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Shakespeare: The Sweet Power of Musicke

New York Consort of Viols
Tom Klunis
Sheila Schonbrun

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The New York Consort of Viols Fortunato Arico, Bass Viol Lucy Bardo, Tenor and bass viols Judith Davidoff, Bass viol Grace Feldman, Treble viol Alison Fowle, Treble viol Sheila Schonbrun, Soprano Tom Klunis, Actor Edward Smith, Harpsichord ln Praise of Music 1 “Song’” from Henry VIII – Act III:I Pavan — Richard Dering (1580-1630) 2. Where the bee sucks — Robert Johnson (1583- 1633) 3. Greensleeves - (Anon.) 4. Fantasia — Thomas Lupo (d. 1628) 5. Sonnet 128 Barafostus Dreame - Thomas Tomkins (1573- 1656) Love 6. Pericles, Act I:i:81-83 Touch me lightly — Tobias Hume (d. 1645) 7. Coranto: Heigh Ho Holiday — Anthony Holborne (d. 1602) Romeo and Juliet Act II:2:15-22 8. When Daphne from fair Phoebus did fly — (Anon.) lnstrumental lnterlude from the Manchester Viol Book (mid 17th century with Variations by Jacob van Eyck (1590-1657) 9. Bonny Sweet Robin — Thomas Simpson (1582-c. 1625) 10. Sonnet 116 (over Fortune my Foe) — (Anon.) Death 11. Richard II, 11:i:5-14 Death — Tobias Hume 12. O Death, Rock Me Asleep - (Anon., arr. Michael Jaffee) 13. Romeo and Juliet V:ii:101-115 14. Ophelia’s Songs How should I your true love know (Walsingham- Anon.) They bore him barefac ‘d on the bier (Lord Thomas and Fair Ellinor) 15. Robin is to the greene wood gone — Manchester Viol Book 16. Pavana Ploravit — Anthony Holborne Life 17. Hamlet, Act II:ii: 323-327 Life — Tobias Hume 18. Fantasia No. 4 — Thomas Ravenscroft (c. 1590-c. 1633) 19. The Queenes Command — Orlando Gibbons (1583-1625) 20. Whoope, do me no harme — Manchester Viol Book 21. Merchant of Venice Act V:i:69-88 Alman—Thomas Tomkins Twelfth Night, Act I:i:1-7 The Sweet Power of Music is appraised in some thirty lines of verse, spoken by Lorenzo to Jessica while musicians play, just before Portia arrives home at Belmont in the last scene of The Merchant of Venice. The speech is Shakespeare’s most extensive single discourse on music, which he calls for and refers to frequently in his plays. The varieties of music on this recording would have been familiar to his contemporaries, particularly to the aristocrats and courtiers, since indoor, courtly music was generally written for the viols, the lute, or the virginals—a smaller version of, as well as a synonym for, the harpsichord. When Shakespeare wrote Sonnet 128, he seems to have thought that the “jacks’ were the wooden keys of a virginals rather than the mechanisms that plucked the strings when keys were depressed. The tunes are popular as well as courtly, the most popular being those old ballad favorites Walsingham, Bonny Sweet Robin, and Greensleeves. Although originally thoroughly secular love ballads, the three tunes were used for other texts adapted to religious purposes as early as the sixteenth century—as settings for versified psalms, carols, or hymns. Shakespeare makes use of this practice as a metaphor for the contrast between Falstaff’s words and his “disposition’” in The Merry Wives of Windsor when he has Mistress Ford remark that “”they do no more adhere and keep place together than the Hundredth Psalm to the tune of Greensleeves. “ His only other reference to the tune is also in The Merry Wives, where, in the last scene of the play, Falstaff, wearing the buck’s head prefaces his embracing of Mistress Ford with the invocations: “Let the sky rain potatoes; let it thunder to the tune of Greensleeves. It is pertinent in both episodes to recall that ‘Lady Greensleeves’ was a euphemism for a woman of easy virtue. Bonny Sweet Robin uses the same tune as Robin is to the greene wood gone; the original words to this ballad are lost, unless Ophelia’s “for bonny sweet Robin is all my joy” is the last line of one of its stanzas. Walsingham was popular well before the spoliation of the shrine of Our Lady in that Priory near Norwich in 1538. Ophelia’s ‘”How should I your true-love know’” echoes the ballad text; the tune was used for versified psalms. The dance music includes three of the principal kinds of court dances described by Thomas Morley, a famous musician and probable friend of Shakespeare, near the end of his A Plaine and Easie Introduction to Practicall Musicke (1597). These are, from the slowest and stateliest to the fastest and most vigorous, the Pavan, the Alman, and the Coranto. Morley writes that the Pavan is 'a kind of staid music ordained for grave dancing," the Alman, though faster, is also a "heavy dance (fitly representing the nature of the people whose name it carrieth) so that no extraordinary motions are used in dancing of it," and the Coranto involves a good deal of "travising'" (i.e: traversing) and "and turning." --S.F. Johnson Sixteenth and seventeenth century England showed the flowering of viol consort music and viol solo compositions. Viols were a fashionable import from Italy, and the ability to play the viol was the hallmark of a truly wellrounded noble man or woman. Some of England's greatest composers contributed to the large and beautiful repertoire for viol ensemble, later to culminate in the celebrated fantasies of Purcell. The clear timbre of the viol made it the ideal vehicle for the intricate imitative counterpoint of the Ravenscroft fantasia or the incisive cross-rhythms of Holborne's dances and Dering's pavan. The solo literature satisfied the great demand for recreation in the form of playing for one’s own pleasure when consort partners were unavailable. The variations on Greensleeves are an example of a popular genre of divisions on ground basses, often performed without accompaniment. Many of these divisions were meant to be models for players to use in learning to improvise. Van Eyck’s variations on Daphne are another such example. The other viol solos on this record were written in tablature, to facilitate the playing of chords, many of them using five and six strings.. The tablature showed the player where to place his fingers on the frets, enabling him to play without stopping to read notes. Tobias Hume was a master of this kind of writing, and his implied two and three voice compositions anticipated those of Bach by a hundred years. A typically English genre of writing in this period was the consort song, of which: we present two examples. The balance achieved. Between the strings and the voice is more successful than with modern strings because the transparent quality of the viol tone, and the expressive Nature of the viol makes for a gratifying give and take between singers and instrumentalist. The solo songs, with words by the bard himself, probably prompted. W.H. Auden to write,There is no other period of English vocal music, perhaps, in which both the lover of words and the lover of song are so equally satisfied.” The keyboard music In Shakespeare’s time again reflects the dominance of some of Britain’s finest writers Barafostus Dreame (Barrow Foster’s Dream) is a more elaborate example of a set of variations than the Greensleeves, but is in the same tradition. --Judith Davidoff
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