If we look at medieval European culture, we discover that they held dancing in just as high a regard as we do today in Western culture. People then had their favorite dances and music to accompany them.
Dance music in the late-Renaissance flourished throughout Europe with the help of music publishing. The public’s ravenous demands were met with collections of dances that could easily be played and danced to at home. One such collection was Peter Phalese’s “Premier Livre de Danseries” of 1571, which contained some of the most popular dances of the period – including many of the top ten hits making their way around Europe.
Today’s ballet owes much of its existence to Louis XIV and Jean-Baptiste Lully. The king, who was an avid dancer, founded the first dance school known as the Académie Royale de la Danse. Lully, the most prominent of Louis XIV’s composers, was also a dancer who shaped the direction of French dance for decades following the Academy’s establishment. Modern ballet’s five basic dance positions come from this period.
Some of the most interesting music for dancing comes from 18th-century Scotland. Particularly memorable were the country dances which include the jig, the reel, the strathspey, and the waltz; all of which are danced to by mixed couples. Many of today’s country dance tunes find their origins in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Our new release of the week comes to us from the CPO label. Entilted “San Marco in Hamburg”, the program features the choral motets of Hieronymous Praetorius as performed by Weser-Renaissance Bremen under the direction of Manfred Cordes.
Here’s a video of the “Dance of the Zephyrs” from Lully’s opera “Atys” with Les Arts Florissants (William Christie, dir.).