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Traditions Series: Memorials

This week, the Harmonia Traditions Series explores early memorials. Plus, Claire Guimond and Sonnerie perform in a new recording of Mozart's flute quartets.

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Music, like writing and painting, has long been used to remember those that have passed away. Composers have often been inspired in one way or another to write works that express the sorrows and joys of the person memorialized.

The medieval planctus is an early lamenting song often written as a memorial. Of the surviving compositions, it is Peter Abelard’s planctus that is one of the most notable.

The English Renaissance had an unusual kind of musical memorial in the instrumental composition known as the “dumpe.” Usually found in lute or keyboard collections, the “dumpe” was often described as doleful and somber in character, and usually had its dedicatee’s name attached.

The unexpected and tragic death of Henry Purcell was the inspiration for Jeremiah Clarke’s ode “Come, come along for a dance and a song.” First performed at Purcell’s memorial concert, which included music by John Blow and Godfrey Finger, Clarke’s ode is a mini-drama in and of itself, the first part of which includes a festive scene shortly before a messenger arrives to give the bad news.

The Requiem Mass is probably the most ubiquitous religious ceremony given to remember the dead. And by far, the most famous belongs to a composer whose own life was cut short, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Not only was part of his unfinished Requiem performed at his own funeral, but it was also performed at the funerals of Joseph Haydn, Carl Maria von Weber, Johann Hummel, and Carl Friedrich Christian Fasch. It’s a work that has been highly regarded since it was composed.

Our new release of the week features the French-Canadian flutist Claire Guimond in a program of Mozart’s complete flute quartets. She’s accompanied by Ensemble Sonnerie.

The music heard on this episode was performed by Pro Arte Singers, Theatre of Voices, Christopher Stembridge, Paul O’Dette, Nancy Hadden, The Parley of Instruments, and Les Arts Florissants.

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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