Author Topic: Performances of early choral music  (Read 4523 times)

Simon J H

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Performances of early choral music
« on: November 21, 2009, 06:35:56 am »
I claim absolutely no expertise, and I'm sure performance practice is a musicological labyrinth. But - getting back into listening to music - I've been spinning a number of discs of late Medieval & early Renaissance choral music.

Ensemble Organum/Marcel Peres Machaut Messe de Notre Dame, their recording of Obrecht's Requiem and their recent Missa Gotica;

Diabolus in Musica's Dufay Missa Se la face ay pale;

the Labyrintho Josquin disc I mentioned on the Now Spinning thread;

Ockeghem's Missa Caput done by Graindelavoix directed by Bjorn Schmelzer which makes - for me very interesting - use of machicotage and ornament.

These are very different groups (Graindelavoix is a much larger ensemble) but they do seem to me to be all more adventurous than what I think of as the English approach - Tallis Scholars/Peter Phillips or The Cardinall’s Musick /Andrew Carwood. Those are fine groups, for sure, who have done memorable things; but there's a certain - I don't know, 'trained' quality about the singing.

Anyone have any thoughts on this :)?

Offline jean

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Re: Performances of early choral music
« Reply #1 on: November 21, 2009, 09:22:12 am »
All the works you mention are earlier than the usual repertoire of the Tallis Scholars, the Sixteen or the Cardinall's Musick, aren't they?

Of the groups you mentuion I only know Ensemble Organum, who specialise in an authentic (or do I mean historically informed?) way of singing early Corsican chant and polyphony and they are very excitindg, but possibly they don't sound so adventurous to us as they do to a Corsican.

How do the groups you mention compare with an English group that does this repertoire, like Gothic Voices?
« Last Edit: November 21, 2009, 09:30:48 am by jean »

Simon J H

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Re: Performances of early choral music
« Reply #2 on: November 21, 2009, 09:58:57 am »
All the works you mention are earlier than the usual repertoire of the Tallis Scholars, the Sixteen or the Cardinall's Musick, aren't they?

Of the groups you mentuion I only know Ensemble Organum, who specialise in an authentic (or do I mean historically informed?) way of singing early Corsican chant and polyphony and they are very excitindg, but possibly they don't sound so adventurous to us as they do to a Corsican.

How do the groups you mention compare with an English group that does this repertoire, like Gothic Voices?

Jean: good points, and as I say I claim no expertise (just a fasciation with the music and how it changes in technique, forms of expression, harmonic language over the centuries). I do know about the Corsican element and Peres's theories with Ensemble Organum. I've been to Corsica, but alas heard no chant there :).

The Tallis Scholars have made two discs of Josquin, haven't they? I was also thinking of The Clerk's Group's recordings of Ockeghem. I suppose I had in mind a certain kind of tonal production, a sort of Choir School/University restraint ???. I'm probably wide of the mark. I don't, I'm afraid, know Gothic Voices work.
 
I remember being impressed by the Binchois Consort/Andrew Kirkman disc of Dufay's Music for St Anthony of Padua (again, later than Gothic). I suppose it was a kind of fervour, a taking of expressive risk that I hear in performances from certain non-British groups (or English, really I don't know what goes on, say, in Scotland).

I'd like to know more about the scholarship involved, but it would need to be something synoptic and I'm sure there is little consensus on performance practice. And I doubt there is anything synoptic out there (I've tried looking on Amazon). There's a cambridge 'Guide' to Medieval and Renaissance music due next year: that might be helpful. Otherwise I'm reliant on an old edition of Grove and The New Harvard Dictionary of Music.


Simon J H

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Re: Performances of early choral music
« Reply #3 on: November 21, 2009, 10:01:02 am »
I'm sure there is little consensus on performance practice.

Or, indeed, pronunciation.

Offline rauschwerk

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Re: Performances of early choral music
« Reply #4 on: November 21, 2009, 10:37:23 am »
Andrew Parrott's recording of the Machaut Mass (1984) certainly avoids a 'trained' sound. Trouble is, it's done at a controversially low pitch with no falsettists.

Offline jean

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Re: Performances of early choral music
« Reply #5 on: November 21, 2009, 03:24:45 pm »
But what is a 'trained' sound these days?

At the beginning of the Early Music revival, most 'training' available to singers rendered them by the very fact of being 'trained', unsuitable for early music, and directors after an 'early music' sound sought out singers without formal training.

(Jantina Noorman, anyone?)

But that's not true any more, is it?

(Please ignore my next post.  I quoted instead of editing myself, and now I can't get rid of it.)
« Last Edit: November 21, 2009, 03:28:56 pm by jean »

Offline jean

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Re: Performances of early choral music
« Reply #6 on: November 21, 2009, 03:27:07 pm »
But what is a 'trained' sound these days?

At the beginning of the Early Music revival, most 'training' available to singers rendered them by the very fact of being 'trained', unsuitable for early music, and directors after an 'early music' sound sought out singers without formal training.

(Jantina Noorman, anyone?)

But that's not true any more, is it?

t-p

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Re: Performances of early choral music
« Reply #7 on: November 21, 2009, 03:33:32 pm »
Do we have people here who know about early music vocalists?

I thought that singers specialize now either in Romantic repertoire or in early music.

Emma Kurkby had training. http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Bio/Kirkby-Emma.htm



Offline JSC

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Re: Performances of early choral music
« Reply #8 on: November 22, 2009, 02:31:06 am »
Simon :)

Glad to see you here (I've not been around much recently ...).

Quick greetings from Huddersfield.

I don't know as much as I could about this area myself, but I do think you might find Daniel Leech-Wilkinson's The Modern Invention of Medieval Music interesting ...
Auch Engeln sind immer unterwegs.

Simon J H

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Re: Performances of early choral music
« Reply #9 on: November 22, 2009, 06:50:32 am »
Simon :)

Glad to see you here (I've not been around much recently ...).

Quick greetings from Huddersfield.

I don't know as much as I could about this area myself, but I do think you might find Daniel Leech-Wilkinson's The Modern Invention of Medieval Music interesting ...

And to hear from you too, JSC. Thanks for the recommendation. I'll take a look. (Have a good time in Huddersfield :)).

To add to my earlier post: "trained" was a poor choice of word, ambiguous. I didn't mean trained as in operatically trained. I meant more, as being through the Choir School/University Choir axis. But as I say, I may be wide of the mark. It was just a thought based on some recent listening.

Selva Oscura

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Re: Performances of early choral music
« Reply #10 on: November 22, 2009, 10:56:07 pm »
Simon,

in your first post you seem to have omitted the excellent Cappella Pratensis, but maybe you don't know their work. If not, do arrange to hear their recording of Ockeghem's Missa Mi-Mi at the earliest opportunity. It's yet another approach to complement the ones you mention, and as far away from the "English choral tradition" sound which characterises the Tallis Scholars and the Cardinall's Musick (and the Hilliard Ensemble and the Clerks' Group and the Orlando Consort, etc.) and which you describe as "trained" - trained, that is, in a certain way of doing things which may not have had a lot in common with how fifteenth-century "Belgians" might have approached their music.

I think it's fair to say that there must have been massively greater local variations in singing styles (as there still are in folk music), back then, than modern performances can do justice to. (Marcel Pérès suggests that "choral" folk music in Corsica and elsewhere might preserve a tradition closer to the vocal approach Machaut might have known than the "pure" tone favoured by Peter Phillips et al.) Obviously the "training" of a singer in those days would not have had the breadth or standardisation that a 21st century conservatory training provides; on the other hand, singers would have the depth and concentration of involvement in their "own" music that exists these days, if at all, only outside the Western tradition.

Simon J H

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Re: Performances of early choral music
« Reply #11 on: November 23, 2009, 06:17:46 am »
Simon,

in your first post you seem to have omitted the excellent Cappella Pratensis, but maybe you don't know their work. If not, do arrange to hear their recording of Ockeghem's Missa Mi-Mi at the earliest opportunity. It's yet another approach to complement the ones you mention, and as far away from the "English choral tradition" sound which characterises the Tallis Scholars and the Cardinall's Musick (and the Hilliard Ensemble and the Clerks' Group and the Orlando Consort, etc.) and which you describe as "trained" - trained, that is, in a certain way of doing things which may not have had a lot in common with how fifteenth-century "Belgians" might have approached their music.

I think it's fair to say that there must have been massively greater local variations in singing styles (as there still are in folk music), back then, than modern performances can do justice to. (Marcel Pérès suggests that "choral" folk music in Corsica and elsewhere might preserve a tradition closer to the vocal approach Machaut might have known than the "pure" tone favoured by Peter Phillips et al.) Obviously the "training" of a singer in those days would not have had the breadth or standardisation that a 21st century conservatory training provides; on the other hand, singers would have the depth and concentration of involvement in their "own" music that exists these days, if at all, only outside the Western tradition.

Selva

I don't know the Cappella Pratensis, and as ever their recording of Ockeghem's Missa Mi-Mi is deleted wherever I've looked (you are good at doing this to me. The same applies to the Pellegrini Quartet's Nono/Beethoven CD).

I'm certain that the point about depth, concentration, and involvement is exact - I suppose that's what I felt the groups I listed managed to get closer to (or provide a kind of approach that allows for something of that to register, if only a kind of sonic image of it) than the English groups (although, clearly, those groups care about the music).

I'm sure there were plenty of local variations (standardisation of chant aside). And, of course, presenting the music as concert music (even if in a liturgical 'context') is to do something very alien to it. (Perhaps that applies less to Renaissance music, in that the work of, say, Josquin was highly prized as music, and Ducal patronage enters the equation? The Missa Hercules dux Ferrariae, for example).

What Peres theorises is always interesting, and I love the results. Sadly, the one time I went to Corsica in the late 80s I heard no folk music.

Off-topic, but I have a more general problem with 'singing' singing (often in Lieder). But that's another issue.

Offline j-rmit

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Re: Performances of early choral music
« Reply #12 on: November 24, 2009, 10:44:38 am »
I don't know the Cappella Pratensis, and as ever their recording of Ockeghem's Missa Mi-Mi is deleted wherever I've looked

Ooh, but I've just found them on YouTube, which is a small consolation at least:

http://www.youtube.com/results?search_sort=relevance&safe_search=on&search_query=%22Cappella%20Pratensis%22

(Assuming this is the same recording Selva mentions.)
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Simon J H

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Re: Performances of early choral music
« Reply #13 on: November 25, 2009, 06:07:18 am »
I don't know the Cappella Pratensis, and as ever their recording of Ockeghem's Missa Mi-Mi is deleted wherever I've looked

Ooh, but I've just found them on YouTube, which is a small consolation at least:

http://www.youtube.com/results?search_sort=relevance&safe_search=on&search_query=%22Cappella%20Pratensis%22

(Assuming this is the same recording Selva mentions.)

Thanks, trj :). Listened to via headphones. A bit tantalising, but good to sample. Perhaps the CD will surface 2nd hand on Amazon.de at some stage. Very fine, certainly.
« Last Edit: November 25, 2009, 06:09:00 am by Simon J H »

Offline jean

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Re: Performances of early choral music
« Reply #14 on: March 29, 2010, 05:30:40 pm »
Did anyone hear Andrew Carwood's version of Palestrina's Stabat Mater on Rado 3's EBU day of Music for Holy Week yesterday?

It sounded to me as if he was aiming for the authentic castrato sound.

It wasn't very nice.