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Harmonia Early Music

Renaissance Music In Theory

Some theorists heralded the arrival of new musical eras; others chose to reflect on the musical achievements of past generations and peers.

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Detail from the title page of Plaine and Easie

Photo: Mu (Wiki commons)

Detail from the title page of Plaine and Easie Introduction to Practicall Musicke (1597) by English composer, organist and musicologist Thomas Morley.

Time capsule for this episode: 1163

What is good music?  This has been a topic of debate for centuries, and scholars and theorists have never been short on opinions.  This hour we’re exploring some of the composers whose music has earned a so called “stamp of approval.”

In his monumental treatise, the Dodecachordon, 16th-century Swiss music theorist Heinrich Glarean highlighted composers whose compositions represented the highest musical achievements of the time.  Let’s listen to music by three of these composers:  first, Antonio de Cabezón’s musical gloss on the Benedictus from Josquin des Prez’s Missa L’homme Armé, following that, a Mass movement by Antoine Brumel and a motet by Jacob Obrecht.

Antonio de Cabezón (ca. 1510 – 1566): Benedictus De La Missa Del Homme Armé (Josquin des Prez)
Trio Unda Maris — Antonio De Cabezón: Glosados, Diferencias y Tientos (La Ma de Guido , 1996)
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Antoine Brumel (ca. 1460 – 1512 / 1513): Missa "Et ecce terrae motus" A 12 voce / Kyrie: a. Kyrie eleison, b. Christe eleison, c. Kyrie eleison
Huelgas Ensemble / Paul van Nevel — Brumel: Mass / Sequentia "Dies Irae" (Legacy Recordings , 2002)
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Jacob Obrecht (ca. 1457 / 1458 – 1505): Si sumpsero, à 3
Fretwork — Ottaviano de Petrucci's "Harmonice Musices Odhecaton" (harmonia mundi, 2002)
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Another composer mentioned by Heinrich Glarean in his Dodecachordon is the French composer Antoine de Févin.  Glarean writes that Antoine was a follower of Josquin des Prez.  After leaving his home town of Arras, in the late 1480s, Antoine de Févin came to work as a singer and composer for Louis XII of France, around the year 1507.  Antoine’s Requiem Mass in honor of Anne, Duchess of Brittany, wife of Louis XII, was composed for an impressive funeral that lasted a total of forty days.

Antoine de Févin (ca. 1470 – 1511 / 1512): Messe de Requiem: XI. Sanctus; Messe de Requiem: XII. Benedictus; Messe de Requiem: XIV. Agnus Dei
Ensemble Doulce Mémoire / Denis Raisin Dadre / Yann-Fañch Kemener — Antoine de Févin: Requiem d'Anne de Bretagne (Zig-Zag Territoires , 2011)
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The Venetian School

Composers active in Venice from roughly 1550 to 1610 crafted works in what were considered “traditional” and “modern” styles.  The emergence of musical innovations such as multiple choirs of voices and instruments, echo effects, and other creative uses of musical space mark a turning point in the development of Western music.

Music theorists like Gioseffo Zarlino and Thomas Morley made note of a “modern” musical style, and even went so far as to  separate “modern” and “traditional” music into disparate camps.  Today, we consider a number of these music theorists, and composers like Adrian Willaert, Giovanni Croce, and Andrea Gabrieli heralds of a new music that blossomed during the Baroque.

Adrian Willaert (ca. 1490 – 1562): Credidi propter quod locutus sum, "Psalm 115"
Currende Vocal Ensemble and Concerto Palatino / Paul van Nevel — Venetian Music for Double Choir (Accent, 2008)
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Giovanni Croce (1557 – 1609): Ecco (a 3 Voci)
Collegio Vocale E Strumentale Euterpe — Triaca Musicale (Stradivarius, 2009)
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Andrea Gabrieli (ca. 1532 / 1533 – 1585): Intonazione del Primo Tono
Luigi Ferdinando Tagliavini — Andrea and Giovanni Gabrieli (Tactus, 2010)
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Featured release

Founded in 1986 at Oxford University, the vocal and instrumental ensemble I Fagiolini currently presents as many as fifty world-class performances throughout Europe and North America per year.

Our featured recording is by I Fagiolini and contains music composed by Alessandro Striggio, a friend of the influential Italian music theorist Vincenzo Galilei.  I Fagiolini premiers Alessandro Striggio’s forty-part Missa Ecco Si Beata Giorno in a new version for voices and instruments. This massive polyphonic work appears beside the motet that most likely inspired it: Thomas Tallis’s Spem in alium.

Alessandro Striggio (ca. 1536 / 1537 – 1592): Ecce beatem lucem; Missa Ecco Si Beata Giorno: Sanctus; Missa "Ecco Si Beata Giorno" - Benedictus
I Fagiolini — Striggio: Mass in 40 Parts (Decca, 2011)
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album cover

Antonio de Cabezón (ca. 1510 – 1566): Benedictus De La Missa Del Homme Armé (Josquin des Prez)
Trio Unda Maris — Antonio De Cabezón: Glosados, Diferencias y Tientos (La Ma de Guido , 1996)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Antoine Brumel (ca. 1460 – 1512 / 1513): Missa "Et ecce terrae motus" A 12 voce / Kyrie: a. Kyrie eleison, b. Christe eleison, c. Kyrie eleison
Huelgas Ensemble / Paul van Nevel — Brumel: Mass / Sequentia "Dies Irae" (Legacy Recordings , 2002)
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album cover
Jacob Obrecht (ca. 1457 / 1458 – 1505): Si sumpsero, à 3
Fretwork — Ottaviano de Petrucci's "Harmonice Musices Odhecaton" (harmonia mundi, 2002)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Antoine de Févin (ca. 1470 – 1511 / 1512): Messe de Requiem: XI. Sanctus; Messe de Requiem: XII. Benedictus; Messe de Requiem: XIV. Agnus Dei
Ensemble Doulce Mémoire / Denis Raisin Dadre / Yann-Fañch Kemener — Antoine de Févin: Requiem d'Anne de Bretagne (Zig-Zag Territoires , 2011)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Adrian Willaert (ca. 1490 – 1562): Credidi propter quod locutus sum, "Psalm 115"
Currende Vocal Ensemble and Concerto Palatino / Paul van Nevel — Venetian Music for Double Choir (Accent, 2008)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Giovanni Croce (1557 – 1609): Ecco (a 3 Voci)
Collegio Vocale E Strumentale Euterpe — Triaca Musicale (Stradivarius, 2009)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Andrea Gabrieli (ca. 1532 / 1533 – 1585): Intonazione del Primo Tono
Luigi Ferdinando Tagliavini — Andrea and Giovanni Gabrieli (Tactus, 2010)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Alessandro Striggio (ca. 1536 / 1537 – 1592): Ecce beatem lucem; Missa Ecco Si Beata Giorno: Sanctus; Missa "Ecco Si Beata Giorno" - Benedictus
I Fagiolini — Striggio: Mass in 40 Parts (Decca, 2011)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Laura Osterlund

Laura Osterlund is a scriptwriter for Harmonia, recorder player, and student at McGill Univeristy in Montreal, Canada. In 2007, she moved from the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois to Montreal in pursuit of a B.Mus. with major concentrations in Early Music Performance and Music History. Laura is an active musician throughout Montreal and Chicago and an avid memberof the movement to promote Early Music performance, pedagogy, research, and appreciation throughout North America.

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