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Saturday morning quotes 6.22: Alt-Early Music III

October 15, 2016

so-hipThere has been quite a bit of discussion of late about just what is historically-informed performance—or HIP—and also how the term is applied and by whom?  The issue fits squarely into our discourse of Alt-early music and, due to an impending rehearsal and urgent family matters, we’ll only touch on the topic briefly in today’s post.  To atone for the brevity, we offer a small musical example of how we research repertory but stretch the artificially imposed and sometimes uninformed constraints of conventional scholarship by reaching back to avail ourselves to the tools and techniques skilled musicians have always used.

First, a definition of historically-informed performance from an organization calling itself SoHIP:

“There are many ideas of what HIP consists of, but at its most basic level, it means performing music with special attention to the technology and performance conventions that were present when a piece of music was composed.”

“The truth is that majority of what we consider historically informed performance practices are speculative, and based on the best information available to the musicians and scholars of our era.”

The composer Pierre Guédron (c. 1570  – 1620) was a singer at the Chapelle Royale as early as 1588 and was active as a composer of airs and ballets de cour at the courts of Henri IV and Louis XIII.  In 1601, he succeeded Claude Le Jeune as the maître de la Musique de la Chambre du roi, a post which he maintained through 1613 when it was bequeathed to his son-in-law, Antoine Boësset.

The air “Bien  qu’un  cruel  martire” was published in a polyphonic version in 1608 in Airs de cour à 4 et 5 parties, and also in a version for voice and lute published the same year in the first volume of the Airs de différents auteurs mis en tablature de lute par Gabriel Bataille (Bataille, 1608, f. 27′ – 28).  For the arrangement for solo voice and lute, Bataille’s publication transposed the polyphonic air to a key that suited the format, with the stratospheric voice line in what we affectionately call “dog-whistle range” and the lute part arranged in nominal f-minor, assuming a lute tuned in our modern standard of “G”.  There also survives a version of the triple-time air in nominal c-minor fingering for the lute as found in the lute book of Edward, 1st Lord Herbert of Cherbury (c. 1582 – 1648), which is in the collection of The Fitzwilliam Museum (MU MS 689 f. 69v).  The piece, labeled “Courante” is speculatively attributed to a person named Belleville, but is clearly an arrangement of Guédron’s air—or perhaps vice-versa.

When the modern editor André Verchaly published his collection of airs, he transposed the keyboard transcription of the lute part to fit the key of the voice part in Baitaille’s original print.  This was a justifiable compromise acting upon the best information available at the time, but the transposition created a lasting misconception about the pitch and tuning of the lute from the time of Guédron.  Historically-informed musicians know better than to take a voice part from an old print or manuscript written in a particular clef at face value.  Transposition was and is implicit.

Throughout history, musicians have always placed the pitch of a sung lyric in the range that 1) best suits their voice, and 2) best communicates the text.  Following the historical examples, we transposed the air as found in Bataille to match that of the Courante as found in the Herbert manuscript.  The scores may be found here and the recording from our 2005 CD Divine Amarillis may be found here.

Bien qu’un cruel martire me rende languissant
Et que plus je soupire, plus mon mal va croissant.
La cause en est si belle, que soufrant le trespas
Cent fois pour elle, Je ne m’en plaindrois pas.

Tout les maux dont se trouve mon esprit agité
Ne servent que de preuve à ma fidélité
Dont la cause en est si belle, que soufrant le trespas
Cent fois pour elle, Je ne m’en plaindrois pas.

J’ai cela d’avantage sur les autres amants
Que jamais mon courage ne s’étonne aux tourments
Car la cause est si belle, que soufrant le trespas
Cent fois pour elle, Je ne m’en plaindrois pas.

Je ne crains leurs supplices Plustot je les chéris
Et les tiens pour délices les souffrant pour Cloris,
Cloris qu’on voit si belle, que soufrant le tres pas
Cent fois pour elle, Je ne m’en plaindrois pas.

Even though a cruel martyrdom makes me listless
And the more I breathe, the greater my ill.
The cause of it is so lovely that were I to suffer death
A hundred times for her, I should not complain.

All the ills by which my mind is perturbed
Serve only as proof of my faithfulness.
The cause of it is so lovely that suffering death
A hundred times for her, I should not complain.

I have this advantage over other lovers:
My courage is never astonished by torments.
The cause of it is so lovely that suffering death
A hundred times for her, I should not complain.

I fear not their torture; rather, I cherish it
And view it as a delight, suffering it for Cloris,
Cloris, seen so beautiful that suffering death
A hundred times for her, I should not complain.

2 Comments
  1. Timothy Swain permalink

    Well, what a…(jerk) I just saw the emails & they are disgusting — I’d ignore him. They don’t deserve a response. (I wrote you an earlier email today…you are very much appreciated, disregard his latest blast…!!!) –Tim Swain

  2. An insightful post, as always.

    To those who prefer criticizing posts on other forums: I agree with Ron that you should do this here using a respectful tone. The other readers have a right to know. And please don’t forget to include our comments in your sweeping swipe, which “only seems logical” to me. Merci beaucoup.

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