Harmonia Early Music

My Tunes: Alison Melville

We asked musician Alison Melville: "What are you listening to right now?" Also, music by Diomedes Cato, and a CD from The Baroque Chamber Orchestra of Colorado.

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Alison Melville

Photo: Menglin Gao

Alison Melville.

We’ll start with a piece from The Dublin Drag Orchestra: Fantasy No. 1 from the Consort Set a5 in A minor by William Lawes.  We’ll be hearing more from this ensemble later in the program.

Tr 4: Consort Set a5 in A Minor: Fantasy No. 1 (William Lawes) (4:51) / Tr 1: My Heart and Tongue were Twinnes (John Dowland) (2’06’’) / Tr. 7: Hope of My Heart (John Ward) (3’11’’)
The Dublin Drag Orchetra — Motion of the Heart (Heresy Records, 2012)
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Diomedes Cato

Sigismund III was a busy man. Elected to the throne of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1587, Sigismund was also trying to rule Sweden, defend his claims to Moldova, and overhaul election law.

But there’s always time for art, and Sigismund dabbled in painting and goldsmithing. He also employed musicians, not least among them the Italian-born lutenist Diomedes Cato.

Let’s listen to what Sigismund might have heard: a composition by Cato for his preferred instrument, the lute, played by Marcin Zalewski.

Diomedes Cato : Tr 15 Preludium (2’01)
Marcin Zalewski — If Lute could Speak (Dux , 2004)
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Cato arrived in Poland as a very young boy, moving with his family to escape Protestant persecution in Italy. He wrote all kinds of music for lute, from galliards and other dances of the day to rich fantasias to transcriptions of Italian madrigals.  In a sense, Cato was simply writing what he wanted to play.

Some of his lute pieces may have incorporated bits of Polish folk music: Cato wrote eight chorae polonicae, or polish dances.  We’ll hear a version of one played not on lute, but on organ by Boguslaw Grabowski.

Diomedes Cato : Tr. 14 Choria Polonica (1:45)
Boguslaw Grabowski — Ancient and Modern Portraits for Organ (MSR Classics , 2008)
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Not all Cato’s compositions were for his favorite instrument. He also wrote Polish-flavored sacred songs, as well as fantasias and other works for consorts of instruments.

Diomedes Cato : Tr 11 Canzona Diomedes (1’35’’)
Canor Anticus — Of Polish Kings (Dux , 2010)
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Diomedes Cato: Tr 12 Fantasia V (2’23)
Trombastic — Music of the Polish Golden Age (Dux)
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Cato may be little-known today, but he used to be famous: word of his skill spread through all of Sigismund’s territories, and one of Cato’s fantasias even landed a place in a British Manuscript, a kind of “greatest hits” album for lute.

Let’s return to the composer’s preferred instrument and hear one more piece for the lute, a riff on the notes re mi fa sol la performed by Joachim Held.

Diomedes Cato: Tr 17 Dio: (Re mi fa sol la) (1:52)
Joachim Held — Lute Music of the Renaissance (Hanssler Classics , 2005)
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My Tunes!

Ever wonder what the musicians you hear on Harmonia are listening to on their own time?  What’s on the playlists of your favorite players, teachers, and scholars of early music? This hour we’re bringing you My Tunes, a series of segments in which we ask people who work and play in early music the simple question: What are you listening to right now?

Alison Melville is a Toronto-based flute and recorder player with musical interests that jump genres and centuries. She plays renaissance and medieval music with The Toronto Consort, baroque music with Tafelmusik, and a mix of early music, new music, traditional music, and improvisation with the genre-hopping Ensemble Polaris. She also melds music to poetry, film, narrative, and visual art in a multidisciplinary feast dubbed The Bird Project.

We couldn’t wait to ransack Alison’s mp3 player!

First up is a Ciaconna à basso solo by little-known composer Giuseppe Colombi, recorded by the up-and-coming Canadian cellist Elinor Frey.

Alison explains:

“The earliest solo rep for cello can be challenging to bring to life…Elinor Frey sounds so completely at home with this music.  She sounds like she’s having a conversation with the composer and the centuries in between don’t matter.”

Tr 19: Ciaccona a basso solo (Giuseppe Colombi) (2’18’’) / Tr. 16 Bergamasca (Vitali) (1’43’’)
Elinor Frey, with Estaban la Rotta — La Voce Del Violoncello (Passacaille, 2013)
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We’re listening to music tracks currently “in rotation” for flutist and recorder player Alison Melville. She calls this next track—a piece by John Dowland interpreted by The Dublin Drag Orchestra—one of the “Hurtin’ songs from the 17th century.”

It was the text that first caught Alison’s ear:

“I love the music of John Dowland, and especially his consort songs. The singer here is clever and sounds as though they love the text, so not a single moment of meaning is lost …And, though this has absolutely nothing to do with the music, the photos of the band, in drag, are fabulous.”

Tr 4: Consort Set a5 in A Minor: Fantasy No. 1 (William Lawes) (4:51) / Tr 1: My Heart and Tongue were Twinnes (John Dowland) (2’06’’) / Tr. 7: Hope of My Heart (John Ward) (3’11’’)
The Dublin Drag Orchetra — Motion of the Heart (Heresy Records, 2012)
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album cover

Finally, we’ll hear to a selection by one of Alison’s own performing ensembles, the Toronto Consort. The Consort was gearing up for a Christmas concert, which was to include “Convidando esta la noche” by the Mexican composer Juan Garcia de Zespedes, a piece featured on the Consort’s CD Navidad, an exploration of Latin American and Spanish Christmas music.

According to Alison:

“The repertoire isn’t heard a lot, and it’s so much fun to play. Making this recording was a source of much creativity and joy…which is not often to be said for the recording process.”

Tr. 11 Ay luna que reluzes (anonymous) (2’55’’) / Tr 1: Convidando esta la noche (Juan Garcia de Zespedes) (3’53’’)
The Toronto Consort — Navidad (Marquis, 2012)
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Featured: Forte e Dolce

Our featured recording Forte e Dolce by The Baroque Chamber Orchestra of Colorado explores seventy-five years of musical heritage from 17th- and 18th-century Italy and celebrates renaissance Italy’s vibrant tradition of improvisation. The CD features chamber and solo pieces, including works for trumpet and strings, by composers such as Giuseppe Torelli, Antonio Bertali, Petronio Franceschini, and more.

Tr. 18 – Dario Castello, Sonata No. 2 for Violin and Continuo (5’27”) / Tr. 5 – Petronio Franceschini, Sonata in D Major for 2 Trumpets: II. Allegro (1’15”) / Tr. 23 – Antonio Bertali, Chiacona (8’46”)
Baroque Chamber Orchestra of Colorado — Forte e Dolce (Baroque Chamber Orchestra of Colorado, 2013)
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The Baroque Chamber Orchestra of Colorado made its Denver debut in 2005. Under the direction of harpsichordist Frank Nowell and baroque violinist Cynthia Miller Freivogel, the period-instrument ensemble provides outstanding performances and educational outreach throughout the Denver metropolitan area.


Break and Theme music

:30, Lute Music of the Renaissance, Joachim Held, Hanssler Classics (2005), Joachim van den Hove,  Passagio (excerpt of 0:39)

:60, La Voce Del Violoncello, Elinor Frey, Passacaille 2013, Tr. 1: Giuseppe Colombi, Tromba a Basso solo (excerpt of 2:48)

:30, Navidad, The Toronto Consort, Marquis 2012 MAR 81435, Tr. 15: Xácaras (excerpt of 3:49)

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 Laura Osterlund.

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 4: Consort Set a5 in A Minor: Fantasy No. 1 (William Lawes) (4:51) / Tr 1: My Heart and Tongue were Twinnes (John Dowland) (2’06’’) / Tr. 7: Hope of My Heart (John Ward) (3’11’’)
The Dublin Drag Orchetra — Motion of the Heart (Heresy Records, 2012)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Diomedes Cato : Tr 15 Preludium (2’01)
Marcin Zalewski — If Lute could Speak (Dux , 2004)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Diomedes Cato : Tr. 14 Choria Polonica (1:45)
Boguslaw Grabowski — Ancient and Modern Portraits for Organ (MSR Classics , 2008)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Diomedes Cato : Tr 11 Canzona Diomedes (1’35’’)
Canor Anticus — Of Polish Kings (Dux , 2010)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Diomedes Cato: Tr 12 Fantasia V (2’23)
Trombastic — Music of the Polish Golden Age (Dux)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Diomedes Cato: Tr 17 Dio: (Re mi fa sol la) (1:52)
Joachim Held — Lute Music of the Renaissance (Hanssler Classics , 2005)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Tr 19: Ciaccona a basso solo (Giuseppe Colombi) (2’18’’) / Tr. 16 Bergamasca (Vitali) (1’43’’)
Elinor Frey, with Estaban la Rotta — La Voce Del Violoncello (Passacaille, 2013)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Tr. 11 Ay luna que reluzes (anonymous) (2’55’’) / Tr 1: Convidando esta la noche (Juan Garcia de Zespedes) (3’53’’)
The Toronto Consort — Navidad (Marquis, 2012)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Tr. 18 – Dario Castello, Sonata No. 2 for Violin and Continuo (5’27”) / Tr. 5 – Petronio Franceschini, Sonata in D Major for 2 Trumpets: II. Allegro (1’15”) / Tr. 23 – Antonio Bertali, Chiacona (8’46”)
Baroque Chamber Orchestra of Colorado — Forte e Dolce (Baroque Chamber Orchestra of Colorado, 2013)
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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