n 1536, a small treasure arrived in Basel from Paris in the luggage of the Swiss theologian, pedagogue and lexicographer Johannes Fries: a fingering chart for the transverse flute, personally noted by him. Perhaps he had learned the instrument in Paris, or perhaps he had mastered it before his trip to France and had already played it in his native Switzerland. In any case, he must have known the prints of the Parisian Pierre Attaingnant, because as a lover and connoisseur, it cannot have escaped his notice that Attaingnant had explicitly intended his collection of chansons from 1533 for recorders and transverse flutes. The delicate and expressive sound of the traversoconsort and the melancholy chansons of his contemporaries seem to have left a lasting impression on Fries and accompanied him far beyond his trip to France.
Johanna Bartz – transverse flute; direction | Mara Winter, Tommaso Simonetta and Francesca Grilletto – transverse flutes | Rui Stähelin – lute, voice | Marc Lewon – organization
When I was ten, I added the flute, on which I didn’t really like to play earlier music before 1800, but preferred to improvise, play my favorite songs from the radio or practice later music. The way to the traverso was rather coincidence than self-determined: When I was 14 years old, one of the teachers at the time at my home music school in Neustrelitz, Mecklenburg, suggested that I learn this instrument because there was just a new teacher for it and he thought I was “kind of the type for it”.
What fascinated me was that my traverso and baroque music teachers took a completely different path than I had known before, namely they showed me that music could also be thought of and conveyed structurally – for the first time I listened to the relationship between bass and upper voice, the harmonies were suddenly no longer something abstract from theory lessons, and the music suddenly took on rhetorical elements that I felt were more tangible than the somehow mystified musicality with which one was born or not. After that, one thing led to another – my first youth baroque trio, the tense waiting for the next Monday evening “Early Music – Morbach live” – radio broadcast of the rbb (Rundfunk Berlin Brandenburg), change of school to Berlin at the age of 17, failed entrance exams and new beginnings, study of the flute, instrumental pedagogy and transverse flute.
I became acquainted with the Renaissance traverso through the recordings of Kate Clark and the publications of Anne Smith. My teachers Christoph Huntgeburth in Berlin and Barthold Kuijken in Brussels gave a lot of space to my interest in Renaissance music. Christoph even built me my first Renaissance transverse flute! In 2013, I came to study in Basel, where I was able to study the repertoire from 1700 onwards in the classes of Marc Hantaï and the 16th century with Anne Smith.
TC: From corresponding bone finds we know that the flute is about as old as mankind, thus flute playing belongs to the most original needs of human forms of expression, but we know little about the history of the origin of the occidental transverse flute. Is it possible to outline some key points in a few sentences or even to show a reference to the French Renaissance?
JB: Little is known about the origin of the Western transverse flute.
In the case of some bone flute finds from the Upper Paleolithic of 40,000 years ago, it cannot be ruled out that some of the instruments were also played crosswise – but there is no evidence for this (yet).
There is some dubious evidence from late antiquity about transverse-blown flutes, but it is often assumed that early Asian traversos such as the Chinese di or Indian bansuri reached Europe via Byzantium in the tenth century. Flutes can certainly be traced in the medieval German-speaking world, and there especially in the area of sung poetry. An interesting source are the illustrations of flutists in the Cantigas de Santa Maria from the late 13. or early 14th century. Although there is always debate about how realistic the instruments or musical scenes depicted are, it is interesting to know that the Cantigas originate from an environment of fusion of Arabic, Jewish and Christian musical culture at the Spanish court, and at the same time contain more than a hundred pieces from other European cultures such as Italy, England, Germany or France. In France and Flanders at this time, the flute is also mentioned as a military instrument, but also appears in the circles around Guillaume de Machaut in the France of the 14th century around. After that, around 1400, it is depicted there mainly as an angelic instrument. The use of the traverso in the 15th century (in France) has been researched very little so far: Except for Swiss Confederates who played the instrument as mercenaries in combination with a drum, e.g., in Burgundy in the 1470s, and some written mentions, the source material is rather thin. Only at the beginning of the In the 16th century, the traverso became widely used not only as a military instrument, but also in consort throughout Europe.
TC: As you know from your concert activities, baroque literature has enjoyed great popularity for several decades, including in particular baroque opera, singspiels, but also instrumental works in old performance practice. The rich musical literature of the Renaissance has yet to make this breakthrough, can you share a prediction or your insights on this?
JB: Based on my concert activity, I can confirm this – as an active musician, I play the repertoire from 1700 onwards much more often than Renaissance music. However, a change has been taking place for a few years now – there are more and more young accomplished ensembles for Renaissance music and the expressive language of this era is becoming more and more natural. I believe this is due to a steadily growing number of audio and video productions and, above all, to the simplified access to these recordings through the Internet, but also to the digitization of the sources. Unfortunately, many concert organizers and festivals react very hesitantly to these developments. It always takes pioneering ensembles or musicians to open the doors to pave the way for something similar to enter the prestigious festivals. We see such developments again and again in the field of baroque music. Unfortunately, in my opinion, the public is given too little credit – often genuine musical discoveries fall victim to more economic thinking. This debate is nothing new, but interestingly, the problem remains topical …
Until a few years ago, the Renaissance traverso was played by only a few specialized musicians, who founded their own ensembles and consorts. Since a few years the instrument enjoys an increasing popularity and it is more and more naturally used as an ensemble instrument or appreciated as a possible instrumentation for virtuoso diminutions. There is a great overall interest and enthusiasm among flutists, which has given the instrument a tremendous boost in new and virtuoso professional players and many enthusiastic amateur musicians.
So my “prognosis” at least about the spread of the Renaissance traverso is a rather optimistic one!
TC: You also devote yourself to experimental and electronic music. Are these completely new fields of experience or also crossover projects in which, for example, melodies from the Middle Ages or the Renaissance appear in new arrangements and thus also reach a new audience?
JB: Both, actually. In circles that have nothing to do with older music or historical instruments, I encounter a lot of interest. It becomes especially beautiful when honest curiosity comes from both sides, namely also from the “classical” or “early music” side – then, in the best case, a dialogue and ideas for new things emerge.
TC: You are not only a prize-winner of numerous international competitions, but as an “instrumental pedagogue” you also dedicate yourself to the basis of music education. Did I understand that correctly and can you briefly tell us something about your credo in terms of music education in our society?
JB: We live in an age in which musical appropriation processes should actually have reached the masses, but have not in many parts of society. Music and instrumental lessons or cultural events are reserved for the economically better off. Wherever there are no massive and regular subsidies for access to instrumental lessons in elementary school that go beyond one-day participation in education projects, entire generations of concertgoers, music lovers, and ultimately also the next generation of professionals are lost (this has, by the way, been noticeable at many European music academies for some years now). Musical specialization and excellence is unnecessarily often confused with demarcation – demarcation of an elite from marginalized groups, cultural circles, amateurs, or simply a broader mass. I am not so deluded as to believe that early music or renaissance music will ever become a mass phenomenon (although that is an interesting utopia, why not actually …), but easy access to this music should basically be provided for with more self-evidence. I am convinced that this music should belong to everyone, but this also means that we as cultural creators must create points of reference for the audience – so that the music does not degenerate into a piece of “undead” culture in need of preservation, but is perceived as genuine, individually relevant and worthy of protection.
In the spirit of “if we share it, it becomes more”.
Who was the purest composer of all? Some would call Mozart. Others vote for Hildegard von Bingen. I could make a convincing case for Orlando Gibbons or Webern. But certainly the wreath of honor belongs to Claudin de Sermisy. Every note has its place; every gesture is expressive; and never does he hustle for attention. For us, it represents the absolute quintessence of Parisian chanson in the 1520s and 1530s. Most of these pieces last only two or three minutes; but each one of them circumscribes and formulates a world of its own. In any case, the listening experience of his music is like a cool shower on a hot day: you suddenly realize how unnecessary the fuss is that other composers often make.
It is therefore a special pleasure to have a concert dedicated to this repertoire and at the same time setting up Claudin at all the key points of the program. On top of that, it is a special pleasure to hear him alongside his colleagues, some of whom were far more famous than he, others practically unknown. And we will all be able to decide for ourselves whether Claudin is really the purest of them all.
Pierre Attaingnant knew his clientele quite well: in his collection of 1533, he printed the song texts under all the pieces, but also added a very specific instruction that the music was particularly suitable for an ensemble of traversos or recorders. And in the right musician’s hands, these chansons are almost nothing without their lyrics. I cannot repeat often enough: each piece is characterized by extreme precision; and again: you would not want to change a single note. Enjoy.
(Translation: Marc Lewon)
1. je ne puis pas – Guillaume Le Heurteur (fl 1530-1545)
Vingt et sept chansons musicales a quatre parties, Paris: Pierre Attaingant, 1533, no. 10, fol. 6v-7
2. jamais ung cueur – anonymous
Vingt et sept chansons (Attaingnant), no. 17, fol. 10
3. adieu mes amours – Josquin des Prez (1450/55-1521)
Rome, Biblioteca Casanatense, MS 2865 (“Canzoniere di Isabella d’Este,” also “Chansonnier Casanatense”; Ferrara, c1485), fol. 154v-156
4. pren de bon cuer – Pierre de Manchicourt (1510-1564)
Vingt et sept chansons (Attaingnant), no. 13, fol. 8
5. parle qui veult – Claudin de Sermisy (1490-1562)
Vingt et sept chansons (Attaingnant), no. 3, fol. 2
6. on dit quamour – Pierre Vermont (1495-1533) or Pernot Vermont (1495-1558)
Vingt et sept chansons (Attaingnant), no. 21, fol. 12
7th Pavane – Gaillarde – Pierre Attaingnant (1494-1551)
Six gaillardes et six pavanes avec treze chansons musicales a quatre parties le tout nouvellement imprime, Paris: Pierre Attaingnant, 1529, Pavane: No. 6, fol. 4v; Gaillarde: no. 2, fol. 1v
8. madame a soy – Clement Janequin (1485-1558)
Vingt et quatre chansons musicales a quatre parties composees par maistre Clement Jenequin, Paris: Pierre Attaingnant, 1533, no. 5, fol. 4v
9. en attendant – Clement Janequin
Vingt et quatre chansons (Attaingnant), no. 4, fol. 3v-4
10. il me suffit du temps – Clement Janequin
Vingt et quatre chansons (Attaingnant), no. 1, fol. 1v-2
11. hellas, hellas amour – Guillaume Le Heurteur
Vingt et sept chansons (Attaingnant), no. 14, fol. 8v
12. voyant souffrir – Jacotin Le Bel (1490-1555)
Vingt et sept chansons (Attaingnant), no. 22, fol. 12v
13 Amours, amours – Nicolas Gombert (1495-1560)
Vingt et sept chansons (Attaingnant), no. 7, fol. 4v
14th La Brosse – Pierre Attaingnant
Neuf basses dances, deux branles, vingt et cinq Pavennes, avec quinze Gaillardes, Paris: Pierre Attaingnant, 1530, no. 9, fol. 3v
15th Tourdion – Pierre Attaingnant
Neuf basses dances (Attaingnant), no. 7, fol. 3
16 Pour quoy donc ne – Pierre Passereau (fl 1509-1547)
Vingt et sept chansons (Attaingnant), no. 24, fol. 13v
17. les yeulx bendez – Pierre Vermont or Pernot Vermont
Vingt et sept chansons (Attaingnant), no. 6, fol. 4
18. jectes moy sur l’herbette – Johannes Lupi (1506-1539)
Vingt et sept chansons (Attaingnant), no. 16, fol. 9
19. par ung matin – Guillaume Le Heurteur
Vingt et sept chansons (Attaingnant), no. 12, fol. 7
20. hayne et amour – Pierre Vermont or Pernot Vermont
Vingt et sept chansons (Attaingnant), no. 23, fol. 13
21 Allons ung peu plaisant – Guillaume Le Heurteur
Vingt et sept chansons (Attaingnant), no. 9, fol. 5v
22. basse danse – Pierre Attaingnant
Neuf basses dances (Attaingnant), no. 1, fol. 1v
23. elle veult donc pas estrange – Claudin de Sermisy
Vingt et sept chansons (Attaingnant), no. 20, fol. 11v
24. sbon amour merite recompense – Jacotin Le Bel
Vingt et sept chansons (Attaingnant), no. 28, fol. 16
25. je navoye point – Claudin de Sermisy
Vingt et sept chansons (Attaingnant), no. 26, fol. 15
26 Pavane – Gaillarde – Pierre Attaingnant
Six gaillardes et six pavanes (Attaingnant), Pavane: No. 2, fol. 3v;
Gaillarde: no. 5, fol. 2v-3
Historical Museum Basel
Historical Museum Basel