The donkey crown

Animals & Creatures invite
Sun 25.06.23 Theme 17:45 Concert 18:15

Historical Museum Basel

Detail Gänsebuch, St. Lorenzkirche Nürnberg 1507, fol. 186r

The donkey crown


n coordination with the Music Museum’s exhibition “animal!”, ReRenaissance is putting together a concert program centered around animals in Renaissance music.

Around Michel Beheim’s song of “animals & creatures”, which complain in an animal council that musicians make instruments out of them, instrumental pieces from the Glogau songbook are heard, in which animals stand as godparents for the titles: “peacock’s tail”, it says, and “rat’s tail”, “cat’s paw” and “donkey’s crown”.

In addition, ensemble ricercare by well-known composers, such as “The Dog” by Heinrich Isaac, as well as all kinds of songs in which animals play the main roles. A concert to neigh, bleat, bark or chirp!

Frithjof Smith – Zinc
Marc Lewon – voice, lute, viola d’arco
Masako Art – Renaissance Harp
Caroline Ritchie – Grand Violin
Catherine Motuz – trombone, vocals; direction

Introduction at 17:45 by Isabel Münzner, HMB

At 3 p.m., you can join a curated tour with Isabel Münzner at the Music Museum: Are Animals Musical? (In German, admission plus CHF 5) See also hmb


Hare, Albrecht Dürer, 1502


Teaser for “The Donkey Crown” Animals & Creatures Invite

Teaser for “The Donkey Crown” Animals & Creatures Invite; with Marc Lewon; Video Grace Newcombe


Interview with Caroline Ritchie, gambist

Thomas Christ: To begin with, we would like to know how you found your way to the medieval fiddle and finally to the Renaissance viol.

Caroline Ritchie: I actually moved from cello to viola da gamba pretty quickly – the medieval fiddle came much later. I started learning the cello when I was four, but I’ve always been fascinated by period instruments. I remember my parents taking me to a concert when I was about six years old, with works by Heinrich Schütz. A viola da gamba was also part of the instrumentarium and I was so enthusiastic about the instrument and the music that something inside me said: someday I would like to learn this instrument.

I had my first viola da gamba lesson at 13 and loved it. But first I concentrated on studying the cello. It wasn’t until I was doing my bachelor’s degree that I realized it was possible to have a career in early music. I went on to study baroque cello and viola da gamba in London, but it was curiosity to learn more about the performance practice of the 16. and 17th century, which led me to Basel and finally to the medieval fiddle and the Renaissance viol.

TC: Can you tell us something about the history of the viola da gamba? The layman thinks it is the forerunner of the cello, but it is said that in the 16th century there were also viols without soundposts, which were more like a lute.

CR: In short, the viola da gamba is more closely related to the lute family, especially the vihuela, than to the violin family. Any resemblance to the cello came later, but is not entirely coincidental. There were also viols shaped like the violin, and I think it can be argued that the two families adopted attributes from each other in the 16th century, and their development was not as separate as we like to think. The generally accepted thesis, however, is that the viola da gamba (the vihuela d’arco) originated when the bowing technique of the Arabic rabab was transferred to the flat-bridge vihuela da mano. This new instrument was then brought to Italy from the Iberian Peninsula through dynastic and political connections.

TC: You are at home in both the Baroque and Renaissance musical worlds. Renaissance musicians are more often perceived as connoisseurs of music history, as musicologists who master several instruments and make an effort to prepare their pieces musically. Is this distinction typical or rather the exception?

CR: I hope that my colleagues who are involved in baroque performance practice will place as much value on these skills as the Renaissance musicians do! I think that here in Basel we are lucky that the education at the Schola Cantorum puts a lot of emphasis on research, working with sources and own editions … These things should be the basis of any work in performance practice, no matter what period of music. The difference is that medieval and Renaissance music often requires a lot of background work and preparation to bring a piece to the concert stage, while later repertoire can be as simple as going online and downloading an edition, perhaps without checking its quality. So the way Renaissance music is performed requires a great investment on the part of the performer, but for later repertoire it is just as important to keep going back to the sources and asking what we are doing and why.

TC: Often medieval or renaissance musicians lack reliable sources for their playing or for their playing technique. Are the images and paintings of those eras useful or even welcome guides for your art?

CR: Yes, of course, but it’s also important to learn to read a painting critically: What does the painter want to show here? Does it have a political, religious or allegorical meaning? Are the people depicted musicians or studio models posing with instruments? As with any source material, we must learn to think analytically and evaluate the evidence scientifically.

TC: One of my favorite questions revolves around the reception of Renaissance music today. The works of the Baroque period have enjoyed great popularity in concerts and on opera stages for several decades, whereas the extremely rich and varied Renaissance music still largely struggles in a media niche. Are we facing an upheaval or a departure?

CR: It’s an interesting question for me because I grew up in the UK. There, thanks to the Anglican choral tradition, Renaissance music is still a part of our musical life. Every church choir is familiar with polyphony and sings works by Tallis and Byrd and others. But the influence of the choral tradition does not necessarily benefit the understanding of Renaissance music. The unbroken tradition has sold us a certain sound world that has more to do with the centuries in between than with the way this music was originally performed.

I think we are at a turning point. It is important and great that so many musicians are returning to the sources and exploring techniques such as intavolization, improvisation, self-accompaniment, ensemble singing, solmization – it will be interesting to see how this affects the reception of Renaissance music in our musical culture today.



Martin Kirnbauer

“I’m in!” – Animals & Creatures invite
Column by Prof. Martin Kirnbauer

Peacock’s tail, cat’s paw, crane’s beak, donkey’s crown, and hunter’s horn (whoops, that doesn’t quite belong, does it?) – varied are the names of Renaissance musical pieces that refer to “animal things.”

Well, animals have to endure a lot when music is made, literally giving up their skin and hair and much more so that musical instruments can be built (for timpani skins, bow hair, strings, etc.).

Yes, even the naming of the instruments is often inspired by animals: the trombone, for example, is etymologically composed of the Latin words for cattle (bos) and for singing (canere).

In other words, music also invites us to reflect on the intimate relationship between humans and animals, and to do so in an easily digestible way. Because don’t worry, “Animals & Creatures Invite” is a vegan concert experience.

And as a vegetarian, at least, I’m looking forward to the animal-inspired program.



230619 Program Book Web June Korr

” Program “
Orpheus and the animals
1. N – Firminus Caron (fl. 1460-1475) “Adieu Fortune”; Glog 272
2. the rat’s tail – anonymous; Glog 113
3. the cat’s paw – anonymous; Glog 13
4. the adder tail – anonymous; Glog 25
5. the donkey crown – anonymous; Glog 147
* * *
6. i came ains mals czu ainem tag (Osterweise, no. 115) – Michel
Beheim (c1416-c1474); Heidelberg, University Library, Cod. pal.
germ. 312, melody: fol. 123v-124r, text: fol. 45r-46v

All birds in the air
7.-9. In the May – Ludwig Senfl (c1490-1543), Ott 1534
10 Wohl kumbt der Mai – Hans Newsidler (1509-1563); Hans
Newsidler: Ein Newgeordent kuenstlich Lautenbuch. Nuremberg:
Johannes Petreius, 1536
* * *
11. hoho dear Hans – Georg Forster (1510-1568); FTL part II
12. the best bird I know – Georg Forster; FTL Part II
13 Presulem sanctissimum – Georg Forster, FTL Part II
* * *
14. the peacock tail – Paulus de Broda; Glog 22
15. the crane beak – anonymous; Glog 137
16. the silk tail – Firminius Caron; Glog 8
17. the peacock tail – anonymous; Glog 208

* * *
18. poor little owl – Caspar Othmayr (1515-1553); FTL
Part III
19. poor little owl – Ludwig Senfl; FTL part III
20. me poor little owl – Jobst von Brandt (1517-1570); FTL
Part III
* * *
21. the Gutzgauch sat on the fence – Lorenz Lemlin (1495-1549);

On the hunt
22. the jeger horn – anonymous; glog 132
23. the fox tail – anonymous, glog 24
24. the dog – Henry Isaac (c1450-1517)
Trium vocum carmina. Nuremberg: Hieronymus Formschneider,
25. the dog avoids me before the light – anonymous; FTL part I
* * *
26. there hunts a hunter before the wood – anonymous; FTL part II
* * *
27 Es taget vor dem Walde – Ludwig Senfl; Ott 1544
28. it days before the forest/no eagle in the world – Arnold von
Bruck (c1500-1554); Ott 1534
29. ah Elslein liebes Elselein / Es taget vor dem Walde – Ludwig
Senfl; Ott 1544
30. ah Elslein dear Elselein / it’s day outside the forest / when
I of the morning – Ludwig Senfl
Basel, University Library, F X 1-4
* * *
31 Well, well, young and old – Ludwig Senfl; FTL Part II



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