Martha Bixler Comments on Her Selection of Music for the Workshop
In the late Medieval and Renaissance periods northern European composers dominated the musical world. Two composers, Guillaume de Machaut (1300-1377) and Guillaume Du Fay (1397-1474), the two Willies, as they are sometimes irreverently called, were the crême de la crême. Both lived long lives, and both wrote music (beautifully preserved in medieval manuscripts) that is peerless in beauty, complexity, variety.
Guillaume de Machaut was born, lived, and died in France. One of his accomplishments (and one of the reasons so much music has come down to us) is that he managed to survive both the Hundred Years' War and the Black Plague of the 14th century unscathed. His "Notre Dame" mass (possibly written for use at Notre Dame Cathedral in Reims) is his only work in that genre. It is also apparently unique among musical settings of the Catholic mass, as it is the earliest surviving complete setting by a single composer. Machaut's mass is a glorious work. It is a four-part vocal piece, but is possible that the two lower parts were intended to be accompanied by instruments. Certainly the entire mass is playable on early instruments. At this workshop we will play the "Kyrie," the first movement of this remarkable work, using a daring new edition by Lucy Cross. [Guillaume de Machaut, Messe de Nostre Dame, Mixed Voices, edited by Lucy E. Cross, Edition Peters No. 67574, C.F. Peters Corporation, 1998.
The Aeolus Recorder Konsort (an Arkansas Chapter of the American Recorder Society) is sponsoring a Recorder Workshop with Martha Bixler. Players (all levels) of recorder and other early instruments, who are interested in early music and the Renaissance era, are welcome.
Guillaume Du Fay was born in suburb of Brussels, and has been dubbed a Franco-Fleming, one of that breed of northern composers who traveled widely, in his case to southern France and Italy, and whose work influenced later French and Italian composers. The best of his secular music is French. His famous "Gloria ad modum tubae" is a four-part setting of the second movement of the Ordinary of the mass. It is a wonderful piece. The words of the "Gloria" are set to a single melody sung as two-part canon. The other two parts (canonic, but not a true canon) are clearly instrumental, probably, as indicated in the title, for brass instruments. They sound remarkably good on two soprano recorders!
The remainder of our workshop day will be spent playing chansons of two Parisian "Claudes" -- Claudin de Sermisy (c.1490-1562) and Claude le Jeune (1530-1600). "Chanson" literally means a song, usually a Renaissance song, written in a light-hearted vein, although the words may pretend to be concerned with tragic events, like the loss of one's true love's heart.