While the primary music of the early middle ages was Gregorian chant, there was an important secondary level of quasi-improvised vocal
music beginning in the eleventh century that utilized polyphony. It could justifiably be called Beyond Plainsong. The earliest
polyphony varied from singing in strict parallel intervals, to creating complex cadences employing contrary motion and other contrapuntal
practices. This initial simple polyphonic practice sprouted many tributaries, some quite complicated, leading to a professional level of
solistic music in addition to the readily learned choral practices. The music on this CD demonstrates the common practices of polyphony of
the time, from simple parallel motion (choral organum) to the more florid and soloistic organum known as Ars Organi.
The French School of horn playing in nineteenth-century Paris attained a reputation unsurpassed in the history of the instrument. Probably
the most important factor contributing to this reputation was the establishment of the École Royale de Chant et de Déclamation
in 1774, and 10 years later, the Conservatoire National. The art of horn playing was also being advanced by Bohemian hornists such as
Antoine-Joseph Hampel (ca. 1710–1771), who was instrumental in developing the technique of hand stopping, and whose influential ideas
were carried throughout Europe by his students. At the same time the natural horn was gradually being replaced by the orchestral horn, which
was smaller in diameter and had terminal crooks for playing in different keys and, later, a tuning slide. The instrument was no longer held
hunting style, but with the bell to the player's side making it accessible for hand stopping. The music on this CD represents the height of
composition for French horn in the early nineteenth century.
Guillaume Dufay (ca. 1400–1474) is regarded as the foremost French composer of the early fifteenth century. He was a widely traveled
and educated cleric, having first studied and worked in Italy, then later in what is now Switzerland and France. It was common practice to
set the Ordinarium Missa in polyphony, which was sung by a specially trained choir, while the Proprium Missa was sung by the Schola Cantorum
in plainsong. The plainsong was sometimes sung in parts, the result of the impossibility of mixed voices to sing in unison, so the singing was
done in octaves or occasionally other intervals. Solos were sung by trained choristers in pairs, trios, or quartets. The structure of the mass
also permitted optional incremental music in the form or tropes or motets, which served to prevent silence when actions extended beyond the
duration of the existing music, often heightening the theme of the service and providing points of beauty.
Performer: David Rogers, archlute
The archlute is a member of the lute family of instruments, which extends its range by on octave with the addition of a "bass extension,"
an extended neck and pegbox supporting seven extra strings. These strings are never stopped; instead they are always played open and are
tuned to the key of each piece. The archlute was the primary accompaniment instrument in Italy and England during the seventeenth century.
In spite of stiff competition from the harpsichord in the eighteenth century, the archlute remained quite popular through the late baroque.
Despite its popularity as an ensemble instrument, its surviving solo repertoire is small in comparison to the repertoire of other
instruments of the lute family. This recording features the work of three well known performer-composers: Giovanni Girolamo Kapsperger,
Bernardo Gianoncelli, and Giovanni Zamboni.
Performers: Kim Pineda, transverse flute; Elisabeth Wright, harpsichord; Elisabeth Reed, violoncello
The music of Johann Sebastian Bach constitutes an apex of western classical music. Born into a musical family, he chose a professional career
as a musician. At various times in his life he was a performer, teacher, and composer. Although he was highly respected by his contemporaries
for his keyboard and improvisational skills, "Old Bach," as he was known in his later years, was not always respected as a composer, for he
wrote no operas nor did he participate in new dramatic styles. The five works on this recording were composed in three different periods in
Bach's life and demonstrate his mastery of instrumental composition.
Performers: Musicians of the Early Music InstituteDirector: Thomas Binkley
Performers: The Musicians of Swanne Alley
Directors: Paul O'Dette and Lyle Nordstrom
Swanne Alley, the London street of musicians, was alive with music during the last quarter of the sixteenth century, alive with the sounds
of the consort, of recorders, voices, and viols—alive with infectious, earthy English melody. The variety of musical forms on this CD
reflects the flexibility of these native melodies, especially the ballad tune. Many wealthy English families of the period retained musicians.
The family of Thomas Kytson of Hengrave, Suffolk, employed "the musicians of Swanne Alley" at their London house paying them "for many times
playing with their instruments for my master and mistress." The music presented here demonstrates the wide range of musical literature of the
time including English part songs, instrumental dances, grounds, country dances, lute music, and music for consort.
The hurdy-gurdy is an instrument found throughout Europe and is known as the vielle in France, the Drehleier in Germany, and the Ghironda in Italy. The English term originated in nineteenth-century England as a derisive name for an instrument played by indigent street musicians.
The hurdy-gurdy is a member of the bowed string family like the violin. The bow is a wooden, rosin-covered wheel turned with a crank that rubs against the strings.