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Team ReRenaissance

Das Interview August 2022

Zum Konzert am 31. Juli 2022
«Mit der Flöte singen!»

La Fontegara von Sylvestro Ganassi

Thomas Christ spricht mit dem Blockflötisten und Jazz-Saxophonisten Andreas Böhlen. 

Thomas Christ: Natürlich ist es uns, lieber Herr Böhlen, eine Ehre und eine Freude, Sie für unser Augustinterview zu begrüssen, insbesondere auch deshalb, weil Sie in Ihren Wirkungsfeldern die Grenzen der Frühen Musik gesprengt haben und mit oder über die Kunst der Improvisation auch im Modern Jazz zu Hause sind. 

Natürlich wüssten wir gerne, wie das bei Ihnen alles begonnen hat – wie kamen Sie zur Blockflöte? Oder besser, warum blieben Sie bei der Blockflöte?

Andreas Böhlen: Als Sechsjähriger wollte ich unbedingt Blockflöte spielen und beharrte darauf, bis ich ein Instrument bekam– und ich spiele seitdem bis heute mit grosser Freude! Es war von Beginn weg Teil von mir. Besonders die Kammermusik hatte es mir angetan. Saxophon wollte ich auch schon früh beginnen, mit 10 Jahren war es dann endlich möglich. Das bedeutete einen anderen Freundeskreis, andere Musik, andere Probenzeiten – und daher gab es in meiner Jugend und auch im Studium nahezu keine direkten Berührungspunkte. Beide Instrumente bieten mir nach wie vor tägliche Inspiration und wunderbare Erlebnisse und Entdeckungen.

 

TC: Sie gelten als Meister der Improvisation – diese erlernbare Fähigkeit gehörte in der Renaissance, aber auch in der Barockzeit zum Grundstudium aller Musiker. Warum denken Sie, hat diese Disziplin heute bei den Schola-Abgängern nicht den gleichen Attraktivitätsgrad und ist vielmehr zu einer Ausnahmebegabung mutiert?

 

AB: Als wahre Meister der Improvisation würde ich lieber andere Kolleg:innen bezeichnen, ich liebe aber die Improvisation und damit – trotz aller Vorbereitung – dem Moment ausgeliefert zu sein. Beim Improvisieren muss man anders hören und musizieren als beim Spielen aufgeschriebener Musik. Diese Herangehensweise, und damit auch das Resultat, faszinieren mich sehr.

Ob diese Disziplin grundsätzlich bei Studienabgängern nicht denselben Attraktivitätsgrad hat, kann ich (noch) nicht beurteilen. Ich sehe bei vielen doch ein grosses Interesse und recht hohes Niveau und bei den Blockflötenstudierenden auch das Bewusstsein, dass die Improvisation in verschiedenen Facetten ein wesentlicher Teil des heute erwarteten «Skillsets» ist.

 

TC: Sogenannte Cross-over-Projekte, bei welchen Künstler der Frühen Musik mit neuen Vermittlungsformen experimentieren und damit auch ein neues Publikum ansprechen, scheinen Ihnen schon lange ein grosses Anliegen zu sein – Sie wechseln dann allerdings von der Blockflöte zum Saxophon. Tauchen Sie da in eine neue, andere Welt ein oder wie würden Sie jenen improvisierenden Overlap der Alten Musik mit dem Modernen Jazz beschreiben?

 

AB: Ich würde meine Projekte selber nicht unbedingt als Cross-over bezeichnen, aber doch wage ich Gegenüberstellungen von Alter Musik und Jazz und auch Inspiration aus dem jeweils anderen «Genre». In meiner Erfahrung sind die Musiker der Alten Musik in ihrem Metier am stärksten und die Jazzmusiker in ihrem. Meist finde ich die Schärfung eines bestimmten historischen Stils interessanter als die Vermischung von vielen Stilen. Für die Auseinandersetzung mit unterschiedlich Stilen finde ich eine Konfrontation verschiedener Genres oft spannend. Bildet dann Material aus dem Jazz beispielsweise den Ausgangspunkt für ein «historisches» Stück und umgekehrt, begibt man sich bisweilen auf wunderbar dünnes Eis.

 

TC: Eine historische Frage eines Flötenlaien: Ab wann beginnt man die Flöte «travers» zu spielen und was war der Hauptgrund für diese Entwicklung, die in der orchestralen Klassik zur Beinahe-Verdrängung der Blockflöte geführt hat? Wurde einfach alles immer lauter?

 

AB: Zu diesem Thema können sicher andere Personen eine wesentlich kompetentere Antwort geben als ich. Trotzdem ein Versuch einer Antwort: Ich möchte behaupten, dass es beide Flötentypen in aussereuropäischer Musik schon viel früher gab als in europäischer Musik. In letzterer existierten die Traversflöte und Blockflöte lange Zeit lang nebeneinander, wenn auch wahrscheinlich in der Renaissance nicht in gemeinsamen Consorts. Die Traversflöte stieg dann Ende des 17. Jahrhunderts von einem Militärinstrument zu einem Instrument des Adels auf. Hotteterre mit seinen Principes de la flute traversiere und die Instrumentenbaukunst der ganzen Familie Hotteterre haben hier sicherlich einen wesentlichen Teil zu beigetragen. Die Traversflöte kann sich vor allem wegen anderer Artikulationsmöglichkeiten auf eine andere Art als die Blockflöte mit der Gesangsstimme mischen. Auch hat sie mehr dynamische Möglichkeiten, die für grössere Aufführungsorte und Besetzungsstärken bedeutsam wurden.

Vielleicht kam dazu noch eine sehr sanfte Art der Tonanfänge und -enden in Mode, die die Traversflöte viel besser als die Blockflöte umsetzen kann? Und dann wurde ja zeitgleich auch noch die Barockoboe mit all ihren Möglichkeiten erfunden! Darüber hinaus wurde die im Vergleich zur Blockflöte sehr teure Traversflöte Anfang des 18. Jahrhunderts zu einem Statussymbol der Oberschicht.

Für mich übrigens alles keine Gründe, mich nicht der Blockflöte zu widmen!

 

TC: Und zum Schluss meine Lieblingsfrage zur Wiederentdeckung der Renaissance-Musik. Bekanntlich erfreut sich die Barockmusik seit einigen Jahrzehnten grosser Beliebtheit, sowohl am Radio wie auch in der Opernwelt – können Sie sich für die Musik der Renaissance eine ähnliche Entwicklung vorstellen oder bleibt sie mit ihrem vornehmlich intimen Charakter eher in einer Vermittlungsnische?

 

AB: Das liegt sicher zu einem grossen Teil an den einzelnen Künstler:innen und nicht zuletzt an ihrem Interesse, wie und wo sie ihre Musik aufführen möchten. Ich kann mir vorstellen, dass Renaissancemusik gerade wegen ihres damals oft exklusiven Charakters auch heute sehr attraktiv sein kann. Da bleibt aber viel zu tun für die Vermittlung, denn es ist meist vordergründig leise und unaufdringliche Musik. Bis man Schicht um Schicht dieser Musik dechiffriert, dauert es in der Regel lange. Aber genau dieser Prozess ist wunderbar, für Musiker:innen und Hörer:innen gleichermassen! Renaissancemusik ist nach meiner Erfahrung oft für einen bestimmten Ort komponiert und funktioniert in anderen Räumen durchaus sehr anders. Wenn man es schafft, eine bestimmte Entdeckerfreude des Publikums zu fördern, hat Renaissancemusik sehr viel zu bieten, denn sie braucht mehr Partizipation des Publikums als spätere Musik.

Hanna Marti Gesang Harfe

Team ReRenaissance

Das Interview Juli 2022

Zum Konzert am 31. Juli 2022
«Du Fay»

A cappella!

Thomas Christ spricht mit der Sängerin, Lautenistin, Harfenistin und Forscherin Hanna Marti.

Thomas Christ: Wir freuen uns sehr, in unserer internationalen Musiker:innen-Reihe heute eine experimentier- und forschungsfreudige Baslerin zum Gespräch einzuladen.

Hanna Marti:: Danke! Allerdings muss ich gestehen, dass ich vor Kurzem über die Kantonsgrenze gezogen und nunmehr offiziell Baselbieterin bin ;-).

 

TC: An der Schola Cantorum in Basel spricht man vornehmlich Englisch, Spanisch, Französisch und vielleicht auch Deutsch, waren sie als Schweizerin eher eine Exotin oder fühlt man sich durch das gemeinsame musikalische Schaffen eher als Teil einer supranationalen Wolke?

 

HM: Die internationale Szene an der Schola war für mich eine grosse Bereicherung. Tatsächlich waren wir wenige Schweizer*innen, als ich dort studiert habe, aber dadurch, dass ich damals als zwanzigjährige Studentin zum ersten Mal mit einem Musikhochschul-Kontext in Berührung kam, fühlte sich die Erfahrung eher wie ein Ankommen unter Gleichgesinnten an. Es war nun nicht mehr seltsam, sondern die Praxis von allen, täglich der Musik so viel Zeit und Energie zu schenken. Dazu kommt, dass die Sprache der Musik grösstenteils universell menschlich ist und die Herkunft tatsächlich in den Hintergrund rückt.

 

TC: Wie kommt man von der E-Gitarre zur Mittelalterharfe? Vom Rock zum Barock können durchaus, vielleicht mehr als zur Klassik, rhythmische und melodische Brücken geschlagen werden, aber zu den intimen Klängen des Mittelalters scheint der Weg etwas weiter, oder täusche ich mich da?

 

HM: Für mich ist da kein unüberwindbarer Gegensatz, mich interessiert auch an der Mittelaltermusik immer die menschliche Erfahrung, das, was uns Menschen heute mit den Menschen des Mittelalters direkt verbindet: Wir leben dieselben Emotionen, oftmals sogar dieselben inneren Konflikte, nur sozusagen transponiert in die Kultur von heute. Auch in der Rock-Musik, bzw. der Musik, die ich auf der E-Gitarre als Teenager komponiert und improvisiert habe, interessieren mich nicht die grossen pompösen Gesten, sondern wirklich menschlicher Ausdruck. Diese Essenz verbindet für mich alle Musikkulturen, aber braucht viel Ehrlichkeit. Laute, elektronische, dissonante oder gemäss den klassischen Kulturnormen schräge Musik kann sehr intim berührend sein, genauso wie klassische oder Alte Musik zwar wunderschön und harmonisch, aber völlig oberflächlich bleiben kann.

 

TC: Sie widmen sich mit grossem Erfolg der Wiedererweckung verstummter Lieder aus vergangenen Epochen, wohlverstanden ohne entsprechendes Notenmaterial – welches sind Ihre Inspirationsquellen? Welche Grenzen sind Ihnen gesetzt oder setzen Sie sich selbst?

 

HM: Oftmals sind Fragmente überliefert vom Stück, das ich re-kreieren will, oder dann von der Musikkultur, aus der dieses Stück stammt. Aus diesem Tonmaterial schaffe ich mir eine Art Kompendium von musikalischen Gesten, Phrasen – eine Art Vokabular. Dieses wende ich dann auf mein Stück an, um so eine plausible Re-Kreation zu finden. Es ist folglich ein Balanceakt aus Improvisation, Komposition und Rekonstruktion, in den durchaus auch meine eigenen kreativen Intuitionen hineinspielen sollen. Inspirierend sind jeweils auch die Instrumente, die mich begleiten und ihre ganz eigene Ton- und Klangsprache einbringen: Es beeinflusst auch meinen Gesang, ob eine Harfe oder eine Flöte begleitet. Diese Erklärung ist etwas vereinfacht, ich erkläre meinen Prozess zum Beispiel auf meiner Webseite oder in Youtube-Videos eingehender … oder Sie besuchen einmal einen meiner Workshops, zum Beispiel nächsten September in den Dales in Yorkshire! :-)

Grenzen setze ich mir wenige: Nach einem intensiven musikwissenschaftlich geprägten Studium ging es für mich vor allem darum, meinem erworbenen Wissen zu vertrauen und den Weg zurück zur unmittelbaren Inspiration zu finden und mir nun zu erlauben, diese Inspiration mit meinem Wissen zu verbinden, ihr ebenfalls ihre Wichtigkeit im kreativen Prozess zuzugestehen. Ich bin mir sicher, mittelalterliche Musiker:innen haben ihre Inspiration und musikalische Intuition benutzt! Wenn ich mich also der schöpferischen Welt dieser Menschen annähern will, muss ich den Musikwissenschaftlerinnen-Hut in der Garderobe lassen ...

 

TC: Akustisch ist uns bekanntlich wenig überliefert worden, hingegen ist das verfügbare Bildmaterial aus dem Mittelalter, wie auch aus der Antike äusserst reich. Helfen diese farbigen, ikonografischen Eindrücke für die akustische Wiederbelebung Ihrer Projekte?

 

HM: Ich denke, diese Ikonografien helfen besonders bei der Instrumentenkunde oder bei Spekulationen, welche Instrumenten-Ensembles existierten ... da sie oftmals auch symbolisch gedacht sind, bin ich vorsichtig mit ihrer direkten Interpretation für die Musik. Bei meiner Inszenierung des Ordo Virtutum von Hildegard von Bingen habe ich mich eingehender mit Gestik in mittelalterlichen Abbildungen beschäftigt. Meine Instrumente sind basiert auf Bildmaterial aus der jeweiligen Zeit, aber ansonsten arbeite ich persönlich wenig mit Bildquellen.

 

TC: Und zum Schluss meine «Gretchenfrage» zur Attraktivität der Frühen Musik in der Gegenwart. Die Barockmusik erlebt bekanntlich seit einigen Jahrzehnten einen regelrechten Boom – welche Chancen hat die Vermittlung der intimeren Musik der Renaissance oder des Mittelalters oder wo liegen ihre Grenzen?

 

HM: Ich persönlich glaube zu spüren, dass viele Menschen etwas reizüberflutet sind. In einer Welt, in der wir permanent beschallt und bespielt werden, in der gelobt wird, was laut, bunt und knallig ist und hoffentlich durch ein möglichst radikales Auftreten viele Klicks produziert, tendieren wir dazu, unsere Ohren zu verschliessen – das hat mit Selbstschutz zu tun und ist verständlich. Die Musik, die ich kreiere, alleine oder in Ensembles wie Moirai (www.moirai-ensemble.com), ist nicht einfach zu hören: Man muss sich ihr zuwenden, die Übersetzungen dieser alten seltsamen Sprachen mitlesen, sich ihr hingeben. Die Stücke sind oftmals lang und erzählen Geschichten voller Symbolik. Die Musik verlangt dem Publikum etwas ab, aber ich glaube, dass meine Zuhörer:innen oftmals instinktiv spüren, dass ihnen für ihren Einsatz auch etwas ganz Besonderes, Persönliches und Intimes zurückgegeben wird.

Team ReRenaissance

Das Interview Juni 2022

 


 

Zum Konzert am 26. Juni 2022
«Psalmy Dawida»

Melodien des polnischen Psalters

Thomas Christ spricht mit der aus Polen stammenden Sängerin, Harfenistin und Musikwissenschaftlerin Agnieszka Budzińska-Bennett

Liebe Agnieszka, ReRenaissance hat die Ehre und die Freude eine vielgereiste Expertin der Frühen Musik zu interviewen.

 

TC: Wie kommt man als diplomierte polnische Pianistin von Stettin via Posen nach Basel an die Schola Cantorum? Kamst du über die Musikwissenschaft zur Frühen Musik oder gibt es – wie so oft – ein musikalisches Schlüsselerlebnis?

 

ABB: Seit ich eine Teenagerin war, schlug mein Herz für die Alte Musik. Zuerst war es die Barockmusik. Schlüsselerlebnisse waren dabei die Stimmen von Emma Kirkby, Paul Elliott und David Thomas im legendären «Messias» mit Christopher Hogwood – bis heute kriege ich Gänsehaut, wenn ich diese Interpretation höre. Dann aber, als ich so 16 Jahre alt war, habe ich das Mittelalter entdeckt. Es waren die visionären Aufnahmen von René Clemencic, David Munrow und Gothic Voices (damals in Polen sehr schwierig zu kriegen). Ich finde sie auch heute unglaublich wichtig dank ihrer Transparenz, ihrem Respekt dem Werk gegenüber und dank der unglaublich schöpferischen Kraft – das waren ja eigentlich die grossen Pioniere!

 

Die von Dir angesprochene «Grenzerfahrung» war ein Ausschnitt aus dem «Beowulf», vorgetragen von Benjamin Bagby (Sequentia), einem der grossartigsten Künstler der Alten Musik, die mir je begegnet sind. Stell Dir ein Fragment eines angelsächsischen Epos vor, das vielleicht irgendwann einmal gesungen wurde (ohne erhaltene Musiknotation) und von dem kein Wort zu verstehen ist, vorgetragen von einem einzelnen Sänger, der sich selbst auf einer sechssaitigen Leier begleitet. Manchmal konnte man ein Wort heraushören, das wie eine Mischung aus Englisch, Deutsch oder Altnordisch klang, aber im Allgemeinen war nichts zu verstehen (das war noch die Zeit, als Ben dieses Epos ohne Untertitel aufführte!). Und doch war es ein so erstaunliches Erlebnis, auf seine eigene Weise eine so klare Botschaft, dass jeder von uns (und es geschah während eines der legendären mittelalterlichen Musikfestivals in Stary Sącz in Südpolen) genau wusste, wann in diesem melodramatisch rezitierten Text der Drache die dritte Klaue seines linken Hinterbeins bewegte und was in der Seele des heldenhaften Beowulf vor sich ging. Das hat mich unendlich fasziniert. In diesem Moment erkannte ich mit grosser Klarheit die Macht der Worte, die den Zuhörer so direkt erreichen können, sowohl intellektuell als auch emotional. Da kam mir der Gedanke, dass auch ich eines Tages so etwas machen möchte und könnte.

 

So verdanke ich mein Werdegang und meine Ästhetik meinem Mentor und Freund Ben, durch diesen Einfluss bin ich auch in Basel gelandet, damals der einzige Ort, wo man mittelalterliche Musik studieren konnte.

 

TC: Du hast dich eingehend mit den Wurzeln der Musik, insbesondere der Volkslieder beschäftigt. Wir kennen ansatzweise die Frühe Musik Italiens, Frankreichs, Deutschlands und Englands – worin bestehen die wesentlichen Unterschiede zur Frühen Musik in Osteuropa, insbesondere in deiner musikalischen Heimat Polen?

 

ABB: Ich habe mich nie mit Volksmusik beschäftigt (lediglich ein paar ethnomusikwissenschaftliche Module im Studium belegt), hingegen aber mit den ältesten schriftlichen Zeugen des musikalischen Schaffens vieler Länder – darunter auch Polen, das übrigens zu Zentraleuropa gehört. Die Unterschiede sind nicht so gross: am Anfang gibt es liturgische Musik auf Latein mit ausgeliehenem Material, dann kommt die lokale Produktion auf Latein und dann auch in der Landessprache, es gibt viel Austausch mit Nachbarländern (Deutschland, Böhmen, etc.) und ebenso einen grossen Repertoiretransfer. Wegen der relativ späten Christianisierung (966) entwickelt sich alles etwas später als in Westeuropa, aber schon im späten 13. Jahrhundert finden sich in den südpolnischen Klarissenklöstern die Fragmente der Handschriften aus der Pariser Notre Dame – ob sie tatsächlich aufgeführt worden sind, ist eine andere Frage – und man weiss von lokalen Versuchen, die damals äusserst seltene Vierstimmigkeit einzusetzen. Und im 15. Jahrhundert sind wir in Polen tatsächlich up-to-date: die internationalen und lokalen Repertoires leben harmonisch nebeneinander und es gibt Komponisten, die die neusten Errungenschaften sofort in die lokale Praxis inkorporieren, wie z. B. Nikolaus de Radom, der kurz nach Guillaume Dufay (1400–1474) auch einen «Fauxbourdon» (eine Technik, mehrere parallele Stimmen über eine vorgegebene Melodie zu improvisieren) in seinen Kompositionen einsetzt. Und in der Renaissance werden die polnischen Komponisten und Musiker in ganz Europa bekannt – ein Paradebeispiel ist Wacław z Szamotuł, dessen Motetten in Nürnberg gedruckt werden, neben Orlando di Lasso, Thomas Crequillon, Clemens non Papa, Adrian Willaert, Philippe Verdelot, Nicolas Gombert and Josquin.

 

TC: Aus gegebenem Anlass erlaube ich mir, mit meiner Frage noch mehr an den Rand Europas zu reisen. Du bist nicht nur mit früher isländischer Musik aufgetreten, sondern hast dich auch dem Studium der Skandinavistik gewidmet. Gibt es eine skandinavische Barock- oder gar Renaissancemusik, oder waren das nicht vielmehr importierte höfische oder kirchliche Melodien?

 

ABB: Skandinavien ist die CD-Reihe «Mare Balticum» meines Ensembles Peregrina gewidmet (4 Alben, beim Tacet 2017–21 erschienen). Das spät eingeführte Christentum hat sehr individuelle Lösungen gefördert, insofern ist die Musik aus Dänemark, Schweden oder Finnland schon etwas anders. Einerseits gibt es gängige importierte Melodien (auch Kontrafakturen) – als Beispiel kann ich hier die Messteile mit bekannten Choralmelodien aber auf Altfinnisch erwähnen (haben wir auch aufgenommen!). Anderseits gibt es im Norden viele Experimente, auch im Bereich der Mehrstimmigkeit, die sehr eigenartig sind. Und dadurch unglaublich faszinierend!

 

TC: Vor bald 35 Jahren hast du dein Ensemble für mittelalterliche Musik «Peregrina» gegründet – da bleiben wir abermals beim Thema, denn der Name hat in seiner Bedeutung des Wanderers oder Wallfahrers eine programmatische Bedeutung. Haben sich Musikstile mit der Völkerwanderung verbreitet und lokale Melodien bereichert oder eher verdrängt?

 

ABB: Diverse Einflüsse durch die reisenden Musiker gab es immer. Unser Notker Balbulus (Gelehrter und Dichter aus karolingischer Zeit) aus Sankt Gallen erwähnt eine Handschrift, die aus Jumièges gebracht wurde und ihn auf eine revolutionäre Idee gebracht hat (es handelt sich um frühe Sequenzen). Anderseits gingen mit der gregorianischen Reform viele lokale Idiome des Chorals verloren. Es ist ein ewiges Spiel mit gegenseitig befruchtenden Einflüssen, aber  auch eine Geschichte der Verluste durch das Einsetzen neuer Trends.

 

TC: Meine letzte Frage betrifft wie immer den kompositorischen, aber auch medialen Vergleich der Renaissanceentdeckungen zur heute gespielten Barockmusik. Letztere erfreut sich seit einigen Jahrzehnten einer grossen Beliebtheit, während die Renaissancemusik etwas in ihrer Intimität verharrt. Liegt das am Zeitgeist oder an der medialen Vermittlung oder schlicht an der

relativen «Unerforschtheit» jener frühen Musik?

ABB: Renaissancemusik (wie auch die mittelalterliche) verlangt viel mehr vom Zuhörer. Es sind (leider immer noch) fremde Klänge, fremde Sprachen, komplizierte Formen und Gattungen, deren Kontext gar nicht so einfach zu erklären und verstehen ist. Die Schnellheit des Lebens und das «Unspektakuläre» der alten Kunst begünstigen die Vermittlung von Renaissancemusik nicht besonders. Ich habe aber das Vertrauen und sehe es auch bei meinen vielen Reisen durch die Welt, dass es ein immer breiteres und bewussteres Publikum gibt, welches unsere Arbeit schätzt und fördert. Das gibt uns viel Kraft. Und das ist gut so, denn die Arbeit hat erst angefangen. 

Team ReRenaissance

Das Interview Mai 2022
 

Zum Konzert am 24. März 2022
«Im Mayen»

Lasso zum MItsingen

Thomas Christ spricht mit der aus Basel stammenden Jessica Jans, Sängerin und Chorleiterin.

 

TC: Gehe ich recht in der Annahme, dass euch, deinen Schwestern und dir, die Musik in die Wiege gelegt worden ist? Wann war für dich klar, dass dein Leben ohne Gesang kaum vorstellbar wäre?

 

JJ: Meine Eltern haben uns auf ganz natürliche Weise sehr viel Musik vermittelt, ohne uns je dazu zu zwingen. Das scheint viel bewirkt zu haben, denn meine Schwestern und ich haben uns zu einem beruflichen Weg mit Musik entschieden. Allerdings haben wir uns erst noch in Alternativen «ausprobiert». Vielleicht war das für uns wichtig, um die Entscheidung für die Musik frei und aus eigenen Stücken zu treffen. Für mich war und ist klar, dass mein Leben immer viel Gesang enthalten wird, aber die Form kann sich stetig verändern. Dass ich das Singen zu meinem Beruf machen möchte, wurde mir ein Jahr nach der Matura richtig bewusst und ich bereue die Entscheidung keine Sekunde.

 

TC: Du hast dir insbesondere bei deinen Auftritten mit namhaften Barockensembles einen Namen gemacht. Wie würdest du als Sängerin die wesentlichen Unterschiede der barocken Vokalmusik von jener der Renaissance umschreiben?

 

JJ: Für mich ist die Vokalmusik des Barock oftmals extrovertierter, prachtvoller und aber auch strenger als die der Renaissance. Es gibt aus der Renaissance viele weltliche Lieder der Renaissance, die frech, witzig und offensichtlich für ein kenntnisreiches und gebildetes Publikum gedacht sind. Aber ebenso gibt es vokale Barockmusik, die sehr intim und frei sein kann. Der starke Bezug zur Rhetorik und die Verbindung zur Sprache als Grundlage für die Musik sind wesentliche Merkmale in beiden Sparten, jedoch empfinde ich sie in der Vokalmusik der Renaissance meist noch näher zusammen.

 

TC: Vornehmlich junge Interpreten der Frühen Musik zeigen ein grosses Interesse für sogenannte Crossover-Projekte, also Kooperationen oder Improvisationen mit Jazzmusikern oder Experimente mit Formationen aus der Folklore. Was hältst du davon?

 

JJ: Kooperationen dieser Art finde ich sehr spannend und sinnvoll. Ich glaube, es ist sehr wertvoll, offen zu sein und nicht dogmatisch einer Richtung zu folgen, sondern gegenseitig von einander zu profitieren und sich immer wieder neu inspirieren zu lassen.

 

TC: Gerne stelle ich zum Schluss noch meine Gretchenfrage zur Entwicklung der Alten Musik. Die Barockmusik hat seit mindestens 30 Jahren ihre Insider-Nische verlassen und erfreut sich sowohl am Radio wie auch in der Oper einer grossen Präsenz. Hat der grosse Schatz der Renaissancemusik eine ähnliche Chance oder sind ihr durch ihre intime Note Grenzen gesetzt?

 

JJ: Sicherlich sind der Effekt und Affekt der Renaissancemusik anders als in der Barockmusik. So werden sie wohl nie die gleiche Präsenz auf denselben Bühnen erreichen. Aber das ist ja auch nicht notwendig. Die ReRen-Konzerte zeigen sehr schön, dass die Musik der Renaissance durchaus schon aus der Tür ihrer Nische blicken kann. Der grosse Erfolg der neuen Reihe in Basel gibt Anlass zur Hoffnung auf eine «Wieder-Wiedergeburt» dieser grossartigen Musik im normalen Konzertbetrieb.

Thomas Christ: Liebe Jessica, natürlich freut es mich, in unserer Interviewreihe, meines Wissens erst zum zweiten Mal, eine bekannte Baslerin zu befragen – welche Sprache spricht man in der Musikszene in Basel? Fühlt man sich da als Ausländerin oder als Teil einer Weltmusik-Familie?

 

Jessica Jans: Die Freude liegt ganz bei mir, lieber Thomas!

Auf jeden Fall fühle ich mich als Teil einer Weltmusik-Familie.
Die Sprachenvielfalt ist gross – und genau das schätze ich sehr. Meist sind alle bemüht, eine gemeinsame Ebene zu finden, und so mischen sich viele Farben der verschiedenen Sprachen und Herkunftsländer. Die Musik vereint schliesslich alle Beteiligten ganz ohne Worte. Tatsächlich kommt es aber öfter vor, dass ich in Ensembles und Projekten als Baslerin die Exotin bin.

Team ReRenaissance

Interview April 2022
Jacob Mariani

Project and concert 2022 March 24th
« Grünewalds Grossgeige»

The presentation of a new instrument for ReRenaissance

 

Jacob Mariani, Oxford

Jacob Mariani.jpg

 

ReRenaissance is exceptionally pleased to invite a connoisseur and expert of early musical instruments to talk to us. The American Jacob Mariani is not only a well-known lutenist, viola da gamba and viola d'arco player, but also a sought-after "luthier" of historically inspired string instruments, in addition to his musicological studies.

TC: Dear Mr. Mariani, you seem to conquer early music not only as a virtuoso of sound, but also as a scientist and builder or rediscoverer of old instruments. How did this fascination come about? What made the beginning, the sound of the notes or the curiosity for instrument making?

 

JM: It came about through a fascination with historical music and participating in it: it was not always easy to find good medieval and renaissance instruments where I’m from, and so I began to trust my vision and design in building them. I had a lot of help and encouragement from other luthiers and performers from the generation before. These people are often very eager to pass on their skills, to forming a warm community around the subject. It is not cut-throat, it is a very open community.

 

TC: Perhaps you would briefly explain to our readers something about the rich history of violins and viols. There seem to be almost as many types of violins or fiddles in the Renaissance as there were violin makers, yet Spanish, Italian and South German violin families can be distinguished.

 

JM: I think a lot about the regional differences still needs to be explored. I am dealing with a period in which very few instruments actually survive, and so we are taking our information mostly from iconography. It’s tricky pinning down stable facts from this field. We can talk about tendencies. In general I see familiar stylistic elements forming in Italian images from the lira da braccio, which are translated to the violin and viola da gamba families. North of the alps, there is greater variety, with many shapes and styles (possibly coming directly from medieval fiddle culture) that sort of atrophied in the sixteenth century. You have a general Italian style winning out in the end, with evidence of all of these curious Germanic experiments around the year 1500.

TC: : The ReRenaissance concert in April will enjoy a premiere - the famous viola da gamba of the Isenheim Altar in Colmar, played by an angel, has been recreated by you and completed in March this year. The altarpiece by Matthias Grünewald must irritate the musicians only in view of the enigmatic bowing of the kneeling performer. But I am much more astonished by the strikingly strong lateral indentations of all three violas depicted. Are these Grünewaldian fantasies, which rather emphasize the elegance of the angel in form and color, or are they actually historically relevant models?

 

JM: So first of all, the secret is that I didn’t recreate or copy anything – I worked toward a model that would satisfy our ReRenaissance players through ‘lifting’ aesthetic elements from the painting. The goal was that viewers would see the instrument and instantly recognize Grünewald’s style, but say, «wait a minute, they changed this part…then this part…» realizing that nothing is mechanically copied. We followed ergonimics and acoustics first, and spent a lot of time consulting related iconography. It is my opinion that the indentations in the instruments in the painting follow the gestures of the «angels»--Venus, Lucifer (Mercury), and Apollo—the humanoid forms and gestures take primacy above the instrument shapes. The outlines and indentations merely follow these (strange) gestures. That being said, our iconographic sources seem to indicate many bizarre styles of intentations and outlines, and these should be interrogated as possibly indicative of real trends that are now lost. There is also the question of iconographies layered inside iconographies—as is the case for some instruments in the middle ages, that they seek to communicate an ancient concept, such as the horned lyre, in the outline of a completely different form and technology.

TC: In your replica, you hit the light basswood color well, but in the soundbox you depart strongly from the "two-partness" of the painted instrument. Have you been able to use any other sources from the period? Were violin varnishes already developed at that time?

 

JM: I tried to match the color oft he painting and assumptions of types of wood used. There is very minimal varnish—only enough to protect the wood, and only using very basic ingredients that were readily available all over Europe. There are no secrets here (and no synthetics!). We must also remember that the color of wood changes dramatically over the years. Right now the wood is quite fresh. I hope this viol will become hansomely honey-colored within a short time, perhaps closer to the painting’s hues.

 

TC: The great popularity of Baroque music that has been observed in recent decades seems, with our concert series, perhaps to become a theme for the largely undiscovered music of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Do you think that the richness and the rediscovery of the still unknown wind and the string instruments will contribute to this?

 

JM: Definitely. Our conceptions of performing medieval and renaissance musics have often followed our skillsets already developed through a familiarity with Baroque models. This mentality and assumption often infiltrates our approach to earlier music and instruments; the result is that many historical instruments and practices have been continuously overlooked, and others (which contributed greatly to the Baroque) have been undeservedly celebrated and featured as central to musics of the previous ages. The reception of the Baroque in Early Music performance threatens to shape our conceptions of earlier periods into something ill-representative of historical reality—this is a constant danger to new medieval and renaissance projects--; on the other hand Baroque success has paved the way for a movement of greater interest in detail and variety, perhaps increasingly hungry for the strangeness that comes with investigating earlier sources on their own terms. The ReRenaissance series might be part of this distiguishing movement, proof that Early Music communities are not satisfied with a singlular and generic approach which does not adequately engage with the periods which it claims to represent. In casting aside assumptions about aesthetics and performance, we are confronted with a wealth of interesting and challenging details and models. I have always wished to «build first», hoping that opportunities for new musics will follow once we have a different set of instruments, however strange these may initally seem. The Grünewald viol project follows this mentality, and shows that performers and audiences will rise to the occasion!

Team ReRenaissance

Das Interview März 2022
Ian Harrison

Zum Konzert am 27. März 2022
« La Margarite»

Tänze für eine Prinzessin

 

Ian Harrison, Dozent für Schalmei und Pommer
an der Schola Cantorum Basiliensis,

Thomas Christ: Lieber Ian Harrison, Sie begannen Ihre musikalische Karriere als Berufssänger im Chor der Kathedrale von Canterbury, welchem Erlebnis verdanken Sie/wir Ihre Vorliebe für die alten Blasinstrumente? Wo haben Sie die Schalmei oder den Zink entdeckt?

Ian Harrison: Lieber Thomas, Danke, für die treffenden Fragen.

Wie viele andere habe ich die Mittelalter- oder Renaissancemusik bei einem englischen Mittelaltermarkt entdeckt. Mit 12 Jahren besuchte ich im Sommer mit meiner Familie den «Barsham Fair» in Ostengland. Nachdem wir die

Handwerkerstände eine Weile bewundert hatten, wurde in einem Amphitheater plötzlich Mittelaltermusik angekündigt. Ich kann nicht sagen, was dort genau gespielt wurde, noch welche Instrumente das waren (im Nachhinein vermute ich, dass es Renaissance-Tanzmusik war – Susato oder so). Ab diesem Moment war ich begeistert und gefesselt, und ich habe all mein Taschengeld für LPs mit Mittelalter- und Renaissancemusik ausgegeben, die Discs so oft gehört, bis die Rillen platt waren und die «Sleevenotes» (Texte auf den Plattencovern, Anmerkung von ReRen) so oft gelesen, bis ich sie auswendig konnte. So lernte ich den Zink und die Schalmei kennen. Der Zink war, laut den einschlägigen CD-Texten, «das vielfältigste Blasinstrument» der Zeit. So beschloss ich, Zink zu lernen. Die Schalmei klang aber auch ganz toll, und ausserdem spielte ich schon Fagott, ein Doppelrohrblattinstrument wie die Schalmei. Schliesslich habe ich erst mit 21 angefangen, diese Instrumente zu lernen – es war ein langer Weg, bis ich diese Instrumente und auch die Lehrer finden konnte.

TC: Die Schalmei, der Pommer oder die Bombarde, aber auch der Zink und der Dudelsack sind Instrumente, die vielen unserer Zuhörer:innen möglicherweise wenig vertraut sind. Können Sie uns kurz etwas über die Entstehungsgeschichte und Entstehungsorte dieser Instrumente erzählen?

IH: Dies ist eines meiner Lieblingsthemen, aber ich versuche mich kurz zu fassen.
Es ist unmöglich, einen einzigen Entstehungsort für die Schalmei oder den Zink zu nennen, weil sie Produkte langer Entwicklungsprozesse sind. Sowie jedes Kind irgendwann das Ende eines Trinkhalms angeschnitten und darauf einen Ton geblasen hat, haben die Menschen seit Urzeiten auf Halmen, Schilf und anderen Rohren, die in ihrer Gegend wuchsen, gespielt. Natürliche pflanzliche Rohre sind fast alle akustisch gesehen zylindrisch. Soweit wir aus den Bildern sehen können, waren der altgriechische Aulos oder die römische Tibia, die auf zahlreiche Vasen abgebildet sind, auch zylindrische Rohrblattinstrumente. Typisch bei diesen Instrumenten ist, dass die Spieler:innen jeweils zwei Rohre spielten, für jede Hand eines.

Die europäische mittelalterliche und Renaissance-Schalmei hat demgegenüber eine konische Bohrung, die ihr ganz andere Eigenschaften verleiht. Sie ist höher, lauter und obertonreicher, und ihr konisches Profil muss von einem Instrumentenbauer oder einer Instrumentenbauerin künstlich gebohrt werden. Bisher herrschte die Theorie vor, dass die konischen Schalmeien aus der islamischen Welt nach Westeuropa kamen, entweder via Nordafrika nach Spanien oder aus dem Osten als Folge der Kreuzzüge. Mir ist aber kein Beweis für diese Theorie bekannt. «Volks»-Schalmeien wurden in den unterschiedlichsten Formen auf der ganzen Welt gespielt – sehr intensiv in den Ländern östlich und südlich des Mittelmeers, aber auch in Westeuropa – z. B. in Zentralitalien, Istrien, der Bretagne und Nordspanien. Im Laufe des 14. Jahrhunderts entwickelte sich in Europa eine Art Schalmei mit einem sehr langen Trichter, die es dem Spieler oder der Spielerin ermöglicht, chromatisch über zwei Oktaven mit einem grossen dynamischen Umfang zu spielen. Dieses Instrument wurde noch bis zum Ende des 17. Jahrhunderts gespielt.

Auch der Zink hat seine Wurzeln in der Urgeschichte. Tierhörner, im Gegensatz zu Pflanzenhalmen, sind fast immer akustisch konisch. Wer zuerst die Spitze eines Horns abschnitt, durch seine Lippen hineinblies und die Klangentwicklung durch die konische Bohrung genoss – und wann das geschah – werden wir nie wissen. Auf einem Tierhorn sind sehr wenige Töne möglich. Mehrere Töne können jedoch durch Grifflöcher und das Abdämmen mit der Hand produziert werden. Solche Griffloch-Hörner wurden z. B. in Schweden gespielt. Ab dem 11. Jahrhundert gibt es Bilder, die konisch gebohrte, durch die Lippen geblasene Instrumente aus Holz oder anderen Materialien zeigen. Es wurde immer wieder versucht, die Unregelmässigkeit der Naturhörner zu umgehen und ein Standardinstrument, das wir jetzt auf Deutsch Zink nennen, zu bauen. Im Gegensatz zur Schalmei, die überall auf Bildern und Skulpturen zu finden ist, scheint der Zink im frühen Mittelalter aber nie richtig Fuss gefasst zu haben und blieb ein Exot. Im späten 15. Jahrhundert änderte sich das aber schlagartig. Innerhalb von 20 bis 30 Jahren breitete sich der Zink über ganz Europa aus und ersetzte die Schalmei als führendes Sopran-Blasinstrument. Eine Generation von Spielern und Instrumentenbauern knackte das Konstruktionsgeheimnis des Zinken und verursachte so eine der grössten und schnellsten Revolutionen in der Geschichte des Musikinstrumentenbaus.

Der Pommer ist ein grosser und tiefer Verwandter der Schalmei. Zusammen bilden Schalmei und Pommer die erste Instrumentenfamilie der Musikgeschichte. So, wie die Schalmei im Laufe des 14. Jahrhunderts ihre klassische Form bekam, entwickelte sich auch gleichzeitig der Pommer – beides, nehmen wir an, aus dem Wunsch heraus, mehrstimmige Musik im Stil der Sänger:innen zu spielen. Der Name «Pommer» ist eine Verdeutschung des französischen Namens «bombarde», welcher zuerst 1326 in Strassburg aufscheint. Markenzeichen des Pommers ist eine fässchenförmige Kapsel mit vielen kleinen Löchern, kurz oberhalb des Trichters, die Fontanelle. Die Klappen neben den Grifflöchern erlauben den Spielern tiefer zu spielen.

Die allerersten Bilder des Dudelsacks kommen aus dem Spanien des 13. Jahrhunderts. Bis weitere Belege auftauchen, müssen wir also davon ausgehen, dass der Dudelsack eine spanische Erfindung ist. Das Instrument geniesst dort noch heute eine grosse Beliebtheit und wird in verschiedenen traditionellen Formen gespielt, die den mittelalterlichen Bildern ähnlich sind. Ich werde in unserem Konzert eine galizische gaita spielen. Die grosse Frage für mich ist, ob nur eine Person die geniale Idee hatte, eine Schalmei mit einem Sack zu kombinieren, woraus alle Dudelsäcke auf der ganzen Welt entstanden sind, oder ob mehrere Menschen unabhängig voneinander die gleiche Idee hatten.

TC: Die Musik des Mittelalters und erst recht jene der Renaissance verorten wir gerne in einen höfischen und – noch mehr – in einen kirchlichen Kontext, von der frühen Instrumentalmusik in einem folkloristischen Umfeld wissen wir wenig. Waren die Holzblasinstrumente nicht auch beliebte Begleiter der Volksmusik und des Volkstanzes?

IH: Ja sicherlich. Das sehen wir auf zahlreichen Bildern. Am berühmtesten sind die ländlichen Szenen von den Breughels, auf denen Dudelsäcke zum Tanz gespielt wurden, allein oder in Paaren. Auch sehr häufig abgebildet war die Paarung von Dudelsack und Schalmei. Hier ist die grosse Frage: was haben sie gespielt? Die Alte Musik-Bewegung hat sich von Anfang an mehr oder weniger bewusst auf die Schriftkultur gestützt. Wir brauchen immer eine schriftliche Quelle, eine Handschrift, einen frühen Druck, Noten, Traktate, Beschreibungen, Dichtungen. Mündliche Volkstraditionen der Renaissance sind mit sehr wenigen Ausnahmen verschwunden. Ab und zu aber treffen sich Volksmusik und schriftliche Quellen. Viele der mehrstimmigen Kompositionen des Mittelalters und der Renaissance basieren auf einem präexistierenden Stück, einem cantus firmus. Diese Melodien stammten oft aus gregorianischen oder anderen Chorälen, aber mitunter war es auch üblich, Volksmelodien als cantus firmus zu verwenden. Als Beispiel hierzu spielen wir Heinrich Isaac’s vierstimmiges Stück E qui la dira dira auf Pommer, Zink und Posaune – und die Ursprungsmelodie auf dem Dudelsack zum Tanz.

TC: Sie sind mit Ihren Ensembles für Frühe Musik in Europa, den USA, aber auch in Asien unterwegs, eine Gruppe nennt sich «The Early Folk Band» – da stellen sich gleich zwei Fragen, nämlich jene des Improvisierens mangels klarer Notierungen und jene des Experimentierens mit anderen Stilrichtungen der neuen Musikszene. Sind Sie ein Freund von Fusion oder eher von Trennung von Musikstilen?

IH: In den Jahren der Jahrtausendwende dachte ich, dass niemand mehr Interesse hätte, «reine» Alte Musik zu hören und dass wir im 21. Jahrhundert Alte Musik nur noch in Kombination mit Jazz, Worldmusik, Hip-Hop und so ähnlich produzieren würden. So bin ich immer wieder überrascht, wie viele Menschen noch Konzerte mit «authentischer» Renaissancemusik hören möchten (nicht, dass ich enttäuscht wäre: ich mag das auch!). The Early Folk Band ist aber eines der authentischsten Ensembles für Alte Musik, die ich kenne. Wir spielen Musik aus Quellen vor 1600 auf historischen Instrumenten und verwenden dabei auch zeitgemässe Aufführungselemente, wie Pantomime, Schauspiel, Humor und Tanz. Unser Projekt «Ars Supernova» hingegen war ein bewusstes Crossover, um zu zeigen, wie man beim Zusammentreffen von Jazz- und «Alten» Musiker:innen mit Themen aus dem Mittelalter und der Renaissance improvisatorisch umgehen kann.

Dass die Quellen der Renaissance und vor allem des Mittelalters oft nur eine Skizze von dem überliefern, was damals gespielt wurde, ist bekannt und verleiht dieser Musik für mich einen grossen Reiz. Die Tanzmusik in diesem Programm ist ein gutes Beispiel – sie ist in der handschriftlichen Quelle einstimmig notiert. Auf zeitgenössischen Bildern von höfischen Tänzen ist sehr oft ein Ensemble wie das Unsrige abgebildet, das definitiv mehrstimmig spielte. Unsere Herausforderung ist es, die «fehlenden» Stimmen zu ergänzen. Das tun wir durch eine Mischung aus Komposition und Improvisation.

TC: Und schliesslich stelle ich den Stars der Renaissance-Musikszene immer gerne die Frage der Vermittlung der Frühen Musik – während sich die Barockmusik seit wenigen Jahrzehnten bei einer breiten Bevölkerung grosser Beliebtheit erfreut, bleibt die reiche Renaissance-Musikwelt noch weitgehend unentdeckt. Liegt das lediglich an der mangelnden Vermittlung einer noch wenig bekannten Musikepoche?

IH: Jede Generation macht den Fehler zu denken, dass ihr Alte Musik-Revival das erste ist. Die barocke Musik wurde tatsächlich seit einigen Jahrzehnten sehr beliebt – seit ungefähr zwei Jahrzehnten. Die beliebtesten barocken Stücke, die heutzutage unter historisch informierter Aufführungspraxis gespielt und gesungen werden, sind aber meist die gleichen beliebten Stücke, die seit langem aufgeführt worden sind. Bei der Renaissancemusik ist das nicht ganz so – hier geht es mehr darum, Musik zu entdecken die niemand kennt. Hinzu kommt, dass im Gegensatz zum Barock, die Renaissancemusik nicht für eine Konzertsituation konzipiert wurde. Eine Barockoper wurde für ein volles Opernhaus bestimmt, eine Chanson des 16. Jahrhunderts aber vielleicht nur für die Menschen, die sie spielten oder sangen. Wenn bei einem Konzert mit Renaissancemusik mehr Leute im Publikum anwesend sind als auf der Bühne, ist das im Grunde keine historische Aufführungspraxis mehr. Wir hoffen trotzdem, dass das bei unserem Konzert der Fall sein wird!

Team ReRenaissance

Das Interview Februar 2022
Claire Piganiol

Zum Konzert am 27. Februar 2022
«Canti B»

Fortsetzung einer heimlichen Revolution

 

Dr. Thomas Christ befragt die bekannte Harfenistin,
Flötistin und Musikhistorikerin Claire Piganiol

Thomas Christ: Liebe Frau Piganiol, Sie entdeckten in jungen Jahren, beim Studium der modernen, klassischen Harfe die Alte Musik und fanden so den Weg von Paris via Mailand und Toulouse nach Basel. Wie kam es zu jener Faszination für die Welt der Alten Musik?

Claire PiganiolLieber Herr Christ, vielen Dank für das Interview! Ich habe alte Musik durch das Blockflötenspiel entdeckt und ich muss sagen, ich habe das Instrument damals aus praktischen Gründen gewählt (endlich einmal etwas Transportierbares!). Doch die alte Musik und die historischen Harfen haben mich als Jugendliche schnell fasziniert — nicht nur das Repertoire, sondern auch wie man damit umgeht, der «Pioniergeist» und die Freiheit (Improvisation, Generalbassspiel …), welche diese Repertoires ermöglichen, sowie die vielfältigen Möglichkeiten für Ensemblespiel.

TC: Ihre beiden Instrumente, die Flöte und die Harfe haben bekanntlich eine mehrtausendjährige Geschichte, gehören so quasi zu den ersten Musikinstrumenten der Menschheit. Dennoch ist über Bauweise und Notation der alten, auch mittelalterlichen Instrumente wenig überliefert. Welches sind Ihre Quellen für den Nachbau der heutigen Mittelalter- oder Renaissanceharfen?

 

CP: Einerseits haben wir manche erhaltene Instrumente, zum Beispiel die «Wartburgharfe» (die Oswald von Wolkenstein – dem Sänger, Komponisten und Dichter um 1400 – gehört haben könnte) oder zwei sehr schöne Doppelharfen aus dem Italien der Spätrenaissance. Andererseits können wir uns an Ikonographie und Literatur wenden. So ist die Harfe, die ich im Februar-Konzert spiele, nach einem Gemälde von Hans Memling nachgebaut worden (dank einer ganz genauen Darstellungsästhetik erkennt man die Instrumente sehr gut).

 

TC: Noch schwieriger stelle ich mir die Rekonstruktion der Spieltechnik und auch der Saitenstimmung vor – da wird wahrscheinlich mit kenntnisreichem Einfühlungsvermögen viel improvisiert und neu erfunden? Oder auf welche historischen oder kunstgeschichtlichen Quellen greift man dafür zurück?

 

CP: Das stimmt! Für die Spieltechnik haben wir (wenig erstaunlich) aus dieser Zeit keine genauen Beschreibungen, es sind jedoch vereinzelt Hinweise, unter anderem in Traktaten und in der Literatur zu finden. Beispielsweise gibt uns ein Psalmkommentar aus dem 13. Jahrhundert ein paar Hinweise zur Spielweise der «Kithara», ein antiker Instrumentenname, der zu jener Zeit auch als «Harfe» gedeutet wurde. Für die Saitenstimmung wissen wir, dass Harfenisten ziemlich viel umgestimmt und «spezielle Stimmungen» benutzt haben. Die Harfenisten von heute müssen dann, genau wie die Harfenisten von damals, ihre eigene Lösungen finden!

 

TC: Ist die Harfe des Mittelalters und der Renaissance primär ein Begleitinstrument zum Gesang oder – wie die Flöte – ein Instrument mit einer eigenen Stimme, oder – mit anderen Worten – kann sie im Renaissancerepertoire mit der Laute verglichen werden?

 

CP: Die Harfe ist ein Instrument, das sich selbst genügt, und wir haben sowohl im Mittelalter als auch in der Renaissance Namen und Beschreibungen von virtuosen Harfenisten — dennoch war die Harfe auch als Begleitinstrument besonders gut geeignet. Im Gegensatz zur Laute gibt es aber relativ wenig Musikstücke, die explizit für Harfe komponiert bzw. gedruckt wurden. Auf der Harfe kann meist auch das Repertoire von Tasteninstrumenten und Lauten gespielt werden.

 

TC: Eine letzte Frage, die ich gerne allen Stars der Alten Musik stelle: Wir beobachten, übrigens erst seit einigen Jahrzehnten, dass sich die Barockmusik einer enormen Beliebtheit erfreut, während die reichen Renaissancemusikschätze noch weitgehend unentdeckt bleiben oder ein Nischendasein führen. Was denken Sie? Fehlt es an der Vermittlung, wird der Fanclub der Renaissancefreunde wachsen oder hat er in unserer lauten und schnelllebigen Zeit seine Grenzen?

 

CP: Ich hoffe sehr, dass der Fanclub der Renaissancefreunde wachsen wird! Man hört noch oft das Argument, Renaissancemusik sei «trocken», noch nicht «expressiv» (mit der Vorstellung im Hintergrund, dass die Musik des Frühbarock endlich expressiv war), vielleicht noch nicht virtuos genug. Das ist aber natürlich nicht so und ich habe den Eindruck, dass mehr und mehr Neugier und Interesse für diese Musik entsteht. Es ist unsere Aufgabe als Musiker, qualitativ hochwertige Programme zu präsentieren und sie für das Publikum verständlich zu machen, um zu versuchen, neue Leidenschaften für dieses Repertoire zu gewinnen.

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 int