Harmonia Early Music

Traditions Series: Weddings

This week, the Harmonia Traditions Series explores early wedding music. Plus a new release by American fortepianist Susan Alexander-Max.

Play Episode (Real Audio)
couple holding hands

Photo: Jan van Eyck

A painting known as "The Arnolfini Wedding" by Jan van Eyck (National Gallery, London).

The celebration of marriage has always incorporated music in many ways. Although customs and traditions might vary, wedding music in western culture has been an important and often indispensable aspect of the ceremony and its celebration. The weddings songs and dances that have been left to us from the middle ages onward have much to reveal about the people and culture to which they belonged.

Not all early wedding music was created alike, especially if royalty was involved. For the late-Renaissance wedding of Philip II and Mary Tudor, the ceremony was nothing short of a spectacle. The music used throughout reflected the backgrounds of the wedding couple: a political union between Spain and England. Naturally, each country carted out their best music and most prominent musicians.

For Spain, this meant bringing over an entourage of instrumentalists as well as their most esteemed organist, Antonio de Cabezón.

For the 1660 wedding of Louis XIV and Maria Theresa of Spain, a grand celebration was executed, yet not all of the plans went according to schedule. Apparently, one of the highlights was a premiere of Cavalli’s opera Ercole Amante, which, due to numerous production delays, did not receive its first performance until two years later. 

Johann Sebastian Bach wrote a number of works for weddings. For the cantata entitled Weichet nur, betrübte Schatten, there is very little information regarding the people for whom it was intended. The only clue comes to us from its text, which suggests that it may have been a Spring wedding. 

We move on from Bach the father to music of his sons Johann Christian and Johann Christoph Friedrich. The London-based ensemble The Music Collection performs a select program of keyboard concertos under the direction of their fortepiano soloist Susan Alexander-Max.

Here’s a video of soprano Lisa Larsson singing the  aria “Weichet nur” from Johann Sebastian Bach’s wedding cantata of the same title:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYphRxJdv0A

The music performed in this episode was performed by L’AURA, Paul Hillier, Gothic Voices, Orchestra of the Renaissance, English Bach Festival, Christine Schäfer, and Musica Antiqua.

Music Heard On This Episode

J.S. Bach: Air from Orchestral Suite in D major, BWV 1068
L’AURA (Bernardo Gordillo, dir.) — Beautiful Baroque (WFIU Public Radio, 2008)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
J.S. Bach: Air from Orchestral Suite in D major, BWV 1068
L’AURA (Bernardo Gordillo, dir.) — Beautiful Baroque (WFIU Public Radio, 2008)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Anonymous: Wedding Song Ex te lux oritur o dulcis scocia, “The light arises from you, Oh sweet Scotland”
Paul Hillier, baritone, Stephen Stubbs, medieval lute, and Lena-Liis Kiesel, organ — Troubadour Songs and Medieval Lyrics (Hyperion , 1984)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Solage: Corps feminin
Gothic Voices — The Unknown Lover: Songs by Machaut and Solage (AVIE , 2006)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Antonio de Cabezón: Elevation: Differencias sobre La dama la demanda
Orchestra of the Renaissance/Richard Cheetham — The Marriage of England and Spain: Music for the wedding of Philip II and Mary Tudor, Winchester Cathedral 1554 (Glossa , 1999)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Cristóbal de Morales: O sacrum convivium
Orchestra of the Renaissance/Richard Cheetham — The Marriage of England and Spain: Music for the wedding of Philip II and Mary Tudor, Winchester Cathedral 1554 (Glossa , 1999)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Nicolas Gombert: Recessional: Jouissance vous donnerai
Orchestra of the Renaissance/Richard Cheetham — The Marriage of England and Spain: Music for the wedding of Philip II and Mary Tudor, Winchester Cathedral 1554 (Glossa , 1999)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Francesco Cavalli: Prologue
English Bach Festival Chorus & Baroque Orchestra/Michel Corboz — Ercole Amante (ERATO , 1981)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Johann Sebastian Bach: From: Cantata, Weichet nur, betrübte Schatten, BWV 202
Christine Schäfer, soprano, and Musica Antiqua Cologne/Reinhard Goebel — Wedding Cantatas: Johann Sebastian Bach (DG Classics , 1999)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
J.C. Bach : From Concerto in Bb major, op. 13, no. 4, C65 (J.C. Bach)
The Music Collection/Susan Alexander-Max, fortepiano/director — Keyboard Concertos: J.C. Bach and J.C.F. Bach (Naxos , 2008)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
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.

View all posts by this author »

Stay Connected

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from Harmonia Early Music:

More Subscription Options

Follow Us

Support For Indiana Public Media Comes From

About Harmonia Early Music

About The Hosts

Search Harmonia Early Music

where to hear harmonia