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This week on Harmonia, a look at funeral music of the Baroque.

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This week on Harmonia: Memento Mori, as we build up to Halloween and All Saint’s Day with a sampling of the abundance of Baroque music written to honor the departed.

“Yet, O queen, you do not die…”

And so begins the final chorus from Johann Sebastian Bach’s Trauer-Ode. Written in 1727 for Christiane Eberhardine, wife of August the Strong, the Ode is a fine example of music composed specifically for the departed, meant to both honor the deceased and to help set the tone.  The Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists perform on the 1991 recording from the Archiv label of Cantatas 106 118b and 198 by Bach.

The funeral of Queen Mary in 1695 was initially supposed to be a private affair. She was just thirty-three years old and a much beloved Queen when she passed away. The state funeral began with an elaborate processional from Whitehall palace to Westminster Abbey. The music was composed predominantly by Henry Purcell and Thomas Morley, with contributions from James Paisible and Thomas Tollett. The Sixteen, directed by Harry Christophers, perform on the 1994 release from Collins records, The Complete Funeral Music for Queen Mary.

On July 30, 1683, the wife of Louis XIV passed away at Versailles. We know that Marc-Antoine Charpentier composed three works in her honor, yet their function and purpose remain a mystery. The most significant of the three, De Profundis, calls for one of Charpentier’s most sizable and varied orchestrations that includes soloists, double orchestra and choir. Soli-Gents Madrigaalkoor and Cantabile Gent, along with Musica Polyphonica perform Charpentier’s De Profundis on the 1987 release from Erato records.

Georg Philip Telemann was a prolific composer of church music. From this body of work, we find nearly two-dozen memorial cantatas. Unlike their dedicatees, most of the cantatas still survive, including one entitled Du aber Daniel, gehe hin. Cantus Cölln performs the cantata by Telemann on the HMC CD release, Trauer-Actus.

Johann Heinrich Schmelzer’s composition Lamento sopra la morte Ferdinandi III a tre honored a monarch who was an avid music patron. As Holy Roman Emperor, Ferdinand III had a particular affinity for Italian musicians. He was taught music by Giovanni Valentini, and employed both Antonio Bertali and Giovanni Felice Sances at his court.  The London Baroque performs on the 1993 release from Harmonia Mundi records, Johann Heinrich Schmelzer / Georg Muffat: Sonatas.

Our new release of the week features lutenist Nigel North performing the music of Nicolas Vallet from the collection entitled Le Secret des Muses. A lutenist and composer, Vallet was born in France yet spent a good part of his life in the Netherlands. He published four books of solo lute music.

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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