Harmonia Early Music

New Music, Early Music

Open your mind—as well as your ears—as we listen to music from the distant past alongside related music by living composers.

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new york polyphony

Photo: Chris Owyoung

Music from the ensemble New York Polyphony's 2012 recording endBeginning can be heard on this edition of Harmonia.

Guillaume de Machaut was a masterful composer of the 14th-century Ars Nova in France and is particularly associated with development of the polyphonic motet and secular song. Many of his compositions are in the so-called formes fixes including the rondeau, virelai and ballade.

Machaut’s Ma fin est mon commencement is one of his most famous rondeaus and is cleverly set so that the text and music form a sort of palindrome. The tenor refrain of the text reads, “my end is my beginning, and my beginning my end,” while the accompanying music is composed so that it is the same whether read forwards or backwards.

We’ll hear the Orlando Consort perform this Machaut masterpiece, and then, the ensemble New York Polyphony sings their take on it in a newly composed piece by Jackson Hill.

Tr. 13. Ma fin est mon commencement: Rondeau (6:17)
Orlando Consort — Dreams in the Pleasure Garden: Machaut Chansons (Deutsche Grammophon , 1998)
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Jackson Hill (Composer, b. 1942): Tr. 15: Ma fin est mon commencement (5:54) / (news hole at 1:00-6:00): Tr. 11: Mem: Lamentationes Jeremiae (5:00)
New York Polyphony — endBeginning (BIS , 2012)
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A musical fragment…completed

The musical fragment of Bach’s Fantasy for Organ in C major was likely composed in 1722 or 1723, and only the first 12 measures of the piece still exist. It’s hard to know for sure if the remainder has been lost or if Bach just abandoned the composition.  Either way, composer Thomas Meyer-Fiebig completed his own version of the fantasy, basing his composition on other comparable organ works by Bach. We’ll hear Aya Yoshida performing Thomas Meyer-Fiebig’s completion of a fragment by J.S. Bach—Fantasy in C Major, BWV 573 on the Jehmlich organ at the Evangelische Kreuzkirche in Dresden.

J.S. Bach/Thomas Meyer-Fiebig: Tr. 1 Fantasy C Major BWV 573 (incomplete) (8:38)
Aya Yoshida — Fantasy 1720 (Zoho Music , 2011)
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Neapolitan links

A 2012 recording by ensemble Accordone showcases music that relates to the city of Naples—some of it is early music, and some not.

18th-century Neapolitan composer Gaetano Latilla represents one of the “early music” composers on the disc. During the course of his career, Latilla was in demand in Italy, mostly as a composer of comic opera.

Similarly, 21st-century composer Guido Morini composed an opera of his own, to be performed on period instruments. This modern-day work is based on the figure of Raimondo di Sangro—an 18th-century alchemist, inventor and prince who lived and worked in Naples.

Tr. 10, T'aggio voluto bbene (Gaetano Latilla) (6:45) / Tr. 7, Solve et Coagula: Tarantella tapanella (Guido Morini) (3:31)
Ensemble Accordone — Storie Di Napoli (Alpha, 2012)
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Featured release: Homage to “Dutch Master Swelin”

Our featured release is a 2013 recording by Camerata Trajectina and the Brisk Recorder Quartet Amsterdam. It’s a CD called Sweelinck and the Art of Variation.

Some popular variations composed by Sweelink use the melody of a famous German song Mein junges Leben hat ein End. And, closely related to that German tune is a brand new piece written in 2012 by the Dutch composer Daan Manneke, which was commissioned by the Brisk Recorder Quartet. Titled Épitaphe-Double, the composer describes his  piece as “an evocation of the renaissance as well as an homage to our great Dutch Master Swelin (i.e. Sweelink), the Phoenix of Music.”

Tr. 7: Onder een linde groen (Sweelinck variations) (5:12) / Tr. 12: Mein junges Leben hat ein End (Sweelink) (4:06) / Tr. 13: Épitaphe-Double (Manneke, 2012) (4:53)
Camerata Trajectina and the Brisk Recorder Quartet Amsterdam — Sweelinck and the Art of Variation (Globe, 2013)
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Tr. 13. Ma fin est mon commencement: Rondeau (6:17)
Orlando Consort — Dreams in the Pleasure Garden: Machaut Chansons (Deutsche Grammophon , 1998)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Jackson Hill (Composer, b. 1942): Tr. 15: Ma fin est mon commencement (5:54) / (news hole at 1:00-6:00): Tr. 11: Mem: Lamentationes Jeremiae (5:00)
New York Polyphony — endBeginning (BIS , 2012)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
J.S. Bach/Thomas Meyer-Fiebig: Tr. 1 Fantasy C Major BWV 573 (incomplete) (8:38)
Aya Yoshida — Fantasy 1720 (Zoho Music , 2011)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Tr. 10, T'aggio voluto bbene (Gaetano Latilla) (6:45) / Tr. 7, Solve et Coagula: Tarantella tapanella (Guido Morini) (3:31)
Ensemble Accordone — Storie Di Napoli (Alpha, 2012)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Tr. 7: Onder een linde groen (Sweelinck variations) (5:12) / Tr. 12: Mein junges Leben hat ein End (Sweelink) (4:06) / Tr. 13: Épitaphe-Double (Manneke, 2012) (4:53)
Camerata Trajectina and the Brisk Recorder Quartet Amsterdam — Sweelinck and the Art of Variation (Globe, 2013)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Janelle Davis

Janelle Davis is a violinist and performer with period instrument ensembles throughout the United States. She is currently a candidate for the Doctor of Music degree from Indiana University, Bloomington where she specializes in early music.

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