Harmonia Early Music

Feasting and Gluttony

Gluttony as found in music of the Renaissance and Baroque, and Les Voix Baroques performs early 17th-century carnival music.

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Royal Feast

Photo: Wikipedia

Watercolor depicting a feast at the Court of Ferdinand I, 1558 (Nuremberg Staatsarchiv).

One of the most popular ways to mark a special event is to prepare a large meal, invite a number of friends, and celebrate—having a feast is as old a civilization itself. Despite the church’s warnings about the dangers of eating and drinking too much, frequently referred to as gluttony, it almost seems to be an inevitable side-effect.

Early song often celebrated eating and drinking (even to excess) but rarely, if ever, warned of its dangers.

Anonymous: “Trinkt und Singt”
The Orlando Consort — Food, Wine, and Song: Music and Feasting in Renaissance Europe (Harmonia Mundi, 2001)
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One of the more remarkable and comical works to feature food and drink is by 17th-century Italian composer Giovanni Batista Fasolo (whose last name means “bean”). The work is titled “Serenade in the Lombard dialect, sung by Lady Gourmandise to my Lord Carnival with three interlocutors…that is to say—Sguizzon de Liquidis, Saion Coco, and Bacchus.”

“Lady Gourmandise” is noted for her incredible appetite. She sings “I like doves, capons, pheasants, partridges, and small ducks. I take and slice croquettes, chickens and hens, geese and suckling pigs, quail and partridge… I want no more radishes, chicory, lettuce, turnips, they’re no good for my [insides]. Listen: all I want is mascarpone, tripe with mint, gnocchi and lasagna, ravioli and polenta.”

Giovanni Batista Fasolo : “Serenade in the Lombard dialect" [excerpt]
Le Poeme Harmonique/Vincent Dumestre — Il Fasolo? (Alpha, 2002)
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Henry Purcell famously depicted drunkenness at beginning of the opera “The Fairy Queen,” based on Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The drunk in question is poet who becomes the center of ridicule. Maybe, Shakespeare was sending us a message…

Henry Purcell: Scene of the drunken Poet Fill up the bowl
Les Arts Florissants/William Christie — The Fairy Queen (HMC, 1989)
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Another side-effect of too much eating is flatulence. German composer Johann Heinrich Schmelzer depicted it in his Sonata a 5 al giorno delle correggie, written to mark a yearly event during his day when nobles held a “bean feast” for their employees. Schmelzer comically gives the well-known sound effect to the bassoon.

J.H. Schmeltzer: Sonata a 5 per camera “al giorno delle correggie”
Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra/Jeanne Lamon — J.H. Schmeltzer: Sonatas, Balletti Francesi, Ciaconna (Sony, 1993)
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Featured Release

Entitled Humori (“Humors”), the Canadian ensembles Les Voix Baroques and Consort Les Voix Humaines have come together in an ATMA label recording of music for Carnival and Lent, including composers Monteverdi, Vecchi, Scheidt, Bataille, and many others.

Orazio Vecchi: “Fate silentio”
Les Voix Baroques and Consort Les Voix Humaines — Humori: Carnival and Lent - The Theater of the Humors (ATMA, 2009)
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Anonymous: “Trinkt und Singt”
The Orlando Consort — Food, Wine, and Song: Music and Feasting in Renaissance Europe (Harmonia Mundi, 2001)
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Anonymous: Chants Pour la Fete de Purim
Lucidarium/ Avery Gosfield and Francis Biggi — La Istoria de Purim: Music and Poetry of the Jews in Renaissance Italy (K617, 2005)
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Orazio Vecchi: O Giardiniero – “Quest'a un altra bevanda”
Ensemble Clement Janequin/Dominique Visse — L’Amfiparnaso and Il Convito Musicale (Harmonia Mundi , 1993)
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Juan Del Enzina: “Hoy comamos y bevamos”
Hesperion XX/Jordi Savall — Juan Del Enzina: Romances & Villancicos (Astree, 1993)
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Giovanni Batista Fasolo : “Serenade in the Lombard dialect" [excerpt]
Le Poeme Harmonique/Vincent Dumestre — Il Fasolo? (Alpha, 2002)
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album cover
Henry Purcell: Scene of the drunken Poet Fill up the bowl
Les Arts Florissants/William Christie — The Fairy Queen (HMC, 1989)
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J.H. Schmeltzer: Sonata a 5 per camera “al giorno delle correggie”
Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra/Jeanne Lamon — J.H. Schmeltzer: Sonatas, Balletti Francesi, Ciaconna (Sony, 1993)
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Orazio Vecchi: “Fate silentio”
Les Voix Baroques and Consort Les Voix Humaines — Humori: Carnival and Lent - The Theater of the Humors (ATMA, 2009)
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Samuel Scheidt: Intrada and Galliard
Les Voix Baroques and Consort Les Voix Humaines — Humori: Carnival and Lent - The Theater of the Humors (ATMA, 2009)
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Claudio Monteverdi: Ciaccona “Zefiro Torna”
Les Voix Baroques and Consort Les Voix Humaines — Humori: Carnival and Lent - The Theater of the Humors (ATMA, 2009)
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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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