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La Pellegrina

This week, the intermedi from La Pellegrina performed by the Huelgas Ensemble and the Taverner Consort. Plus, a new release of songs by William and Henry Lawes.

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painting of man in red by window

Photo: Anonymous

Ferdinando I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, as painted by an anonymous Florentine artist (Polo Museale Fiorentino).

The wedding of Ferdinando de’Medici to Christine of Lorraine was a spectacular Florentine affair.  It took place in 1589, two years after Ferdinando became Grand Duke of Tuscany.  The wedding was lavish and spared no expense.  This included its principal entertainment: a performance of Girolamo Bargagli’s comedy La Pellegrina, which is remembered today not for its drama but for the musical interludes that accompanied it.  Those six interludes, better known as intermedi, are comprised primarily of music by court composers Cristofano Malvezzi and Luca Marenzio.

The intermedio was a musical interlude unique to the Renaissance.  It could be placed during feasts, processions, tournaments, or before, after and in between acts of a play, as is the case for La Pellegrina.  However, contrary to the belief that they were secondary compositions, La Pellegrina’s interludes were anything but typical.  Ther were, in fact, the pinnacle of all intermedi.  With a budget relative to that of the feature flims of today, the six intermedi were truly something to behold; their enormous sets and grand compositions offering an experience that was nothing short of stunning.

There were other composers who contributed music to the intermedi.  They included Giulio Caccini, Giovanni de’ Bardi, Jacopo Peri, and Emilio de’ Cavalieri—four men who were a part of a movement that ushered in the Baroque Era.

Fortunately for us, Ferdinando ordered the music of the intermedi to be published shortly after its premiere.  That act not only preserved it for posterity, but helped to populize the one tune that became a hit across Europe in the decades that followed.  Better known as the Ballo del Gran Duca, it was the closing movement to the sixth and final intermedio.

Our new release of the week takes us from Italy to England as we move on to the songs of Henry and William Lawes.  Countertenor Robin Blaze is the soloist with lutenist Elizabeth Kenny.

Here’s video of a performance by the Chamber Choir of Namur and La Fenice (Jean Tubery, dir.) of the final movement from the sixth intermedio—Emilio de’ Cavalieri’s O che nuovo miracolo:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WVPNHHQap8c

The music heard in this episode was performed by The Taverner Consort, Choir, and Players, and The Huelgas Ensemble.

Music Heard On This Episode

René Saman : Monsieur Saman his Coranto
Robin Blaze (Ct), Elizabeth Kenny (lute) — Songs by Henry and William Lawes (Hyperion , 2007)
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René Saman : Monsieur Saman his Coranto
Robin Blaze (Ct), Elizabeth Kenny (lute) — Songs by Henry and William Lawes (Hyperion , 2007)
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Henry Lawes : Sweet, stay awhile; why do you rise?
Robin Blaze (Ct), Elizabeth Kenny (lute) — Songs by Henry and William Lawes (Hyperion , 2007)
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Emilio de’ Cavalieri : Intermedi (1589) per ‘La pellegrina’: Intermedio I
Taverner Consort, Choir, and Players/Andrew Parrott — Una ‘stravaganza’ dei Medici (EMI , 1988)
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Malvezzi: Intermedi (1589) per ‘La pellegrina’: Intermedio I
Taverner Consort, Choir, and Players/Andrew Parrott — Una ‘stravaganza’ dei Medici (EMI , 1988)
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Marenzio: Intermedio II
Huelgas Ensemble/Paul van Nevel — La Pellegrina (Sony Vivarte , 1998)
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Marenzio : Intermedio III
Huelgas Ensemble/Paul van Nevel — La Pellegrina (Sony Vivarte , 1998)
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Malvezzi: Intermedio IV
Taverner Consort, Choir, and Players/Andrew Parrott — Una ‘stravaganza’ dei Medici (EMI , 1988)
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Jacopo Peri : Intermedio V
Taverner Consort, Choir, and Players/Andrew Parrott — Una ‘stravaganza’ dei Medici (EMI , 1988)
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Malvezzi: Intermedio V
Taverner Consort, Choir, and Players/Andrew Parrott — Una ‘stravaganza’ dei Medici (EMI , 1988)
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Emilio de’ Cavalieri : Intermedio VI
Huelgas Ensemble/Paul van Nevel — La Pellegrina (Sony Vivarte , 1998)
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Henry Lawes : From the hea’vns now I fly
Robin Blaze (Ct), Elizabeth Kenny (lute) — Songs by Henry and William Lawes (Hyperion , 2007)
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Henry Lawes : Tavola: In quell gelato core una voce
Robin Blaze (Ct), Elizabeth Kenny (lute) — Songs by Henry and William Lawes (Hyperion , 2007)
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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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