Contraflow

It may seem that the folk song and dance traffic is only one way, with ‘classical’ composers using (mostly) popular dance rhythms and (sometimes) folk tunes as elements in their works. But there are cases where composers have decided – either out of sheer, altruistic fondness or, more grubbily, for pecuniary advantage (or, of course, an element […]

The Skočná and other dances

Near the beginning of Act 3 of Smetana’s Bartered Bride the circus comes to town. And, after a lengthy and tongue-twisting preamble by the ringmaster featuring Esmeralda, an exotic Spanish dancer; a (fake) Red Indian and a very inebriate (and consequently also fake) dancing bear; the performers show off their acrobatic skills in the fast […]

Dying to conduct?

The history of conducting is full of fascinating events and anecdotes. But, strangely – given their sometimes rather(??) fraught relationship with orchestras – not many people have died of injuries sustained while conducting; I can only think of one,  Jean-Baptiste Lully (that’s him below) In Lully’s time (he was the court musician/dancing master to the Sun King, […]

Lachrimæ

In a league table of composers who have made a career out of exquisite misery (several names come to mind!), John Dowland must, surely, come somewhere near the top. w Flow, my tears, fall from your springs! Exiled for ever, let me mourn; Where night’s black bird her sad infamy sings, There let me live […]

A worthy wyght

Goe Nightly Cares: Fretwork, Michael Chance, Christopher Wilson, Elizabeth Liddle …Tallis is dead, and Music dies… This is part of Byrd’s Ye Sacred Muses, a lament on the death of his mentor, friend, colleague and the godfather of his son Thomas (no doubt called after his illustrious namesake). Many of the details of Tallis’s life are obscure. He seems to […]

A veritable jeremiad

Ierusalem, Ierusalem convertere ad Dominum Deum tuum. [Jerusalem, Jerusalem, return unto the Lord thy God.] The Clerks of New College, Oxford; Edward Higginbottom, Tallis: Lamentations For some yet-to-be-fathomed reason there was a spate of settings of the Lamentations of Jeremiah during the Tudor era; though, with state religion toggling back and forth between Catholicism and […]