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In Italia: A Renaissance Christmas

Nativity, circa 1490, by Lorenzo Costa (1460–1535), (Museum of Fine Arts of Lyon).

This hour, we're exploring the story of the Nativity through music from the late Renaissance to the early 17th century in Europe. We'll hear music by Giovanni Bassano, Michael Praetorius, along with broadcast premieres of works by the 16th-century Milanese composer and scholar Franchinus Gaffurius and Spanish composer Diego Ortiz -all performed by musicians of the Historical Performance Institute of the Jacobs School of Music of Indiana University.


  • Samuel Scheidt, Verses on "Gelobet seist du" (Nicholas Quardokus, organ) (5:00)

This program takes us on a journey with music through which we'll encounter stories of the Nativity of Jesus. We'll begin at the Cathedral in Milan of the 1480s, moving on to the Spanish Royal Chapel in Naples in the 1560s; we'll be welcomed at St Mark's Venice during the 1590s, and finally we'll hear music composed for the Royal Court at Dresden in 1614.

Gaffurius at Milan Cathedral

Franchinus Gaffurius was one of the most important music scholars of the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. He spent most of his professional life as organist and choirmaster at Milan Cathedral.

We're going to hear broadcast premieres of five works composed by Gaffurius, all from the manuscript bearing his name at Milan Cathedral. The first is the Gloria movement from his mass based on the popular secular tune, "De tous biens pleins." The liturgical text - Gloria in excelsis - is derived from the scene in Luke's gospel where a choir of angels announces to a very surprised group of shepherds the imminence of Christ's birth. After the Gloria we'll hear four movements from the motet cycle Salve Mater salvatoris, a sequence for the nativity of the Virgin Mary written by the 12th-century Parisian cleric, Adam of St Victor.


Franchinus Gaffurius (1451-1522), From Missa De tous bien playne:Â

  • Gloria in excelsis
  • From Salve Mater salvatoris:
  • Salve Mater salvatoris
  • Salve verbi sacra parens
  • Salve decus Virginum
  • O convalis humilis

[Gaffurius Codices: Milan, Archivio della veneranda fabbrica del Duomo, Sezione musicale, librone 1-3, (olim 2269, 2268, 2267, early 16th cent.)] (Total: 12:35)

To Naples and the music of Diego Ortiz

Now we're going to move forward half a century in time. We'll head south from Milan to Naples and the music of Diego Ortiz.

Naples had been under Spanish occupation, and although Ortiz was born in Toledo, Spain, we find him as choirmaster of the Viceregal chapel in Naples from at least 1553. Most of Ortiz's composed polyphony survives in the book Musices liber primus, (published in Venice in 1565); we're going to hear broadcast premieres of three settings from this collection, using texts from the seasons of Advent to the Epiphany.

The first setting, Illumina nunc pectora, will be performed by a sackbut ensemble. The next setting, Non ex virili semine will be played by a consort of viols, with a special solo gamba verse featuring improvised divisions, created by viol player Brady Lanier, in accordance with Ortiz's own directions (set out in the instructional manual Trattado).

Finally, a vocal consort will join the viols in a polyphonic setting of Ibant Magi from the 5th-century hymn "Hostis Herodis impie," referring in this case to the journey of the three wise men to the manger.


Diego Ortiz, Office Hymns: Advent to the Epiphany:

  • Illumina nunc pectora (Sackbut Consort)
  • Non ex virili semine (c.1510-c.1570) (Viol Consort)
  • Ibant Magi (a 4) (Viols, Voices)Â

[Musices liber primus, (Venice, 1565)] (Total: 12:10)

Venice and the great basilica of St Mark's

Our next musical destination takes us north to Venice and the great basilica of St Mark's. Giovanni Bassano worked at this magnificent institution, first as a young virtuoso cornetto player, building up the strength of the instrumental ensembles working under the great Giovanni Gabrieli, and ultimately assigned to the musical education of the boy choristers.

Let's hear Bassano's seven-part motet, "Hodie Christus natus est" – Today Christ is born. The vocal choirs are doubled by strings and brass, performed by students of the Historical Performance Institute of the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. But first, as a short prelude, we'll hear a work written for the organ by Samuel Scheidt, also based on a well-known Christmas text.


  • Samuel Scheidt, Verse on "Gelobet seist du"

  • Giovanni Bassano, Hodie Christus natus est, (c.1560-1617) [Viols, Sackbuts, Voices]

[Concerti ecclesiastici, libro secondo, (Venice, 1599)] (Total: 4:35)

And now for our final destination…Dresden, Germany

Michael Praetorius is remembered as the first German composer to draw directly from the newer Italian performance practices that were characteristic of Bassano and Gabrieli.

And where the sacred polyphony of Ortiz centered on plainsong, the Germans deployed Martin Luther's chorale melodies as the structural keystones supporting their compositions. The next piece, founded on Luther's chorale "Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ," features five distinct ensembles, employing voices, sackbuts, viols, theorbo, lute, organ, and recorders. Praetorius mixes and matches all of these timbres and harmonies in every possible way during the course of this work, (which was composed at the Dresden court).

In this performance, we'll hear soprano soloists, Angela Yoon, Hannah McGinty, and Eunji Kim; tenor soloists, Jeremy Woodard, Micah Lamb, and Wai-ki Wun; bass David Rugger and countertenor Andrew Rader. They are joined by further contingents of voices, strings, plucked strings, brass, and recorders – all performed by faculty and students of the Historical Performance Institute of the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music.

But by way of introduction, we'll hear a short setting of "Gelobet seist du" by the German organist and composer Samuel Scheidt, whose organ verses have been heard variously during this broadcast, all played by Nicholas Quardokus.


  • Samuel Scheidt, Verses on "Gelobet seist du"

  • Michael Praetorius, Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ, (1571-1621), [Tutti]

[Polyhymnia caduceatrix et panegyrica, (Wolfenbüttel, 1619)] (Total: 13:20)

Break and theme music

All the music heard in this program is from the live concert performance entitled In Italia: A Renaissance Christmas from Venice, Naples, Milan and Beyond performed by Ensemble CONCENTUS – members and faculty of the Historical Performance Institute of Indiana University's Jacob School of Music, Dana Marsh & Wendy Gillespie, directing. The performance took place on October 16, 2015 at Auer Hall in Bloomington, Indiana. (JSOM recording, not commercially available.)

Opening & mid-credit theme music: Beginning of Illumina nunc pectora (Sackbut Ensemble) by Diego Ortiz's Office Hymns: Advent to the Epiphany.

:30, Samuel Scheidt, Verses on "Gelobet seist du."

:60, Samuel Scheidt, Verses on "Gelobet seist du."

:30, Samuel Scheidt, Verses on "Gelobet seist du."

Theme:Â Danse Royale, Ensemble Alcatraz, Elektra Nonesuch 79240-2 1992 B000005J0B, T.12: La Prime Estampie Royal

The writer for this edition of Harmonia is Dana Marsh.

Special thanks to HPI faculty members Keith Collins, Nigel North, Linda Pearse, Steven Rickards, and to concert producer Malcolm Bruno and audio editor Jacob Belser.


Soprano: Carolyn Craig, Eunji Kim, Hannah McGinty, Lucy Wortham, Angela Yoon

Tenor: Micah Lamb, Jeremy Woodard

Alto: Gao Menglin, Andrew Rader, Steven Rickards, Michael Walker

Bass: Christopher Armijo, David Rugger, Wai Ki Wun

Viol: Kaitlyn Witherspoon, Brady Lanier, Eric Fischer, Jinny Park, Christopher Burrus

Violin: Ji Woon Jung, Reynaldo Patiño

Sackbut: Erik Anderson, Dan Bendeck, Stephen Nosko, Linda Pearse

Dulcian: Keith Collins

Recorder: Christopher Armijo, Charles Wines

Organ: Anastasia Chin

Theorbo: Everett Redburn

Lute: Nigel North

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