1998, the members of Virelai conceived the idea of commissioning
a series of new settings of renaissance love poems. Andrew Keeling
and Elizabeth Liddle were the first composers we approached, and
some of the pieces recorded here were first performed in August
of 2000, in Radovljica, Slovenia. Over time, the project became
in effect a collaborative song cycle. I call it a cycle
because all of the composers (though they didnt actually
work together) were given the same brief: to write a short piece
for voice, renaissance flute, viol and lute, setting a renaissance
love poem (or to write an instrumental piece to puncutate the
songs). It is therefore tied together by related themes and scorings.
More amazingly, the various songs and instrumental pieces complement
each other in previously unimagined ways. A great diversity of
musical and poetic styles appears here, and yet there is a sense
of complementarity. The cycle is also open-ended: we hope that
this CD is a beginning, not an ending, to the process of gathering
words, renaissance instruments, contemporary settings: this project
ties together the worlds of early and contemporary music, and
raises many interesting questions about composition, performance,
text setting, the use of early instruments for new music and the
relationship of old to new generally.
are deeply indebted to all of the composers who contributed to
this project. From us to them, profound thanks.
Keeling's music has been performed, broadcast and recorded by
such musicians as Evelyn Glennie, Fretwork, Opus 20 and the BBC
How Sad Steps, O Moon and My Lute, Awake! were commissioned by
and are dedicated to Virelai. Both pieces were premiered at the
Radovljica Festival in Slovenia in August 2000.
arrangement of Trio, from King Crimson's 1973 album Starless and
Bible Black is for flute, treble viol and bass lute. It was originally
performed by violin, mellotron (flute) and bass guitar.
Für Hermen, by Jacob Heringman, is a written-out improvisation
first played in 1995 during a visit to Jacobs great-aunt,
the musician Hermen Steinert. The piece is dedicated to her.
Malcolm Bruno studied composition in New York with Ursula Mamlok
and David Chaitkin, in London with Jeremy Dale Roberts and in
Paris with Max Deutsch. As associate director of the Taverner
Choir Consort & Players and close associate with Andrew Parrott,
an increasing interest in early music led him in the early 90s
to produce a series for Radio 3 known as Intersections,
which combined early and contemporary music; his Easter on this
album is the the first of three Elizabethan settings originally
heard in that series. Principally working a producer now, he has
just finished a major reconstruction of a Vespers by Pergolesi;
as a composer, he is completing a mass setting for the New York
consort, The Choral Scholars.
Canadian composer Andrew Ager has written extensively for orchestra,
chamber ensemble, choir, and solo instrumental and vocal works.
He is published by Kellman-Hall in Canada and is both a free-lance
commissioned composer and the Composer-in-Residence at Timothy
Eaton Memorial Church in Toronto, a post unique in his country.
105 of Shakespeare is an arrangement for voice and lute of a choral
work written in 1992 as a wedding gift. The short prelude, A Fancy,
is intended to portray some of the mercurial aspects of love,
the nature of which is addressed in the poem.
Contrary by nature, Roy Marks spent much of the eight years he
was at Art School playing the guitar. Falling in love with a world
famous viol player he has of late, thanks to her and his natural
(albeit undisciplined) flair, fallen into the world of Early Music,
but spends his days drawing. Composing music is one of several
mildly creative outlets; Lullaby was written specifically for
a Lute Society competition. It was not placed.
Alastair Greig was born in 1964 and studied music at the Royal
Academy of Music, Sussex University and the University of Birmingham.
His composition tutors have included Oliver Knussen, Michael Finnissy
and Vic Hoyland. During the last decade he has been awarded prizes
for his work in Germany, Poland and Italy and worked in Switzerland
and Croatia.He has received commissions to compose music for BCMG,
ESO, Rolf Hind and the Lyric Quartet in the UK and his music has
been performed at various festivals including Spitalfields (with
Catherine King), Cheltenham, Cambridge, Brighton and the South
Bank in London.
searching for a suitable text to set I was struck by the potential
melancholy of Songe 17. The music reflects what I read as the
sadness within the poem; the instruments comment on the text and
the lute provides a harmonic thread around which the other lines
weave gentle, spare counterpoint. Gestures are pared down to a
minimum and the piece is a study in understatement, the lute closing
the setting questioning, rather than resolving, the resignation
inherent in the voice.
David Stoll was educated at Oxford University and the Royal Academy
of Music, London. His work includes a cello concerto, several
choral and vocal pieces, three string quartets and much other
chamber music. Ex-Chairman of the British Academy of Composers
and Songwriters, Stoll also writes for theatre and the media.
The fair singer
This Marvell setting was written shortly after the opera False
relations about William Byrd, and is a contemporary exploration
of the world of the Dowland lute song. The fair enemy who so captivates
the artist represents not only the beloved but also the beguiling
Sounds of woe
Ignoring Balthasar's advice (Much Ado) to sigh no more and convert
'sounds of woe' into 'hey nonny, nonny', this instrumental is
a lover's lament.
fragment of the mermaids song
Taking its inspiration from the legend of the mermaid who drowns
her lover when she attempts to take him down to her home under
the sea, this instrumental concerns the desire of the world for
reality. The piece is dedicated to Virelai.
Fabrice Fitch was born in France, and was raised in Bordeaux and
Toronto. He studied composition with Brian Ferneyhough and musicology
with David Fallows. His book, Johannes Ockeghem: Masses and Models,
was published in 1997. His music has been performed both in Canada
and in Europe. A CD on the Metier label (MSV CD 92042) includes
performances of his music by Barry Webb, Julian Warburton, Peter
Hill and Ensemble Exposé. He is currently Senior Lecturer
at the University of Durham (UK).
rondeau set here is taken from chapter 22 of Rabelaiss Pantagruel.
is Rabelaiss anti-hero, a Villonesque character who appears
in all of Rabelaiss novels bar Gargantua. A petty thief,
an inveterate prankster and womaniser, he writes this rondeau
to a noblewoman of Paris whom he repeatedly (and ultimately
unsuccessfully) attempts to seduce. (One of his chat-up lines,
Ma dame, saichez je suis tant amoureux de vous, que je nen
peuz ny pisser ni fianter, is entirely characteristic.)
This rondeau is his final gambit; when it fails (inexplicably
he avenges himself on her by playing a particularly dirty trick.
Serafino Calbarsi I: Rondeau de Panurge was commissioned by Virelai,
and is dedicated to my wife Lois - a belated and entirely inappropriate
Serafino Calbarsi (or Serafin Calobarsi) is one of the anagrammatic
pseudonyms of François Rabelais.
translation by Fabrice Fitch
the once to you, most beauteous lady
I made my suit; how ill-mannered were you then
To send me away with no hope of return
As though I had ever done you an ill turn
In word or deed, by ill report or slur.
If my quarrel were so irksome,
You might have said directly (without go-betweens)
My friend, get thee hence
Just this once [For the present is understood].
do you no wrong in discovering my heart to you
Protesting how it is enkindled
By the beauty your attire conceals.
For I seek naught of you, but that in your turn
You cheerfully grant me a bit of the other
Just this once.
Elizabeth Liddle was born in Scotland in 1952. Since then she
has worked as a musician, a writer, a teacher, an architectural
and urban designer, and, most recently, as a cognitive neuroscientist.
The common thread running through these, which also informs her
composition, is the exploration of the relationship between time
memorised these poems of Robert Herrick as an adolescent, and
they have lain in my mind ever since. When Virelai asked for love
songs, it was an opportunity to taste again the sweet agonies
of young love, and to find musical expression for the recollection.
Tombeau started as an experiment with the open string sonorities
of the treble and bass viols, but somehow became infused with
the Proustian taste-memories of the Herrick poems, and became
a kind of tombeau for the bittersweetness of innocence.
Jonathan Chenettes (b. 1954) compositions have appeared
on the ISCM World Music Days in Amsterdam, at the World Harp Congress
in Vienna, at the Bishop Auckland Early Music Festival in the
U.K., and on a national radio broadcast by the St. Paul Chamber
Orchestra in the U.S. He has received fellowships from the MacDowell
Colony and the Rockefeller Foundation's Bellagio Center in Italy,
and several of his scores are published by Boosey & Hawkes
and Theodore Presser. Chenette received a PhD from the University
of Chicago and is Blanche Johnson Professor of Music at Grinnell
College in the state of Iowa, USA.
music for Charles Bests A Sonnet of the Moon
evokes tidal forces through the flow and ebb of melodies that
sometimes approach closely to each other without quite touching
and then draw far apart. In Bests poetic conceit, the rising
tides respond to the pull of the moon, just as the lovers
joy hinges on the nearness of the beloved. Loose imitative relationships
among the musical lines mirror this dependent but changeable joy.
Bryan Johanson, composer and guitarist, is a Professor of Music
at Portland State University (Oregon, USA), where he has taught
since 1978. His compositions have won awards from the Saint Paul
Chamber Orchestra, the Aspen Music Festival, the Esztergom International
Guitar Festival in Hungary, the Festival of August in Venezuela,
and multiple awards from ASCAP. His music has been performed,
published and recorded internationally. His catalogue of works
includes symphonies, concertos, song cycles, choral music, opera
and numerous chamber and solo compositions.
with his Lute is a setting of a song-text from Shakespeares
was founded in 1991 by leading performers in the world of early
music with a desire to illuminate neglected repertoire of the
late middle ages and early renaissance, a fascination of the juxtaposition
of old and new, and in the spirit of exploration and creativity.
made its Wigmore Hall debut in 1993, and has since performed in
Prague Castle, the Manchester Early Music Series, the Magenta
Music Festival, on the Dutch and British Early Music Networks,
and in broadcasts of both old and new music for the BBC.
Virelais debut recording, Renaissance Love Songs, was a
BBC Music Magazine cover mount CD. This attracted the attention
of Virgin Classics, for whom Virelai went on to make a series
of highly-acclaimed CDs - Ther is no Rose: Renaissance music for
the Christmas season; Chansons Nouvelles, devoted to the marvellous
but neglected repertoire of early 16th century Parisian chansons
and dances; and Treasures from my minde: Songs and instrumental
pieces by John Dowland, which was chosen by Gramophone as one
of the Best CDs of 1999.
For the BBC, Virelai has recorded programmes of Dufay chansons,
and of contemporary music by Karlheinz Stockhausen and Malcolm
The four individual members of Virelai count among the worlds
most distinguished performers and teachers of early music, all
of them performing and recording as soloists and as members of
leading ensembles including The Dufay Collective, Fretwork, Gothic
Voices and Musicians of the Globe.