The Question of Love
What is love? It’s an age-old question. Ask anyone and they’ll tell you what they think it is. And why not? We’ve all been in (and out) of love, which probably makes us authorities on the subject.
Or does it?
If there’s one fact about love, it’s that it can’t be defined in any a single way. This is where artists and musicians of many varieties step in to help us represent what we feel when we’re in love.
Composers during the Renaissance wrote song after song, piece after piece, on love’s many themes. They weren’t necessarily trying to capture it as one thing, but represent its many flavors, you might say.
Italian Renaissance composer Luzzascho Luzzachi had definite ideas about what love meant to him. His works are all about nature, spring, youth, and affection. One of his pieces even begins with the expression “I love you!”
Chansons about Love
Like Luzzaschi, Franco-Flemish composer Thomas Crecquillon also had distinct ideas about love. His chansons are full of vivid pictures and little scenes that sometimes turn humorous and suggestive.
The chanson Mi levay pour ung matin is a fine example.
I got myself up one morning
Earlier than I had before
On my route I met
The lady whom I loved so much.
For love I begged her,
But she refused me;
And when she heard the sound
Of my bagpipe and its drone,
And Marion, my little love,
My stalk, my horn,
And ho ho ho ho,
To ask too much is not so good!
Another Side of Henry VIII
The Henry VIII Manuscript is a famous source of songs written by composers associated with the Tudor king’s court. It includes many love songs, some of which were composed by the king himself.
Of the 109 songs, around third of them are specifically credited to Henry VIII. They are touching, longing, and melancholy—all embodiments of English music of the period. They also speak highly of a young king and give us an idea of his innermost thoughts and emotions.
Our featured release is an Obsidian label CD of music by German Renaissance composer Ludwig Senfl. David Skinner leads an ensemble of vocal soloists and instrumentalists in love songs by Senfl, a leading European composer during the Reformation and a favorite musician of Martin Luther.
Senfl’s love songs tend towards the melancholy, yet he also wrote spirited music which evoked nature, youth, and love.