The predecessor of the clarinet, the chalumeau first appeared at the end of the 17th century and quickly gained popularity with composers from the beginning of the 18th century into the early classical period. Similar to a recorder in outward appearance but with the addition of a reed to the mouthpiece, the chalumeau’s piercing yet haunting timbre, and wide range of expressive colors fit perfectly into the Baroque sensibility.
Composers such as Graupner and Telemann wrote music featuring multiple chalumeaux, often playing the role of solo voice and accompaniment within the texture of the music.
While the chalumeau was often used in purely instrumental works, perhaps the greatest repertoire written for the instrument came when paired with the human voice. Music composed for chalumeau and voice often imitated bird calls, and the instrument’s agility made it a favorite for copying the songs of certain birds such as the turtle dove.
Here is the “Turtledove” aria from Vivaldi’s 1716 oratorio “Juditha Triumphans.” Juditha’s lamenting vocal line is matched by the accompaniment of the turtle dove.
From the Harmonia vault: Maronite chant
We’re celebrating Harmonia’s 20th anniversary this season. Looking back, one topic we’ve explored in a variety of ways over the years is chant. One example is from a 1999 episode called “Revisiting Chant,” in which we explored the continued commercial popularity of chant, as well as chant from various traditions. Here’s an excerpt:
When we think of the chant of the Eastern Christian churches, many think first of Greek and Russian Orthodox chant. But back in ancient times, there were four great centers of the early Christian Church: Byzantium, Rome, Alexandria and Antioch. The Latin rite and the Greek and Slavonic rites grew from roots in Byzantium and Rome. From Alexandria came the Ethiopian and Coptic Rites. But from out of roots in Antioch there eventually developed a whole group of different Christian churches, from Syria to the Middle East all the way to India. The next chant you’ll hear is from the Office of Saint Charbel, part of the Lebanese Maronite rite. It’s from a CD called L’Office de Saint Charbel, directed by Father Miled Tarabay. In faithfulness to the Maronite Christian tradition, you’ll notice the use of instruments, too, such as the Arabic lute, or ‘ud, and flute.
Maronite chant is also represented on a completely different kind of CD, this one by the group VOX, comprised of keyboardist Vladimir Ivanoff, guitarist Wolfram Nestroy, and one of my favorite singers, the Lebanese contralto Fadia El-Hage. The name of the CD is Divine Rites. This is called “Crucifixion,” and it’s based on a Maronite antiphon from the officium, or office, of Good Friday.
Featured release: A recreation of a 13th-century Easter vespers
Our featured recording is a 2010 self produced release by the Gregorian Ensemble of Notre Dame de Paris, directed by Sylvain Dieudonné. Entitled Surrexit Christus, the recording presents a complete Easter Vespers service using manuscript sources from Paris, Florence, and Wolfenbüttel, Germany to recreate a 13th century service.
The writer for this edition of Harmonia was Thomas Carroll.