Harmonia Early Music

Circa 1500

Harmonia takes a trip this week through Renaissance England, Italy, and Spain with the London-based ensemble Circa 1500 and its director Nancy Hadden.

woman and flute

Photo: Anonymous

Nancy Hadden, director of Circa 1500.

The ensemble Circa 1500 was founded in the early 1980s by American flutist Nancy Hadden. She brought together a group of American and European musicians with the singular goal of performing music from the Renaissance. Nearly three decades later, the ensemble has produced an impressive discography of works from 16th-century England, the Italian and Iberian Peninsulas, and the early-German baroque.

Their first recording, produced in 1984, was an auspicious beginning, to say the least. The program featured some of the most famous works from the Renaissance courts of Mantua and Ferrara.

The ensemble’s director and founder, Nancy Hadden, is a scholar and performer on early transverse flutes, including ones from the Renaissance, baroque, and classical periods. Her special focus on the Renaissance flute has garnered her recognition as an authority on its repertoire and playing techniques.

Nancy also holds the distinction of being the first to record an entire program of music devoted to the Renaissance flute, including solos as well as works for a consort of flutes. Entitled Flute Music of the 16th and 17th centuries, her 1988 Hyperion release was acclaimed for its artistry and program innovation.

But this was not the only recording Nancy was producing at the time. The year preceding her solo release came Circa 1500’s second recording centered on music from 16th-century England… “The Flower of All Ships,” subtitled “Tudor Court Music from the Time of the Mary Rose.”

Although recordings of music from early Spain and the New World are pretty accessible today, it wasn’t necessarily the case two decades ago. The ensemble’s 1989 CRD label release “Music from the Spanish Kingdoms” had little company. Nevertheless, its lively program of music from Renaissance Spain and Naples included works by some of the period’s greatest composers such as Juan del Encina and Diego Ortiz.

The music of Tudor England has featured prominently in Circa 1500’s history. Their second recording to focus on its vast repertoire was called “‘New Fashions’: Cries and Ballads of London.” The title says it all and includes many pieces that were popular in late 16th-century London.

The ensemble’s latest offering on the CRD label is a program entitled “Sacred Concerti,” which includes German motets and instrumental works from the late Renaissance and early baroque. The program centers on German works from Leipzig for voices and instruments that specifically include the rare appearance of transverse flute.

Here’s a video of part 1 from the BBC production “Mary Rose,” which was developed to feature Circa 1500:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Yu3N5kqY-8

The music heard on this episode was performed by Nancy Hadden and Circa 1500.

Music Heard On This Episode

Tobias Michael: Gott schweige doch nicht also
Circa 1500/Nancy Hadden — Sacred Concerti (CRD, 2009)
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Tobias Michael: Gott schweige doch nicht also
Circa 1500/Nancy Hadden — Sacred Concerti (CRD, 2009)
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Marchetto Cara: Mal un muta per effecto, Calata (Anonymous), and Saltarello El marchese di Saluzzo (Anonymous)
Circa 1500/Nancy Hadden — Renaissance Music from the Courts of Mantua and Ferrara (Chandos, 1984)
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Anonymous: And I war a maydyn
Circa 1500/Nancy Hadden — The Flower of All Ships (CRD , 1987)
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Anonymous: Gagliarda mi racomando
Circa 1500/Nancy Hadden — Music from the Spanish Kingdoms (CRD, 1989)
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John Dowland: Fine knacks for Ladies
Circa 1500/Nancy Hadden with Redbyrd — ‘New Fashions’: Cries and Ballads of London (CRD , 1992)
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Johann Hermann Schein: Siehe das ist mein Knecht
Circa 1500/Nancy Hadden — Sacred Concerti (CRD, 2009)
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Bernard Gordillo

Bernard Gordillo was born in Managua, Nicaragua, and raised in New Orleans. He holds degrees from Centenary College of Louisiana, the Early Music Institute at Indiana University, and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (London). Bernard also writes and hosts the Harmonia Early Music Podcast.

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