Harmonia Early Music

Flowers For Mother’s Day

A look at flower themes in music, with a special focus on the rose. Plus, we’ll hear a featured release of Christopher Simpson’s “The Monthes.”

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flora_Sandro_Botticelli_040-edit

Photo: The Yorck Project (wikipedia)

Flora, goddess of flowers, in the painting Primavera by Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510).

Time capsule for this episode: 1719

Mother’s Day is a special day set aside to honor our mothers. In the United States, the second Sunday of May is traditionally when it’s celebrated. Around the world it can be observed at varying times of the year.

On such an occasion, one popular way to show mom how much we appreciate her is with a gift of flowers.  So, in honor of Mother’s Day we’re exploring flowers in music, starting with songs about flowers and Flora, goddess of flowers, and the season of spring.

Francis Pilkington: "With fragrant flowers"
The Toronto Consort/David Fallis — The Queen: Music for Queen Elizabeth I (Marquis Music, 2009)
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Jean Fery Rebel: "La Flora"
Ensemble Rebel/Joerg-Michael Schwarz — Tombeau: Complete Trios Sonatas (harmonia mundi, 1997)
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Thomas Campion: "Now hath Flora robbed her bowers"
Emma Kirkby and Ensembles — The Emma Kirkby Collection (Hyperion, 1987)
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I am the rose of the field

If there is one kind of flower found in early music more than any other, it’s the rose—an ancient symbol of love and beauty. The rose is also a flower used as a representation of the feminine in the Song of Songs.

In one famous setting, composer Jacobus Clemens non Papa took four lines and wrote a lavish seven-part Latin motet, Ego flos campi. It translates,

I am the rose of the field and the lily of the valleys.
As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters.
The fountain of gardens: a well of living waters,
Which run with a strong stream from Lebanon.

Clemens Non Papa: "Ego flos campi"
Stile Antico — Song of Songs (harmonia mundi, 2009)
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Love, fidelity, and beauty

Earlier, we began to look at roses and their symbolism. Let’s continue with three perspectives, one Italian and two Spanish. They all use the rose as a symbol of love, fidelity, and feminine beauty.

Tomás De Torrejón Y Velasco: "De esta rosa tan bella"
Musica Temprana/Adrian Rodriguez van der Spoel — Avecillas Sonoras (Etcetera, 2008)
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Andrea Gabrieli: "Due rose fresche"
Les Voix Baroques and Consort Les Voix Humaines — Humori: Carnival and Lent - The Theater of the Humors (ATMA, 2009)
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Francisco Guerrero: En tanto que de rosa y azucena
La Trulla de Bozes — Sevilla circa 1560 (Passacaille, 2002)
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Featured release: Christopher Simpson

There are three months out of the year in which Mother’s Day is most commonly celebrated around the world. They are March, April, and May.

With that in mind, let’s turn to the music of 17th-century English composer Christopher Simpson who wrote a collection of twelve fantasias entitled “The Monthes.” He scored it for treble instrument (often played by a violin), two bass violas da gamba, and basso continuo. The viols were a prominent feature of the collection since he, himself, was a promient player of the instrument and one the most important writers on music of the time.

Simpson’s friend John Jenkins even wrote brief verses in reaction to “The Monthes.”

“And those thy well composed Months o’ th’ Yeere;
Which Months thy pregnant Muse hath richly drest,
And to each Month hath made a Musick-Feast…”

Christopher Simpson: March, April, May
Sophie Watillon, viola da gamba, and Ensemble — The Seasons, The Monthes, & other divisions of Time - I (Alpha, 2005)
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Christopher Simpson’s months of March, April, and May are performed by Sophie Watillon, Friederike Heumann, Brian Franklin, Matthias Spaeter, and Luca Guglielmi.

Francis Pilkington: "With fragrant flowers"
The Toronto Consort/David Fallis — The Queen: Music for Queen Elizabeth I (Marquis Music, 2009)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Jean Fery Rebel: "La Flora"
Ensemble Rebel/Joerg-Michael Schwarz — Tombeau: Complete Trios Sonatas (harmonia mundi, 1997)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Thomas Campion: "Now hath Flora robbed her bowers"
Emma Kirkby and Ensembles — The Emma Kirkby Collection (Hyperion, 1987)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Clemens Non Papa: "Ego flos campi"
Stile Antico — Song of Songs (harmonia mundi, 2009)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Tomás De Torrejón Y Velasco: "De esta rosa tan bella"
Musica Temprana/Adrian Rodriguez van der Spoel — Avecillas Sonoras (Etcetera, 2008)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Andrea Gabrieli: "Due rose fresche"
Les Voix Baroques and Consort Les Voix Humaines — Humori: Carnival and Lent - The Theater of the Humors (ATMA, 2009)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Francisco Guerrero: En tanto que de rosa y azucena
La Trulla de Bozes — Sevilla circa 1560 (Passacaille, 2002)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Christopher Simpson: March, April, May
Sophie Watillon, viola da gamba, and Ensemble — The Seasons, The Monthes, & other divisions of Time - I (Alpha, 2005)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
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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