domingo, 14 de octubre de 2012

Huelgas Ensemble: dos noticias, dos

   Echando un vistazo a la página web del Huelgas Ensemble -algo que suelo hacer con bastante asiduidad-, me encuentro hoy con un par de novedades, noticias de alcance que me alegraron y que creo conveniente compartir con los lectores de este ||:doblebarra:||, y que estoy seguro serán motivo de regocijo para todos aquellos que siguen con pasión las andanzas del que es uno de los mejores conjuntos vocales del planeta.

   La primera de ellas hace referencia a una novedad discográfica. Se trata del último disco que el conjunto belga ha grabado bajo la dirección de Paul Van Nevel, un disco monográfico con repertorio inglés, centrado en obras del Eton Choirbook. La novedad, ya de un enorme interés per se -pues cualquier nuevo disco de este grupo supone todo un evento-, lo es todavía más si tenemos en cuenta que se trata del primer disco que el conjunto graba íntegramente con repertorio proveniente de las islas británicas. Solamente se habían acercado a piezas de este territorio en momentos muy puntuales, como recordarmos con la grabación de la Missa Ave Maria, de Thomas Ashewell, para el disco La Quinta essentia.
Estamos, por lo tanto, ante un documento sonoro único y que habrá de hacer las delicias de todo aquel amante de la polifonía renacentista más elegante, además de los miles de seguidores del conjunto.
Esperemos, pues, ese 16 de noviembre, fecha en la que podremos hacernos con una copia.

   La segunda noticia tiene relación con el papel de Van Nevel como maestro, como sabio que traspasará sus cientos de conocimientos sobre el repertorio medieval y renacentista a aquellos que quieras recibirlos. Se ha programado la "Huelgas Academy 2013", un academia dedicada a formar a los asistentes sobre los entresijos de estos repertorios tan apasionantes. A lo largo de cinco fines de semana -entre enero y febrero-, el maestro belga irá centrándose en cuestiones puntuales del repertorio.
Toda la información necesaria de este suculento curso puede leerse a continuación [en inglés]:


In January and February 2013 the Huelgas Ensemble is organizing five weekend courses covering various aspects of music between 1200 and 1600.
The weekends are a sequel to the successful course on the subject of notation which took place in July 2012.
The courses will be given by Paul Van Nevel. Each one will begin on Saturday at 14.00 and end on Sunday at 21.00,
and will take place in Brussels.
The themes per weekend are as follows:

1. Saturday 12 & Sunday 13 January:
– the notation of polyphonic music 1200-1600: types of score, layout of the manuscripts   
– the evolution of the notation: from modal notation up to and  including open mensural rules of notation
– a thorough study of French black notation
– an in-depth exploration of the systems of coloration and proportion
This course in part recapitulates material dealt with on 7-8 July 2012.
However,  those who participated then could also find this reiteration and supplementation most useful.

2. Saturday 19 & Sunday 20 January:
–    musical forms in medieval polyphony:  organum, the clausula, the motet, the conductus, the isorhythmic motet, the cyclic mass,
the ballade, the ballatà, the virelai, the rondeau and the trecento madrigal: sources, notation, transcription, interpretation

3. Saturday 26 & Sunday 27 January:
–    musical forms in Renaissance vocal polyphony: the cantus firmus mass, the parody mass, the motet and related forms,
the chanson (song, lied), the madrigal, the lamentation, the villançico, the Tenorlied : sources, notation, transcription, interpretation

4. Saturday 2 & Sunday 3 February :
–    the tradition of text placement: the evolution of the rules 1350-1600 for singers and composers; examples and exercises
–    the musica ficta rules in the light of the laws of counterpoint and of the hexachord system
–    chiavette and transposition

5. Saturday 9 & Sunday 10 February :
study of an important manuscript: its history, content, concordances, notation, different transcriptions and part assignments,
plus singing from the original notation.
The choice of the manuscript will depend on the number of participants and on their own preferences.

The courses are open to all interested parties. Singing experience is an advantage, but not a necessity.
Each weekend a comprehensive file of documentation will be provided, including illustrations of original documents in colour and black and white.
Course 1 is compulsory for those wishing to attend courses 2, 3, 4 and/or 5, unless they are capable of reading mensural notation quickly.
Weekends 2 up to and including 5 are separate entities. You can sign up for one, for several or for all the weekends.
For all further details concerning the cost of the courses, their location, the signing up terms and conditions etc., email to this address:

   Realmente se trata de una oportunidad maravillosa para poder del maestro, lo que supone una experiencia completamente inolvidable -de la que, afortunadamente, puedo dar fe-.

   El Huelgas y Van Nevel siguen vivos, así pues regocijémonos por ello y disfrutemos de todo lo que tienen para ofrecernos.

sábado, 6 de octubre de 2012

The Choir Project al día [06-X-2012]

Robert Parsons (c.1535-1572): Ave Maria a 5.
The Sixteen
- Harry Christophers.
The marvellous english lines.

   Andrew Carwood says about Parsons and this piece:
"Lack of information about a composer is a common problem for the researcher of early music, especially in sixteenth-century England where so many records have been lost. Add to this a seemingly early and unusual death and a mournful personal note from a contemporary collector of sacred music and Robert Parsons proves to be even more fascinating than most of his contemporaries.

    Robert Parsons is first found in a Teller’s Roll for 1560/1 which refers to him co-ordinating payments to Richard Bower, Master of the Children of the Chapel Royal. The Cheque Book of the Chapel Royal records Parsons’ appointment as a Gentleman on 17 October 1563:

Merton died 22nd of September, and Roberte Parsons sworne in his place the 17th October, Ao 5to.

    Unusually there is no note of the place where he had previously been employed and this, together with the references in the Teller’s Roll, suggests that Parsons was connected with the Chapel before he became a Gentleman. On 30 May 1567 he was granted a Crown lease for twenty-one years on three rectories near Lincoln (‘Sturton, Randbie and Staynton’) and in 1571 an annual tax certificate issued to court servants confirms his residence as being in Greenwich. The next mention is a further emotionless reference in the Cheque Book of the Chapel Royal:

Robt. Parsons was drowned at Newark uppon Trent the 25th of Januarie, and Wm. Bird sworne gentleman in his place at the first the 22d of Februarie followinge, Ao 14o Lincolne.

    Quite why he was travelling near Newark is unclear. He may have been visiting his rectories or attending to other business but it is clear that he died in 1572, the fourteenth regnal year of Queen Elizabeth I. His only epitaph is a couplet found in the partbooks prepared by the copyist Robert Dow in the 1580s which suggests that Parsons was highly esteemed and suffered an early death:

Qui tantus primo Parsone in flore fuisti
Quantus in autumno ni morere fores.

[Parsons, you who were so great in the springtime of life,
how great you would have been in the autumn, had death not come.]

    Parsons lived through some of the most tumultuous years of the sixteenth century as the four religious settlements loosely termed the English Reformation tore society apart. After Henry VIII’s break with Rome and his relatively conservative reforms, the baton was then passed in 1549 to his son Edward VI who, steered by his Protestant advisors and then later developing his own agenda, pursued a more radical path. This course was halted by Edward’s half-sister, Mary I, eldest daughter of Henry VIII and devout Catholic, in 1553. She returned England to communion with Rome and met with much support for her policies until the economic downturn of the late 1550s and her own increasing personal instability. Then in turn her death in 1558 and the accession of Elizabeth I, her half-sister and Henry’s second daughter, led to a new English settlement which drew on Edward’s reforms but with considerably more artistic and liturgical sensitivity than had been allowed by the young king.

    The surviving music by Parsons consists of nine pieces in Latin, two Services in English, two anthems in English, a handful of secular songs and some instrumental pieces including five In nomines. The lack of small-scale English sacred music seems to suggest that Parsons was not active as a composer during the reign of Edward VI. His earliest work is probably the opulent setting of the Magnificat which harkens back to a tradition seen clearly in the Eton Choirbook and which was developed by Robert Fayrfax, Nicholas Ludford and John Taverner. Five Magnificats in the Forrest-Heyther Partbooks and the Office Hymns by Tallis and Sheppard seem to suggest that Mary was keen to reinstate large-scale music at the Office of Vespers. The lack of accompanying Nunc dimittis settings suggest these Magnificats were designed specifically for Vespers rather than the reformed Evensong when both Canticles would be required.

    Parsons’ setting uses a traditional alternation of plainsong and polyphony and is scored for six voices, sometimes with lengthy divisions or gimells, but this is no mere exercise by a young composer trying to find his feet. That Parsons has a sophisticated grasp of compositional techniques is seen most clearly in his use of canon (where one or more parts will repeat exactly a melody sung by an opening voice). These can be found in the sections Quia fecit mihi magna (at the octave between triplex and contratenor II), et sanctum nomen eius (at the ninth between tenor and medius), et semini eius in saecula (at the tenth between bassus and medius) and at Sicut erat in principio (a three-part canon at the unison between the two contratenors and at the octave with the triplex). Although Parsons is obviously drawing on older models, his setting seems less archaic than that by Robert White. There is no reliance on cantus firmus and the plainchant melody is given only slight attention in the polyphonic verses. Parsons does however preserve the use of melismatic writing for the solo lines and contrasts these with more massive full-choir sections.

    Ave Maria has become Parsons’ most famous and well-loved motet since it was included in the Oxford Book of Tudor Anthems in 1978. Settings of the Ave Maria are not frequent in England—even William Byrd only set them as required by the liturgy in his two books of Gradualia (1605 and 1607) rather than as stand-alone pieces. Parsons simply sets the lines found in the Gospel of St Luke and has no invocation for the dead (authorized by Pope Pius V in 1568). This is a magical setting and it is not surprising that there is a beautiful Amen coda. Initially the piece gives the impression of using a cantus firmus in the top part but it is in fact free-composed throughout. Parsons starts each medius phrase one note higher than the previous one, beginning on F and then moving up to D with long slow notes before reaching benedicta tu when it joins the other voices in equal importance. Paul Doe has suggested that this piece might have been prompted by the early promise or subsequent plight of Mary, Queen of Scots. There is no direct evidence for this but it is not unreasonable to consider Parsons and indeed most of the mid-sixteenth-century writers—Sheppard, Tallis, White, Mundy and Tye—as Catholic sympathizers. They seem more free, more expressive, more expansive and more brave in their Latin compositions and it is tempting to speculate that in setting words from Psalms 15 and 119, the Lamentations and the Funeral Responds, they were consciously producing music with a Catholic slant. In comparison their English works tend to be shorter and less virtuosic and even the fledgling Great Services are short on excellent material, but then these mid-sixteenth-century composers were creating a new genre not previously explored and were probably writing to fulfil a set of rules which were not entirely clear. England had to wait for another generation—headed by William Byrd, Thomas Weelkes and Thomas Morley—before writing in English could achieve greatness."

    For me, this is one of the most beautiful pieces in the Renaissance music. Its evocative power is simply wonderful.
Here are some of the most beautiful lines ever written. In addition, the amazing "amen" is one of the most melismatic and overwhelming parts of all English Renaissance repertoire.