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Harmonia Early Music

Down On The Farm

We’re throwing open the barn doors with music inspired by sheep, cats, chickens—even the frogs down by the creek.

chicken

Photo: James De Mers (Pixabay)

Polish chicken.

We’ll start with some colonial-era dance tunes performed by Early Music New York. The concluding tune, Lord Macdonald’s Reel, is attributed to Sir Alexander MacDonald—no the farmer, but an avid amateur fiddler.

His reel, first published near the turn of the nineteenth century, caught fire in the new world. It even managed to travel to the Arctic! The polar explorer William Parry, concerned about entertaining his men, brought along a mechanical barrel organ that played Sir Macdonald’s reel and other tunes.

Tr. 25 Straun Robertson's Strathspey (Dance Tune) (1’37’’) / Tr. 20 The Colley Flower Cotillion / Hobson's Choice / Miss Macdonald's / Lord Macdonald’s Reel (2’58’’)
Early Music New York - Frederick Renz, Director — Colonial Capers: Odes, Anthems, Jigs & Reels (Ex Cathedra , 2010)
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Hens and swans

Let’s think about springtime! One great place to enjoy the warming weather and budding trees is down on the farm…the musical farm, that is!

Composers from many centuries have found inspiration—and humor—in the barnyard, and this hour we’ll feature the mewls and squawks of a musical menagerie. We’ve got sheep and cats, frogs and foxes, and a whole brood of chickens!

Let’s start with the henpecked husband of Pierre Passereau’s chanson “Il est bel et bon.”

Passereau, a sixteenth-century French singer and composer, wasn’t much given to seriousness: his chansons are rich with nonsense and obscenity. “Il est bel et bon” captures the sound of pecking as the dutiful husband feeds the household’s hens!

We’ll hear a brief vocal rendition by The King’s Singer’s, followed by Paul O’Dette playing an arrangement of the same tune for lute.

Pierre Passereau: Tr. 19 Il est bel et bon (1’25’’)
The Kings Singers/Anthony Rooley/Consort of Musicke — Madrigal History Tour (Warner Classics (remastered 2004), 1989)
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[To see a full list of the music played, please click on the "music on this episode" tab at the top of this post.]

More chickens–of both sexes–peck their way through Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber’s Sontata Representativa for violin and continuo.

Biber takes advantage of the violin’s flexibility to imitate a host of animals, including cats, frogs, nightingales…and poultry.

We’ll hear “Die Henn & Der Han,” or the cock and the hen, followed by “Die Wachtel,” or the quail, and finally an animal-free allemande.

D. 1, Tr. 13 Sonata Representativa: V. Die Henn & Der Hann (Cock & Hen) (:38’’) / D. 1, Tr. 14 Sonata Representativa: VI. Die Wachtel (Quail) (:59’’) / D. 1, Tr 17 Sonata Representativa: IX. Allemande (3’:09)
Andrew Manze and Romanesca — Biber: Violin Sonatas (Harmonia Mundi France (reissued 2002), 1994)
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One last bird…and it’s a mean one! Swans are aggressive birds. But you’d never know it from Orlando Gibbons’s famous madrigal, “The Silver Swan.”

Silent in life, the swan, dying, finally cries out:

Farewell, all joys! O Death, come close mine eyes!
More Geese than Swans now live, more Fools than Wise.

Tr. 15 The silver swanne: The Silver Swan (1’22’)
Tessa Bonner / Rose Consort of Viols / Red Byrd — Gibbons: Consort and Keyboard Music, Songs and Anthems (Naxos, 1994)
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Lambs

Sheep are an ever-ready source of musical inspiration. They wander, they frolic, and, perhaps most famously, they graze…safely in J.S. Bach’s perennial favorite, “Schafe können sicher weiden,” or “Sheep may safely graze.”

The aria is frequently performed out of context, but it’s part of a secular cantata composed in 1713 and nicknamed the “hunting” cantata for its title, “The lively hunt is all my desire.”

The cantata is also known as the “birthday” cantata. It was purportedly a birthday present from Bach’s employer to a fellow nobleman, Duke Christian of Sachsen-Weissenfels.

In the “schafe” aria, the animals are kept safe by the watchful presence of the shepherd –probably Duke Christian, the birthday boy.

Tr. 13 J.S. Bach: Was mir behagt, ist nur die muntre Jagd, Cantata BWV 208 - Schafe können sicher weiden (Sheep may safely) (4’45’’)
Danielle de Niese/The English Concert/ Henry Bicket — Beauty of the Baroque (Decca, 2011)
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Spring is lambing season: though you wouldn’t know it from the musical world, which uses lambs year-round to represent the sacrifice of Christ, the “Lamb of God.”

We’ll hear two invocations of the “lamb” by a pair of composers who are frequently confused with one another: the sixteenth-century English composer John Taverner and the contemporary British composer John Tavener.

The Tallis Scholars are well-known in the world of early music, but they’ve also explored the music of contemporary composers like Tavener. Let’s listen to the Scholars singing Tavener’s “The Lamb,” a setting of a poem by William Blake.

In the poem, Blake uses the image of the lamb to explore the connection between the earthly and the divine:

Little lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee,
Gave thee life, and bid thee feed
By the stream and o’er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing, woolly, bright?

Tr. 9 The Lamb (3’42’’)
The Tallis Scholars — John Tavener: Ikon of Light - Funeral Ikos - The Lamb (Gimell, 2014)
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[To see a full list of the music played, please click on the "music on this episode" tab at the top of this post.]

Frogs and cats’ paws

We’re down on the farm this hour, sampling music inspired by sheep, quails, swans, chickens…and their predators.

The Glogauer Liederbuch is a fifteenth-century collection of partbooks, featuring music that’s…well, fun!

So much of music passed down to us from the fourteen hundreds has a serious purpose—meant to be played in church or during a public ceremony. The Glogauer Liederbuch contains some music meant to be lighthearted, including several pieces inspired by animals!

Let’s listen to three pieces: one about “the adder’s tail,” one about “the fox’s tail,” and finally, an intricate, pouncing piece of music inspired by the cat’s paw!

Tr. 19 Glogauer Liederbuch, Part I: No. 25. Der natter schwanz (2’19’’) / Tr. 17 Glogauer Liederbuch, Part I: No. 122. Der fuchs schwanz (1’58’’) / Tr. 22 Glogauer Liederbuch, Part I: No. 13. Die katzenpfote (1’02’’)
Clemencic Consort — Glogauer Liederbuch (Oehms Classics , 2012)
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One last musical creature this hour: the frog! It’s hard to imagine how the croaking of a frog could be transformed into music, but if anyone could do it, it would be the prolific and musically indomitable Georg Phillip Telemann.

Telemann never shied away from unusual combinations of instruments, nor, it seems, from unusual inspiration. Let’s listen to the first movement of Telemann’s Violin Concerto in A major, dubbed, appropriately, “the frogs.”

Tr. 16 Violin Concerto in A Major - "The Frogs": I. Ohne Satzbezeichnung 5’:29’’
Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin — Telemann: La Bizarre, Suites pour Orchestre (Harmonia Mundi France , 2002)
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The faithful shepherd

We’ve been over the hills and through the woods, out in the pasture and on the farm this hour communing with croaking frogs, swooning swans, grazing sheep.

And on our featured release—a 2014 recording from the ensemble Amarillis—we’ll hear from a caretaker of animals, Le berger fidèle, or The Faithful Shepherd.

This French cantata by Jean-Philippe Rameau is one of only two by the composer published during his lifetime. It tells the story of a shepherd in love, but that love is threatened by a cruel quandary: Diana, goddess of the animals and woodland groves, must be appeased with the sacrifice of the Shepherd’s beloved.

But don’t worry! After a moment of despondency, the Shepherd offers to die in his lover’s place; Diana—impressed by the selfless act—changes her mind, and love wins out.

Tr. 17 Le Berger fidèle: Air gai (4:14) / Tr. 18 Le Berger fidèle: Récitatif III (:57) / Tr. 19 Le Berger fidèle: Air vif et gracieux (3:58)
Ensemble Amarillis — Rameau (Naïve, 2014)
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Break and Theme music

:30, Gibbons: Consort and Keyboard Music – Songs and Anthems, Rose Consort of Viols / Red Byrd / Timothy Roberts, Naxos 1994, Tr. 19 Fantasia No. 1 a 3 for the Great Double Bass (excerpt of 4:29)

:60, Dancing in the Isles, Musica Pacifica, Solimar 2010, Tr. 2 Rufty Tufty (trad. English Country dance) (excerpt of 1:30)

:30, Gibbons: Consort and Keyboard Music – Songs and Anthems, Rose Consort of Viols / Red Byrd / Timothy Roberts, Naxos 1994, Tr. 16 (A Mask (The Fairest Nymph) (excerpt of 1:29)

Theme: Danse Royale, Ensemble Alcatraz, Elektra Nonesuch 79240-2 1992 B000005J0B, T.12: La Prime Estampie Royal

The writers for this edition of Harmonia are Anne Timberlake and Janelle Davis.

Learn more about recent early music CDs on the Harmonia Early Music Podcast. You can subscribe on iTunes or at harmonia early music dot org.

Tr. 25 Straun Robertson's Strathspey (Dance Tune) (1’37’’) / Tr. 20 The Colley Flower Cotillion / Hobson's Choice / Miss Macdonald's / Lord Macdonald’s Reel (2’58’’)
Early Music New York - Frederick Renz, Director — Colonial Capers: Odes, Anthems, Jigs & Reels (Ex Cathedra , 2010)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Pierre Passereau: Tr. 19 Il est bel et bon (1’25’’)
The Kings Singers/Anthony Rooley/Consort of Musicke — Madrigal History Tour (Warner Classics (remastered 2004), 1989)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
D. 1, Tr. 13 Sonata Representativa: V. Die Henn & Der Hann (Cock & Hen) (:38’’) / D. 1, Tr. 14 Sonata Representativa: VI. Die Wachtel (Quail) (:59’’) / D. 1, Tr 17 Sonata Representativa: IX. Allemande (3’:09)
Andrew Manze and Romanesca — Biber: Violin Sonatas (Harmonia Mundi France (reissued 2002), 1994)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Tr. 15 The silver swanne: The Silver Swan (1’22’)
Tessa Bonner / Rose Consort of Viols / Red Byrd — Gibbons: Consort and Keyboard Music, Songs and Anthems (Naxos, 1994)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Tr. 13 J.S. Bach: Was mir behagt, ist nur die muntre Jagd, Cantata BWV 208 - Schafe können sicher weiden (Sheep may safely) (4’45’’)
Danielle de Niese/The English Concert/ Henry Bicket — Beauty of the Baroque (Decca, 2011)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Tr. 9 The Lamb (3’42’’)
The Tallis Scholars — John Tavener: Ikon of Light - Funeral Ikos - The Lamb (Gimell, 2014)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Tr. 19 Glogauer Liederbuch, Part I: No. 25. Der natter schwanz (2’19’’) / Tr. 17 Glogauer Liederbuch, Part I: No. 122. Der fuchs schwanz (1’58’’) / Tr. 22 Glogauer Liederbuch, Part I: No. 13. Die katzenpfote (1’02’’)
Clemencic Consort — Glogauer Liederbuch (Oehms Classics , 2012)
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album cover
Tr. 16 Violin Concerto in A Major - "The Frogs": I. Ohne Satzbezeichnung 5’:29’’
Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin — Telemann: La Bizarre, Suites pour Orchestre (Harmonia Mundi France , 2002)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Tr. 17 Le Berger fidèle: Air gai (4:14) / Tr. 18 Le Berger fidèle: Récitatif III (:57) / Tr. 19 Le Berger fidèle: Air vif et gracieux (3:58)
Ensemble Amarillis — Rameau (Naïve, 2014)
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Tr. 10 ll est bel et bon (Passereau; arr. L'Aquila) (2’06’’)
Paul O’Dette — Lute Music Volume 2: Early Italian Renaissance Music (Harmonia Mundi , 1994)
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Tr. 10 Taverner: Missa Gloria Tibi Trinitas: Agnus Dei (7’58’’)
The Tallis Scholars — John Taverner - Missa Gloria Tibi Trinitas (Gimell, 2002)
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Anne Timberlake

Anne Timberlake holds degrees in recorder performance from Oberlin Conservatory and Indiana University. She has received awards from the American Recorder Society and the National Foundation for the Advancement of the Arts, and, in 2008, was awarded a Fulbright Grant. With Musik Ekklesia, Anne has recorded for the Sono Luminus label, and she’s a founding member of the ensemble Wayward Sisters, specializing in music of the early baroque. Anne enjoys teaching as well as performing. In addition to music, she holds a B.A. in Creative Writing and covers the classical music beat for the Richmond Times-Dispatch (Virginia).

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