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1616

This week on Harmonia, we’re firing up our time machine and setting the dial back four hundred years to 1616 – what will we hear?

A portrait of William Shakespeare, by William Blake.

It’s 1616. As usual, the world is in turmoil. In Europe, kings scheme, typhus rages, and William Shakespeare lies dead at 52. Half a world away, the earth erupts in fire. And yet despite all that, the business of making music goes on – patrons play politics, composers are born, and the world keeps turning. This hour on Harmonia, we’re firing up our time machine and setting the dial back four hundred years to 1616 – what will we hear?


Most likely born in 1616, the Italian composer Maurizio Cazzati won his first musical appointment at just 17, kicking off a career marked by personal and professional strife. His music bears no such scars, as is evidenced by this offering from Ensemble Celadon, “Alma redeptoris mater.”


Belli’s Orfeo Dolente

The present day has gotten a little crazy. How about a musical vacation? Let’s duck into the Harmonia time machine, set the dial for four hundred years, and hop out in the year 1616. What will we hear? Which musical developments are fading, and which ones are just coming to fruition? Which composers are entertaining kings or commoners, and which are just beginning to draw breath?

Let’s begin our tour in Italy, where Domenico Belli’s Orfeo Dolente was composed for the particularly raucous 1616 celebration of Carnival. Recounting the timeless story of Orpheus’s fall, the work was composed as a series of intermedi, or pieces slotted between the acts of a play.

We’ll hear the fifth intermedio from Domenico Belli’s Orfeo Dolente, performed by the French ensemble Poeme Harmonique.

Music from the year 1616 – the fifth intermedio from Domenico Belli’s Orfeo Dolente, recorded nearly 400 years after its premiere by the ensemble Poeme Harmonique.

From a composer who was at the height of his powers to one who had just been born – in Lucero in 1616, Maurizio Cazzati had just been delivered into his mother’s arms. He would grow up to be a music master by 17, and later, also a priest, a composer, and a figure of some controversy.

After some early job-hopping, Cazzati won a prestigious position in Bologna. There, he became a reformer, offering talented instrumentalists relatively high, singer-like wages. Not everyone was pleased.

Two of his colleagues, a priest and fellow organist, banded together to excoriate Cazzati for some errors he’d made in one of his publications.  A war of letters ensued, dividing the Bolognese musical community.

Undaunted by his naysayers, Cazzati continued to compose, going so far as to establish his own printing press to disseminate his music. Let’s hear music by Cazzati. First, two instrumental pieces performed by Ensemble Badinerie, a “Passacaglio” and the “Capriccio Il Bovio.” Then we’ll hear “Lasciarti,” a cantata movement performed by Ensemble Celadon.

Music by Maurizio Cazzati – we heard a “Passacaglio” followed by the “Capriccio Il Bovio,” both recorded by Ensemble Badinerie. And after that we heard “Lasciarti,” a movement from one of Cazzati’s cantatas, performed by Ensemble Celadon.


Born in 1616

The babies of 1616 were a musical bunch, with several talented composers born across the continent. Let’s hear from two more composers who were just taking their first breaths that year.

First up, Matthias Weckmann, probably born in 1616 to a clergyman and poet. Early on, Weckmann’s father could tell he was musical, so early in Mattias’s life his father brought him to the great composer and musician Heinrich Schutz in Dresden. After studying with Schutz, Weckmann enjoyed a long and fruitful musical career, in addition to fathering at least 11 children.

Let’s hear two pieces by Matthias Weckmann, his ”Praeambulum primi toni a 5,” performed by organist Johannes Strobl, and his “Sonata a 4 no. 9,” performed by Les Cyclopes.

Two pieces by the German composer Matthias Weckmann. We heard Les Cyclopes performing Weckmann’s “Sonata a 4 No. 9.” And before that we heard organist Johannes Strobl with Weckmann’s “Praeambulum primi toni.”

One more 1616 birthday boy: Johann Jacob Froberger was born in Stuttgart in 1616 and baptized in May of that year. After study with the great organist Frescobaldi in Rome, Froberger went on to write intricate, cosmopolitan keyboard music, absorbing influences from across the continent and influencing continental musicians in turn.

Let’s hear from one of our modern giants of the harpsichord, Gustav Leonhardt, performing Froberger’s “Toccata XII in A.”

That was “Toccata XII in A” by Johann Jakob Froberger, performed on the harpsichord by Gustav Leonhardt.


Songs of Shakespeare

We’ve wound the clock back this hour on Harmonia as we explore musical births, deaths, and happenings in the year 1616. For the theatrical community, 1616 was a year of enormous loss: the playwright William Shakespeare died at the age of 52.

Shakespeare was no stranger to the power of music. The lines “If music be the food of love/ play on,” are his, spoken by the lovesick duke Orsino in the play Twelfth Night.  Shakespeare’s plays contain over 100 songs or quotations from songs, though we only know, or can guess at, a few of the tunes. Most likely, his texts were set to popular tunes of the day.

In Shakespeare’s plays, music could mean magic or business, a spell cast or an entrance made.  Let’s hear soprano Sara Stowe singing some of the music from Shakespeare’s masterworks.  First, “Where the Bee Sucks,” with text from The Tempest and a tune composed well over a century later by Thomas Arne. Then we’ll hear a tune sometimes attributed to John Wilson, who may have sung in Shakespeare’s plays as a boy: “Take, O Take Those Lips Away,” from the play Measure for Measure.

Two songs featured in the plays of William Shakespeare. We heard “Take O Take Those Lips Away,” in a setting by John Wilson. Before that, “Where the Bee Sucks,” from The Tempest, in a setting by Thomas Arne. Sara Stowe was the soprano.


Schein: Ich will schweigen

1616 was a fantastic year for the German composer Johann Hermann Schein. In February, he got married, and in September, he got a huge musical promotion, assuming the position of cantor at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig. For Schein, it was a relatively short-lived period of peace: the deaths of his wife and most of his children were yet to come, as were a host of health problems including gout, scurvy, tuberculosis and kidney stones. Schein’s troubles would eventually overcome him, but for a time, his creative streak blossomed.

Let’s hear music by Johann Hermann Schein from a 2015 release by Ensemble Inalto, a group that gives pride of place to the cornetto. We’ll hear “Ich will Schweigen,“ composed for the 1617 funeral of Dorothea, Duchess of Saxony.

Music by Johann Hermann Schein, performed by Ensemble Inalto.


Break and theme music

:30, Froberger: Harpsichord Works, Gustav Leonhardt, deutsche harmonia mundi 2005, Tr. 3 Suite XX in D: Gigue 

:60, Christ lag in Todesbaden, Johannes Strobl, audite Musikproduktion 2008, Tr. 2 “Christ lag in Todesbaden,” 2. Versus 

:30, Weckmann: Abendmusiken, Les Cyclopes, Zig-Zag Territoires 2013, Tr. 2 Sonata a 4 No. 2 

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

The writer for this edition of Harmonia was Anne Timberlake.

Learn more about recent early music CDs on the Harmonia Early Music Podcast. You can subscribe on iTunes or at http://www.harmoniaearlymusic.org.

Music Heard On This Episode

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Anne Timberlake

Anne Timberlake holds degrees in recorder performance from Oberlin Conservatory and Indiana University. She has received awards from the American Recorder Society and the National Foundation for the Advancement of the Arts, and, in 2008, was awarded a Fulbright Grant. With Musik Ekklesia, Anne has recorded for the Sono Luminus label, and she’s a founding member of the ensemble Wayward Sisters, specializing in music of the early baroque. Anne enjoys teaching as well as performing. In addition to music, she holds a B.A. in Creative Writing and covers the classical music beat for the Richmond Times-Dispatch (Virginia).

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