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Traditions Series: Eat, Drink, and Celebrate

The Traditions Series continues with a look at the appearances of food and drink in music of the baroque. Also, a new release by organist Johnathan Dimmock.

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Whether it’s a simple toast or an elaborately prepared feast, food and drink are important to us in the marking of many an occasion. This was the case in French baroque music and the genre simply known as the “airs a boire,” or “drinking songs.” Its importance is best summed up by the first stanza of the Nicolas Hotman song “Le vin et moi sommes bons amis”:

“Wine and I are the best of friends; in a hundred embraces we have pledged undying mutual loyalty: water would fain join in our treaty and enter in alliance with us; but I don’t want water, and nor does wine.”

In musical depictions of drunken behavior we inevitably find comedy. A case in point is the villancico “Antonya, Flaciquia, Gasipa” by Filipe da Madre de Deus, a Portuguese composer. Our protagonist finds himself wondering how he got so drunk around Christmas. He tells us of his symptoms, including numbness, blurry vision, and nausea. As well, he keeps on repeating the phrase “Mucho me duele la cabeza,” or, “My head really hurts”; he no doubt suffers from a bad hangover.

A carnival scene is the setting for Il Fasolo’s “Serenade in the Lombard Dialect.” A speaker sets up an initial dialogue between Madame Gourmandise and Bacchus. The Madame lists her penchant for fowl of all kinds in addition to her distaste for vegetables. Bacchus, on the other hand, is also true to himself: he has his own list of his favorite wines and the over dozen locations they come from. A carnival feast ensues following in the tradition of the commedia dell’arte.

Composing music for a feast was not necessarily a novel concept in England or for Henry Purcell. It was, in fact, a tradition reaching all the way back to the middle ages. So, when he got around to writing his Yorkshire Feast Song of 1690, the music was not only proper but also evocative of the political atmosphere of the day.

Our new release of the week features the organist Jonathan Dimmock in a program of works by Jan Pieterzoon Sweelinck and others.

The music heard on this episode was performed by London Baroque, The Huelgas Ensemble, Le Poeme Harmonique, and The English Concert.

Bernard Gordillo

Bernard Gordillo was born in Managua, Nicaragua, and raised in New Orleans. He holds degrees from Centenary College of Louisiana, the Early Music Institute at Indiana University, and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (London). Bernard also writes and hosts the Harmonia Early Music Podcast.

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