Day By Day

Monday, April 27, 2009

Listening To The Renaissance Ensemble

Saturday evening "She Who Must Not Be Named" and I went to hear a chamber concert by the Peabody Renaissance Ensemble. Wow!!! I haven't enjoyed an evening's music this much in a long time. The program began with several well-known English madrigals then progressed through Italian, Spanish and French forms, ending with some wonderful Monteverdi renditions. For me the high point of the evening came with several Sephardic songs that mixed Spanish and North African modes. Several of these are available on the net, but they all have modern instrumentation and sound weak. None of them comes close to comparing with what we heard at the Peabody where the full power of the original came through on the traditional instruments [lots of drums]. For those of you unfamiliar with Renaissance music, much of it is really, really vulgar. Here's an example of a lyric from "Matona Mia Cara":
"I'm no laggard, I'll make love to you all night long, thrusting like a ram."
And that's the bowlderized version. As the director explained, some items on the program were performed only instrumentally because the lyrics were "too obscene to be sung in any language". It reminds us that many of these compositions, which we associate with Renaissance elite culture, had their origins as street songs.

One final note. In any ensemble performance many of the artists spend a lot of time sitting around waiting for their turn to play or sing. Sometimes the boredom of counting measures and beats gets to them, as it did with these vocalists.

How could she possibly be comfortable with her ankles in that position? Ah, youth!