it too quiet, too intimate, too fine or simply too old-fashioned? Can you tell us something about the history of instruments?

MG: The fact that the recorder faded more and more into the background from the second half of the 18th century certainly has something to do with its sound properties and its range. The softness and sweetness of the "Flauto Dolce" was probably no longer in demand and the growing orchestras and concert halls demanded instruments with a stronger sound. Without their deep sleep, the recorder would not have been able to celebrate a renaissance in the early 20th century. So this breather was perhaps a great stroke of luck for the current world of recorders, as many composers have dealt with the instrument from the 20th century until today and numerous exciting works have been created.

TC: One last question that I always like to ask: Baroque music has enjoyed great popularity for several decades, while music of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance still lead a niche existence with a growing but much smaller fan club. Can you imagine that our time is ripe for a renaissance boom in music too?

MG: It's nice to see that the music of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance is able to cast a spell over an increasing number of listeners. Especially here in Basel there is already a great range of concerts and an interested audience. I think that this trend will certainly continue in the years to come and I am happy to be able to contribute a small part of it myself.

Team ReRenaissance

The September 2020 interview - Crawford Young

Despite the Corona restrictions, our young Renaissance music series is enjoying itself

very popular in the Barfüsserkirche - we are particularly pleased to meet a proven connoisseur of early music in Europe in our monthly interviews.

Thomas Christ interviews the lutenist who lives in Basel

and musicologist Dr. Crawford Young

Dr. Thomas Christ (TC): As an American, you spent your first years of training in Boston - how did you get to know the music of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance in America?

Dr. Crawford Young (CY): I grew up in the New York area and the music scene was extremely stimulating in the 1960s. I attended a Beatles concert in 1965, from then on everything went by itself. My guitar playing led me to study classical guitar at the New England Conservatory, which at the time had an excellent early music department, from my point of view today the best in the United States. One of my teachers played us a recording by Thomas Binkley from 1970 'A chantar m'er de so qu'eu no volria' (Chansons of the Troubadours, Telefunken / Das Alte Werk), which was a key experience for me. At the same time, some fellow students moved to Basel to study with Binkley and other teachers at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis. They said he was the perfect teacher for me. Around 1977 I knew that I wanted to devote myself entirely to the medieval world of lutes, because this music corresponded to my enjoyment of improvisation, my preference for small ensembles and the familiar technique of playing with the pick. In addition, at that time no serious effort had been made to work up the history of the lute before 1500 in order to appreciate it as an independent 'voice' on the concert stage.

TC: Why did you choose Basel, the city of music, for your future career?

I didn't study in Basel. Because in 1977 Binkley left the Schola after breaking new ground in music education at the Basel School: he created a career with a specialized diploma in medieval and renaissance music. As I remember, the idea initially came from the brilliant musicologist Wulf Arlt, who became director of the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis in the 1970s. (To this day, the Schola remains the only conservatory in the world with a separate section for 'medieval music', i.e. for in-depth study of the repertoires before 1600.)

The idea of Thomas Binkley's team 'Studio der early Musik' was new and attractive to me back in 1977, because it contained an offer or a model of a successful performance practice that explored the early music repertoire in the quartet, a kind of ideal Combination of musicological research and stage experience at the highest level. Who couldn't be excited about this as a career goal? And indeed, at that time at the Schola, his students - by the way, interestingly, the majority of them were Americans - were well on their way to achieving this goal; For example, the course for medieval performance practice at the time published a recording for instrumental music (Estampie), which I found very convincing at the time.

It was not until Binkley left Basel in 1977 that I traveled from Boston to Stanford to study with him. There I received the invitation to join a quartet of Schola graduates from the Middle Ages in Cologne, where I spent three years. Then, in 1982, I was called to Basel to teach music of the Middle Ages, so to speak, I took over Binkley's position at the Schola.

TC: About your instrument, the lute: on the one hand, the lute has almost completely disappeared from the instrument repertoire since the classical period, on the other hand it seems to have a long history in representations up to the ancient times (kithara). Perhaps you can briefly tell us something about the historical meaning of the sounds?

CY: Plucked string instruments have played a special role in human history. The lyre or the kithara were the central instrument in education as well as in the sciences of classical antiquity, including in the Hebrew culture under King David - in biblical times it served as a medium of communication between man and God. It is well known that these early trends have shaped and influenced our world and our forms of cultural expression to the present day. The kithara has gone through many different manifestations over the centuries - plucked, struck with a pick or fingers or even a keyboard or at the end bowed with a bow. For more than half a century we have been living in the age of the guitar, whose popularity seems to overshadow other instruments around the world. In the Renaissance, the lute was the queen of instruments, as its properties harmonized with the ideals of humanism: it was not only considered the classical instrument of antiquity (Boethius' treatise De musica describes the kithara as the fundamental tool to understand music theory can), but was also considered the perfect companion of sung poetry, based on the example of ancient poets in their pictorial representations with the lyre. The lute became the preferred means of expressing human feelings and emotional moods; with its harmonies and intervals it brought the intimate, the private but also the ephemeral into a musical form. And, compared to some other instruments, such as the organ, it was easy to transport and easy to maintain. The lute eventually also became a Christian symbol, a standard instrument of angels and appears in the imagery of courtly love scenes and enchanted gardens (Garden of Déduit, Roman de la Rose, poem by Guillaume de Lorris, 1230). In short, it becomes an instrument of the emotional manifesto - so it is hardly surprising that the lute is chosen as an icon of humanism.

TC: Since music sources, but also references to the construction of old instruments, are often missing, I assume that in order to study the 'old sounds' you will deal intensively with literature and especially with the imagery of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

CY: Yeah, exactly. If we carefully study all sources of information, we have surprisingly precise answers to questions about the use, playing technique, construction and acoustics of lutes in Europe 500 years ago. Every historical source research - visual, literary, as well as instrument making - is now embedded in different research areas and has developed a corresponding academic life of its own - in other words, studying sources and following the constantly expanding fields of research turns out to be a gigantic task and lifelong challenge. But this actually corresponds exactly to the promise we make if we want to conduct those studies seriously. Because we have a responsibility to understand that zeitgeist, that worldview, as well as those aesthetic preferences of the time, which differs greatly from our current optics. But this timely appearance of those works allows us to perceive historical performance practice as a new art form. On the one hand, we are enjoying an unprecedented access to historical research today, but we cannot yet assume that all the theoretical findings have been incorporated into performance practice.

TC: Already in the baroque era the lute only survived in a few concerts, was the baroque already too loud? How would you explain this early withdrawal of the instrument from performance practice?

CY: That is a question for a baroque lute specialist, I would be unqualified to give an answer.

TC: In the past few decades, the curiosity of the audience for the world of baroque music, especially for baroque opera, has increased enormously among the classical music audience. Could you imagine a similar development for the music of the Renaissance?

CY: Our modern world loves the Middle Ages, or so-called Medievalism, possibly more than Baroque or Baroque opera. But early music festival organizers may have learned how to market a baroque opera, and they cling to a fixed mode of performance, as they have for years. The audience would, however, be receptive to pre-baroque productions, for example an original version of Orfeo from the late 15th century. - but the organizers think too conservatively here. The greatest commercial success with medieval 'operas' and 'operettas' (liturgical dramas) was achieved by New York Pro Musica in 1958 with the 'Play of Daniel' (another exception was the boom in Gregorian chant in the 1990s). Unfortunately today there are hardly any major pre-baroque productions.

Medieval and Renaissance music needs a narrative, a narrative background and so has to reinvent itself on the market. It must not be labeled as the exotic corner of classical music or pushed aside as pure music history. In general, historical terms or epochs but also terms such as 'early music' should be avoided for a successful market strategy.

The festival organizers regularly base their decisions on commercial added value as well as on the classical music scene (especially with early operas); so the music schools (in the logic of a business model) also follow the guidelines of the festivals and prepare the students for the later epochs. However, if the organizers were to shift their priorities to equally rich, earlier centuries (as ReRenaissance is currently trying to do), a new trend would emerge, which would also have consequences for the music academies. Today, however, the courses in medieval and renaissance music appear as minor subjects in the baroque and classical periods in a conservatory that is primarily dedicated to modern times. This model for studying early music dates back to the 19th century. and urgently calls for a revision.

I myself believed in the late 1970s that within a decade or two the conservatories would set up independent medieval and renaissance departments. Not even close. The main reason is that baroque music gets along with the world of classical music, is similar in structure and content to 'normal' classical music and is thus accepted. This is not the case with the Renaissance - and even more so with the music of the Middle Ages. These musical epochs or styles of music could never be marketed as 'classical'; for laypeople they rather belonged to folk or traditional music, or to jazz or even to the new music scene.

Medieval and Renaissance music must be 'decoupled' from the baroque and classical music. The differences between the baroque and humanistic understanding of music, as well as their approach to art, are enormous, which is why they also differ in performance practice (which is deliberately disregarded when musicians try to do both at the same time). The medieval or renaissance musician should therefore not see himself as an assistant or assistant to 'mainstream' music, but instead undergo training at a conservatory, at an interdisciplinary institute with courses in art history, literature and linguistics. His training focus would then be cultural, historical, geographical and musical. My vision of adequate training for an interpreter or an ensemble includes such a degree, which at the same time does justice to aspects of the history of art and work, and which delves into an era of early music. Perhaps such a career deserves the term 'authenticity' again.

Team ReRenaissance

The interview August 2020 - Ann Allen

The Basel-based association ReRenaissance aims to appeal to the inclined public with its wide range of performances

not only convey the world of the Renaissance, but also give the floor to the interpreters of early music in a series of interviews,

Thomas Christ interviewed
the musician living in Basel
Ann Allen (shawm and baroque oboe)

Thomas Christ (TC): The inclined concert-goers notice that none of the early instruments made it into the world of classical music without major changes. Many listeners may even be unfamiliar with the names of some string or wind instruments. How did you get to Schalmei or Dulcian as a young musician?

Ann Allen (AA) Although I have been playing the recorder since I was five, like many colleagues I have "worked my way back" in time. As a child, the modern oboe was my instrument, but in retrospect I find that early music should become my destiny. I still remember my great enthusiasm when we played Handel's fireworks music in the youth orchestra, or the fact that I didn't want to put down the instrument on that weekend of the first baroque sonata. Of course at that time I knew little about the world of baroque music, let alone that of the Renaissance or the Middle Ages, but I felt that these pieces particularly touched me. As I got older, my passion for early music became more serious, and at university I swapped the modern oboe for the baroque oboe. At the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis I finally made the acquaintance of the Shawm and the Dulcian - and I stayed with that.

TC: Can you please tell us a little bit about the origin of the shawm: When did it have its prime? Are there places where it is still played today in a non-historical context?

AA: Like many instruments that became popular in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, the shawm also found its way to Europe via musicians from the Middle Eastern cultures as well as from the eastern and southern Mediterranean regions. Images of shawl-like instruments are known as early as the 13th and 14th centuries, but the wind instruments in the August concert “Winds and Waves” date from the 15th to 17th centuries. The shawm became very popular at that time and in the Alta Capella it could be heard in every town, in every village, at the court and even - as our concert shows - on the ships

The sound of the instrument is essentially produced by the vibration of two pieces of wooden pipe (double reed). Shawm-like instruments can be found all over the world. Last year, during my vacation, I met a shawm duo from a Thai orchestra - we were very happy to share our experiences and compare our instruments - thanks to «Google translate»! But even in France, Spain and Italy, wind instruments similar to shawls are still an integral part of traditional music today.

TC: Baroque music has been enjoying great popularity for several decades, and all the major opera houses have included operas by well-known and unknown composers in their programs. At ReRenaissance we find that there is great curiosity and interest in the even earlier music of the 15th and 16th centuries. Does Basel play a pioneering role with its Schola Cantorum or do you see this trend in other European cities as well?

AA: Although we still have to speak of a niche interest, especially with medieval and Renaissance music, the repertoire of early music and historical performance practice seem to be developing into an established genre of classical music. This trend can be seen all over the western music world. I've lived in a few European cities, but none of these cities live this trend in professional depth

and performance frequency like Basel. Of course, different preferences and trends can be found in different countries, but thanks to the charisma of the Schola Cantorum, Basel has become a kind of epicenter of early music and thus also a breeding ground for future generations and new ideas for practice and research.

TC: The visualization of the musical experience is very important to you, you stage baroque operas and know your way around the art of medieval dance. Are you interested in a holistic music experience?

AA: Yes, I always had a visual connection to music. When I listen to music or sit in a concert, images of dance scenes often appear to me, or I imagine how the music could be transformed into an expanded viewing and listening experience. Although the music alone can be a pure joy for the ear and mind in its experience, I am convinced that a concert or live performance should appeal to all the senses of the listener and thus become an acoustic and visual experience.

TC: You also love the music experiment and stage so-called crossover projects, in which elements of medieval music merge with modern melodies, early and free music meet. Tell us about this historical liberation: Are the folk-song-like melodies of the early days particularly suitable for this game?

AA: As a native of London, I grew up in a multicultural environment and enjoyed the pleasure of interplay and experimental mixing, whether it was the kitchen, the clothing or the arts. Looking back, I realize that I felt the same way when dealing with early music. I was fortunate enough to be in charge of the Nox Illuminata festival for ten years; A willingness to experiment was required: early works were confronted with modern musical styles or combined with dance, theater or video interludes. Opera creations did not remain free of new influences either, Purcell's “Dido and Aeneas” appeared in jazz dress as “Play it again Dido”. What I particularly enjoyed at the time and was close to my heart was the interplay of early dance melodies with modern jazz rhythms, where we complemented well-known, secular Renaissance or courtly medieval sounds with a jazz or rock trio of bass, guitar and drums. It was a great experience to see musicians of various artistic origins transforming these melodies and rhythms - and thus to inspire a new audience that danced to adapted melodies that had been danced to hundreds of years ago.

Team ReRenaissance

The interview July 2020 - Raitis Grigalis

Thomas Christ interviews the Basel-based singer Raitis Grigalis, assistant to Andreas Scholl
at the Mozarteum in Salzburg.

Thomas Christ (TC): Raitis Grigalis, the Basel audience has known you for a number of years as a singer of baroque literature. I assume that singing has accompanied you since your early childhood, your hometown Riga is considered the Mecca of choral music. Do you come from a family of musicians?

 

Raitis Grigalis (RG): My parents are not professional musicians, but they met while making music. My mother is a doctor, my father is an engineer; While both were still studying, they met in the mixed youth choir of the University in Riga. My mother sang in soprano, my father in bass. I love this story because I was virtually “born in the choir” and grew up in and with choral music. My parents sent me to the Emils Darzins music school (choir school of the Riga Cathedral), where I gained my first stage experience in the boys' choir. Later I sang in the mixed choir led by my father's brother. However, I was not born entirely without musical genes: my grandfather was a respected choir director, violinist, organist and teacher in Latvia. During my studies at the Riga Music Academy, I worked with professional ensembles, including the Riga Radio Choir. At the same time I founded and directed the church choir of St. Peters Church in Riga. This is an amusing parallel, because back then I often performed in Basel's St. Peter's Church.

 

TC: How did you find your way to Basel? Was the love of early music the only reason?

 

RG: My interest in early music was aroused in high school. Later, in the music academy, where I also trained in conducting, I discovered my high-pitched voice and decided to further develop singing within an academic framework. At first I looked in the direction of London - Latvia was not yet in the EU at the time. But my studies there would have been very expensive and therefore almost impossible. One afternoon I happened to meet my professor of music history on the stairs of the university, who told me about Basel and the Schola Cantorum. I immediately went to the freshly set up computer room on the top floor and began researching. When I saw the photo of the beautiful inner courtyard of the music academy in Basel when I opened the website, it was clear to me - I wanted to go there. However, it was already April and I was late with my registration. In the following year everything worked out.

 

TC: In the world of classical music, especially in the opera repertoire of the major stages, the baroque operas have grown enormously in popularity in recent decades. Professional baroque ensembles shot up like mushrooms in the musical landscape all over Europe. In contrast, the rich literature of the Renaissance still led a real shadowy existence. How do you explain this imbalance?

 

RG: That's a more complex question and I don't want to say that I can answer it clearly and in depth. There are many languages on earth, and every music or style speaks its own language, and so we understand one better and the other not so much. The language of baroque music is easier to understand today because, with its dramatic effects, it appears expressive, full of emotions, rich in contrasts and colors, pompous, splendid, lyrical and at the same time intimate. This is all the more true when she speaks to us on the opera stage, with all the furnishings of a baroque or modern opera house, or at a mass with trumpets and timpani - hardly anyone remains unaffected. In the Renaissance, too, there are genres of secular music that are easier to record, on the other hand the great wealth of vocal polyphony may require a kind of 'access code' or a certain attention and willingness to get involved, to deepen the pleasure and linearity of the music enjoy - because the world that stands behind these closed doors is beautiful. I've sung a lot of polyphony myself over the past few years and I love it. It is to be hoped that the economic factors in the music world will remain positive so that the music of the Renaissance will continue to flourish.

 

TC: You have been living in the Basel region for 20 years. Do you find the time to devote yourself to choral music here too?

 

RG: Of course, if I already have a diploma in choir and orchestral conducting, I'll use it. The choir culture in Switzerland and especially in Basel is very rich and has a long tradition.

I am always amazed at the many large and small church choirs that put on one or two large concerts every year - with classical oratorios and cantatas, with orchestra and soloists. And this in almost every city in Switzerland. This differs the local choral culture from that in Latvia, because everything is concentrated there in the capital. There is no long tradition of church music, because due to the geopolitical situation on the Baltic Sea, the constant wars and changes of power, our traditions have been broken or interrupted time and again. The folk culture and thus also the musical culture has been suppressed again and again over the centuries and has developed and enriched itself more in the individual, in the family, or even in the underground. The fund is huge, there are around 2 million folk songs, one for almost every Latvian. This gave rise to a national identity at the beginning of the 20th century and ultimately a professional music culture that is extremely resilient. This explains why choirs in Latvia occupy themselves with singing across generations, because this was often the only free expression one could afford. So it is hardly surprising that the singing festivals, which take place every five years, have grown into a unique cultural phenomenon. The festival lasts a whole week and ends with a competition in the auditorium of the university in Riga, where in each category it is decided who will be chosen as the best choir in the country. This definitely has a sporting effect and above all motivates young singers. The choir culture is taken very seriously and leads to high musical performance, which can be heard in the choir sound. I am also a child of that choir culture and at the same time a graduate of the Schola Cantorum in Basel: So now I am trying to bring both cultural histories and traditions together. I am currently leading the English Seminar Choir at the University of Basel.

 

TC: I heard that you also work as a composer. Is it also about choral works? Can you tell us something about that?

 

RC: That's right, I've always studied composition as a minor and in fact it's mostly about music for choir and voice, because that's the stuff I know best, where I feel like a fish in water. These are smaller sacred choral pieces, psalm settings, but also pieces with texts by Rilke and a few movements for masses. I would by no means see myself as an avant-garde composer, rather my music is geared towards practical, functional and harmonic specifications, so that the complexity remains accessible, even to the non-professional ensemble.

A few years ago, on behalf of the Catholic Church in Therwil, I wrote a Christmas Oratorio with a text by Jacqueline Keune, a freelance theologian from Lucerne. It is designed from the perspective of an old woman and reflects the rather gloomy, helpless and grayer aspects of the Christmas story. And it was precisely these weeks that we and two friends from Basel finished the fairy tale opera “Snow White”, a work which in turn uses a different form of expression, a different instrumentation and different stylistic devices and is intended as a stage work with appropriate means of performance.

   

TC: Thank you very much

Team ReRenaissance

The interview June 2020 - Baptiste Romain

Thomas Christ interviews Prof. Baptiste Romain, teacher for fiddle and renaissance violin
at the Schola Cantorum, Basel.

Anker 3

Thomas Christ (TC): Mr. Romain, as probably the youngest lecturer at the Schola Cantorum, you practically exclusively devote yourself to the music of the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries. How do you explain your love for Renaissance music to your peers?

 

Baptiste Romain (BR): It is actually true that I dedicate myself exclusively to the music of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. One could open the frame you mentioned a little and say: from approx. 1000 to 1650. As you can imagine, this time window contains an enormous variety of repertoires and musical styles. It is difficult to explain why some sounds appeal to you and others less, why, for example, the purity of a perfectly tuned fifth is good for me, while it could be unsettling to others.

 

When I was 11 or 12, a school friend showed me editions of medieval dances and songs. He played the recorder and intended to perform this music with me (on the "modern" violin). I still remember which pieces they were and how I was immediately enthusiastic about them.

At the age of 14 I discovered other repertoires when we were presented with music history at grammar school, including the Organa of the Notre-Dame School, Trecento-Ballate and the Requiem of Okeghem. One day when we were analyzing and listening to a motet by Guillaume de Machaut, I decided to only deal with Early Music.

 

TC: Do you come from a family of musicians? Did you experience this very early music in your youth as "courant normal"?

 

BR: Both of my parents were involved in musical activities when I was a child. My mother sang in a choir, my father played guitar, piano and later even harpsichord at home. Early music was already part of my cultural landscape, along with jazz and classical music. The Middle Ages were hardly present in this range of variation, but the few records that went in that direction piqued my interest.

 

TC: Baroque music has experienced a real audience boom in the last 20 years, and today almost all opera houses regularly dare to play baroque singspiels. How do you rate the response or the interest of the inclined audience in Renaissance music? Do you stay in the circle of fans or does the zeitgeist allow the mobilization of new target groups?

 

BR: In some places around the world, the reappraisal of early music has met with great interest for several years: more and more medieval and renaissance concerts are being performed as alternatives to later repertoires. At some festivals, even part of the audience prefers these early programs. In many other places, however, the earlier music is unfortunately limited to “that one exceptional concert” - the “special offer” within an otherwise baroque festival week or series. Unfortunately, due to the general economic situation, there are now even fewer festivals and concert series that are exclusively dedicated to earlier music.

 

TC: The violin is known to be one of the few instruments that made the leap from old to new music. Briefly explain to us the differences between the fiddle, the renaissance violin and the classic violin.

 

BR: Between the 10th and 16th centuries, string instruments were played in Europe, which today are generally referred to as "fiddle". There were important regional differences in the construction, in the sound concepts, the playing styles and in the names. In the 15th century the term "vielle" was understood to mean a five-string instrument with a relatively flat bridge that was played on the arm. From 1520 a new form of the same instrument developed, with stronger indentations on the body and a bridge that favored the playing of polyphonic lines. Initially the violin was equipped with three strings, a little later (around 1550) with four. Around 1560 it got the shape and construction that we know today.

In addition, in the Renaissance there were larger instruments that were held between the knees. The viola d'arco / viola da gamba come from a parallel development of the Spanish fiddle and gained a special place in the musical culture of Europe in the 16th century.

 

TC: You also teach so-called “modal improvisation”. How should one imagine the notation of Renaissance music? Can it even be played without improvisation patterns? How freely does the layman have to imagine these patterns or individual figures? Do you recognize a good musician by his improvisational skills?

 

BR: Personally, I don't necessarily think you're a better musician if you focus on improvisation alone. It is clear that the audience longs for personalities and timeless experiences. But without understanding and humility towards the original text, such a performance is - in my opinion - often not convincing. Finally, the notation of the Renaissance conveys the musical thinking of a composer or a writer with very precise information. The freedoms that the performer has can relate to different areas of interpretation: micro-decorations that make the line imperceptibly richer, occasional diminutions with which the singer or instrumentalist gradually frees himself from the source text, or finally the continuous play (or singing) virtuoso diminutions that emphasize the creativity and understanding of the performer. There are also some aspects that today's musicians can acquire, such as the art of foreplay or improvised counterpoint.

 

TC: As a connoisseur of Renaissance music, you are inevitably also a historian. Baroque images tell us a lot about baroque gestures, but where do you get your sources for the sounds and preferences of old performance practice?

 

BR: There are a few main elements to the reconstruction of the performance practice back then that I think of spontaneously. The pictorial representations of musicians, performance situations and instruments are of great importance to us and have been studied for a long time. In addition, there are the theoretical treatises and writings that describe music practice. Here the gradation is very broad: one finds texts that are intended to serve the music lessons of children, some explain a special, technically oriented practice, while others philosophically depict the musical zeitgeist of a particular epoch. Then there are all the reference works ... Thanks to musicology you can always find new aspects and building blocks - studying your studies is an important source of inspiration for us.

 

TC: Not everyone knows that you are also a gifted bagpipe player. How did you get this instrument?

 

BR: When I was 13 years old, I was fascinated by the sounds of this instrument. This passion (or addiction!) Prompted me to order a small bagpipe from a Dutch farmer - even before I bought a fiddle. When he arrived (about 20 years ago), I went to the forest every day to practice - sometimes even in rainy weather, which had serious consequences for the instrument. At that time, I was looking for recordings all over the libraries in the Paris region, in order to write down new bagpipes and learn from whatever traditions in Europe. There I discovered many Breton and Scottish pieces, but also Swedish, Italian and Hungarian melodies, which were connected with a special vocabulary of decorations and articulations. During the time I was studying at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, I tried to develop my own bagpipe language, adapted to the old repertoire. I now have ten different instruments. About a month ago, during the lockdown, I ordered another bagpipes from the Pyrenees. The obsession is still there ...

 

TC: Thank you for your insights into the world of early music, we look forward to your participation in our concert series in the Barfüsserkirche.

Team ReRenaissance

The interview April / May 2020 - Elisabeth Stähelin

Elisabeth Stähelin, initiator and administrative director of the association and the monthly concerts “ReRenaissance”,

is interviewed by Dr. Thomas Christ,

enthusiastic concert goer and lover of the Basel cultural scene,

the one with a degree in art history and law and a lot of life experience with him

Supported ReRenaissance on the board since January.

Thomas Christ (TC): At the end of last year, a new association was formed in Basel that wants to dedicate itself exclusively to early music - despite the fact that some well-known ensembles have been fighting for survival for many years, especially in Basel's baroque scene. What are your motivations?

 

Elisabeth Stähelin (ES): I have noticed in recent years that on the one hand there are some people among the Baroque fans who want to repeat a performance, e.g. B. Comment on the seasons of Vivaldi with “Maybe you could have played another piece?” - that on the other hand, Renaissance music finds a slowly but steadily growing and more understanding audience, although this still has to be described as exclusive and the concerts are to be searched for with a magnifying glass.

In addition, and this is an important point, the musicians in Basel and the region host a potential of experts in Renaissance music that is unique worldwide in this concentration. This results from the fact that the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis - that's the name of the early music department of the Music Academy or the FHNW University of Music - attracts specialists from all over the world with its teaching content and its high quality. We have a kind of lighthouse of early music in Basel - I would much rather call it early than early music and hope that this term will prevail in German-speaking countries.

Not only history, religion, philosophy and aesthetics of the years 1400–1600 differ greatly from the later period, but also the music; we want to open up a new field of experience for the public.

 

TC: The program design has already progressed into 2021; what is it about in terms of time and content?

 

ES: To be honest: this question does not concern my profession! We narrowed the music down to the period from 1400 to 1600, but I have nothing to do directly with the program. This task lies in the hands of the musical management group, consisting of the recorder and viol player Tabea Schwartz, the lutenist Prof. Dr. Marc Lewon and the viol player Elizabeth Rumsey. They are currently in the process of completing the program for 2021. Personally, it is very important to me that various corners of Renaissance music and the world are covered - for example, we want to consider dance music, outdoor ensembles or rare instruments - highly polyphonic and monodic compositions should be performed, as well as music from other European strongholds the renaissance.

 

TC: What is the relationship to Basel?

 

ES: Basel was an important center of the Renaissance; think of the Basel Council 1431–1449 or the foundation of the university in 1460; During this time, papermaking and printing flourished here. Quite a few as yet unknown treasures of the Renaissance can be discovered in Basel, for example in the university's manuscript collection. The March program was based on the Kettenacker songbook from the Amerbach collection. In Basel there are still some well-preserved buildings from the Renaissance, such as the Spiesshof am Heuberg with its famous coffered ceiling or the town hall. The political structures of the city of Basel that are still in force today have their roots in this time.

 

TC: How did you come to work with the Basel Historical Museum?

 

ES: We had been looking for suitable rooms since May 2019. We scoured Basel for renaissance rooms suitable for concerts. We discovered a lot more than expected: Kaisersaal, Münstersaal in the Bischofshof, various guild halls such as the Safran- or Key Guild, Zum hoch Dolder, Schützensaal etc. We could have found a special room for every concert. Ultimately, the focus was on finding a central location for the concerts that take place on the last Sunday of each month, which makes it possible to present a wide variety of music formats without the musicians and the audience having to reorient themselves every time . The Barfüsserkirche is easy to reach, and the collaboration with the Historical Museum turns out to be very inspiring.

 

TC: Renaissance music is probably less known to the inclined public than the compositions of the following centuries. Will the performance series be enriched with lectures or corresponding texts?

 

ES: How exactly the interface between the museum and the concert will function logistically on Sunday afternoon seems a bit unclear, so we have to gain experience first. We hope to be able to offer accompanying lectures for the introduction from 2021 onwards. For the time being, we will print a detailed program booklet and provide information on the website in advance with illustrations and texts. This includes, in particular, the monthly column for the concert by Prof. Dr. Dr. hc David Fallows and a monthly interview with a musician or someone else involved in the project. With the monthly newsletter we refer to the updates.

 

TC: You were able to win well-known ensembles for the monthly concerts. Who is responsible for the programming?

 

ES: As far as the mention of well-known ensembles is concerned, I have to clearly disagree. There are many musicians from well-known ensembles in the program, but no such ensembles per se. This is one of the special features of our project: Unlike most other concert series, we start from a thematic topic and then look for musicians from the region who can optimally realize this topic together. For each concert, we put together a specific, new concert group - although that is not one of my tasks, but the task of the above-mentioned three-person management team responsible for the music.

 

TC: Are you also planning to perform in other Swiss cities?

 

ES: Other concert organizers have already approached us with this question, but our priority at the moment is to establish this series in Basel. We hope that a large and stable regular audience will develop in the Basel population. However, we think that over time our series will also broadcast across Switzerland. We are already receiving support, for example, from the Göhner Foundation based in Zug or a private sponsor from Lucerne.

 

TC: Does the cultural department of the Canton of Basel-Stadt support the project or do you live from private third-party funds, i.e. from foundations?

 

ES: We are very happy and grateful that quite a few foundations and private donors have placed their trust in us and the project, so that we can definitely get started. From the municipal side, we are receiving grants for two specific concerts this season through the Swisslos Fund Basel-Stadt.

 

TC: How do you deal with the Corona crisis? I assume there will be program postponements. Does that lead to problems, especially with regard to venues?

 

ES: As far as the venue is concerned, we have already received confirmation from the Basel Historical Museum that we can continue to use the Barfüsserkirche in 2021. Unfortunately the first two concerts had to be canceled. With the monthly concerts, we can virtually plan on a rolling basis and just get in as soon as the health conditions allow concerts again. Fortunately, the foundations also show a great deal of understanding for the complex situation.

 

TC: You've been working on this project for almost a year now. How do you personally experience this work?

 

ES: In the 80s I was active in concert life myself and as a violinist led an ensemble for baroque and classical music, then I shifted my work mainly to violin pedagogy. I am now enjoying the challenges in conceptual work and in setting up this concert series very much and experience it as a great enrichment; I am practically a “girl for everything”: be it immersing yourself in the world of foundations, double bookkeeping, writing or designing the website, be it the most artistically appropriate design of the advertising - that we have the monthly flyer in cooperation with the For example, I really like being able to produce the paper museum using the letterpress process.

The cooperation in the management group and on the board works extremely well, the support for our project among the musicians and in the scientific advisory board is enormous.

Team ReRenaissance

The interview March 2020 - Katharina Haun

Friedhelm Lotz,
an early music fan from the very beginning
and as a hobby musician since the 1960s a veteran in the matter,
met with Katharina Haun,
the Zinkenistin the first ReRenaissance concert,

which took place on June 28th

and recorded by SRF2Kultur.

Friedhelm Lotz: How did you get into music as a profession?

Katharina Haun: I'm not someone who decided early on to become a musician. A lot just happened in my childhood. I don't come from a family of musicians, but to a certain extent I slipped into it: I went to a musical high school and, like many children, started with the recorder. In contrast to most, I stuck with it. My love for music developed through good teachers and I was able to get to know the recorder as a professional instrument.

Friedhelm Lotz: How did you get into music as a profession?

Sebastian Virdung: Various wind instruments, including the straight zinc (Musica getutscht, Basel 1511)

Lotz: Katharina, what drew your attention to zinc?

Haun: I discovered zinc during my bachelor's degree in my hometown of Graz. It just went through reading and a concert where my mother sang in the choir. I heard it there and it just fascinated me. That's when I started to look and also to see that it was actually a very important instrument in the 16th and 17th centuries. I am fascinated by the fact that what was so important over a period of 200 years is known so little today. This search has brought me further and during my recorder master’s degree at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, I always found zinc as a great fascination. I was lucky enough to be able to start with zinc there, and then dive into completely different depths of zinc playing and early music at the Schola Cantorum in Basel.

Lotz: Zinc has the reputation of an instrument that is difficult to play and learn. Did you feel that way too?

Haun: Hardly any Zinkenist started using this instrument as a child. We all got there somehow via detours and bring experience of the previous instruments with us. The zinc demands that you always deal with it. The most dangerous thing is long breaks, but that's not a problem for me at all: I come from a sporty family in which it was always important to “stick with it” and persevere. I practice at least an hour a day when traveling and over time that became as natural to me as brushing my teeth. In my opinion, particular difficulties, for example with the small mouthpiece, arise if you do not have enough discipline to really work on it every day.

Lotz: One would think that zinc was a cross between a trumpet (attachment) and a recorder (finger holes). A (rather rhetorical) question would be whether it is sufficient to master these two instruments in order to be able to play zinc. What do you think about?

Haun: I can't speak for the trumpet, but it seems that trumpeters and trombonists would have difficulties with the size of the mouthpiece. The intonation on zinc brings with it completely different difficulties than on the recorder: With zinc, an idea of the tone is very important for controlling intonation; fingers are also important, of course, but primarily to focus the sound. You go with your instrument, the zinc and I go well together. I could hardly imagine playing a string instrument.

Lotz: Even with the trumpet, the pitch concept is important for intonation, but not to the same extent as with zinc. The fact that the sound can be influenced by the performance is probably also decisive for the broad applicability of the zinc, from the intimate dialogue with the singing in a small room to the brilliant, bright, all-drowning presence in the large concert hall.

Haun: That is actually what makes zinc so special: This flexibility sets it apart from most other instruments of its time, where you simply cannot get out of a narrow dynamic range. Together with the trumpets, zinc was used for a wide variety of contexts from the very beginning and I find that extremely exciting. I recently played with an Alta Capella again, i.e. with really loud instruments from the Renaissance: shawms, trombones, slide trumpets, etc. For this I had to prepare and switch to playing with a different mouthpiece that had a significantly lighter tone color. In any case, you have to use a different technique, have a good understanding of the things that make up the sound and how to manage the sound and the breath. I also practice this on my own: playing loudly and very clearly, a lot with a tuner and not only for the Alta Capella, but also, for example, for music by Biber or Muffat, where you can use the cornettino (high zinc) as the highest instrument the ensemble has to play; and then exactly the opposite, for example with a Bovicelli diminution, where it is important to have a flexible, soft and warm sound.

Lotz: You just mentioned the history of zinc. Your master's thesis at the Schola had something to do with it? What topic is it about?

Haun: I investigated the development of zinc between 1450 and 1530. In the iconography around 1450, zinc appeared for the first time as an established instrument that could be integrated into an ensemble. Earlier images suggest that handle-hole horns, such as those used as signaling instruments or for driving herds in, were the forerunners of zinc; however, there is no clear evidence of this. Around 1520/30 the period begins when the instrument became very popular, appeared in all possible musical contexts and a lot was written about it. This period in which zinc became a popular instrument is very exciting. I relied less on the existing iconography and more on written reports and descriptions from various countries. There is quite a lot of information, such as: B. an entry suggests that the German word "zinc", instead of the commonly used "cornetto", first appeared in Basel around 1474

Lotz: How do you keep fit?

Haun: I do a lot of sport, which is very important to me and certainly doesn't damage my condition for making music. Yesterday I was z. B. Snowboarding.

Lotz: Travel?

Haun: I really enjoy traveling, if possible with my husband and in the great outdoors. As a freelance musician, this is not always easy to achieve. We try to reserve common times in good time.

Lotz: Different music, different activities?

Haun: The other universities made it clear to me that I only had to concentrate 100% on one thing, but that wasn't my thing. Here in Basel I was able to revive for the first time and enjoy the diversity. Even though I have clearly decided in favor of the Renaissance and Baroque as a Zinkenist and recorder player, I find dealing with other music very exciting, beautiful and important. I am the director of the Laufental-Thierstein chamber choir and recently became the director of the Basel Boys' Choir. On weekends, during the holidays or when I still have time in between, I am also a tour guide for opera tours and then of course I deal with completely different music and I find that very enriching.

Thank you, Katharina, for the interesting interview. I wish you a lot of fun in the first ReRenaissance concert and success for your further career!

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