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Harmonia Early Music

Tainted Love

Love’s gone bad this hour on Harmonia, as we explore music by—and for—the brokenhearted.

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broken heart

Photo: Steven Diaz (flickr)

Flower heart, broken.

Love is patient; love is kind…except when it’s anything but! Some sweet nothings have sour endings, and sometimes that box of chocolates proves to be a bitter pill. Love’s gone bad this hour on Harmonia, as we explore music by—and for—the brokenhearted: Toil and trouble in cupid’s domain, plus a sweet featured release called Doulce Memoire.


I burn, I burn, in flames I melt

Claudio Monteverdi wrote nine books of madrigals, many of which describe the turbulence of love. In his madrigal “Ardo, Ardo, Avvampo mi Struggo” (“I burn, I burn, in flames I melt.”) love is, quite literally, a disaster: “Bring ladders, axes, hammers, water,” the singers urge, “tell everyone of the danger!”

Tr. 17 Ardo, Ardo, Avvampo, mi Struggo (4’18’’) / Tr. 3 Lamento della Ninfa (Non Avea Febo Ancora) (1’25’’) / Tr. 4 Lamento della Ninfa ("Amor", Dicea / Si Tra Sdegnosi Pianti) (3’19’’)
Concerto Italiano — Claudio Monteverd: Lamento della Ninfa (Naïve , 2008)
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According to the text, there’s only one cure for tainted love: “Let your heart become ashes, and be silent.”


Misadventures in love

If seventeenth-century Italian composer Alessandro Stradella had been alive today, he might have been a regular in the tabloids. Stradella’s amorous adventures included consorting with actresses, running away with, (and then being forced to marry), another man’s mistress, and extorting money from a rich and elderly woman by promising to find her a husband.

At the age of 42, Stradella was found dead. He’d been stabbed, his body mutilated. The assassin was never found, but evidence suggests the motive was a woman. (No surprise there!)

Stradella’s music is almost as stormy as his love life, as you can hear from the opening notes of our next piece, the Sinfonia No. 22 for violin, violone, and continuo in D minor.

Alessandro Stradella: Tr. 2 Sinfonia No. 22 for violin, violone or cello and Continuo in D 8’23’’
Accademia per Musica — Simfoniae Romanae (Capriccio, 2003)
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From death by love to love as pain: Medieval poet and musician Guillame de Machaut’s masterpiece Remede de Fortune, or “The Cure for Ill Fortune,” depicts the poet’s titanic struggle with his love for an unnamed woman. He tries to profess his love but isn’t brave enough.

Eventually things look up for our hero, but there’s trouble along the way, including an episode of bitter jealously. Love, Machaut asserts, is “a sweet pain to bear.”

Let’s hear music from Remede de Fortune, a Baladelle, “En Amer A Douce Vie”.

Tr. 6. Baladelle: En Amer A Douce Vie (4’13’’)
Ensemble Project Ars Nova — Machaut: Remede de Fortune (New Albion , 2009)
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Love gone bad…or love that was never very good in the first place?

By all accounts, the marriages of Carlo Gesualdo, the Italian aristocrat and composer, were spectacularly unhappy. A difficult man who whipped himself for recreation, Gesualdo conducted multiple affairs, so many that his second wife, fed up, had two of Gesualdo’s mistresses prosecuted for witchcraft.

Of course, Gesualdo held his wives to a rigorous double standard: the story goes that he murdered his first wife after discovering her in bed with her lover.

Complexity and contradiction are obvious in Gesualdo’s music; his madrigals, especially, are filled with jagged harmonies. We’ll hear a madrigal by Gesualdo, “Tu m’uccidi, oh crudel,” along with some sacred music from the so-called dark prince.

Tr. 15 Tu m'uccidi, oh crudele (3’47’’)
La Venexiana — Gesualdo: Madrigals Book 5 (Glossa, 2005)
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19. Ave Regina coelorum (4’06’’)
Oxford Camerata, Jeremy Summerly — Gesualdo: Complete Sacred Music for Five Voices (Naxos, 1996)
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From tainted love to forbidden love: the middle-aged French composer Jean-Baptiste Lully’s affair with a young page in royal service, conducted none too quietly, was frowned upon by King Louis the Fourteenth. In an attempt to distance himself from scandal, the King failed to invite Lully, his former darling and one of the founders of French opera, to perform the composer’s latest tragedy, Armide, at Versailles. Lully oversaw the successful premiere of his opera elsewhere, but the king never would attend.

Let’s hear the finale from Armide, Le perfide Renaud me fuit. The enchantress Armide, helplessly in love with the knight Renaud, laments that he is gone and she is left alone.

Jean-Baptiste Lully: D. 2, Tr. 14 Armide: Act V Scene 5: Le perfide Renaud me fuit (Armide) (4’43’’)
Opera Lafayette — Armide (Naxos, 2008)
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Love forbidden

Composer Giaches de Wert couldn’t win! After his wife, Lucrezia, was seduced by a fellow composer as part of a political plot and died in prison, de Wert was censured as a cuckold. Soon after, he began a lengthy affair with widow and lady-in-waiting Tarquinia Molza, a talented musician in her own right.

But this romance was frowned upon for crossing class lines; de Wert, a poor man of no family, was considered an inappropriate match for minor aristocrat Molza. Their liaison may have been scandalous, but de Wert cared deeply for his forbidden lady, composing many love letters and—that ultimate sign of affection—jousting while wearing her colors.

Giaches de Wert: Tr. 6 Vox in Rama (4:08)
Ars Nova — De La Rue, De Wert (Kontrapunkt, 1986)
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Sometimes, after love, comes heartbreak, and there are few more poignant musical heartbreaks than Monteverdi’s madrigal “Lamento della Ninfa,” or the nymph’s lament, based on a text by Ottavio Rinuccini. A chorus of shepherds provides commentary as a solo soprano voice bewails her lover’s faithlessness: “A more serene eyebrow has she than mine,” the nymph says of her rival. The shepherds sum up love’s paradox: “Thus, in loving hearts, love mingles flame and ice.”

Tr. 17 Ardo, Ardo, Avvampo, mi Struggo (4’18’’) / Tr. 3 Lamento della Ninfa (Non Avea Febo Ancora) (1’25’’) / Tr. 4 Lamento della Ninfa ("Amor", Dicea / Si Tra Sdegnosi Pianti) (3’19’’)
Concerto Italiano — Claudio Monteverd: Lamento della Ninfa (Naïve , 2008)
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Featured CD: The Sweet Memory

Our featured release is a 2014 recording from viola da gambist Margaret Little and lutenist Sylvain Bergeron. The CD takes as its title, Doulce Memoire—a 16th-century chanson by Pierre Sandrin whose text tells of the sweet memory (the doulce memoire) of steadfast love now lost.

The enormously popular song was revamped and elaborated by numerous composers who arranged versions of it for all sorts of instruments. Coming up, we’ll hear two of those arrangements: first, a 1539 duo by Francois Layolle, and then some early 17th-century diminutions on the “doulce memoire” tune by Vincenzo Bonizzi.

Tr. 5 (Francois de Layolle) Duo: Doulce Memoire (2:01) / Tr. 16 (Vincenzo Bonizzi) Dolce Memoy (6:03)
Sylvain Bergeron and Margaret Little — Doulce Memoire (ATMA Classique , 2014)
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Break and Theme music

:30, Love, Revelry and The Dance in Medieval Music, Millenarium, Ricercar 2012, D1, Tr 8: La nova estampida real (Anon.) (excerpt of 4:42)

:60, Love, Revelry and The Dance in Medieval Music, Millenarium, Ricercar 2012, D1, Tr 4: Comminciamento di gioia (Anon.) (excerpt of 5:19)

:30, Love, Revelry and The Dance in Medieval Music, Millenarium, Ricercar 2012, D1, Tr 1: Dananza amorosa (Anon.) (excerpt of 4:20)

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. 17 Ardo, Ardo, Avvampo, mi Struggo (4’18’’) / Tr. 3 Lamento della Ninfa (Non Avea Febo Ancora) (1’25’’) / Tr. 4 Lamento della Ninfa ("Amor", Dicea / Si Tra Sdegnosi Pianti) (3’19’’)
Concerto Italiano — Claudio Monteverd: Lamento della Ninfa (Naïve , 2008)
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album cover
Alessandro Stradella: Tr. 2 Sinfonia No. 22 for violin, violone or cello and Continuo in D 8’23’’
Accademia per Musica — Simfoniae Romanae (Capriccio, 2003)
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album cover
Tr. 6. Baladelle: En Amer A Douce Vie (4’13’’)
Ensemble Project Ars Nova — Machaut: Remede de Fortune (New Albion , 2009)
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album cover
Tr. 15 Tu m'uccidi, oh crudele (3’47’’)
La Venexiana — Gesualdo: Madrigals Book 5 (Glossa, 2005)
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album cover
19. Ave Regina coelorum (4’06’’)
Oxford Camerata, Jeremy Summerly — Gesualdo: Complete Sacred Music for Five Voices (Naxos, 1996)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Jean-Baptiste Lully: D. 2, Tr. 14 Armide: Act V Scene 5: Le perfide Renaud me fuit (Armide) (4’43’’)
Opera Lafayette — Armide (Naxos, 2008)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Giaches de Wert: Tr. 6 Vox in Rama (4:08)
Ars Nova — De La Rue, De Wert (Kontrapunkt, 1986)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Tr. 5 (Francois de Layolle) Duo: Doulce Memoire (2:01) / Tr. 16 (Vincenzo Bonizzi) Dolce Memoy (6:03)
Sylvain Bergeron and Margaret Little — Doulce Memoire (ATMA Classique , 2014)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
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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