Ever hear the expression, “Don’t quit your day job?”
This hour, we’ll hear music by composers who did leave their first careers, or at least moonlighted, to create music of lasting power. Plus, we’ll explore the flute in the renaissance consort, as well as in our featured recording by Kate Clark.
We started with Ensemble Project Ars Nova performing the rondeau Rose Liz by poet musician Guillaume de Machaut.
Listener’s Guide to Renaissance Consort: Flute
A consort combines different sized instruments of the same family, or in the case of a broken consort, mixes instruments from different families. As part of an ongoing exploration of the renaissance consort, here’s a bit about the flute.
Like most instruments during the 16th century, flutes were constructed in different sizes, from treble to bass. Flutes complimented the voice or instruments from other families, and they also played together in consort.
Prior to the 18th century, flute and transverse flute were two entirely different instruments. The term “flute” or flauto referred to the end-blown recorder, but music that called specifically for a side-blown flute was marked with the terms transverse, traversière, or traverso.
We know from Chansons musicales—a collection of popular songs published by Pierre Attaingnant around 1530—what pieces were considered more suitable for flute consort versus recorder consort.
Quit Your Day Job!
Like a lot of fathers, Georg Handel wasn’t crazy about the idea of his son becoming a musician. Law was a nice, stable career, and Georg was determined that young Georg Frideric would have a stable future. His son’s fever for music would surely pass.
But within a year of enrolling at the University of Halle, the young Georg Frideric Handel dropped out of school to immerse himself in the highs and lows of opera. When the celebrated composer died a half-century later, 3,000 mourners attended his funeral.
Handel wasn’t the only composer who dabbled in another career field. Coming up, we’ll hear music by cabinet makers, poets, world leaders, and others who ducked—or bucked—their non-musical lives to compose music of lasting power.
We’ll begin with an aria from Handel’s cantata Il Delirio Amoroso.
From the law to the lathe
Composer Giles Farnaby worked as a professional joyner, or furniture maker, in renaissance England. With his cousin, he may also have built virginals and clavichords. According to contemporary records, though, he wasn’t very successful: in 1596, Farnaby’s local church, St. Olave Jewry, granted him an annuity because he was [quote] “overcharged with children and his trade decayed.”
Here are two short pieces by Farnaby from the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book.
When we think of getting a day job, “poet” isn’t usually what comes to mind. But most of the work that survives by medieval composer Guillaume de Machaut wasn’t music, but poetry! And lots of it: Machaut’s narrative poems, called dits, often topped 9,000 lines. His music was not quite so long-winded, as we can hear in the motet De Souspirant Cuer.
But perhaps the best day job of all is…king! Henry VIII, best known for divorcing and beheading, was an avid patron of the arts. During Henry’s reign, the count of musicians at court leapt from five to 58, and Henry himself sang and played lute, organ and virginals.
Despite a busy schedule of schisms and schemes, Henry also managed to compose.
Featured recording: Performed on historical model flutes
We return to flutes in our featured recording from early music performer Kate Clark, who specializes in historical flutes.
On the 2012 Ramée release called, Au Joly Bois, Clark plays three different flutes—each period appropriate for a repertory that spans hundreds of years.
Let’s start with Claudin de Sermisy’s Tant que Vivray with added divisions written by Kate Clark, performed on a 16th-century model flute. After that, we’ll hear a piece by Dutch composer, Constantijn Huygens on a 17th century Richard Haka model flute.
Clark also uses a fully diatonic Baroque flute on this recording. The instrument we’ll hear last is a copy of a model championed by the 18th-century Hotterre family of musicians, instrument builders and composers. We heard music composed by Jacques-Martin Hotteterre on a Hotteterre model flute. Kate Clark and Nigel North were joined by viola da gambist Freek Borstlap for that performance.
Break and Theme music
:30, The Diamond of Ferrara: Music from the Court of Ercole I, Ex Umbris, Dorian 2001 B00005A8CB, Domenico da Piacenza Tr. 2: Leoncello (excerpt of 4:50)
:60, Remede de Fortune, Ensemble Project Ars Nova, New Albion 1994 B000000R3S (cd), Guillaume de Machaut, Tr. 1: Biaute Paree De Valour (2:09)
:30, The Diamond of Ferrara: Music from the Court of Ercole I, Ex Umbris, Dorian 2001 B00005A8CB, Vincenzo Capirola Tr. 14: Tentalora (excerpt of 2:27)
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, Laura Osterlund and Janelle Davis.
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.