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Team ReRenaissance

Interview January 2022
Dr. Agnese Pavanello

 

 

For the concert on 30. January 2022
«Reopening Gaffurius' Libroni»
Motets from the Cathedral in Milan

 

Dr. Thomas Christ interviews the Professor for Music History at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis.

Thomas Christ: Ms. Pavanello, ReRenaissance is extremely pleased to invite you, an experienced musicologist, a music historian, to an interview at the beginning of the 2022 concert series. After studying musicology in Pavia, your path did not lead you to Rome or Naples, despite your publications on Corelli, Tartini, Locatelli and Bonporti, but to Regensburg, Freiburg and Basel - can you explain that to us briefly?

 

Agnese Pavanello: When I was studying for a semester in Regensburg, I decided that I wanted to continue my education in the German-speaking area. I was fascinated by the German university culture, by the fantastic libraries that were easily accessible, and I felt enriched by all the input I received abroad as a young Italian. I came from the University of Freiburg to Basel on a research grant. I wanted to study Corelli's sources, which were collected at the Musicological Institute, more closely. At the Basel Musicological Institute I found a particularly fertile environment for developing further in musicology, and at that time I rediscovered my passion for early music and other historical areas, also thanks to my visits to the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis (concerts and events of various kinds). I loved working late into the night at the Musicological Institute - back then its library was always open to us students. A dream for me. Then I received a scholarship for Basel and worked for two years at the institute as an assistant. When, after many years of working as a musicologist in Austria, I received a research position at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, I had a definite feeling that professionally I had arrived in the right place.

 

 

TC: In our ReRenaissance concert series, we start the year with a cycle of motets and other pieces from the well-known Milan Libroni. You led a research project on these Libroni at the SCB entitled “Polifonia Sforzesca” – what is special about this project? How is this year's performance a premiere?

 

AP: The special thing about this project was that we wanted to create an online platform where you can make the Milan Libroni, which are among the most important music manuscripts of sacred vocal polyphony of the Renaissance, available digitally and explore them from new perspectives. We planned from the outset that this portal should not only contain a catalog and an inventory of the works (with detailed information such as concordances, bibliographies on the individual works, etc.) but also critical digital editions [of repertoire] from the Libroni and targeted studies on the Manuscripts and the repertoire they contain. In particular, we planned to make the repertoire of the so-called "motetti missales", motet cycles that were performed during the service, accessible in new critical editions in Open Access and to shed new light on them thanks to new research. We have achieved all these goals. Our international research team has been working on it for almost seven years - first only on researching the motet cycles, then on opening up the musical and cultural context of the Milan Cathedral under the Sforza dukes. This has resulted in several publications and online resources.

Right from the start we had the opportunity to work with musicians from the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis and to experiment with the music we studied. The ReRenaissance concert is a result of this collaboration. The composition of the program is a first - single motets, series of motets (a cycle and smaller motet cycles) and ordinary movements are combined, thus evoking a practice well documented for Milan. The special thing about this concert is the improvisational part. Based on the chorale melodies, the singers and musicians try out different improvisation techniques. This also demonstrates how close the relationships between different singing practices (monophonic and polyphonic traditions) were in the realm of sacred music. For example, in the case of the sequences (songs with rhyming and rhythmically similar verses): in the Middle Ages, parts were always improvised on the melodies of these monophonic songs! So in this concert we hear improvised polyphony - and that's something you don't get to experience very often in concerts.

 

 

TC: In the study of music history, historical bridges to neighboring disciplines are often built, and rightly so; [to subjects] such as instrument making; the courtly culture of that region; influences from other countries; but also painting at the time of the Libroni. Do you welcome these interdisciplinary, art-historical contacts or are they more of a sideshow in musicology?

 

AP: Interdisciplinary dialogue is essential in our field. It gives access to knowledge that would otherwise not be available and expands the spectrum with methodical approaches, which is essential for research and its practical implementation. At the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, we always strive for interdisciplinary exchange, as dealing with early music absolutely requires this. When dealing with church music of the Renaissance, it is necessary to work in an interdisciplinary manner, e.g. to grasp the theological dimension, which has shaped its form and content just as much as practical musical conditions. For example, if certain pieces were sung during the liturgy, it is clear that one should be familiar with the liturgy of the time, even just in terms of whether the function or the context of the performance influenced formal and stylistic aspects of the music in question (e.g. in the structure of a piece or in the distribution of homophonic or polyphonic sections). However, the liturgy of the Middle Ages is a discipline in itself, which requires specific historical research. It is very important for us musicologists to grow in this interdisciplinary dialogue in order to gain new insights and interpretation possibilities of musical works.

 

 

TC: How should one imagine the notation of these polyphonic compositions, how many of the voices are notated in full, how much is assumed or learned as “knowledge of variants” of the accompanying voices?

 

AP: The works heard in the concert are notated in four parts. On a double page of a choral book there are usually only the voices that make up the contrapuntal structure. We do not know exactly how many singers performed a part, or when and how instruments supported the vocal parts. It depends on the specific situation of the performance. Even then, at the end of the 15th century, individual voices were often split up into more parts in homophonic passages – or occasionally even divided into choirs in order to achieve a fuller, richer richer harmony. Even where lists of singers survive, we can only hypothetically reconstruct how many musicians actually took part in a musical event and how they were involved in a particular piece. That's why it's important to keep experimenting with the instrumentation (e.g. with the spatial arrangement, the distribution of solo and choral entries, timbre and ornamentation, etc.). Nowadays we can allow ourselves a lot of freedom in dealing with older repertoire - if one deals consciously with the specific repertoire. Regarding the transmission of monophonic musical: as mentioned above, we know that monophonic melodies were not infrequently performed polyphonically. A second voice was common in some chants such as in the sequences, but it could also improvised with several voices added. So in summary: The sheet music tells us only part of the story. We need an in-depth examination of the music in order to be able to experience or interpret it convincingly.

 

 

TC: Baroque music and its historically informed performance practice have enjoyed great popularity for several decades. Today, every opera house includes baroque operas in its program with increasing success. Has interest in Renaissance music also changed, or are we still at the beginning of a journey of discovery?

 

AP: I think the interest in Renaissance music is much greater than it was 30 years ago, but we are indeed dealing with music that still appeals to a relatively small audience because it is unknown to most. Perhaps we are not at the very beginning of a journey of discovery, but the potential of this music is far from exhausted. Even if we experience a quite exceptional and privileged situation in Basel, as we are often lucky enough to enjoy previously unheard music from the Middle Ages and Renaissance in concerts, the ReRenaissance series clearly shows the immense wealth of works the Renaissance era offers. This music deserves to be heard again and to enjoy a new life because of its beauty, its diversity and its expressiveness.

Team ReRenaissance

The interview October 2021 - 
Jean-Christophe Groffe

 

 

 

 

 

 

Go to the concert on November 28, 2021
"Un niño nos e naçido"
Villancicos in the run-up to Christmas.

Dr. Thomas Christ interviewed

the composer, singer and harpsichordist Elam Rotem 

Thomas Christ: You are not yet 40 years old and you are already one of the profound connoisseurs of early music, not only in Basel, but in the entire western music world. How did you get into singing? When did you discover the harpsichord?

 

Elam Rotem: I started learning the piano when I was eight. In high school (when I was around 16) I also started singing in the school choir. Gradually, I realized that the music I liked most - both on the piano and in the choir - were works from the earlier eras of music history. So it was obvious that I would have to switch to harpsichord or organ to play these repertoires. Since there are very few organs in Israel, the harpsichord was the more practical option (although harpsichords are quite difficult to find in Israel, they are still easier than organs). With the harpsichord I discovered more and more the music world of the 17th and 18th centuries and also earlier works when I was looking for vocal music. It became apparent that this is the repertoire that impressed me the most and I did everything in my power to learn and perform it.

 

TC: You founded the internationally known Ensemble Profeti della Quinta during your training in Israel. Can you tell us something about this and also about choosing a name?

        

ER: As my interest in the old repertoire continued to grow in high school, I started a small vocal group with friends. We sang motets from the 15th century in the hallways of the school (the place with the best acoustics we could find), which made us an interesting attraction for our classmates. On the last day of high school we gave our first official concert in a large drainage tunnel (again the place with the best acoustics we could find in the absence of churches or old palaces). We sang a mixed program, from motets from the 15th century to barbershop songs. The name of the group, NEVIE'I HAKVINTA, - literally in Hebrew: "The prophets of the perfect fifth" - was basically a joke. While we were using "prophets" as something biblical, serious, and historical, it sounded like the name of a heavy rock band. We agreed we had to change it, but in the absence of a better suggestion, it just stayed that way. When we moved to Europe and recorded our first album, we had to choose an international name. We found that when translated into Italian it sounds good and arouses curiosity.

 

TC: You are also known as a composer. Do you make full use of the compositional patterns of the 17th and 16th centuries? Is it possible to draw the line between imitation and inspiration?

 

ER: For me personally, it has always been quite natural to compose and I have cultivated it throughout my studies. As I studied older music-making practices, I found that in the old days musicians had to deliver and create music on a regular basis and rarely resort to older, well-known repertoires (as performers almost always do today). If we are imitating historical performance practices, there is no reason why we should not also imitate the historical practices of music-making - namely, composing and improvising. The boundaries between imitation and inspiration are fluid in every work of art.

 

TC: Do your “style copies” leave enough space for your own creative expression? Do you want to recognize certain early musicians in your compositions or do you rather lead the listener into the world of experience of the Renaissance and the Italian early Baroque?

 

ER: I imagine that I would have lived during this time and been active as a musician (and of course also as a student of the masters I hold dear). My goal is to learn the style in such a way that I am able to express both emotions and my personal ideas in a way that a composer from that time would do. And just like the music of a composer from this time, it would be a mixture of common idioms, influences from certain other masters and of course original moments. The composers I looked up to most while composing come from the Italian Baroque in the early 17th century; Composers like Emilio de 'Cavalieri, Claudio Monteverdi and others.

 

TC: In contrast to the world of the Baroque, the rich musical treasure of the Renaissance is still largely unknown. Do you have a reason for this?

 

ER: I think it is generally the case that the focus of the classical music scene is around the late 18th and 19th centuries, and the further the repertoire is from that, the less well known it is. If one searches specifically for the difference between the 16th century ("Renaissance") and the 17th century ("Baroque"), one can assume that the tendency towards monodies and catchy melodies of the later century was somewhat easier to grasp and hear is than the sometimes confusing polyphony of the earlier period.

Team ReRenaissance

The interview October 2021 - 
Jean-Christophe Groffe

To the concert on October 31st
"Chantez payment"
From Geneva to Basel »

Dr. Thomas Christ interviewed

Jean-Christophe Groffe,
the versatile interested
Musicians, singers and choir directors.

 Photo © Daria Kolacka

Thomas Christ : Of course, at the beginning we would like to find out something about your biographical career. How did you get into the guitar and how do you gradually develop into a baroque singer while studying musicology?

Jean-Christophe Groffe: That is due to some coincidences ... When I was a child we lived in the country and there was a guitar teacher nearby. This instrument accompanied me from my youth to my studies in musicology. During my apprenticeship I also studied choral conducting. We sang a lot for each other, like a “guinea pig choir”. I soon realized that singing is a central part of my life. I then studied singing in Paris ... and later in Basel!

TC: Could you have imagined a career as an opera singer with a preference for early music or would you have been an opera director? You are known for your enthusiasm for scenic work.

 

JCG: As I said, I discovered singing through polyphony. An opera career has never attracted me, an incredibly tough job and, in my opinion, ungrateful ... I admire some singers very much, but I have no desire to take up this profession! I like to mix singing with contextual thinking, to enrich it, to think about how to present music, how to make it accessible to the audience. That doesn't make me a director, but I love the variety of tasks in my practice.

 

TC: Your enjoyment of scenic performances has to do with an interest in crossing borders, not just from the musical to the visual arts, but also from the past to the present. Can you tell us a little bit about bridging the gap between the ancient and contemporary music?

 

JCG: Here you have to define what «early music» really means. I actually refer to any repertoire as "early music" that I do not create myself. As an interpreter, I work very often with composers and have had the pleasure of premiering countless works over the past twenty years. But when I work with an existing repertoire, I try to ask myself the same questions over and over again. Whether Josquin or Stockhausen, I try to understand music with a new, contemporary perspective by asking myself about the practices and contexts. The combination of Renaissance repertoire and 20th century music therefore seems natural to me.

 

TC: In the early music scene, it is noticeable that baroque music has enjoyed great popularity for several decades. In contrast, the rich treasure of the Renaissance works almost leads a shadowy existence. How do you explain this difference, this imbalance?

 

JCG: You just have to dig a little deeper to discover the Renaissance repertoire! And that musical treasure is accessible to everyone who is not afraid of the research effort. The baroque repertoire has become particularly popular on the opera stage. Baroque opera may not be a mainstream event, but it has undoubtedly resulted in the 17th century repertoire being present in the media. The Renaissance repertoire is often more intimate, which makes it more difficult to reach a very large audience. But maybe things will change!

 

TC: On the occasion of our October concert, which is preceded by a choir seminar, we are particularly interested in your credo as a choir director, all the more since amateur singers should learn and sing along with this concert. As a choir director, can you tell us something about your experience of amateur choir singing?


JCG: It is important to rehearse the works - whether vocal, instrumental or both - so that making music is fun again! That is the creed and the idea that guides me and which also corresponds to the musical practice of the Renaissance! Apart from the professional musicians, I am always delighted and amazed to see the joy people have in singing. Sing! It can only make the world better!

Team ReRenaissance

The interview September 2021 -
Catherine Motuz

To the concert on September 26th
with brass music from northern Spain

Dr. Thomas Christ speaks to the  Lecturer and  Specialist
for early trombone.
 ​

Catherine Motuz © Susanna Drescher Querformat.jpg

Thomas Christ : In September I have the pleasure of having a conversation with Ms. Catherine Motuz and especially about her instrument, the historical trombone, an instrument about the history of which I myself know very little.  Of course we know that the world's best interpreters of early music play, research and teach at the Schola, but the question is still allowed, how do you get from McGill University in Montreal to study early music in Basel?

Catherine Motuz: The interpretation of early music can already look back on a living tradition in the New World. Montreal has one of the most active scenes for historical performance practice, with about two dozen professional ensembles and high-profile programs at McGill University and the Université de Montréal. A baroque opera is even performed once a year at McGill (usually alternating between Handel and Monteverdi every year). Many of the faculty who started and then taught these courses had studied in Europe in the 1970s and 80s and then started new courses in North America. 
In my case, there was a zinc and trombone company at McGill University led by Douglas Kirk. Thanks to his knowledge of musical skills, musical repertoires and performance practice, I was able to enjoy early music for the first time as a second year bachelor student and was immediately enthusiastic. Dr. Kirk is also the main researcher for the repertoire of the upcoming ReRenaissance concert. He traveled to Lerma himself and published his research on performance practice as well as the edition of the later of the two manuscripts from which we will play. After playing in his ensemble, I completed a master's degree in early music with the historical trombonist Dominique Lortie, before going on to further studies at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis with Charles Toet in 2004.

TC: We know the baroque or natural trumpet from performances of early musical works, but we know little about the "sackbut", the renaissance trombone. Can you tell us a little bit about the history of the origin of the slide trombone?

CM: The trombone was developed around the middle of the 15th century, around the time it became customary to use voices in the bass range in vocal polyphony. Shortly before 1400, instrument makers learned how to bend a brass tube by filling it with lead and melting it out again after bending it. This made it possible to build longer, that is, deeper brass instruments, and with the addition of a double slide, the trombone was born. Of all the early instruments, it has changed the least in the past 550 years. The basic construction has remained the same. With the modern trombone, only the bell and bore have become larger, and additions such as a tuning slide and a water key have been added. The biggest difference is in the mouthpiece: the old mouthpiece had sharp edges that caught the air and made the sound a bit more diffuse, so that it can be mixed better with strings and voices and it is also easier to vary the timbre and articulation.

TC: In early drawings, trumpets and prongs are shown less often, but more often trumpets and prongs - is there a specific reason for this?

CM: The zinc is essentially the soprano instrument of the trombone family because, like the trombone, it is able to imitate the human voice in its tone quality, articulations, and the variations in dynamics and timbre, and of course because it is fully chromatic. The early trumpet was anything but chromatic and therefore could not double vocal parts as the trombone and zinc could.

TC: More than the other instruments of early music, the trombone comes closest to the human voice - how do the compositions of the Renaissance take this into account in sacred choral works or in the distribution of voices in instrumental works?

CM: In the Renaissance, the trombone was often mixed with voices in polyphonic contexts, either doubling one voice with a singer (what we call colla parte) or playing one voice alone while other voices were sung. 

In addition, most of the early sources that we know were played by trombones contain vocal music. An early example is the print of a short motet by Antoine Brumel from 1533, on which is written by hand: "What is good on trumpets". Later sources like the Copenhagen, Regensburg, and Lerma part books are full of vocal music that we know was also used instrumentally. The trumpet is mentioned in the scoring information in the accompanying documents or on the pieces themselves. 

With a more modern style in the seventeenth century, the trombone began to be played in an increasingly instrumental idiom, but here, too, the diminutions and short embellishments are usually still based on vocal techniques. From around 1620 a completely instrumental style developed in which the range of the voices went well beyond the octave or decimal, the framework in which vocal parts were usually set, and in which large jumps occurred.

TC: In contrast to the compositions of later epochs, early music is considered more intimate and quieter. Does this mean that the Renaissance trombone was more likely to be used on important festive occasions, outdoors or in larger instrumental ensembles?  

CM: The trombone is one of the few instruments that can be assigned to both loud and quiet ensembles. The "Alta Capella" is the loud ensemble - originally with shawms and trumpets (with and without slide), later with prongs, trombones and often with shawms or bassoons. Although these played outdoors on important festive occasions, e.g. B. processions and from town and church towers, but these occasions only made up a small part of the trombonist's work. Since its dynamic range extends into the softest notes, the trombone could also play in quiet ensembles, together with viols and plucked instruments that were played indoors. There is an interesting letter from a Zinkenist named Luigi Zenobi from the 17th century, who advised the wind players to cultivate their soft playing more than their loud ones, because it is the soft playing that will be heard in the apartments of the princes! 

Most of the wind instrument repertoire, however, dates back to when they were played in church. In Spain, where the handwriting on which our program is based, there is evidence of the colla parte game, but the winds also played in alternatim, that is, they alternated with the chorus playing the stanzas of a psalm, a magnificat or a song. Instruments were mainly used on feast days, but this does not mean that they were rarely used: in Spain in the 16th century there was an average of about one church feast per week!

Team ReRenaissance

The interview August 2021 - Corina Marti

On the occasion of the concert on August 29th
with tablatures for keyboard instruments
from the Amerbach company in Basel
.

Thomas Christ speaks to the specialist
the music of the Middle Ages and connoisseur of the early keyboard instruments

TC: Dear Corina Marti, of course at the beginning of our interview the question arises: How do you become a specialist in early music, through music history or through curiosity for unknown instruments?

 

CM: I never wanted to become a specialist, but rather a musician, an artist - I wanted to play the recorder and harpsichord all my life. It was just my curiosity that got me from the 18th to the 11th century, and then of course the instruments, and then 16 years ago I started teaching medieval / renaissance keyboard instruments. Two years earlier I started teaching the recorder for the Middle Ages and Renaissance here in Basel at the Schola - you quickly “grow up” and research and learn, and then you will probably become a specialist.

 

TC: The music of the Renaissance and even more that of the Middle Ages often has to be put together from fragments and minimally existing fragments and reconstructed - isn't that similar with the early keyboard instruments? Can you tell us a little bit about the forerunners of the harpsichord and their replicas? If there are no building plans, what role did painting in the late Middle Ages play?

 

CM: Painting naturally plays a major role, although you always have to be aware of whether it is a good representation of the instrument or rather a fantasy. There is a blueprint for the Clavisimbalum from 1440 - but there, too, you have to look and pay close attention to understand what makes sense and what doesn't. The descriptions of these instruments play another important role - fortunately there are quite a few. Fortunately, for the time of the Renaissance we have original instruments that have been handed down to us, e.g. B. also the clavicytherium from the late 15th century, which will be heard in the August concert.

 

TC: Our ReRenaissance series dealt in particular with English, French, Italian and German Renaissance music - you dealt intensively with Polish compositions of that time. Are there any significant differences to be seen or does Poland belong musically to the Northern European canon at this time?

 

CM: I think there is always a special "taste" in music, it depends on the composer, regardless of the century. There are e.g. B. small special composition techniques and then also ways in which something was intabulated, which can differ and possibly give an idea of what z. B. is typically Italian.

Poland, oh yes, unfortunately I was not asked here at ReRen for Polish music * - but my duo partner here for this concert Sofija Grgur and I are already working on the next program that will bring us back to the «East». I played a lot of Polish music thanks to my husband Michal Gondko. He directs the La Morra ensemble with me. Through him and musicologist friends I became very familiar with the Polish sources, or rather with the Central European ones - because this music is European, nothing else. Whether from the 14th, 15th or 16th century, we find music from Italy, France, Germany, etc. in Polish / Central European sources. Exactly what I love, all of Europe! Wonderful. There is no typical Polish style.

 

TC: Interpreters of early music, whether recorder or keyboard instruments, are regularly virtuosos of improvisation. Could you imagine helping to shape so-called cross-over projects, for example letting renaissance pieces and renaissance instruments appear in a jazz formation? Or should one refrain from such experiments?

 

CM: Everyone has to decide for themselves. I've played in some productions that were some kind of "mixes" crossover - if the concept is good and the music too, why not.

 

TC: The last question is aimed a little at the audience of early music - as is well known, baroque music has been experiencing a pleasing audience boom for a few (a few) decades, in particular baroque operas are in vogue all over Europe. The rich treasures of music between 1400 and 1600 are still largely hidden. In your opinion, what does it take to convey this early music professionally?

 

CM: This does not apply to me and the Ensemble La Morra, we have been playing around the globe for over 20 years - our programs are always from the 14th, 15th or 16th century - if this music weren't in vogue, it would be we didn't travel that much and we wouldn't have played that often, as our numerous award-winning CDs prove.  There is still a lot of music slumbering that should be played again: yes, that's true, but just as much music from the 18th century is slumbering.

What I think hurts the business is people who think medieval and renaissance music is easier to perform, is less virtuoso. Then there are concerts that are simply technically on a deep, unprofessional level, if possible with costumes, so from the atmosphere of the medieval markets. THAT damages our industry and the music - I prefer to go to a baroque opera.

* Editor's note: A program planned for January 2021 with music by Mikołaj Gomółka for the Polish Psalter has been postponed to June 2022.

Team ReRenaissance

The interview July 2021 - Masako Art

On the occasion of the concert on July 25th
around the poet and composer Serafino von Aquila
says harpist Masako Art about her own career
and the discovery of the hook harp
.

Thomas Christ speaks to the harpist Masako Art

Thomas Christ: How does a Japanese pianist find her way to studying the harp - if I may put it that way - from sunny Kyoto to rainy Scotland?

 

Masako Art: This is a long and private story that I don't really enjoy going on! It is better if I talk about why I play this lovely harp with the strange sound: Before I came to Basel, I spent 8 months in the north of Scotland, where I lived not far from the well-known harpist Bill Taylor. I started taking lessons from him and he initiated me into the art of the Renaissance harp, that is, to play the instruments as they were intended, namely with snares. A wooden hook is set up at the lower end of each string in such a way that it just touches the string and creates a rattling sound. This particular sound even made it into the ReRen YouTube jingle. I studied the playing of the Welsh harp manuscripts intensively and learned the appropriate dampening technique. And so I came to the Schola as the first female snare-hook harp player: Some knew that this technique was actually practiced in the 15th century (and, depending on the region, far beyond) - Crawford Young, my professor at the time, was very encouraging, and so was it Heidi Rosenzweig ... With a few exceptions, the rest of them have turned away from this harp technique or distanced themselves or even put me on the blacklist. Jokes aside: Today, two decades later, most SCB harp students play with snares. Paulus Paulinus reported in 1460 that only the organ and trumpet were louder than the harp, although the harps of that time - like the electric guitar - were built without a large resonance body, i.e. were relatively massive, with a very inefficient, narrow body , but with these strange, resonating accessories, the snare hooks.

TC: Simple models of the harp were already known and popular in antiquity, including in Asia. Are there Japanese or East Asian forms of music that could be compared to our harp or lyre music? Or did you dive into a completely new world with the European harp?

 

MA: Not really. There were the kugo known from China, but they went out of fashion as early as the 9th century when the Japaneseization reform of music and culture took place in the Heian period. These eastern harps came from the Middle East or Persia via the Silk Road. You can see them among the bodhisatvas who play various instruments in the Byodoin Temple in Kyoto. The music they performed - I'm really no expert on that - but had little in common with European music and European harmonies. Perhaps those harps have some resemblance in shape to our instruments, and perhaps even to the unison of our early medieval music. I'm not well informed about this and would have to do some research myself.

TC: In Europe you worked your way through many types of harps from the Middle Ages to modern times. How did your love for early music literature come about?

 

MA: When I started playing the piano in Japan at that time, I simply had to play far too much German and Austrian classical and romantic periods, and far too little from other eras, plus countless etudes by Czerny. At some point that became too much for me and I began to be interested in other harmonies, especially those of the Impressionists and early music. So John Dowland's songs and his harmonies seemed very fresh and immediate and I particularly liked the simple elegance of the music from the 15th century, its compact but perfect color of harmony. During my music studies at the Schola, I gradually climbed back in music history, and now again from the Baroque to the Classical, the Romantic and the present! Meanwhile I am happy again with Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. But I am glad that I experienced a complete new start with the three voices of the 15th century. So I now experience the later music in an incredibly more colorful and exciting way.

TC: In comparison to classical and post-classical epochs, early music has a strikingly rich selection of plucked instruments with the lute, theorbo, salterio, mandolin and the various types of harps. Why did this wealth disappear? Has the new music lost its intimacy?

 

MA: Maybe the plucked instruments are too quiet for the orchestra. Because the orchestras and also the stage music got bigger and bigger, the instruments heavier and louder. And so the possible uses for the plucked instruments withered, at least in larger ensembles. Plucked instruments are used more often in contemporary music, both in the ensemble and as a solo instrument.  

TC: How do you experience the public's increased interest in early music, especially the baroque? Will there be a similar revival of Renaissance compositions or will the lesser-known names of the time be reserved for a niche audience?

 

MA: That's a complicated question! There is now an interest in early music, but it is more market-oriented, i.e. it has little to do with historical performance practice, but is oriented towards star singers who may have a great voice, regardless of whether the singers are historical Employ performance practice or not. They sing something baroque and beautiful and that sells well; the audience's interest in the performance practice is usually low. Despite the interest in early music, performance-oriented projects sell less well, especially when it comes to singing. The audience would like to see “personalities” and experience a show, which is understandable. And the opera companies prefer voices that are more suitable for modern opera houses and their premises. So Handel and Monteverdi remain on offer, which is pleasing on the one hand, but often has little to do with historically informed performance practice. It's just complicated!

In instrumental music, on the other hand, the strict historical performance practice seems less strange and is well received; the musicians are not subject to the same market pressure as the singers. It seems to me that instrumental music is more of a win-win situation: the musicians enjoy their research, the beauty becomes audible ... and the audience likes it! 

Since Renaissance music is rather simple in drama and especially in sound, we are dealing with a more specialized audience here. On the other hand, I often experience the audience as open and curious about the unknown! I am very excited that this Renaissance concert series offers the opportunity for new discoveries! I think whether or not the lesser-known names are reserved for a niche audience depends a little on how we present the music and how we can attract people with open interest and curiosity. It is a very exciting question how one should present historical performance practice or a special repertoire or topics unknown to the history of music to an audience in a comprehensible and appealing way.

 

Team ReRenaissance

The interview February 2021 - David Fallows

 

Interview with mezzo-soprano Tessa Roos, a singer with charisma and a correspondingly large following in the early music scene. In the ReRenaissance Basel series, she will sing royal music on 27 June 2021 on the occasion of the 530th birthday of King Henry VIII..

 

 

 

Thomas Christ speaks to the Tessa Roos 

 

Thomas Christ: Of course, it is a pleasure and an honour to welcome you to our interview series, but I fear that you have had to answer my first question many times already: How do you get from South Africa to the world of early music on the Old Continent? Who discovered your voice?

Tessa Roos: Hi Thomas, thanks for the interview!

I’m incredibly lucky that I had the option and opportunity of coming to Europe to study Early Music. Coming from a musical family, I always sang in choirs and loved the choir world and how it was so often based in folk music. When one sings in choirs of fewer and fewer people, the repertoire often becomes either earlier or more contemporary, and I loved this. 

After doing a Bachelors in Classical music at Stellenbosch University, and a teaching diploma at Cape Town University, I realised I still wanted to study Early Music. There is an Early Music scene in South Africa, but not big enough to have a fulltime study programme, so I knew I had to come to Europe.

I found out that Evelyn [Tubb] and Tony [Rooley] were giving a course which specifically dealt with 16th and 17th century madrigals (AVES) and I just had to apply. Along with their ensemble programme, I was also accepted for a master’s and that’s when I became more acquainted with Renaissance as well as Medieval music.

 

TC: What are your favourite accompanists, the lutes, the viols, the flutes or other singers? Do you also accompany yourself instrumentally?

 

They are all amazing, and it mainly depends on the person playing the instrument. With each option you have mentioned one can focus on different things and one has different options and ways of playing together. Vocal polyphony is of course my first love, and I always feel comfortable in that setup. In Basel, of course, we are spoilt for choice of incredible instruments and players. Singing with a lute is a wonderful experience and the finesse and delicacy of it is something to savour, and as one is so exposed, I find it very honest; there’s no hiding. With flutes (transverse and recorders) it is interesting to work with an instrument that also uses the breath and plays mostly in the same range. We can mix colours in a different way.

But… I have totally fallen in love with the array of early bowed instruments we have in Basel. Viols, one or a consort, have the most incredible sound, and having the chance to sing with them is simply fantastic.

 

TC: In recent years – and even more so with the Corona lockdown – the possibilities of digital performance and thus the anonymisation of the audience have increased enormously. Do you see this as a curse or a blessing, as a dangerous loss of audience dialogue or as an enriching extension of your art?

 

As an emergency measure, when we’re dealing with all the pandemic rules, streaming concerts is a great alternative and we appreciate that we can still work as well as connect to people, even when we’re in separate places. Long term, however, I don’t see performers agreeing to having everything on video because it’s not an aspect of performing we signed up for. Of course, there are recordings that I love listening to, and I’m very grateful they exist, but the performing arts are not supposed to always be solidified.

On one hand, it’s great to perform, to share with a different variety of people, and as a listener, to see concerts I would never have been able to see had they not been streamed. On the other hand, taking the human element away from communication is such a strange thing to do and the loss of the audience dialogue doesn’t make sense as a long-term solution, or at least not for the types of videos and concerts in the Early Music scene. I feel performers and audiences will not be convinced of it as a real alternative. Music is about communication, so if there is no audience at all, but one must “pretend” there is an audience… this is where things become a bit comical. One can record a concert, but there must be some audience present, otherwise who is it for?

 

TC: The world of Renaissance and Baroque music allows perhaps more than that of classical music to play with embellishments or even small improvisations. Could you imagine helping to create musical cross over projects or have you participated in new music or jazz performances as a singer?

 

Yes, for a few years I dabbled in Jazz in South Africa and almost studied Jazz instead of Classical singing in Cape Town. I’m not sure I’d use the word ‘cross over’, but collaborations are wonderful. Collaborating with musicians or directors who have specialised in other time periods can be really invigorating and it’s also nice to reach other audiences, venues, composers, and concert traditions. I am still enjoying the fact that one can be so specialised in Early Music and with an audience so familiar to this scene, but connections with performers in circles other than our own can of course be hugely beneficial and refreshing.

 

TC: Of course, my interest in your multifaceted interests is no coincidence, because I read on a website: 'Tessa is working towards becoming a Wine Master'. Apart from the parallels between the noble music and the noble wine, this could close the circle to your South African origin. Or am I wrong with my conclusions?

 

No, you’re right. Since moving to Basel and being immersed in the music community here, I’ve unfortunately not had much time for this, but I hope to continue with this again soon! Different members of my family have owned/do own wine farms, and when you live in the winelands of Stellenbosch, I think it’s difficult to ignore the wine culture and scene around you. Ideally, I would soon be able to bring my wine studies back into my routine, but until then, I learn unofficially! 

 

Team ReRenaissance

The interview February 2021 - David Fallows

 

The well-known singer and Renaissance specialist
Together with a five-part viol consort, Monika Mauch interprets music from the part books of the calligrapher Robert Dow.

 

Thomas Christ speaks to the soprano

 

TC: As far as I know, you do not live in Basel and you did not enjoy your training at the Schola Cantorum. Can you briefly tell us what or what experience led you to discover early music?

 

MM: Somehow I have always been fascinated by medieval, renaissance and baroque music. When I was 17 I was allowed to sing Monteverdi's Marian Vespers in the choir. I was thrilled by this music then as it is now. When I started my vocal studies in Trossingen, Germany, I didn't even know that early music could also be studied. In my second year of study I was taken by a fellow student to the lessons of Richard Wistreich, the then singing professor for early music in Trossingen, with whom I also started to study a short time later. I was fascinated by how directly the rhetoric of the text in early recitatives, together with the continuo part and the associated harmony, triggers images in me that I can then convey to the audience. For many years I also sang medieval music, later on again and again renaissance music. Over the years I was mainly caught up in the early Italian and German baroque. The older I get, the more I am fascinated by the classical and early romantic periods. It is simply wonderful to perform music from earlier times, to familiarize yourself with the sources and theories and then, as a modern person, to create an informed and yet own interpretation. A task that is always exciting. When I moved to the German area around Basel in 2009, I was of course aware of the wide range of opportunities Basel offered by the Schola Cantorum and the excellent musicians there. It's wonderful to be able to take part in the ReRenaissance series.

 

TC: Not only in the instrumental, but also in the vocal area, there are great differences between the compositions of the Classical and the Baroque, so the corresponding fear of contact is understandable - how do you see this in the music of the Renaissance? Is every baroque interpreter also a renaissance singer?

 

MM: That's a very good question! I think that the modern early music singer is asked a lot if he is to be equally stylistically arrested in Gregorian chant, ars subtilior, consort, lute song, opera, motet, cantata and song. In my opinion this is impossible. It is not just a question of being informed and knowing, but also a question of body tension and muscle strength. A singer who interprets Renaissance music well, i.e. mixes himself optimally with the instruments and basically only adds the text to the overall interpretation, cannot necessarily stand out as a soloist in the Baroque and develop his own cadences and ornaments that not only convey the meaning of the text , but also focus on the possibilities of the individual voice. But there are definitely also singers who have a good command of both related styles. The term «baroque» (= crazy) in music was only created in the 19th century. Before that, the distinction did not seem necessary to us.

 

TC: The vocal ornament, that is, the art of decorating the basic melody, is part of the basics of the art of singing in both Baroque and Renaissance music - I have heard that you have many admirers in this discipline. Can you briefly explain to us how free or unfree one is in this art of improvisation that has not been noted down?

 

MM: The decorations of every era and every country are unique and mostly clearly defined. This means that it is based on a more or less well-known set of rules. The more you move in a single style and practice it every day, the more freely you can act in it and improvise “freely”, so to speak. I always need some time, even if I already know the particular style, in order to feel at home in it again. In my opinion, we still cannot match the skills of singers in the Renaissance, who were almost exclusively allowed to stay in the style of their time. Even if research and the range of courses in Basel have made great strides in this direction.

 

TC: Baroque music has enjoyed great popularity for several decades and we have noticed in our young Renaissance series that the relatively unknown music between 1400 and 1600 also found a large curious audience. Do you have an explanation for this?

 

MM: As already mentioned, the music of the Renaissance is based on a fixed set of rules that developed from the already extremely demanding and complicated ideas of the Middle Ages. Just as we can grasp the style of the Renaissance in literature, the fine arts and architecture, an architecture, a play with dissonances and consonances, a texture with multiple layers of interpretation is created in every piece of music, which can affect us on such diverse levels that even the modern listener cannot ignore this. In our Dow program, for example, the viol consort creates an overtone spectrum through counterpoint that moves me and certainly many others to tears. Then there are the wonderful old English, French and Latin texts that I have just translated for the program. At the moment I am being coached in the old English pronunciation in order to provide the most profound interpretation possible. I believe and hope that an audience can always feel such professional preparation, which is well-founded through years of specific study, and can grasp it in some form. Those who get involved should not be ashamed if they should be deeply touched.

 

TC: Of course, experiencing a live concert will never be replaced by digital live streaming, but the Corona circumstances force us to look for new forms of cultural mediation. Do you see a danger or an opportunity for the artistic and material advancement of the music scene in the digital offer?

 

MM: Another good and difficult question. At the moment, live streaming is often the only way to allow a concert to take place at all. This is vital for us musicians. A musician is useless without a concert. So I can't even ask the question of whether I like a live stream or not. It's just necessary. The dangers for the music scene, as in other areas, such as homeschooling or home office, lie in the fact that some * may no longer want to go back to the traditional form after the end of the corona pandemic. I would find that a real loss in the music sector. As beautiful as a concert experience in the live stream may be, in my opinion it cannot replace the physical, auditory and mental manipulation in a live concert by the musicians, but also by the audience.

Team ReRenaissance

The interview February 2021 - David Fallows

 

The well-known singer and Renaissance specialist
Together with a five-part viol consort, Monika Mauch interprets music from the part books of the calligrapher Robert Dow.

 

Thomas Christ speaks to the soprano

 

TC: As far as I know, you do not live in Basel and you did not enjoy your training at the Schola Cantorum. Can you briefly tell us what or what experience led you to discover early music?

 

MM: Somehow I have always been fascinated by medieval, renaissance and baroque music. When I was 17 I was allowed to sing Monteverdi's Marian Vespers in the choir. I was thrilled by this music then as it is now. When I started my vocal studies in Trossingen, Germany, I didn't even know that early music could also be studied. In my second year of study I was taken by a fellow student to the lessons of Richard Wistreich, the then singing professor for early music in Trossingen, with whom I also started to study a short time later. I was fascinated by how directly the rhetoric of the text in early recitatives, together with the continuo part and the associated harmony, triggers images in me that I can then convey to the audience. For many years I also sang medieval music, later on again and again renaissance music. Over the years I was mainly caught up in the early Italian and German baroque. The older I get, the more I am fascinated by the classical and early romantic periods. It is simply wonderful to perform music from earlier times, to familiarize yourself with the sources and theories and then, as a modern person, to create an informed and yet own interpretation. A task that is always exciting. When I moved to the German area around Basel in 2009, I was of course aware of the wide range of opportunities Basel offered by the Schola Cantorum and the excellent musicians there. It's wonderful to be able to take part in the ReRenaissance series.

 

TC: Not only in the instrumental, but also in the vocal area, there are great differences between the compositions of the Classical and the Baroque, so the corresponding fear of contact is understandable - how do you see this in the music of the Renaissance? Is every baroque interpreter also a renaissance singer?

 

MM: That's a very good question! I think that the modern early music singer is asked a lot if he is to be equally stylistically arrested in Gregorian chant, ars subtilior, consort, lute song, opera, motet, cantata and song. In my opinion this is impossible. It is not just a question of being informed and knowing, but also a question of body tension and muscle strength. A singer who interprets Renaissance music well, i.e. mixes himself optimally with the instruments and basically only adds the text to the overall interpretation, cannot necessarily stand out as a soloist in the Baroque and develop his own cadences and ornaments that not only convey the meaning of the text , but also focus on the possibilities of the individual voice. But there are definitely also singers who have a good command of both related styles. The term «baroque» (= crazy) in music was only created in the 19th century. Before that, the distinction did not seem necessary to us.

 

TC: The vocal ornament, that is, the art of decorating the basic melody, is part of the basics of the art of singing in both Baroque and Renaissance music - I have heard that you have many admirers in this discipline. Can you briefly explain to us how free or unfree one is in this art of improvisation that has not been noted down?

 

MM: The decorations of every era and every country are unique and mostly clearly defined. This means that it is based on a more or less well-known set of rules. The more you move in a single style and practice it every day, the more freely you can act in it and improvise “freely”, so to speak. I always need some time, even if I already know the particular style, in order to feel at home in it again. In my opinion, we still cannot match the skills of singers in the Renaissance, who were almost exclusively allowed to stay in the style of their time. Even if research and the range of courses in Basel have made great strides in this direction.

 

TC: Baroque music has enjoyed great popularity for several decades and we have noticed in our young Renaissance series that the relatively unknown music between 1400 and 1600 also found a large curious audience. Do you have an explanation for this?

 

MM: As already mentioned, the music of the Renaissance is based on a fixed set of rules that developed from the already extremely demanding and complicated ideas of the Middle Ages. Just as we can grasp the style of the Renaissance in literature, the fine arts and architecture, an architecture, a play with dissonances and consonances, a texture with multiple layers of interpretation is created in every piece of music, which can affect us on such diverse levels that even the modern listener cannot ignore this. In our Dow program, for example, the viol consort creates an overtone spectrum through counterpoint that moves me and certainly many others to tears. Then there are the wonderful old English, French and Latin texts that I have just translated for the program. At the moment I am being coached in the old English pronunciation in order to provide the most profound interpretation possible. I believe and hope that an audience can always feel such professional preparation, which is well-founded through years of specific study, and can grasp it in some form. Those who get involved should not be ashamed if they should be deeply touched.

 

TC: Of course, experiencing a live concert will never be replaced by digital live streaming, but the Corona circumstances force us to look for new forms of cultural mediation. Do you see a danger or an opportunity for the artistic and material advancement of the music scene in the digital offer?

 

MM: Another good and difficult question. At the moment, live streaming is often the only way to allow a concert to take place at all. This is vital for us musicians. A musician is useless without a concert. So I can't even ask the question of whether I like a live stream or not. It's just necessary. The dangers for the music scene, as in other areas, such as homeschooling or home office, lie in the fact that some * may no longer want to go back to the traditional form after the end of the corona pandemic. I would find that a real loss in the music sector. As beautiful as a concert experience in the live stream may be, in my opinion it cannot replace the physical, auditory and mental manipulation in a live concert by the musicians, but also by the audience.

Team ReRenaissance

The interview February 2021 - David Fallows

 

The well-known singer and Renaissance specialist
Together with a five-part viol consort, Monika Mauch interprets music from the part books of the calligrapher Robert Dow.

 

Thomas Christ speaks to the soprano

 

TC: As far as I know, you do not live in Basel and you did not enjoy your training at the Schola Cantorum. Can you briefly tell us what or what experience led you to discover early music?

 

MM: Somehow I have always been fascinated by medieval, renaissance and baroque music. When I was 17 I was allowed to sing Monteverdi's Marian Vespers in the choir. I was thrilled by this music then as it is now. When I started my vocal studies in Trossingen, Germany, I didn't even know that early music could also be studied. In my second year of study I was taken by a fellow student to the lessons of Richard Wistreich, the then singing professor for early music in Trossingen, with whom I also started to study a short time later. I was fascinated by how directly the rhetoric of the text in early recitatives, together with the continuo part and the associated harmony, triggers images in me that I can then convey to the audience. For many years I also sang medieval music, later on again and again renaissance music. Over the years I was mainly caught up in the early Italian and German baroque. The older I get, the more I am fascinated by the classical and early romantic periods. It is simply wonderful to perform music from earlier times, to familiarize yourself with the sources and theories and then, as a modern person, to create an informed and yet own interpretation. A task that is always exciting. When I moved to the German area around Basel in 2009, I was of course aware of the wide range of opportunities Basel offered by the Schola Cantorum and the excellent musicians there. It's wonderful to be able to take part in the ReRenaissance series.

 

TC: Not only in the instrumental, but also in the vocal area, there are great differences between the compositions of the Classical and the Baroque, so the corresponding fear of contact is understandable - how do you see this in the music of the Renaissance? Is every baroque interpreter also a renaissance singer?

 

MM: That's a very good question! I think that the modern early music singer is asked a lot if he is to be equally stylistically arrested in Gregorian chant, ars subtilior, consort, lute song, opera, motet, cantata and song. In my opinion this is impossible. It is not just a question of being informed and knowing, but also a question of body tension and muscle strength. A singer who interprets Renaissance music well, i.e. mixes himself optimally with the instruments and basically only adds the text to the overall interpretation, cannot necessarily stand out as a soloist in the Baroque and develop his own cadences and ornaments that not only convey the meaning of the text , but also focus on the possibilities of the individual voice. But there are definitely also singers who have a good command of both related styles. The term «baroque» (= crazy) in music was only created in the 19th century. Before that, the distinction did not seem necessary to us.

 

TC: The vocal ornament, that is, the art of decorating the basic melody, is part of the basics of the art of singing in both Baroque and Renaissance music - I have heard that you have many admirers in this discipline. Can you briefly explain to us how free or unfree one is in this art of improvisation that has not been noted down?

 

MM: The decorations of every era and every country are unique and mostly clearly defined. This means that it is based on a more or less well-known set of rules. The more you move in a single style and practice it every day, the more freely you can act in it and improvise “freely”, so to speak. I always need some time, even if I already know the particular style, in order to feel at home in it again. In my opinion, we still cannot match the skills of singers in the Renaissance, who were almost exclusively allowed to stay in the style of their time. Even if research and the range of courses in Basel have made great strides in this direction.

 

TC: Baroque music has enjoyed great popularity for several decades and we have noticed in our young Renaissance series that the relatively unknown music between 1400 and 1600 also found a large curious audience. Do you have an explanation for this?

 

MM: As already mentioned, the music of the Renaissance is based on a fixed set of rules that developed from the already extremely demanding and complicated ideas of the Middle Ages. Just as we can grasp the style of the Renaissance in literature, the fine arts and architecture, an architecture, a play with dissonances and consonances, a texture with multiple layers of interpretation is created in every piece of music, which can affect us on such diverse levels that even the modern listener cannot ignore this. In our Dow program, for example, the viol consort creates an overtone spectrum through counterpoint that moves me and certainly many others to tears. Then there are the wonderful old English, French and Latin texts that I have just translated for the program. At the moment I am being coached in the old English pronunciation in order to provide the most profound interpretation possible. I believe and hope that an audience can always feel such professional preparation, which is well-founded through years of specific study, and can grasp it in some form. Those who get involved should not be ashamed if they should be deeply touched.

 

TC: Of course, experiencing a live concert will never be replaced by digital live streaming, but the Corona circumstances force us to look for new forms of cultural mediation. Do you see a danger or an opportunity for the artistic and material advancement of the music scene in the digital offer?

 

MM: Another good and difficult question. At the moment, live streaming is often the only way to allow a concert to take place at all. This is vital for us musicians. A musician is useless without a concert. So I can't even ask the question of whether I like a live stream or not. It's just necessary. The dangers for the music scene, as in other areas, such as homeschooling or home office, lie in the fact that some * may no longer want to go back to the traditional form after the end of the corona pandemic. I would find that a real loss in the music sector. As beautiful as a concert experience in the live stream may be, in my opinion it cannot replace the physical, auditory and mental manipulation in a live concert by the musicians, but also by the audience.

 

Team ReRenaissance

The interview February 2021 - David Fallows

The well-known singer and Renaissance specialist
Together with a five-part viol consort, Monika Mauch interprets music from the part books of the calligrapher Robert Dow.

Thomas Christ speaks to the soprano

TC: As far as I know, you do not live in Basel and you did not enjoy your training at the Schola Cantorum. Can you briefly tell us what or what experience led you to discover early music?

 

MM: Somehow I have always been fascinated by medieval, renaissance and baroque music. When I was 17 I was allowed to sing Monteverdi's Marian Vespers in the choir. I was thrilled by this music then as it is now. When I started my vocal studies in Trossingen, Germany, I didn't even know that early music could also be studied. In my second year of study I was taken by a fellow student to the lessons of Richard Wistreich, the then singing professor for early music in Trossingen, with whom I also started to study a short time later. I was fascinated by how directly the rhetoric of the text in early recitatives, together with the continuo part and the associated harmony, triggers images in me that I can then convey to the audience. For many years I also sang medieval music, later on again and again renaissance music. Over the years I was mainly caught up in the early Italian and German baroque. The older I get, the more I am fascinated by the classical and early romantic periods. It is simply wonderful to perform music from earlier times, to familiarize yourself with the sources and theories and then, as a modern person, to create an informed and yet own interpretation. A task that is always exciting. When I moved to the German area around Basel in 2009, I was of course aware of the wide range of opportunities Basel offered by the Schola Cantorum and the excellent musicians there. It's wonderful to be able to take part in the ReRenaissance series.

 

TC: Not only in the instrumental, but also in the vocal area, there are great differences between the compositions of the Classical and the Baroque, so the corresponding fear of contact is understandable - how do you see this in the music of the Renaissance? Is every baroque interpreter also a renaissance singer?

 

MM: That's a very good question! I think that the modern early music singer is asked a lot if he is to be equally stylistically arrested in Gregorian chant, ars subtilior, consort, lute song, opera, motet, cantata and song. In my opinion this is impossible. It is not just a question of being informed and knowing, but also a question of body tension and muscle strength. A singer who interprets Renaissance music well, i.e. mixes himself optimally with the instruments and basically only adds the text to the overall interpretation, cannot necessarily stand out as a soloist in the Baroque and develop his own cadences and ornaments that not only convey the meaning of the text , but also focus on the possibilities of the individual voice. But there are definitely also singers who have a good command of both related styles. The term «baroque» (= crazy) in music was only created in the 19th century. Before that, the distinction did not seem necessary to us.

 

TC: The vocal ornament, that is, the art of decorating the basic melody, is part of the basics of the art of singing in both Baroque and Renaissance music - I have heard that you have many admirers in this discipline. Can you briefly explain to us how free or unfree one is in this art of improvisation that has not been noted down?

 

MM: The decorations of every era and every country are unique and mostly clearly defined. This means that it is based on a more or less well-known set of rules. The more you move in a single style and practice it every day, the more freely you can act in it and improvise “freely”, so to speak. I always need some time, even if I already know the particular style, in order to feel at home in it again. In my opinion, we still cannot match the skills of singers in the Renaissance, who were almost exclusively allowed to stay in the style of their time. Even if research and the range of courses in Basel have made great strides in this direction.

 

TC: Baroque music has enjoyed great popularity for several decades and we have noticed in our young Renaissance series that the relatively unknown music between 1400 and 1600 also found a large curious audience. Do you have an explanation for this?

 

MM: As already mentioned, the music of the Renaissance is based on a fixed set of rules that developed from the already extremely demanding and complicated ideas of the Middle Ages. Just as we can grasp the style of the Renaissance in literature, the fine arts and architecture, an architecture, a play with dissonances and consonances, a texture with multiple layers of interpretation is created in every piece of music, which can affect us on such diverse levels that even the modern listener cannot ignore this. In our Dow program, for example, the viol consort creates an overtone spectrum through counterpoint that moves me and certainly many others to tears. Then there are the wonderful old English, French and Latin texts that I have just translated for the program. At the moment I am being coached in the old English pronunciation in order to provide the most profound interpretation possible. I believe and hope that an audience can always feel such professional preparation, which is well-founded through years of specific study, and can grasp it in some form. Those who get involved should not be ashamed if they should be deeply touched.

 

TC: Of course, experiencing a live concert will never be replaced by digital live streaming, but the Corona circumstances force us to look for new forms of cultural mediation. Do you see a danger or an opportunity for the artistic and material advancement of the music scene in the digital offer?

 

MM: Another good and difficult question. At the moment, live streaming is often the only way to allow a concert to take place at all. This is vital for us musicians. A musician is useless without a concert. So I can't even ask the question of whether I like a live stream or not. It's just necessary. The dangers for the music scene, as in other areas, such as homeschooling or home office, lie in the fact that some * may no longer want to go back to the traditional form after the end of the corona pandemic. I would find that a real loss in the music sector. As beautiful as a concert experience in the live stream may be, in my opinion it cannot replace the physical, auditory and mental manipulation in a live concert by the musicians, but also by the audience.

Team ReRenaissance

The interview January 2021 - David Fallows

For the association ReRenaissance is the interview with professor
Dr. Dr. hc David Fallows a prominent and honorable start to the New Year, because David Fallows is considered one of the most internationally recognized pioneers of Renaissance music research in the musicological scene. His comprehensive “Catalog of Polyphonic Songs 1415–1480” is today every singer and instrumentalist of early music
first and indispensable reference source.

Thomas Christ speaks
with the author of the monthly column.

TC: Dear David Fallows, You studied in England, at Cambridge and at King's College in London, and you did your PhD in Berkeley, California, and taught at the University of Manchester until you retired. But you live in Basel, how did you come to work with the Schola Cantorum?

DF: Wulf Arlt invited me to present a paper for the Schweizerische Musikforschende Gesellschaft in about 1983, and many students and teachers at the Schola came. Soon after that I was invited to one of the Schola congresses; and very soon after that they decided that the Basler Jahrbuch für Historische Musikpraxis needed to have an editorial board. They invited me and from then I became a regular visitor to Basel. In due course I developed a relationship with Dagmar Hoffmann-Axthelm, who eventually became my second wife. She thinks it rains too much in Manchester, so we live mainly here, though we both love being in our Manchester flat.

Translated: Around 1983 I was invited by Wulf Arlt to Basel to give a lecture at the Swiss Music Research Society. Many lecturers and students from the Schola turned up. Shortly afterwards I was a guest speaker at one of the Schola symposia and a little later I was asked to join the editorial team of the Basler Jahrbuch für historical Musikpraxis. With this invitation I became a regular visitor to Basel and there I got to know Dagmar Hoffmann-Axtheim, who eventually, many years later, became my second wife. She thinks it's raining too much in Manchester, so we decided to settle in Basel. However, we still like our apartment in Manchester very much.

 

TC: Every researcher of the music of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance has his own musical past. When did the viol player and harpsichord player become a music historian of the 15th century?

DF: Yes, anybody in the world of music begins by playing instruments. For me it was piano, home-made bamboo pipe (very much the mode in England in those days), recorder, violin; then at the age of about fifteen I started playing French horn, which is probably the instrument I got furthest with. But in my very first lecture at Cambridge - 'Elementary palaeography' - we were given a viol piece by Robert White to transcribe: I fell in love with the music, and when the lecturer mentioned next week that the faculty possessed a chest of viols for use by students I was first in the queue. That lecturer, by the way, was Philip Brett, who eventually directed my doctoral dissertation; and the next lecture was about the English medieval carol, given by John Stevens. Both the viol and the carol have accompanied me for the rest of my life. The next step was when I heard David Munrow do a concert in Cambridge with dances by Susato. I went into the library the next day to consult the score and was entirely gobsmacked at how simple this glorious music looked on the page. After that there was no stopping me. But I came to music history quite a bit later: I simply realized that I was happiest when exploring the manuscripts and their history. On the way through I played all sorts of instruments, as I have done all my life, though nowadays it's mostly piano chamber music from Mozart to César Franck.

Translated: Yes, in the world of music everyone starts playing an instrument. For me these were the piano, the self-made bamboo flute (it was very fashionable in England at the time), the recorder and also the violin. But I got the furthest with the French horn, which I began to play when I was around 15 years old. But during my first lecture in Cambridge - "Elementary Palaeography" - I was supposed to transcribe a viola viol by Robert White. I fell in love with this music on the spot. And when our lecturer pointed out a set of gambas the following week that the students could use, I was first in line. Incidentally, that lecturer was Philip Brett, who years later accompanied my doctoral thesis. The next lecture by John Stevens on English 'Carols' of the Middle Ages was also of great importance. Both experiences, the viol as well as the "Carols", have accompanied me my whole life from now on. Another key experience as a listener was the discovery of the Renaissance composer and publisher Tielmann Susato at a concert in Cambridge with David Munrow. I studied the sheet music the next day and was overwhelmed by the simplicity and clarity of the presentation of this wonderful music. From that moment it was all over to me, nothing could hold me back. But I came to the actual history of music a little later. I found that researching manuscripts and their historical background made me happy. During these years of research, I played countless different instruments. Today I am increasingly drawn to chamber music with the piano - from Mozart to César Franck.

 

TC: The layman will notice that, although you have taught all your life in England, your works have mainly devoted yourself to the French Renaissance, above all to the composer Josquin des Prez, probably the most famous representative of the late 15th century. How did this love for France come about?

DF: During my years in England I worked almost only on non-English music, not just French, but Spanish, Italian and German. When I worked with Tom Binkley in Munich (1968-70) my pursuit was mainly English music, as it was when I studied in Berkeley. And on the very day that I sat down in Basel with my new desk and most of my library, planning to finish my book about fifteenth-century songs, I suddenly noticed I was working on English music again, which I did for the next ten years. Now at last I am working seriously on non-English music in Basel.

Translated: During my years in England I worked almost exclusively on non-English works, not only French, but also Spanish, Italian and German were there. The reason was simply that there were far more songs with French lyrics in the 15th century than in other languages. It was not until I was abroad, when I worked with Tom Binkley in Munich (1968–1970), that I devoted myself primarily to English music. The same thing happened to me in Berkeley, California. And when I came to Basel and sat down at my new desk with my library to finish my book on the songs of the 15th century, I realized that I had primarily turned to English compositions again, at least for the next 10 years . I think I ended up spending more time with English compositions if I just think of my two volumes on "Musica Britannica" and those on "Early English Church Music". My first work, however, was the Renaissance composer Guillaume Dufay. He's one of my favorite musicians and he's French. Finally today I am working more and more on non-English music again.

 

TC: Josquin des Prez can almost be described as a European court composer who was active in Burgundy, but also in Rome and Milan. Nevertheless, I allow myself to ask whether and how, using simple criteria, Italian or French music can be distinguished from English Renaissance music.

DF: I'm not quite ready to answer that yet. It will be there in the book, if I ever finish it. But the main question in the book is in fact the opposite: namely, How far does it make sense to see all the various language groups in fifteenth-century song as part of the same evolution? Obviously the answer is 'up to a point'. And that's what I am trying to clarify in my mind.

Translated: I'm not ready to answer that now. It will come up in my next book when it is finished. But the question in the book is posed differently: To what extent does it make sense at all to see the different language groups in the songs of the 15th century as part of the same historical development? Certainly to a certain extent. I am in the process of clarifying this.

 

TC: The audience's love for baroque music has experienced a veritable storm of enthusiasm over the past few decades. Our Renaissance series in the Barfüsserkirche, as well as our “Live Streaming” attempts, enjoy great popularity. How do you explain this increased interest in this relatively unknown early music today?

DF: If you offer people good enough music in good enough performances they will go for it. I just delight in how more and more people in Basel are getting pleasure from the music that has given me so much joy over the decades and continues to do so.

Translated: If an audience is offered music that is good enough and is also played well enough, success is certain. I am simply happy that more and more people in Basel are enjoying a musical genre that has filled me with great joy for many decades and continues to do so

 

Team ReRenaissance

The interview December 2020 - Ivo Haun

I n December concert erklin gt spiritual in Barfüsserkirche music by Orlando di Lasso, interpreted by a vocal sextet and an organo di Legno.

Thomas Christ interviewed the musical director of the evening program “Cantate”, the Renaissance tenor Ivo Haun.

 

TC: We know great singers from Brazil from the music world, but we know little about the early music scene in South America. So my first question is not how you get into singing in Brazil, but how you found your way to the music of the Renaissance and Baroque there.

IH: My path to early music was not a direct one. I started my studies at university with the classical guitar and only started singing two years later; first as a minor, but gradually singing played an increasingly important role in my life. My teacher at the time found that my voice was very suitable for baroque music and so I began to occupy myself more with this repertoire. At the same time, I also sang in a choir, and gradually vocals replaced the guitar. I not only enjoyed singing more, but also saw better prospects for my career.

TC: Is the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis known in your country of origin? How did you find your way to Basel?

IH: In Brazil there are some early music festivals and many teachers who studied in Basel or The Hague, for example. In this small environment, the Schola is of course very famous. When I moved to São Paulo in 2009 to sing in the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra choir, I met Marília Vargas, a soprano who had studied at the Schola. She became my singing teacher and we soon realized that studying in Basel would be a very good idea.

T C: You have been associated with the music of the early baroque and also with the baroque opera for a number of years and have also performed in prominent formations and ensembles, but the world of the baroque is very different from the virtuoso singing art of the Renaissance. Where does your love for or predilection for medieval and renaissance music come from?

IH: Interestingly, I used to have very little contact with pre-1600 music in Brazil. It was only during my studies in Basel that I discovered a fascination for earlier music. On the one hand, I am fascinated by the fact that this music demands great intellectual challenges from the performers and at the same time uses highly refined means of expression to touch the emotions of the listener. I find the fact particularly exciting that the music of the renaissance is not yet so well established in the music business and therefore offers more space for (re) discoveries. For example, the practice of improvisation, which is not normally associated with «classical» music, is an important but little-practiced aspect.

TC: In contrast to the instrumental lecture, the singing and especially the spoken chanting is closely linked to the body language, with supporting gestures. Was rhetoric and also acting technique part of your training?

IH: Yes, during my studies and afterwards I had the opportunity to learn a bit about historical acting technique and try to enrich my performance or my performance as a musician with this knowledge as often as possible. The goal of any rhetorical artistic performance is to touch, teach, and entertain. So that the content of our performance can develop its full effect on the audience, the physical design plays a decisive role.

TC: For the music layman, the musical sources of early music are not very productive and even for the insider they can probably only be implemented with a lot of improvisation practice. Can you tell us something about the improvisation technique that tries to stay true to the original?

IH: I think that's one of the most fascinating aspects of Renaissance music. Unlike the music of the 20th and 21st centuries, it was not the job of a Renaissance composer to accurately write down all aspects of the musical performance. The notated music of this time should be understood more like the tip of an iceberg (as the musicologist Nino Pirrota wrote a few decades ago). The music that is actually produced or performed requires a highly virtuoso art of ornament and compositional skills from the performers. In other words, the notated music is to be understood as a sketch that the musician must enrich or even add further voices, such as in Gregorian chants (and other secular genres). Today we call this Contrapunto alla Mente. “Remaining true to the original” had a completely different meaning at the time.

TC: You brought your guitar with you from Brazil - do you only accompany yourself with the renaissance lute today?

IH: Yes, after singing took the place of the guitar in my life many years ago, I found a perfect accompaniment in the renaissance lute. In the coming years I plan to perform with the lute more often and the audience of ReRenaissance will be able to experience me as a lutenist in September 2021.

TC: One last question I would like to ask the connoisseurs of medieval and renaissance music: While baroque music has found a wide audience in the last few decades, the compositions of the renaissance still serve a niche market. Has anything already changed - as is currently the case in Basel - or will anything change?

IH: I've already seen this development in my ten years in Basel (on myself and in my environment at the same time). In recent years several students at the Schola have discovered an interest in Renaissance music and teachers such as Anne Smith and Federico Sepúlveda have given very important impulses in this direction. It's a slow process, but we're already seeing results.

Team ReRenaissance

The November 2020 Interview - Grace Newcombe

 

 

The concert “Nowell, nowell” on November 29, under the direction of singer and organist Grace Necombe, takes you into the world of the English “carols” of the 15th and 16th centuries. The interview shows: Newcombe broke several taboos during her musical training in England.

 

Thomas Christ meets the connoisseur of the music scene of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance for a conversation.

 
 

TC: How does a young woman become a choirmaster in the traditional Hertford College and how does her interest in the music of the Middle Ages arise and grow, an area that has been dominated by men for centuries?

 

GN: In fact, my first musical training as a child and adolescent was almost exclusively determined by men: My musical training began as a church choir singer, which is still controversial in England today. Many people believe that a church choir is only for boys. So my later training as an organist and church choir leader also met with a surprise in many places. In the organ and choir conducting courses, I was always the only woman. When I tell people that I work as an organist at Oxford University, they are usually visibly irritated. It's a little frustrating. But both institutes at which I enjoyed my training, i.e. Salisbury Cathedral and Hertford College in Oxford, did a fantastic job of promoting gender equality. Salisbury was one of the first church schools in England to accept girls. And in Hertford I was looked after by a wonderful chaplain who was very supportive in my work in the church.

I owe a large part of my love for early music to the Salisbury Cathedral Choir. I've been singing Renaissance music since I was eight, and that preference lasted until I moved to Basel in my early 20s. It was here that I discovered the music of the Middle Ages and you could almost say that the more I settled in Basel, the deeper I slipped into the world of early music. And yet - had I not been allowed to sing along at Salisbury Cathedral because I was a girl, who knows if I would have discovered Early Music at all.

 

T C: Your musical training was not limited to singing, but obviously the piano, organ, clarinet and also the little harp played a role. Was the study of the voice always in the foreground?

 

GN: It's hard to believe, but the real decision to focus on singing came late when I entered the Schola Cantorum. As a teenager, the organ and the clarinet were my main instruments, of course I couldn't stop singing - this was always very important to me. But I had an unsatisfied curiosity about learning new instruments. So I dedicated myself to the drums, the saxophone, the violin and the small Celtic harp. At the university, the renaissance lute and the viola da gamba were added. Today I am happy to have learned to play many instruments, because it allows me to pick up new "foreign" instruments from the world of the Middle Ages and to accompany myself while singing, which is of course a lot of fun. I also feel it is an advantage that I did not have any classical vocal training before entering the Schola Cantorum, because I was confronted directly and specifically with medieval and Renaissance music in my professional vocal training.

 

TC: Your musicological specialties include research into the performance practice of songs and lyrics from the 12th and 13th centuries, i.e. the English High Middle Ages. Can you briefly tell us something about this musically rich time?

 

GN: The story of the English song in the Middle Ages is actually very interesting because it describes a multilingual singing culture. Put simply, the educated people spoke and sang a kind of Old French, while the uneducated made use of the English language. In addition to the rich tradition of Latin text sources, there was also an enormous vernacular fund of song texts, which differed greatly in their styles. The interest in polyphony arose surprisingly early on in these English songs and this was already very popular in the Middle Ages. The polyphonic folk song has been a well-known and popular art form since the 12th century. So it was clearly not an invention of court culture. In particular, in my dissertation on this topic, I came to the realization that the history of the style and playing style of polyphonic and unison songs in England differs greatly from that in the French and Latin cultures. The British Isles enjoyed an exceptionally rich and complex singing culture at that time, recognizable and manifesting in at least three different linguistic styles.

 

TC: Your most popular accompaniment instrument is not the guitar, nor the lute, nor the hand organ, but the small harp. How did this choice come about?

 

GN: The question about that harp is actually a story of kindness from other people. When I was young, I was given a Celtic harp, an instrument that I loved and admired. When I was asked to choose an instrument as a minor at the Schola Cantorum, the harp seemed to me to be the ideal choice. I was also fortunate to have received a grant from the Leverhulme Foundation in England. However, the Board of Trustees determined that “just a Celtic harp” could not be the ideal instrument for studying medieval music. So it was decided to finance not just one, but two harps, namely one for the music of the High Middle Ages and a Gothic harp for the late Middle Ages. That was fantastic, because thanks to the Leverhulme Foundation I was able to continue my studies with the medieval harp. And that's how I care for my three harps to this day. By the way, my little instrument is decorated in colors with ivy and small birds, just like the illuminations of medieval manuscripts.

 

TC: Does the renaissance begin to give way to instrumental performance practice with the advent of new musical instruments? Or does that just apply to changes in court music culture?

 

GN: We see the 15th century as the birth of instrumental music, which spread more and more during the Renaissance. From this time on, the first music manuscripts dedicated to specific instrumental ensembles can be found. But, as correctly noted, this development primarily affects court music culture. Incidentally, one of the challenges for understanding and researching the music of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance lies precisely in the fact that we mostly only know the perspective of the traditional sources, i.e. only those of the educated upper class. It is roughly as if in 500 years future musicologists would only come across sources of well-known operas and orchestral works and come to the conclusion that this and only this literature reflects the taste of our time. That is not the case, and then as now, people enjoy a wide variety of styles of music. Both instrumental and vocal music have a strong oral tradition. The so-called "birth" of early Renaissance instrumental music affects only one specific courtly trend that survived in writing. But that doesn't mean that vocal music has completely lost its meaning. It is delightful to imagine how other, new music trends develop and disappear again over the centuries without leaving any traces or sources.

TC: In the Middle Ages, recording notes in writing was still largely unknown. Based on what sources are medieval songs brought to life today?

 

GN: The earliest medieval notations should be understood more as auxiliary information than as clear vocal instructions - they refer to the basic voice and assume that the singer is familiar with the actual melody. In some cases, detailed notation appears in later song sources, which then allows us to fill in gaps. As early as the High Middle Ages, sophisticated notation systems were used, which in the late Middle Ages sometimes developed into wonderful, mathematically and logically well thought-out works. At the end of the 14th century, the musicians were already noticing highly complex melodies, in particular the rhythmic playing forms of the Ars Subtilior (style epoch between 1377 and 1420, note TC). These notations are created with professional pride and are enriched with puzzles and pictures.

Nevertheless, despite the sources, many questions about performance practice remain unanswered. So the question of the instrumentation, but also the question of possible accompaniment of unison songs. Old pictures, paintings or even descriptions can help here, but most of them lack important information. Certain painted instruments often show strange or even technically impossible details. Not all painters knew the details of the instruments, and their works convey a basic idea rather than reliable information about instrument making. As researchers and musicians, we try to use as many sources and references as possible and combine them into a whole.

TC: What is your prognosis for the revival of music from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance? Will it experience a boom similar to that which we have seen in baroque music over the last few decades?

 

GN: That's an interesting point. I think we are in a growing boom of interest for music from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, but not in the kind of market for baroque music today. Instead of an increased interest in the classical historical performance practice of medieval or Renaissance music, I find that many people live out their fascination for that early music in pop culture and in crossover experiments. Indeed, social media and YouTube channels offer hobby musicians from the Middle Ages and Renaissance new platforms and new audiences. An example of crossover, which I also enjoy and which even lives up to a higher standard, is the group Bardcore. This mixture of pop music and old song and text forms has become quite popular this year with the use of old instruments. Interesting in this regard is the Hildegard von Blingin` YouTube channel with well over 700,000 subscribers - and the musicians are quite talented! This is not my field of activity in medieval performance practice, but it is well done. And who knows - maybe this medieval crossover scene will inspire some listeners to turn to the classical form. Such crossover projects could be the spark for our music. The fascination is there, the boom just has to take root in our concert segment.

Team ReRenaissance

The interview October 2020 - Mira Gloor

Flutes are probably one of the oldest musical instruments in human history. On October 25th there will be a program dedicated to the virtuosity of the recorder that flourished again in the 16th century with a trio sonata line-up.

Mira Gloor, one of the three recorder players, speaks as a Swiss talent about her special experience, the recorder from an early age

at the S chola Cantorum Basiliensis,

the worldwide center for early music.

Thomas Christ interviewed

the recorder player Mira Gloor, who lives in Basel

TC: The Basel association ReRenaissance is particularly pleased to welcome a young Basel flutist - Mira Gloor, you seem to have been playing the recorder since you were born, can you briefly tell us something about your long-term loyalty to your instrument.

MG: Yes, the recorder has actually been with me for most of my life. I started playing the flute at the age of four and since then my love for this versatile instrument has grown steadily. Many used to have to learn the recorder in school and therefore have a very ambivalent relationship to the instrument. Since I've never been in this position myself and have always been able to enjoy great lessons from many different teachers, I had a happy start into the world of recorder music. And although I later had violin lessons, the recorder always came first for me. It was clear to me very early on that this instrument would be with me for the rest of my life.

TC: You did your training primarily at the Schola Cantorum, but as a Basiliensa you belonged to a vanishingly small minority at this school. How did you experience the international training competition, was it enriching or stressful?

MG: I think that even today you can still count the number of Basel residents at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis on one hand. It was a completely new experience for me at the beginning, because during my childhood I had perceived the music school at the Schola as a completely “normal” Basel music school and of course I knew nothing else. It was only during my studies that I became aware of the exclusivity of this special place. The internationality of the fellow students was an enormous enrichment for me. The cultural diversity, the different languages ​​and the mix of different age groups gave me a lot on my personal path. It is often said that the Schola is probably the worst place to learn German or even Swiss German. For me, however, in addition to all the musical experiences, it was also the best language school.

TC: Early music and modern compositions as well as folklore belong, as far as I know, to your repertoire. Are there clear preferences based on the literature or do these different musical worlds complement each other in your musical life?

MG: It is important to me to maintain a certain curiosity about the instrument, and that includes more unusual programs from time to time. The different styles help me to remain musically and technically flexible and, for example, to discover completely new sounds in contemporary music. With my two ensembles, I enjoy immersing myself in the different worlds of consort music from the Renaissance and chamber music from the early and high baroque periods.

TC: As is well known, the recorder did not make the step into classical music. Was it too quiet, too intimate, too fine or simply too old-fashioned? Can you tell us something about the history of instruments?

MG: The fact that the recorder faded more and more into the background from the second half of the 18th century certainly has something to do with its sound properties and its range. The softness and sweetness of the "Flauto Dolce" was probably no longer in demand and the growing orchestras and concert halls demanded instruments with a stronger sound. Without their deep sleep, the recorder would not have been able to celebrate a renaissance in the early 20th century. So this breather was perhaps a great stroke of luck for the current world of recorders, as many composers have dealt with the instrument from the 20th century until today and numerous exciting works have been created.

TC: One last question that I always like to ask: Baroque music has enjoyed great popularity for several decades, while music of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance still lead a niche existence with a growing but much smaller fan club. Can you imagine that our time is ripe for a renaissance boom in music too?

MG: It's nice to see that the music of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance is able to cast a spell over an increasing number of listeners. Especially here in Basel there is already a great range of concerts and an interested audience. I think that this trend will certainly continue in the years to come and I am happy to be able to contribute a small part of it myself.

Team ReRenaissance

The September 2020 interview - Crawford Young

Despite the Corona restrictions, our young Renaissance music series is enjoying itself

very popular in the Barfüsserkirche - we are particularly pleased to meet a proven connoisseur of early music in Europe in our monthly interviews.

Thomas Christ interviews the lutenist who lives in Basel

and musicologist Dr. Crawford Young

Dr. Thomas Christ (TC): As an American, you spent your first years of training in Boston - how did you get to know the music of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance in America?

Dr. Crawford Young (CY): I grew up in the New York area and the music scene was extremely stimulating in the 1960s. I attended a Beatles concert in 1965, from then on everything went by itself. My guitar playing led me to study classical guitar at the New England Conservatory, which at the time had an excellent early music department, from my point of view today the best in the United States. One of my teachers played us a recording by Thomas Binkley from 1970 'A chantar m'er de so qu'eu no volria' (Chansons of the Troubadours, Telefunken / Das Alte Werk), which was a key experience for me. At the same time, some fellow students moved to Basel to study with Binkley and other teachers at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis. They said he was the perfect teacher for me. Around 1977 I knew that I wanted to devote myself entirely to the medieval world of lutes, because this music corresponded to my enjoyment of improvisation, my preference for small ensembles and the familiar technique of playing with the pick. In addition, at that time no serious effort had been made to work up the history of the lute before 1500 in order to appreciate it as an independent 'voice' on the concert stage.

TC: Why did you choose Basel, the city of music, for your future career?

I didn't study in Basel. Because in 1977 Binkley left the Schola after breaking new ground in music education at the Basel School: he created a career with a specialized diploma in medieval and renaissance music. As I remember, the idea initially came from the brilliant musicologist Wulf Arlt, who became director of the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis in the 1970s. (To this day, the Schola remains the only conservatory in the world with a separate section for 'medieval music', i.e. for in-depth study of the repertoires before 1600.)

The idea of Thomas Binkley's team 'Studio der early Musik' was new and attractive to me back in 1977, because it contained an offer or a model of a successful performance practice that explored the early music repertoire in the quartet, a kind of ideal Combination of musicological research and stage experience at the highest level. Who couldn't be excited about this as a career goal? And indeed, at that time at the Schola, his students - by the way, interestingly, the majority of them were Americans - were well on their way to achieving this goal; For example, the course for medieval performance practice at the time published a recording for instrumental music (Estampie), which I found very convincing at the time.

It was not until Binkley left Basel in 1977 that I traveled from Boston to Stanford to study with him. There I received the invitation to join a quartet of Schola graduates from the Middle Ages in Cologne, where I spent three years. Then, in 1982, I was called to Basel to teach music of the Middle Ages, so to speak, I took over Binkley's position at the Schola.

TC: About your instrument, the lute: on the one hand, the lute has almost completely disappeared from the instrument repertoire since the classical period, on the other hand it seems to have a long history in representations up to the ancient times (kithara). Perhaps you can briefly tell us something about the historical meaning of the sounds?

CY: Plucked string instruments have played a special role in human history. The lyre or the kithara were the central instrument in education as well as in the sciences of classical antiquity, including in the Hebrew culture under King David - in biblical times it served as a medium of communication between man and God. It is well known that these early trends have shaped and influenced our world and our forms of cultural expression to the present day. The kithara has gone through many different manifestations over the centuries - plucked, struck with a pick or fingers or even a keyboard or at the end bowed with a bow. For more than half a century we have been living in the age of the guitar, whose popularity seems to overshadow other instruments around the world. In the Renaissance, the lute was the queen of instruments, as its properties harmonized with the ideals of humanism: it was not only considered the classical instrument of antiquity (Boethius' treatise De musica describes the kithara as the fundamental tool to understand music theory can), but was also considered the perfect companion of sung poetry, based on the example of ancient poets in their pictorial representations with the lyre. The lute became the preferred means of expressing human feelings and emotional moods; with its harmonies and intervals it brought the intimate, the private but also the ephemeral into a musical form. And, compared to some other instruments, such as the organ, it was easy to transport and easy to maintain. The lute eventually also became a Christian symbol, a standard instrument of angels and appears in the imagery of courtly love scenes and enchanted gardens (Garden of Déduit, Roman de la Rose, poem by Guillaume de Lorris, 1230). In short, it becomes an instrument of the emotional manifesto - so it is hardly surprising that the lute is chosen as an icon of humanism.

TC: Since music sources, but also references to the construction of old instruments, are often missing, I assume that in order to study the 'old sounds' you will deal intensively with literature and especially with the imagery of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

CY: Yeah, exactly. If we carefully study all sources of information, we have surprisingly precise answers to questions about the use, playing technique, construction and acoustics of lutes in Europe 500 years ago. Every historical source research - visual, literary, as well as instrument making - is now embedded in different research areas and has developed a corresponding academic life of its own - in other words, studying sources and following the constantly expanding fields of research turns out to be a gigantic task and lifelong challenge. But this actually corresponds exactly to the promise we make if we want to conduct those studies seriously. Because we have a responsibility to understand that zeitgeist, that worldview, as well as those aesthetic preferences of the time, which differs greatly from our current optics. But this timely appearance of those works allows us to perceive historical performance practice as a new art form. On the one hand, we are enjoying an unprecedented access to historical research today, but we cannot yet assume that all the theoretical findings have been incorporated into performance practice.

TC: Already in the baroque era the lute only survived in a few concerts, was the baroque already too loud? How would you explain this early withdrawal of the instrument from performance practice?

CY: That is a question for a baroque lute specialist, I would be unqualified to give an answer.

TC: In the past few decades, the curiosity of the audience for the world of baroque music, especially for baroque opera, has increased enormously among the classical music audience. Could you imagine a similar development for the music of the Renaissance?

CY: Our modern world loves the Middle Ages, or so-called Medievalism, possibly more than Baroque or Baroque opera. But early music festival organizers may have learned how to market a baroque opera, and they cling to a fixed mode of performance, as they have for years. The audience would, however, be receptive to pre-baroque productions, for example an original version of Orfeo from the late 15th century. - but the organizers think too conservatively here. The greatest commercial success with medieval 'operas' and 'operettas' (liturgical dramas) was achieved by New York Pro Musica in 1958 with the 'Play of Daniel' (another exception was the boom in Gregorian chant in the 1990s). Unfortunately today there are hardly any major pre-baroque productions.

Medieval and Renaissance music needs a narrative, a narrative background and so has to reinvent itself on the market. It must not be labeled as the exotic corner of classical music or pushed aside as pure music history. In general, historical terms or epochs but also terms such as 'early music' should be avoided for a successful market strategy.

The festival organizers regularly base their decisions on commercial added value as well as on the classical music scene (especially with early operas); so the music schools (in the logic of a business model) also follow the guidelines of the festivals and prepare the students for the later epochs. However, if the organizers were to shift their priorities to equally rich, earlier centuries (as ReRenaissance is currently trying to do), a new trend would emerge, which would also have consequences for the music academies. Today, however, the courses in medieval and renaissance music appear as minor subjects in the baroque and classical periods in a conservatory that is primarily dedicated to modern times. This model for studying early music dates back to the 19th century. and urgently calls for a revision.

I myself believed in the late 1970s that within a decade or two the conservatories would set up independent medieval and renaissance departments. Not even close. The main reason is that baroque music gets along with the world of classical music, is similar in structure and content to 'normal' classical music and is thus accepted. This is not the case with the Renaissance - and even more so with the music of the Middle Ages. These musical epochs or styles of music could never be marketed as 'classical'; for laypeople they rather belonged to folk or traditional music, or to jazz or even to the new music scene.

Medieval and Renaissance music must be 'decoupled' from the baroque and classical music. The differences between the baroque and humanistic understanding of music, as well as their approach to art, are enormous, which is why they also differ in performance practice (which is deliberately disregarded when musicians try to do both at the same time). The medieval or renaissance musician should therefore not see himself as an assistant or assistant to 'mainstream' music, but instead undergo training at a conservatory, at an interdisciplinary institute with courses in art history, literature and linguistics. His training focus would then be cultural, historical, geographical and musical. My vision of adequate training for an interpreter or an ensemble includes such a degree, which at the same time does justice to aspects of the history of art and work, and which delves into an era of early music. Perhaps such a career deserves the term 'authenticity' again.

Team ReRenaissance

The interview August 2020 - Ann Allen

The Basel-based association ReRenaissance aims to appeal to the inclined public with its wide range of performances

not only convey the world of the Renaissance, but also give the floor to the interpreters of early music in a series of interviews,

Thomas Christ interviewed
the musician living in Basel
Ann Allen (shawm and baroque oboe)

Thomas Christ (TC): The inclined concert-goers notice that none of the early instruments made it into the world of classical music without major changes. Many listeners may even be unfamiliar with the names of some string or wind instruments. How did you get to Schalmei or Dulcian as a young musician?

Ann Allen (AA) Although I have been playing the recorder since I was five, like many colleagues I have "worked my way back" in time. As a child, the modern oboe was my instrument, but in retrospect I find that early music should become my destiny. I still remember my great enthusiasm when we played Handel's fireworks music in the youth orchestra, or the fact that I didn't want to put down the instrument on that weekend of the first baroque sonata. Of course at that time I knew little about the world of baroque music, let alone that of the Renaissance or the Middle Ages, but I felt that these pieces particularly touched me. As I got older, my passion for early music became more serious, and at university I swapped the modern oboe for the baroque oboe. At the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis I finally made the acquaintance of the Shawm and the Dulcian - and I stayed with that.

TC: Can you please tell us a little bit about the origin of the shawm: When did it have its prime? Are there places where it is still played today in a non-historical context?

AA: Like many instruments that became popular in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, the shawm also found its way to Europe via musicians from the Middle Eastern cultures as well as from the eastern and southern Mediterranean regions. Images of shawl-like instruments are known as early as the 13th and 14th centuries, but the wind instruments in the August concert “Winds and Waves” date from the 15th to 17th centuries. The shawm became very popular at that time and in the Alta Capella it could be heard in every town, in every village, at the court and even - as our concert shows - on the ships

The sound of the instrument is essentially produced by the vibration of two pieces of wooden pipe (double reed). Shawm-like instruments can be found all over the world. Last year, during my vacation, I met a shawm duo from a Thai orchestra - we were very happy to share our experiences and compare our instruments - thanks to «Google translate»! But even in France, Spain and Italy, wind instruments similar to shawls are still an integral part of traditional music today.

TC: Baroque music has been enjoying great popularity for several decades, and all the major opera houses have included operas by well-known and unknown composers in their programs. At ReRenaissance we find that there is great curiosity and interest in the even earlier music of the 15th and 16th centuries. Does Basel play a pioneering role with its Schola Cantorum or do you see this trend in other European cities as well?

AA: Although we still have to speak of a niche interest, especially with medieval and Renaissance music, the repertoire of early music and historical performance practice seem to be developing into an established genre of classical music. This trend can be seen all over the western music world. I've lived in a few European cities, but none of these cities live this trend in professional depth

and performance frequency like Basel. Of course, different preferences and trends can be found in different countries, but thanks to the charisma of the Schola Cantorum, Basel has become a kind of epicenter of early music and thus also a breeding ground for future generations and new ideas for practice and research.

TC: The visualization of the musical experience is very important to you, you stage baroque operas and know your way around the art of medieval dance. Are you interested in a holistic music experience?

AA: Yes, I always had a visual connection to music. When I listen to music or sit in a concert, images of dance scenes often appear to me, or I imagine how the music could be transformed into an expanded viewing and listening experience. Although the music alone can be a pure joy for the ear and mind in its experience, I am convinced that a concert or live performance should appeal to all the senses of the listener and thus become an acoustic and visual experience.

TC: You also love the music experiment and stage so-called crossover projects, in which elements of medieval music merge with modern melodies, early and free music meet. Tell us about this historical liberation: Are the folk-song-like melodies of the early days particularly suitable for this game?

AA: As a native of London, I grew up in a multicultural environment and enjoyed the pleasure of interplay and experimental mixing, whether it was the kitchen, the clothing or the arts. Looking back, I realize that I felt the same way when dealing with early music. I was fortunate enough to be in charge of the Nox Illuminata festival for ten years; A willingness to experiment was required: early works were confronted with modern musical styles or combined with dance, theater or video interludes. Opera creations did not remain free of new influences either, Purcell's “Dido and Aeneas” appeared in jazz dress as “Play it again Dido”. What I particularly enjoyed at the time and was close to my heart was the interplay of early dance melodies with modern jazz rhythms, where we complemented well-known, secular Renaissance or courtly medieval sounds with a jazz or rock trio of bass, guitar and drums. It was a great experience to see musicians of various artistic origins transforming these melodies and rhythms - and thus to inspire a new audience that danced to adapted melodies that had been danced to hundreds of years ago.

Team ReRenaissance

The interview July 2020 - Raitis Grigalis

Thomas Christ interviews the Basel-based singer Raitis Grigalis, assistant to Andreas Scholl
at the Mozarteum in Salzburg.

Thomas Christ (TC): Raitis Grigalis, the Basel audience has known you for a number of years as a singer of baroque literature. I assume that singing has accompanied you since your early childhood, your hometown Riga is considered the Mecca of choral music. Do you come from a family of musicians?

 

Raitis Grigalis (RG): My parents are not professional musicians, but they met while making music. My mother is a doctor, my father is an engineer; While both were still studying, they met in the mixed youth choir of the University in Riga. My mother sang in soprano, my father in bass. I love this story because I was virtually “born in the choir” and grew up in and with choral music. My parents sent me to the Emils Darzins music school (choir school of the Riga Cathedral), where I gained my first stage experience in the boys' choir. Later I sang in the mixed choir led by my father's brother. However, I was not born entirely without musical genes: my grandfather was a respected choir director, violinist, organist and teacher in Latvia. During my studies at the Riga Music Academy, I worked with professional ensembles, including the Riga Radio Choir. At the same time I founded and directed the church choir of St. Peters Church in Riga. This is an amusing parallel, because back then I often performed in Basel's St. Peter's Church.

 

TC: How did you find your way to Basel? Was the love of early music the only reason?

 

RG: My interest in early music was aroused in high school. Later, in the music academy, where I also trained in conducting, I discovered my high-pitched voice and decided to further develop singing within an academic framework. At first I looked in the direction of London - Latvia was not yet in the EU at the time. But my studies there would have been very expensive and therefore almost impossible. One afternoon I happened to meet my professor of music history on the stairs of the university, who told me about Basel and the Schola Cantorum. I immediately went to the freshly set up computer room on the top floor and began researching. When I saw the photo of the beautiful inner courtyard of the music academy in Basel when I opened the website, it was clear to me - I wanted to go there. However, it was already April and I was late with my registration. In the following year everything worked out.

 

TC: In the world of classical music, especially in the opera repertoire of the major stages, the baroque operas have grown enormously in popularity in recent decades. Professional baroque ensembles shot up like mushrooms in the musical landscape all over Europe. In contrast, the rich literature of the Renaissance still led a real shadowy existence. How do you explain this imbalance?

 

RG: That's a more complex question and I don't want to say that I can answer it clearly and in depth. There are many languages on earth, and every music or style speaks its own language, and so we understand one better and the other not so much. The language of baroque music is easier to understand today because, with its dramatic effects, it appears expressive, full of emotions, rich in contrasts and colors, pompous, splendid, lyrical and at the same time intimate. This is all the more true when she speaks to us on the opera stage, with all the furnishings of a baroque or modern opera house, or at a mass with trumpets and timpani - hardly anyone remains unaffected. In the Renaissance, too, there are genres of secular music that are easier to record, on the other hand the great wealth of vocal polyphony may require a kind of 'access code' or a certain attention and willingness to get involved, to deepen the pleasure and linearity of the music enjoy - because the world that stands behind these closed doors is beautiful. I've sung a lot of polyphony myself over the past few years and I love it. It is to be hoped that the economic factors in the music world will remain positive so that the music of the Renaissance will continue to flourish.

 

TC: You have been living in the Basel region for 20 years. Do you find the time to devote yourself to choral music here too?

 

RG: Of course, if I already have a diploma in choir and orchestral conducting, I'll use it. The choir culture in Switzerland and especially in Basel is very rich and has a long tradition.

I am always amazed at the many large and small church choirs that put on one or two large concerts every year - with classical oratorios and cantatas, with orchestra and soloists. And this in almost every city in Switzerland. This differs the local choral culture from that in Latvia, because everything is concentrated there in the capital. There is no long tradition of church music, because due to the geopolitical situation on the Baltic Sea, the constant wars and changes of power, our traditions have been broken or interrupted time and again. The folk culture and thus also the musical culture has been suppressed again and again over the centuries and has developed and enriched itself more in the individual, in the family, or even in the underground. The fund is huge, there are around 2 million folk songs, one for almost every Latvian. This gave rise to a national identity at the beginning of the 20th century and ultimately a professional music culture that is extremely resilient. This explains why choirs in Latvia occupy themselves with singing across generations, because this was often the only free expression one could afford. So it is hardly surprising that the singing festivals, which take place every five years, have grown into a unique cultural phenomenon. The festival lasts a whole week and ends with a competition in the auditorium of the university in Riga, where in each category it is decided who will be chosen as the best choir in the country. This definitely has a sporting effect and above all motivates young singers. The choir culture is taken very seriously and leads to high musical performance, which can be heard in the choir sound. I am also a child of that choir culture and at the same time a graduate of the Schola Cantorum in Basel: So now I am trying to bring both cultural histories and traditions together. I am currently leading the English Seminar Choir at the University of Basel.

 

TC: I heard that you also work as a composer. Is it also about choral works? Can you tell us something about that?

 

RC: That's right, I've always studied composition as a minor and in fact it's mostly about music for choir and voice, because that's the stuff I know best, where I feel like a fish in water. These are smaller sacred choral pieces, psalm settings, but also pieces with texts by Rilke and a few movements for masses. I would by no means see myself as an avant-garde composer, rather my music is geared towards practical, functional and harmonic specifications, so that the complexity remains accessible, even to the non-professional ensemble.

A few years ago, on behalf of the Catholic Church in Therwil, I wrote a Christmas Oratorio with a text by Jacqueline Keune, a freelance theologian from Lucerne. It is designed from the perspective of an old woman and reflects the rather gloomy, helpless and grayer aspects of the Christmas story. And it was precisely these weeks that we and two friends from Basel finished the fairy tale opera “Snow White”, a work which in turn uses a different form of expression, a different instrumentation and different stylistic devices and is intended as a stage work with appropriate means of performance.

   

TC: Thank you very much

Team ReRenaissance

The interview June 2020 - Baptiste Romain

Thomas Christ interviews Prof. Baptiste Romain, teacher for fiddle and renaissance violin
at the Schola Cantorum, Basel.

 

Thomas Christ (TC): Mr. Romain, as probably the youngest lecturer at the Schola Cantorum, you practically exclusively devote yourself to the music of the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries. How do you explain your love for Renaissance music to your peers?

 

Baptiste Romain (BR): It is actually true that I dedicate myself exclusively to the music of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. One could open the frame you mentioned a little and say: from approx. 1000 to 1650. As you can imagine, this time window contains an enormous variety of repertoires and musical styles. It is difficult to explain why some sounds appeal to you and others less, why, for example, the purity of a perfectly tuned fifth is good for me, while it could be unsettling to others.

 

When I was 11 or 12, a school friend showed me editions of medieval dances and songs. He played the recorder and intended to perform this music with me (on the "modern" violin). I still remember which pieces they were and how I was immediately enthusiastic about them.

At the age of 14 I discovered other repertoires when we were presented with music history at grammar school, including the Organa of the Notre-Dame School, Trecento-Ballate and the Requiem of Okeghem. One day when we were analyzing and listening to a motet by Guillaume de Machaut, I decided to only deal with Early Music.

 

TC: Do you come from a family of musicians? Did you experience this very early music in your youth as "courant normal"?

 

BR: Both of my parents were involved in musical activities when I was a child. My mother sang in a choir, my father played guitar, piano and later even harpsichord at home. Early music was already part of my cultural landscape, along with jazz and classical music. The Middle Ages were hardly present in this range of variation, but the few records that went in that direction piqued my interest.

 

TC: Baroque music has experienced a real audience boom in the last 20 years, and today almost all opera houses regularly dare to play baroque singspiels. How do you rate the response or the interest of the inclined audience in Renaissance music? Do you stay in the circle of fans or does the zeitgeist allow the mobilization of new target groups?

 

BR: In some places around the world, the reappraisal of early music has met with great interest for several years: more and more medieval and renaissance concerts are being performed as alternatives to later repertoires. At some festivals, even part of the audience prefers these early programs. In many other places, however, the earlier music is unfortunately limited to “that one exceptional concert” - the “special offer” within an otherwise baroque festival week or series. Unfortunately, due to the general economic situation, there are now even fewer festivals and concert series that are exclusively dedicated to earlier music.

 

TC: The violin is known to be one of the few instruments that made the leap from old to new music. Briefly explain to us the differences between the fiddle, the renaissance violin and the classic violin.

 

BR: Between the 10th and 16th centuries, string instruments were played in Europe, which today are generally referred to as "fiddle". There were important regional differences in the construction, in the sound concepts, the playing styles and in the names. In the 15th century the term "vielle" was understood to mean a five-string instrument with a relatively flat bridge that was played on the arm. From 1520 a new form of the same instrument developed, with stronger indentations on the body and a bridge that favored the playing of polyphonic lines. Initially the violin was equipped with three strings, a little later (around 1550) with four. Around 1560 it got the shape and construction that we know today.

In addition, in the Renaissance there were larger instruments that were held between the knees. The viola d'arco / viola da gamba come from a parallel development of the Spanish fiddle and gained a special place in the musical culture of Europe in the 16th century.

 

TC: You also teach so-called “modal improvisation”. How should one imagine the notation of Renaissance music? Can it even be played without improvisation patterns? How freely does the layman have to imagine these patterns or individual figures? Do you recognize a good musician by his improvisational skills?

 

BR: Personally, I don't necessarily think you're a better musician if you focus on improvisation alone. It is clear that the audience longs for personalities and timeless experiences. But without understanding and humility towards the original text, such a performance is - in my opinion - often not convincing. Finally, the notation of the Renaissance conveys the musical thinking of a composer or a writer with very precise information. The freedoms that the performer has can relate to different areas of interpretation: micro-decorations that make the line imperceptibly richer, occasional diminutions with which the singer or instrumentalist gradually frees himself from the source text, or finally the continuous play (or singing) virtuoso diminutions that emphasize the creativity and understanding of the performer. There are also some aspects that today's musicians can acquire, such as the art of foreplay or improvised counterpoint.

 

TC: As a connoisseur of Renaissance music, you are inevitably also a historian. Baroque images tell us a lot about baroque gestures, but where do you get your sources for the sounds and preferences of old performance practice?

 

BR: There are a few main elements to the reconstruction of the performance practice back then that I think of spontaneously. The pictorial representations of musicians, performance situations and instruments are of great importance to us and have been studied for a long time. In addition, there are the theoretical treatises and writings that describe music practice. Here the gradation is very broad: one finds texts that are intended to serve the music lessons of children, some explain a special, technically oriented practice, while others philosophically depict the musical zeitgeist of a particular epoch. Then there are all the reference works ... Thanks to musicology you can always find new aspects and building blocks - studying your studies is an important source of inspiration for us.

 

TC: Not everyone knows that you are also a gifted bagpipe player. How did you get this instrument?

 

BR: When I was 13 years old, I was fascinated by the sounds of this instrument. This passion (or addiction!) Prompted me to order a small bagpipe from a Dutch farmer - even before I bought a fiddle. When he arrived (about 20 years ago), I went to the forest every day to practice - sometimes even in rainy weather, which had serious consequences for the instrument. At that time, I was looking for recordings all over the libraries in the Paris region, in order to write down new bagpipes and learn from whatever traditions in Europe. There I discovered many Breton and Scottish pieces, but also Swedish, Italian and Hungarian melodies, which were connected with a special vocabulary of decorations and articulations. During the time I was studying at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, I tried to develop my own bagpipe language, adapted to the old repertoire. I now have ten different instruments. About a month ago, during the lockdown, I ordered another bagpipes from the Pyrenees. The obsession is still there ...

 

TC: Thank you for your insights into the world of early music, we look forward to your participation in our concert series in the Barfüsserkirche.

Team ReRenaissance

The interview April / May 2020 - Elisabeth Stähelin

Elisabeth Stähelin, initiator and administrative director of the association and the monthly concerts “ReRenaissance”,

is interviewed by Dr. Thomas Christ,

enthusiastic concert goer and lover of the Basel cultural scene,

the one with a degree in art history and law and a lot of life experience with him

Supported ReRenaissance on the board since January.

Thomas Christ (TC): At the end of last year, a new association was formed in Basel that wants to dedicate itself exclusively to early music - despite the fact that some well-known ensembles have been fighting for survival for many years, especially in Basel's baroque scene. What are your motivations?

 

Elisabeth Stähelin (ES): I have noticed in recent years that on the one hand there are some people among the Baroque fans who want to repeat a performance, e.g. B. Comment on the seasons of Vivaldi with “Maybe you could have played another piece?” - that on the other hand, Renaissance music finds a slowly but steadily growing and more understanding audience, although this still has to be described as exclusive and the concerts are to be searched for with a magnifying glass.

In addition, and this is an important point, the musicians in Basel and the region host a potential of experts in Renaissance music that is unique worldwide in this concentration. This results from the fact that the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis - that's the name of the early music department of the Music Academy or the FHNW University of Music - attracts specialists from all over the world with its teaching content and its high quality. We have a kind of lighthouse of early music in Basel - I would much rather call it early than early music and hope that this term will prevail in German-speaking countries.

Not only history, religion, philosophy and aesthetics of the years 1400–1600 differ greatly from the later period, but also the music; we want to open up a new field of experience for the public.

 

TC: The program design has already progressed into 2021; what is it about in terms of time and content?

 

ES: To be honest: this question does not concern my profession! We narrowed the music down to the period from 1400 to 1600, but I have nothing to do directly with the program. This task lies in the hands of the musical management group, consisting of the recorder and viol player Tabea Schwartz, the lutenist Prof. Dr. Marc Lewon and the viol player Elizabeth Rumsey. They are currently in the process of completing the program for 2021. Personally, it is very important to me that various corners of Renaissance music and the world are covered - for example, we want to consider dance music, outdoor ensembles or rare instruments - highly polyphonic and monodic compositions should be performed, as well as music from other European strongholds the renaissance.

 

TC: What is the relationship to Basel?

 

ES: Basel was an important center of the Renaissance; think of the Basel Council 1431–1449 or the foundation of the university in 1460; During this time, papermaking and printing flourished here. Quite a few as yet unknown treasures of the Renaissance can be discovered in Basel, for example in the university's manuscript collection. The March program was based on the Kettenacker songbook from the Amerbach collection. In Basel there are still some well-preserved buildings from the Renaissance, such as the Spiesshof am Heuberg with its famous coffered ceiling or the town hall. The political structures of the city of Basel that are still in force today have their roots in this time.

 

TC: How did you come to work with the Basel Historical Museum?

 

ES: We had been looking for suitable rooms since May 2019. We scoured Basel for renaissance rooms suitable for concerts. We discovered a lot more than expected: Kaisersaal, Münstersaal in the Bischofshof, various guild halls such as the Safran- or Key Guild, Zum hoch Dolder, Schützensaal etc. We could have found a special room for every concert. Ultimately, the focus was on finding a central location for the concerts that take place on the last Sunday of each month, which makes it possible to present a wide variety of music formats without the musicians and the audience having to reorient themselves every time . The Barfüsserkirche is easy to reach, and the collaboration with the Historical Museum turns out to be very inspiring.

 

TC: Renaissance music is probably less known to the inclined public than the compositions of the following centuries. Will the performance series be enriched with lectures or corresponding texts?

 

ES: How exactly the interface between the museum and the concert will function logistically on Sunday afternoon seems a bit unclear, so we have to gain experience first. We hope to be able to offer accompanying lectures for the introduction from 2021 onwards. For the time being, we will print a detailed program booklet and provide information on the website in advance with illustrations and texts. This includes, in particular, the monthly column for the concert by Prof. Dr. Dr. hc David Fallows and a monthly interview with a musician or someone else involved in the project. With the monthly newsletter we refer to the updates.

 

TC: You were able to win well-known ensembles for the monthly concerts. Who is responsible for the programming?

 

ES: As far as the mention of well-known ensembles is concerned, I have to clearly disagree. There are many musicians from well-known ensembles in the program, but no such ensembles per se. This is one of the special features of our project: Unlike most other concert series, we start from a thematic topic and then look for musicians from the region who can optimally realize this topic together. For each concert, we put together a specific, new concert group - although that is not one of my tasks, but the task of the above-mentioned three-person management team responsible for the music.

 

TC: Are you also planning to perform in other Swiss cities?

 

ES: Other concert organizers have already approached us with this question, but our priority at the moment is to establish this series in Basel. We hope that a large and stable regular audience will develop in the Basel population. However, we think that over time our series will also broadcast across Switzerland. We are already receiving support, for example, from the Göhner Foundation based in Zug or a private sponsor from Lucerne.

 

TC: Does the cultural department of the Canton of Basel-Stadt support the project or do you live from private third-party funds, i.e. from foundations?

 

ES: We are very happy and grateful that quite a few foundations and private donors have placed their trust in us and the project, so that we can definitely get started. From the municipal side, we are receiving grants for two specific concerts this season through the Swisslos Fund Basel-Stadt.

 

TC: How do you deal with the Corona crisis? I assume there will be program postponements. Does that lead to problems, especially with regard to venues?

 

ES: As far as the venue is concerned, we have already received confirmation from the Basel Historical Museum that we can continue to use the Barfüsserkirche in 2021. Unfortunately the first two concerts had to be canceled. With the monthly concerts, we can virtually plan on a rolling basis and just get in as soon as the health conditions allow concerts again. Fortunately, the foundations also show a great deal of understanding for the complex situation.

 

TC: You've been working on this project for almost a year now. How do you personally experience this work?

 

ES: In the 80s I was active in concert life myself and as a violinist led an ensemble for baroque and classical music, then I shifted my work mainly to violin pedagogy. I am now enjoying the challenges in conceptual work and in setting up this concert series very much and experience it as a great enrichment; I am practically a “girl for everything”: be it immersing yourself in the world of foundations, double bookkeeping, writing or designing the website, be it the most artistically appropriate design of the advertising - that we have the monthly flyer in cooperation with the For example, I really like being able to produce the paper museum using the letterpress process.

The cooperation in the management group and on the board works extremely well, the support for our project among the musicians and in the scientific advisory board is enormous.

Team ReRenaissance

The interview March 2020 - Katharina Haun

Friedhelm Lotz,
an early music fan from the very beginning
and as a hobby musician since the 1960s a veteran in the matter,
met with Katharina Haun,
the Zinkenistin the first ReRenaissance concert,

which took place on June 28th

and recorded by SRF2Kultur.

Friedhelm Lotz: How did you get into music as a profession?

Katharina Haun: I'm not someone who decided early on to become a musician. A lot just happened in my childhood. I don't come from a family of musicians, but to a certain extent I slipped into it: I went to a musical high school and, like many children, started with the recorder. In contrast to most, I stuck with it. My love for music developed through good teachers and I was able to get to know the recorder as a professional instrument.

Friedhelm Lotz: How did you get into music as a profession?

Sebastian Virdung: Various wind instruments, including the straight zinc (Musica getutscht, Basel 1511)

Lotz: Katharina, what drew your attention to zinc?

Haun: I discovered zinc during my bachelor's degree in my hometown of Graz. It just went through reading and a concert where my mother sang in the choir. I heard it there and it just fascinated me. That's when I started to look and also to see that it was actually a very important instrument in the 16th and 17th centuries. I am fascinated by the fact that what was so important over a period of 200 years is known so little today. This search has brought me further and during my recorder master’s degree at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, I always found zinc as a great fascination. I was lucky enough to be able to start with zinc there, and then dive into completely different depths of zinc playing and early music at the Schola Cantorum in Basel.

Lotz: Zinc has the reputation of an instrument that is difficult to play and learn. Did you feel that way too?

Haun: Hardly any Zinkenist started using this instrument as a child. We all got there somehow via detours and bring experience of the previous instruments with us. The zinc demands that you always deal with it. The most dangerous thing is long breaks, but that's not a problem for me at all: I come from a sporty family in which it was always important to “stick with it” and persevere. I practice at least an hour a day when traveling and over time that became as natural to me as brushing my teeth. In my opinion, particular difficulties, for example with the small mouthpiece, arise if you do not have enough discipline to really work on it every day.

Lotz: One would think that zinc was a cross between a trumpet (attachment) and a recorder (finger holes). A (rather rhetorical) question would be whether it is sufficient to master these two instruments in order to be able to play zinc. What do you think about?

Haun: I can't speak for the trumpet, but it seems that trumpeters and trombonists would have difficulties with the size of the mouthpiece. The intonation on zinc brings with it completely different difficulties than on the recorder: With zinc, an idea of the tone is very important for controlling intonation; fingers are also important, of course, but primarily to focus the sound. You go with your instrument, the zinc and I go well together. I could hardly imagine playing a string instrument.

Lotz: Even with the trumpet, the pitch concept is important for intonation, but not to the same extent as with zinc. The fact that the sound can be influenced by the performance is probably also decisive for the broad applicability of the zinc, from the intimate dialogue with the singing in a small room to the brilliant, bright, all-drowning presence in the large concert hall.

Haun: That is actually what makes zinc so special: This flexibility sets it apart from most other instruments of its time, where you simply cannot get out of a narrow dynamic range. Together with the trumpets, zinc was used for a wide variety of contexts from the very beginning and I find that extremely exciting. I recently played with an Alta Capella again, i.e. with really loud instruments from the Renaissance: shawms, trombones, slide trumpets, etc. For this I had to prepare and switch to playing with a different mouthpiece that had a significantly lighter tone color. In any case, you have to use a different technique, have a good understanding of the things that make up the sound and how to manage the sound and the breath. I also practice this on my own: playing loudly and very clearly, a lot with a tuner and not only for the Alta Capella, but also, for example, for music by Biber or Muffat, where you can use the cornettino (high zinc) as the highest instrument the ensemble has to play; and then exactly the opposite, for example with a Bovicelli diminution, where it is important to have a flexible, soft and warm sound.

Lotz: You just mentioned the history of zinc. Your master's thesis at the Schola had something to do with it? What topic is it about?

Haun: I investigated the development of zinc between 1450 and 1530. In the iconography around 1450, zinc appeared for the first time as an established instrument that could be integrated into an ensemble. Earlier images suggest that handle-hole horns, such as those used as signaling instruments or for driving herds in, were the forerunners of zinc; however, there is no clear evidence of this. Around 1520/30 the period begins when the instrument became very popular, appeared in all possible musical contexts and a lot was written about it. This period in which zinc became a popular instrument is very exciting. I relied less on the existing iconography and more on written reports and descriptions from various countries. There is quite a lot of information, such as: B. an entry suggests that the German word "zinc", instead of the commonly used "cornetto", first appeared in Basel around 1474

Lotz: How do you keep fit?

Haun: I do a lot of sport, which is very important to me and certainly doesn't damage my condition for making music. Yesterday I was z. B. Snowboarding.

Lotz: Travel?

Haun: I really enjoy traveling, if possible with my husband and in the great outdoors. As a freelance musician, this is not always easy to achieve. We try to reserve common times in good time.

Lotz: Different music, different activities?

Haun: The other universities made it clear to me that I only had to concentrate 100% on one thing, but that wasn't my thing. Here in Basel I was able to revive for the first time and enjoy the diversity. Even though I have clearly decided in favor of the Renaissance and Baroque as a Zinkenist and recorder player, I find dealing with other music very exciting, beautiful and important. I am the director of the Laufental-Thierstein chamber choir and recently became the director of the Basel Boys' Choir. On weekends, during the holidays or when I still have time in between, I am also a tour guide for opera tours and then of course I deal with completely different music and I find that very enriching.

Thank you, Katharina, for the interesting interview. I wish you a lot of fun in the first ReRenaissance concert and success for your further career!