On this edition of Harmonia, we’re celebrating the achievements of Reinhard Goebel, founder of Musica Antiqua Köln. We’ll also bring you one of three segments we’ve put together about the 17th-century theorist Athanasius Kircher, and we’ll hear polyphonic vocal music from Jacobean England on a featured release by Quire Cleveland.
We heard Quire Cleveland sing the (Latin) motet O rex gloriae by Martin Peerson from the recording Madrigalian Motets from Jacobean England. The motets on this recording come from often fragmented sources during a time of religious tension between Catholic and Protestant churches in England. We’ll be hearing more from Quire Cleveland later in the hour.
Kircher’s favorite composers
The Jesuit priest and scholar Athanasius Kircher had a lot to say, so we’re giving him a platform, as one part of a three-part look at this 17th-century theorist.
Kircher was born in Germany in 1601 or 1602 and spent the next 79 years of his life writing doorstoppers–over thirty books on subjects as diverse as magnetism, archeology, astronomy, mathematics, Egyptology, and musicology.
Kircher was persistent, curious, and often fabulously incorrect. In 1650 he published Musurgia Universalis, a10-volume discourse on the study of music. Kircher’s book is filled with falsehoods and fantasies—and just enough truth to keep you guessing.
Music, according to Kircher, is emotional. He lists eight basic emotions music can pluck from you: love, joy, grief, exultancy, rage, tears, fear, audacity, and astonishment.
According to Kircher, love was best expressed by the composer Carlo Gesualdo, whose anguished madrigals perfectly described [quote] “the syncope of the languishing heart.”
Let’s hear a madrigal by Carlo Gesualdo. The ensemble Delitiae Musicae sang “Ancor che per amarti,” which is among the composer’s later works.
If Gesualdo had mastered love, (which is debatable considering that he murdered his wife in cold blood), Kircher thought the composer Giocamo Carissimi had perfectly captured grief.
Kircher lavished praise on Carissimi’s oratorio Jephte.
In the Old Testament tale, Jephte promises God that, in exchange for victory in battle, he will kill the first person he sees upon returning home. Unfortunately, the first person to greet him is his daughter. Kircher heard pure grief in Carissmini’s musical depiction of the pair’s pain.
For Kircher, the music you liked was related to your temperament, and your temperament was based on the Greek theory of the four humors. To paraphrase Kircher: if you were the analytical melancholic type, you preferred sad harmony; pleasure-seeking sanguine folk were all about dance music! Relaxed phlegmatic sorts “lean toward women’s voices,” and those ambitious choleric leaders were “partial to trumpets and drums and reject[ed] all delicate and pure music.”
Here’s the full quote by Kircher:
Melancholy people like grave, solid, and sad harmony; sanguine persons prefer the hyporchematic style (dance music) because it agitates the blood; choleric people like agitated harmonies because of the vehemence of their swollen gall; martially inclined men are partial to trumpets and drums and reject all delicate and pure music; phlegmatic persons lean toward women’s voices because their high pitched voice has a benevolent effect on phlegmatic humour.
Kircher doesn’t categorize himself, but he seemed to like all kinds of music, including in his works entire pieces by Froberger, Frescobaldi, Allegri, Morales, and Kapsberger. We’ll hear works by two of the composers Kircher lauded, Cristobal de Morales and Giovanni Girolamo Kapsberger.
The early music ensemble Musica Antiqua Köln was a dominating force in the movement for historical performance practice for more than thirty years. After its founding in 1973, conductor Reinhard Goebel swiftly established the ensemble’s international presence and standard for baroque repertoire.
Born in Siegen, Westphalia, Goebel learned recorder in school and started violin lessons at the age of twelve. Even at this young age, Goebel already had a keen interest in Early Music.
Let’s hear performances from a couple of recordings by Musica Antiqua Köln, (including the soundtrack to the 2000 film Le Roi danse.)
Like many champions of historically informed performance, Reinhard Goebel paired technical proficiency with musical scholarship. As a young adult, he undertook an intensive study of the violin and then went on to pursue musicology for several years at Cologne University. It was during these years of musicological work that Goebel founded Musica Antiqua Köln.
The group disbanded in 2007 after more than thirty years. Around this time, Goebel began work as a guest conductor with both modern and period orchestras.
Goebel’s first opera production featured the rarely-performed Andromeda and Perseus by Michael Haydn. Let’s hear from a performance of this work, in which Goebel used the historical German setting of the libretto found in Haydn’s original score.
Featured CD by Quire Cleveland
On our featured release, Quire Cleveland performs a collection of motets from the reign of James I. In the years 1603 to 1625, Catholicism and the traditional Catholic Liturgy were not condoned by the Church of England. As a result, much sacred Latin music from the period survives only within single manuscripts in fragmentary form. For this recording, scholar and conductor Ross Duffin reconstructed motets’ missing vocal parts from what remained.
Let’s listen to a piece by Thomas Thomkins. As a young composer, Thomkins was mentored by William Byrd. By this time, Byrd’s Catholic sentiment was making itself known in both his music and dealings. It is believed that Byrd helped secure a position for Thomkins as a chorister in the Chapel Royal, which subsequently lead to his admittance to Magdalen College, Oxford.
Composer and keyboardist Martin Peerson also had Catholic leanings, made evident by the use of pre-Reformation Latin texts in his motets. In 1609, Peerson was convicted for not complying with the Church of England’s prescribed practices. Despite this, he enjoyed great success in his musical career, holding posts at St. Paul’s Cathedral and likely Westminster Abbey.
Break and Theme music
:30, Weckman/Froberger: Works for Harpsichord, Gustav Leonhardt, Sony SK 62732 (1997), Johann Jacob Froberger, Tr. 11: Ricercar in D minor (No. 11, DTÖ), (excerpt of 2:48)
:60, Bach Edition: Art of Fugue / Musical Offering / Canons: On Authentic Instruments, Musica Antiqua Köln / Reinhard Goebel, Archiv Produktion 1984 B00000E2VV, D.1, Tr. 1: From Musical Offering BMV 1079 – Ricercar, a 3 (Regis Iussu Cantio Et Reliqua Canonica Arte Resoluta (excerpt of 5:43)
:30, William Byrd: The Consort Music, Fretwork, Virgin Classics 1994, Tr. 7: Byrd: In Nomine À 4, #2 (excerpt of 2:48)
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 Laura Osterlund and Anne Timberlake.
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.