Tamesis Issue 239 September 2013
Apologies for the late appearance of this Tamesis, partly due to the fact that I’ve only
just got back from having rather a good summer with a lot of sailing when I wasn’t at
summer schools - Beauchamp Renaissance music with Philip Thorby, and the Ardingly
(formerly Oxford) baroque week. These were both really good in their different ways,
and I’ll be happy to give more information about them to anyone who might be
interested in going. It also took forever to deal with all the excess formatting in the
numerous events and concerts I was sent - more on that in the next issue!
I’m pleased to say that Sidney Ross has managed to resurrect his Lassus workshop
review and you’ll see that it was well worth waiting for. His review of the brilliant
choral workshop we’ve just had in Oxford with David Allinson will appear in November.
There are forms for three workshops in this edition, David Hatcher on Merulo on 27th
October, my baroque chamber music day on 16th November (do contact me if you
haven’t been before and would like more info) and our annual Christmas workshop on
8th December, this year with Philip Thorby.
The Greenwich International Festival and Exhibition is upon us again. Please see my
article about it below and think about offering to help on the forum stand.
The new venue for the Beauchamp Summer School, Longhope Primary School, proved
very successful, apart from somewhat inadequate kitchen facilities. The cooks
managed to provide food perfectly well but it was a struggle and next year I believe
the plan is to rent a portable kitchen. David Hatcher proved to be an excellent
replacement for Alan Lumsden who has now retired, and I'm looking forward to his
TVEMF workshop in October. Philip Thorby of course is always a inspiring and under
his direction we were able to enjoy some “new” large-scale pieces by Michael
Praetorius as well as some that we did at Beauchamp a few years ago.
The National Early Music Association, in conjunction with the Guildhall School of Music
and Drama, ran a very successful conference on mechanical musical instruments at
the Guildhall in July, which attracted people from all over the world. We learnt how
information about performance practice could be gleaned from carillons, clocks, barrel
organs and musical boxes – fascinating. See www.earlymusic.info for more.
Apologies to those whose copies of the July Tamesis were faulty – if you had such a
copy and would like a replacement then let me know. We are trying a different
printer this month and hoping for better results.
Michael and Mary Reynor have long been members of TVEMF and actually met
through singing in their local church choir. While Michael has organised several
events for TVEMF, Mary was well known for supplying a feast of home baked cakes for
everybody’s meetings, as well as one of the several background people who helped to
make things run smoothly on the day.
Mary had struggled with chronic leukaemia for a long time, and the frequent
transfusions that were part of the therapy eventually precipitated an iron crisis around
Christmas that was potentially lethal. But, against the predictions, Mary slowly rallied
and we enjoyed a delightful lunch with them both, followed by coffee in her lovely
garden only some ten days before the heat and the struggle became too much. She
died peacefully at home on July 15, 2013.
In addition to TVEMF outings I have many fond memories of summers singing with the
Reynors under Michael Procter, both in Venice and San Marco, and in Abbaye Mondaye
near Bayeux: singing the liturgy in both places. She will be much missed, and our
condolences go to Michael and his family.
to Mary Walduck whose excellent review of the Donald Greig medieval sacred and
secular music workshop in the July Tamesis was accidentally attributed to Mary
Greenwich International Early Music Festival and Exhibition
Thursday 7th - Saturday 9th November
I’m always surprised when I meet people who haven’t been to this. It’s a wonderful
(and cheap) day out. The beautiful Painted Hall in the old Royal Naval College at
Greenwich is filled with stalls selling music and instruments and there are more in the
hall downstairs. All day there are free short concerts and instrument demonstrations
as well as paying concerts in the afternoons and evenings in the famous chapel and a
nearby church. And one of the best ways to get there is by boat down the Thames.
TVEMF regularly runs a stand to give publicity to our forum and the other ones around
the country, and we need volunteers to look after it for an hour or two every day. If
you can volunteer a good long stint I’ll put your name on the list I hand in at the door
and it may be possible to get you in free. Usually this works but it can’t be
guaranteed. Our stand is a great place to be, chatting to interesting people and
friends who pass by.
If you could help with this, please email me at secretarytvemf.org
Campaign for bigger music printing
It’s wonderful that so much free music can be downloaded these days from sources
like Petrucci and CPDL, but have you noticed how small a lot of the fonts are that
people use for it? TVEMF often makes use of these resources and frequently it’s
impossible to improve the fonts because the music is produced as PDFs. There may
be a lot of spare space at the bottom of the page but the notes are still printed quite
small, probably because that’s the default size of the programme used. The words of
vocal music are often even worse, in tiny print with huge gaps between the syllables.
Yes, I know my eyesight isn’t brilliant, but if you compare these more recent
productions with something printed by a music publisher you’ll immediately see the
difference in size. TVEMF can’t be the only forum which has workshops in places with
slightly inadequate lighting when the sun goes in. Let’s all ask for bigger fonts, and if
you’re one of the noble people who supply us with all this free music - thanks very
much for doing it but please make sure the results of all your hard work are easy to
Forty-three singers, seven instrumentalists and seven versatile souls prepared to
participate in either capacity came to St Sepulchre, Holborn on Saturday June 15th for
a day devoted to the works of Lassus under the direction of Patrick Allies, whom we
were delighted to welcome for the first time. The programme was selected so as to
give us a view of the range of Lassus’ compositions and to demonstrate his amazing
versatility. In the course of introducing the programme, Patrick also remarked on the
unpredictability which is a prominent feature of Lassus’ compositions, which gave rise
to an observation from one of the singers that we would no doubt provide some
unpredictability of our own; which in turn led your reviewer to ponder, along
Rumsfeldian lines, whether we would be the source of predictable unpredictability
while the music itself was unpredictably unpredictable, or would it be the other way
Lassus (1532-94) was born at Mons in Hainault, and soon became widely travelled; by
the time he was 22 he had been to Mantua and then Milan, in the service of Ferrante
de Gonzaga, to Naples and then to Rome, where he became maestro di cappella at St
John Lateran. Following the death of his parents he spent a short time in Antwerp,
where his first book of five and six part motets was published in 1556. In that year
he was invited to join the court of Duke Albrect V of Bavaria in Munich, and although
in later years he journeyed to Frankfurt, Venice, Vienna, Trent, Ferrara, Mantua,
Bologna and Rome, he refused all invitations to leave Munich. Indeed he made
something of a parade of what might be called his “provincialism”, reminding the
Italians, in the dedication of his fourth book of five-part madrigals, that “good Italian
music could be written even in far-off ’Germania’ ”.
Lassus, as well as being versatile, was incredibly prolific. His sacred music includes
over fifty masses, 101 Magnificat settings, a large number of other liturgical works
including four Passions, and several hundred motets. His secular works include
almost 100 lieder, 150 chansons and an even larger number of madrigals. Unlike his
great (but considerably less prolific) predecessor Josquin, there is relatively little
controversy about attribution, due largely, no doubt, to the fact that the bulk of his
work found its way into print relatively soon after it was composed. The New Grove
lists over eighty compilations printed during his lifetime, and the posthumous
compilations include the massive Magnum opus musicum in twelve volumes,
containing 516 motets. Magnum opus musicum, which was published in Munich ten
years after his death, was assembled by his two sons, both of whom held positions at
the Bavarian court from the 1580s onwards.
The first item of the programme was the Kyrie (SATTB) from the Missa Entre vous
filles. No doubt it was thought impolitic for the title to reproduce the entire first line
of the chanson by Clemens non papa on which it was based (Entre vous filles de
quinze ans), the text of which advises those fifteen year old girls not to come to the
fountain lest their obvious attractions should cause the singer to lose control. The
prevalence of sexual innuendo in the chansons on which parody masses were often
based no doubt gave impetus to the determination of the Council of Trent to eliminate
the secular element from liturgical music; the activities of clergy and other authority
figures featured prominently in that genre. A striking example of this is the parody
mass Susanne un jour, published in 1577 and based on Lassus’ own chanson
published in 1560 which recounts the tale of Susanna and the Elders (sometimes
described as the world’s first detective story) in which Daniel, through the
discrepancies in the Elders’ evidence, unmasks their duplicity in accusing her of
immoral conduct. This episode is recounted in chapter 13 of the book of Daniel, which
appears in the Douai-Rheims bible but not the King James version.
Next came a Marian motet for SSATBarB, Regina coeli, which necessitated some
rearrangement of forces, particularly as the baritone part lies considerably higher
than the tenor, reaching F on several occasions, whereas the tenor only for one
fleeting minim goes above C. In contrast to the mass just mentioned, Regina coeli
contains a good deal of melismatic writing. This would no doubt have attracted the
disapproval of the Council of Trent, which was also committed to greater intelligibility
- indeed, Lassus’ contemporary, Vincenzo Ruffo, published a set of Masses in 1571
“according to Conciliar decree”, avoiding “everything of a profane and idle nature” and
composed so that “the numbers of the syllables and the voices and tones together
should be distinctly understood by the pious listeners”.
However, Duke Albrecht was no religious zealot and Lassus, according to the New
Grove, is known to have been stubborn about changing things in Munich to conform
with new ideas coming from Rome. Where Lassus resorted to a syllabic style, this
was often dictated by court requirements for a brief Mass, and the third item on our
programme was the Gloria from the shortest of them all, the four-part Missa
Venatorum, for use on days when the court went hunting. It appears that the quarry
would get about twelve minutes’ start. In the 43 bars of the Gloria there are only four
where there is more than one note to a syllable.
Next came Omnes de saba venient, for 2 x SATB, the Gradual and Offertory from the
Mass of the Epiphany. There is little melismatic writing in this piece, but after the
declamatory opening announcing the arrival of the kings, it becomes quite light and
playful as it depicts the offering of the gifts of the kings of Tharsis and of the isles, of
Arabia and Saba (gold and incense, but, unlike the Magi, no myrrh) before swelling
into the long climax of the 14-bar Alleluia with which it ends. This was followed by
the other polychoral item in the programme, the Sanctus from the Missa Bell’ Amfitrite
altera. The source on which this Mass, published in 1610, is not known, but it may be
that the title alludes to Venetian maritime supremacy, since in early Greek mythology,
Amphitrite was the wife of Poseidon, and later poets (for example, Ovid) used her
name as a personification of the sea. As in Omnes de Saba, there is little syllabic
writing but the texture is constantly changing as the two choirs coalesce and divide.
The sixth item was the only piece of secular music in the programme, the chanson
Bonjour, mon coeur for SATB with text by Lassus’ contemporary Pierre Ronsard
(1524-87), generally regarded as the chief of the group of French Renaissance poets
known as La Pleiade which also included Joachim du Bellay. Leeman Perkins (Music in
the Age of the Renaissance, Norton, 1999, at p.938) says of this piece that “with only
minor deviations the work’s texture and declamation are consistently homophonic and
both prosody and syntax are reflected in the clearly articulated structure of the
music”. The poet’s greeting to his love is adoring and respectful (ma toute belle, ma
mignardise…mes delices, mon amour) and devoid of any overt sexual connotation.
We then returned to the Ordinary of the Mass. Having sung a Kyrie, a Gloria and a
Sanctus from Masses in three contrasting styles, we were introduced to the Agnus Dei
from the five-part Missa Pro Defunctis, published in 1589. This mass is based on
plainchant and has the curious feature that there are bass intonations of the words
“Agnus Dei” after each section of the text - those words are not sung by the choir at
all. It may be that it was composed for the funeral of Duke Albrecht V, who died in
1579, though there is another (four-part) Missa Pro Defunctis published in 1584.
This diverse and fascinating programme ended with one of Lassus’ most famous
motets, the six-part (SAATTB) Timor et tremor, published in 1564. The word-
painting, though economical, is expressive throughout, from the initial musical
realisation of the fear and trembling that has come over the petitioner, to the final
calling upon the Lord that he shall never be confounded - twelve bars of rhythmic
contrasts to picture the confusion, then the texture broadens into a C major chord,
followed by a crunch between the Cs and Ds in the two alto parts before the
triumphant G major chord which brings an end to the confusion.
All in all, an immensely enjoyable and rewarding day spent in exploring the work of a
major Renaissance composer who has not, as far as your reviewer’s recollection goes,
featured to any noticeable extent in recent TVEMF events. It was a great pleasure to
be directed by Patrick for the first time, and our warmest thanks are due to him for
guiding us with patience and good humour through a demanding programme, to
David King for organising the event and to David Fletcher for organising the music.
Thanks also to all the unnamed volunteers who checked us in, made name tags
available, provided and dispensed refreshments, and cleared up.
Finally your reviewer tenders his apologies for any errors and omissions as well as the
fact that the review is an issue late. This was due to a computer crash the day before
the original review was due to be submitted, causing a total loss of the script, which
was about 80% complete at the time. Fortunately, with the aid of the manuscript
notes and the music itself, it has been possible to reconstruct the bulk of what had
been lost without undue difficulty.
Philip Smith sent this to the Pseudonames section of Private Eye, but it seems to have
been too recondite for them.
We congratulate you on so tirelessly promoting Baroque instruments in your
So - any more suggestions?
Dulcie Anne Player
Music on the Page
Literature seems to have lagged significantly behind film in the choice of music and
musicians as subject matter. Whereas I can only think of a handful of mainstream
novels that feature musicians, films are many and varied from the 1950s onwards and
early music has been as prominent as the lives of composers such as Tchaikovsky and
Beethoven: for example, that of Lully in Le Roi Danse, Saint Colombe and Marais in
the glorious Tous Les Matins du Monde, and a veritable feast in Farinelli, ll Castrato.
Until recently, I could only think of Rose Tremain's Music and Silence. Published in
1999, this impressive and dense novel tells the story of an English lutenist, Peter
Claire, who comes to join the subterranean orchestra of King Christian lV of Denmark.
Successors to this novel have been a long time coming. Admittedly, my favoured
reading tends to be historical detective fiction. In this genre, Susanna Gregory
features the choir of a medieval Cambridge college in one of her series. In her other,
set in Restoration London, her protagonist, Thomas Chaloner, enjoys playing the bass
viol, but there is sparse detail on the music actually performed. Sarah Dunant's
Sacred Hearts is interesting on the controversy re the merits, or otherwise, of use of
instruments and polyphony - as against plainsong - in sacred music. Her heroine's
value in her convent is as a singer of exceptional ability. However, the focus of the
novel is more on her restricted choice as a woman than on the music itself.
Nevertheless, I believe that things are changing. In several of the works of Pat
Mcintosh, set in 15th century Scotland, music plays a significant role. The Harper's
Quine centres on the disappearance of a woman singer who is the companion of a
distinguished traditional peripatetic harper, and there is quite a lot about performance
in the tale. Perhaps even more significantly, the hero, when he meets his future wife,
joins with her in tackling newly arrived - to a surprisingly civilised Glasgow society of
1494 - works by Binchois and Machaut. The effect of this is to indicate that music
making is a normal and valued aspect of daily life, and makes it the more surprising
how absent it has been in historical novels hitherto.
Pat Mclntosh's The Stolen Voice is even more marked in centralising music. The story
concerns the reappearance, seemingly unchanged, of a young boy with an exceptional
treble voice, who had vanished, apparently stolen by the fairies, some 20 odd years
before. (This story resonated with me during David Starkey's Music and Monarchy
series when the improvisatory role of the discantus treble was being discussed).
Important to resolving this mystery is the context of the rivalry between European
cathedrals to have the best choirs, not stopping short of luring, poaching and
abducting gifted singers from their competitors - even the football transfer market of
today stops short of abduction.
You might be forgiven for challenging me on the grounds that this new evidence of
greater interest in music is based on little known books. However, some bigger
literary guns now seem to be entering the field. Matt Rees, whose first book The
Saladin Murders was highly acclaimed, has more recently taken a totally different path
with Mozart's Last Aria, in which Mozart's sister comes to Vienna to try and resolve
the mystery of his death. This book owes something to the conspiracy theorists and
Dan Brown, but is a fascinating exploration, and looks for clues in the music, as well
as the life of Mozart. Our tutor in Medieval music in May of this year, Donald Greig
has written a novel, which alas l have not yet read, called Time Will Tell, wherein,
apparently, a musicologist researching 15"‘ Century composers, (if I recall Don's
synopsis correctly), finds a previously unknown score.
Imagine my surprise to find a work by Donna Leon in 2013 - a writer normally known
and acclaimed for her Venetian police procedural novels featuring Inspector Brunetti -
also with a musicologist as the central character. Caterina is hired by a lawyer acting
on behalf of two rival descendants of the composer, Agostino Steffani (1654-1718), to
investigate the contents of two trunks left by the composer and recently returned to
Venice from Rome. Apart from a few bars of music and one complete aria, the
contents are mostly letters but lead Caterina to research Steffani's life in great detail.
As far as I can tell, Donna Leon's own research is thorough and accurate, though l
have not had a chance to check the musical references. Via her heroine, she comes
up with a plausible theory for Agostino's translation to Germany from Italy at the age
of 13 and the probable subsequent events. This novel, The Jewels of Paradise, is by
no means a great book, but it is an interesting one, that, l suspect, will have more
appeal to early music fans than to Donna Leon's usual readership. At times it seems
ponderous and wears its scholarship rather clumsily. There is, however, a definite
sense of Donna Leon becoming hooked by her subject and it prompted me to have
another look at the only piece of music by Steffani I possess, a rather pleasing duet
for two sopranos which I know as Come, Ye Children. Perhaps the most striking thing
about the book is that it got written at all, and I see it as encouraging that a relatively
obscure composer should feature in a novel by a well known crime writer.
I am quite prepared to be shot down in flames by people pointing out to me all the
novels that exist about musicians and early music that I have missed/failed to
mention. Indeed, I would welcome it, as then what a treat would be in store for me,
to track them down and read them. If that does not happen, I can only hope that I
have spotted a trend correctly as that would also hold out a promise for future
interesting reading, and also that I have introduced the TVEMF membership to some
I’d like to add to Penny’s list the very entertaining “Dead, Mr Mozart” by Bernard
News of Members’ Activities
TVEMF member Gerald Place will be giving a concert with his own Gesualdo Consort in
the International Wimbledon Festival at St John’s Spencer Hill on Monday November
11th entitled Murder and Madrigals. In addition to a feast of music by Gesualdo and
his camerata, Werner Herzog's film Death for Five Voices will be featured.
Collaborators on this project included Alan Curtis and Gerald himself. Further 400th
anniversary events include a Gesualdo workshop for the EEMF on Saturday 19th
October. More details in the events list.
David Allinson will conduct the Renaissance Singers in Waltham Abbey on Saturday
19th October in a concert which commemorates what was lost when England was
shaken by the violence of a cultural revolution in the mid 16th century. Waltham
Abbey was the last monastery to fall in the dissolution, when Tallis was working there.
The programme shines a light on the torn and tattered tradition of early Tudor music
and as well as complete motets by Tallis and others there will be music which survives
incomplete by major composers including Davy and White. There will also be the
World Premier of The Shrines of Waltham by Stef Conner, specially composed for the
Renaissance Singers to perform in the Abbey, to be recorded by BBC Radio 3 for
broadcast in 2014. On 28th October you can explore the music yourselves when
David and the composer conduct a Renaissance Singers evening workshop using
material for the concert.
Opportunities to Make Music
Norma Herdson writes that she would like more violins, violas and singers for her
Thames Baroque workshop, essentially "Vivaldi Gloria from Scratch" though there will
be some Handel as well, at Bourne End on Sunday October 27.
Wanted: second hand renaissance tenor recorder in good condition, Kobliczek or
similar. Email kategordon1001yahoo.co.uk
Feldberg harpsichord in playable order (in London). Karen Springthorpe
kispringthorpeaol.com 01438 715740
available from teacher with over 18 years experience.
Whether you are looking to pass exams, diplomas,
improve your continuo playing, or just want to learn for fun,
lessons are designed to suit individual needs.
Please call Katharine May (GRSM Hons, ARCM) on 01628 783272 or email