Music hath charms........

This page begins a section of live performances under my direction, and in which I am participating on a variety of instruments. This first page will feature a few selections from the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and the Baroque eras, all performed on original instruments. Alas it will be all too obvious that these are "live" performances due to the unwelcome participation of some "consumptive" person in the audience. I do apologize for the poor sound quality of these examples, but some improvements have been made, and I hope to make more in the coming days. All are rendered at a high variable bit rate (VBR) which gives the best audio possible under the circumstances for web usage. I wish I had more space on my web host server for a larger representation of these wonderful eras of music, but here at least is a taste. Unfortunately the binder containing all of the programs of my career was lost when my office was cleaned out at the time of retirement, so I have had to rely on a failing memory, but also on the unfailing help of long-time colleague, Dr. Elizabeth Phillips to ascertain the appropriate attributions. I assume responsibility for any errors.

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The Middle Ages: These performances of monophonic works feature Willard Cobb, tenor voice, with the University of Lethbridge Early Music Ensemble, the membership of which varied with time but including the following forces and resources: myself, a variety of wind instruments, viols; Norbert Boehm, rebec; Elizabeth Phillips, rebecs, vielle, psaltery, viols; Kenneth Greene, viols, gemshorn; Elinor Lawson, psaltery, keyboards; Stephen Toombs and Kevin Mason, lutes. Percussion was performed by Mr. Cobb and others as required. Many of the same musicians appeared in Baroque concerts playing original instruments there as well. The first three Medieval performances here date from a live recording on January 24, 1979, in Southminster United Church in Lethbridge, Alberta. One polyphonic work in the next section technically still belongs to the Middle Ages, and is from a St. Louis recording, although some of the same personnel are involved. The recording of the Southminster event was particularly bad, and made worse by unrestrained coughing in the front pew! The two monophonic songs were so poorly recorded that I sought help in having them re-mastered by Steve Turnidge at Ars Divina (see also Postlude page). Instrument definition has been greatly improved, but removal of extreme tape hiss still leaves an “artifact,” something I have noticed in my own editing efforts elsewhere. Useful for me to discover also is that even professional processing can be unsuccessful at removal of coughs. All is dependent on the quality of the original recording.

Salterello

vielle
This an anonymous instrumental work from the 14th century, one of the most frequently recorded instrumental pieces from this period. I'll bet you know it. From Italy near the end of the 14th century we have a set of dance music that is named after types of steps. Included in this lot is the Salterello (BL addl. ms. 29987?). Salterello is derived from the Italian word "salto" or "to jump" - the step might involve jumping or leaping. I can be heard playing on what must be the world's smallest recorder, along with rebecs, psaltery, lute, and tambourine.

Bryd One Brere
This song is in Middle English and is considered to be the first English Love Song, c. 1300. The performance here uses gemshorns, psalteries, and bells.

The modern English text is as follows:

Bird on a briar, bird on a briar, mankind has come of love, love to crave.
Blissful bird, on me have pity, or build, love, build me my grave.
I am so blithe, so blithe, bird on a briar, When I see that maid in the hall.
She is white of limb, lovely, true, She is fair and the flower of all.
Might her I have at my will, steadfast of love, lovely, and true,
Of my sorrow she might me save, Joy and bliss were ever new to me.


Palästina-lied

walther
The Palestine lied of Walther von Der Vogelweide (c.1170-c.1230) has created some controversy about its content (the Crusades) and also about whether or not it is completely original. See this article on the possibility that it is a contrafactum or even a mixture of borrowed melodic motives. The text in Middle High German with translation to Modern German is here. There are many articles in both German and English about the composer which explore his love poetry (his best work), and his political poetry (generally less elegant, more problematic, and even controversial). Nevertheless, his life and interaction with important personages of the day make fascinating reading.

In beginning this modest web page project I had not expected to be presented with an ethical dilemma. But I have wrestled with the issue of providing an English translation of the text of this work, believing that it may justifiably cause offense to some, myself included. It is a product of its time, but the "shock of the old" reveals that its ideological stance is still very much with us, and what was no doubt offensive once can still be offensive now. It is this contemporary similarity which has made me decide to publish the translation, with my personal disclaimer and my effort to offer historical context worth remembering.

Suffice it to say that the subject deals with the Crusades, that hubris-laden series of misadventures which sought wealth and control of trade in the name of religion which was both sanctified and promoted by the Church. Times have changed little in a thousand years! But I feel we can still enjoy this song even if partially dismissing its text (after all it may be a contrafactum anyway), and so listen to it for the performance which attempts to capture the essence of a Middle Eastern theme and adopts a performance practice model of Islamic origins featuring a long improvised instrumental prelude to the song. Such forms in Andalusia were called Nuba or Nawba.

Europe benefitted enormously from exposure to Islamic civilization, principally via Moorish Spain, where an uncommon tolerance was in place at court. Muslims, Christians, and Jews intermingled freely. Would that it could be so now! The rediscovery of European classical knowledge in Greek and Latin texts was made possible by collaborative translation into the emerging vernacular languages of Europe. Essentially it is this spirit of exchange that ended the "dark ages" of European civilization. Among the disciplines learned from or augmented by the Moors are included mathematics, astronomy, medicine, navigation, architecture, literary and poetic forms, and the introduction of countless musical instruments, and perhaps song performance practice as well.

Among Western scholars, however, there remains controversy as to whether or not medieval monophonic songs in general were meant to be sung with or without accompaniment. But to us, it seems natural and altogether likely that, at least on some occasions, they were accompanied. The performance here uses an accompaniment of soprano recorder (me), treble rebec, tenor rebec, psaltery, lute, and tambourine. A final apologia: the performance here uses only three of what was a seven stanza poem. In hindsight, I think the long prelude would be better balanced by a full rendering of the poem, which is after all a narrative genre. Alternately I think I would have adopted a more austere "northerly" performance practice style due to the poetic bias expressed.

Partial English Version: (please note discussion above)

Now my life is elevated
that my sinful eyes have seen the
Holy Land and also the earth of
which such honor is told.
What I always wanted has come to
pass:
I have come to the city where God
went as a man.

Of pretty lands, rich and splendid,
that I have seen, you hold the
highest honor: what miracles
happened here!
That a maiden gave birth to a Child,
Lord of all the angels,
was that not a complete miracle?

Here He let Himself be baptized
that man be pure;
here the Master let Himself be sold,
that we would be free.
Otherwise we would be lost.
Hail to the Spear, the Cross and the
Thron[e],
shame to the heathen for his anger.

In this land did He set a day of last
judgment;
then is the widow avenged, and the
orphan can make complaint, with
the poor man, about the might
used against them:
Hail Him there who here has paid his
debt!

Christians, Jews and Heathens all
claim this land as their own.
May God give us justice in His three
Names.
The whole world is at war over this
land.
We have the just claim,
It is right that [H]e acknowledge us.



The Renaissance: I have chosen one work which essentially ends the Middle Ages, and another work which ends the Renaissance. The soloist is Christine Armistead, soprano with the Washington University Camerata under my direction, including at this time (1975) myself, Elizabeth Phillips, Steven Tombs, Ann Herzberger, and Jessica Friedlander, augmented by other personnel as needed. Ms. Armistead is currently a regular faculty member of the Department of Music, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri.



Solage

chantilly
Solage (fl. late 14th century, d. probably after 1403) was a French composer. He composed the most pieces in the Chantilly Codex, the principal source of music of the Ars Subtilior, the manneristic compositional school centered around Avignon at the end of the century. (It should be noted that the work pictured here is not Solage, but instead Cordier, showing a famous example of the idiosycracies of the manuscript.) There has been speculation that some of the extremely complex mannerisms of these avant guarde composers might be due to use of hashish or opium. Helas! je voy mon cuer (Chantilly: Bibliothèque du Musée Condé 564, fol. 57v (4/1) is a ballade (aa' b C - usually three verses) one of nine by Solage in the Codex. Check out Wikipedia search for more information. Solage is little known outside esoteric circles, but his works have been recorded "Gothic Voices." The performance here uses Renaissance flute, me; lute, Stephen Toombs; and vielle, Elizabeth Phillips to accompany the vocal line in a typical cantus/contratenor/tenor layout. English text version follows:

Alas, I see my heart finally open
desiring to receive the gift of love
that has bestowed me with such pleasure.
But Fortune has played me a false turn
which, without a true attempt of rescue,
I believe that soon, doubtless, I shall die.

Ah, Fortune, you come with a high price
to many people who find bitterness
under your wheel where all good perishes,
changing sweet joy and games to tears.
Now throwing me into a river of sorrow
which I tell you, as you have done me such wrong
I believe that soon, doubtless, I shall die.

I beg you brightly shimmering sapphire
source and stream, fountain of gentle sweetness,
final sentinel where my desires reside,
virtuous fruit of lovely fragrance
relieve me of my great sadness
which certainly, without your comfort,
I believe that soon, doubtless, I shall die.

Translation by Barbara Ende ©



Dowland
John Dowland (1563-1626) was the greatest lutenist of his day. Famed throughout Europe as "the English Orpheus" for his artistry and skill, he held a variety of court positions, both in England and abroad, notably to the Danish court where he published four collections of songs. His works are often dark and brooding, and none more so than this splended example of consort song, from his First Booke of Songes or Ayres of fowre partes with Tableture for the Lute (1597). The music and words speak for themselves. Here Ms. Armistead is accompanied by a consort of 3 viols (tenor, Elizabeth Phillips, tenor, Ann Herzberger; and bass - me). The recording dates from a live concert at Brown Hall, Washington University, St. Louis on May 1975.


dowland
All ye, whom Love or Fortune hath betray'd;
All ye, that dream of bliss but live in grief;
All ye, whose hopes are evermore delay'd;
All ye, whose sighs or sickness wants relief;
Lend ears and tears to me, most hapless man,
That sings my sorrows like the dying swan.

Care that consumes the heart with inward pain,
Pain that presents sad care in outward view,
Both tyrant-like enforce me to complain;
But still in vain: for none my plaints will rue.
Tears, sighs and ceaseless cries alone I spend:
My woe wants comfort, and my sorrow end.


The Baroque: Here I offer two live performances under my direction by the Washington University Camerata, St. Louis, Missouri. The first is early baroque and second late baroque. Both works presented here are from a live concert on March 19, 1972, in Graham Chapel, Washington University. They were also performed together with other works at various other venues in the St. Louis area, including one at the Midwest American Musicological Society meeting at the University of Missouri on April 28, 1973.

Turini
Francesco Turini (about 1595; – 1656), was an Italian composer and organist in the early Baroque era. This lovely Sonata a Doi from Madrigali...con alcune Sonate...(1624) is typical of the early trio sonata, being a multi-sectional single movement work. Its highly declamatory style relates closely with vocal genre development at the same period. I believe this is his Sonata, Secundo Tuono. Performers are: Kenneth Greene, baroque violin; Elizabeth Phillips, baroque violin; me, bass viola da gamba; and Jessica Friedlander, virginals.

Veracini
Francesco Maria Veracini (February 1, 1690 – October 31, 1768) was an Italian composer and violinist, perhaps best known for his sets of violin sonatas. This piece, Sonata, op. 1, no. 1 from Sonate a tre (1692) is typical of Veracini's solo sonatas, cast in four contrasting movements, slow/fast, slow/fast, each in bipartite (aabb) structure. This likely originated as a violin sonata, but it works very well on the flute, and such options were common. It is the choice made in this performance. I am playing a Hotteterre copy baroque flute, accompanied by Elizabeth Phillips, bass viola da gamba, and Jessica Friedlander, harpsichord.