In 564 Vicenzo Ruffo published “Capricci in musica”, a collection of virtuoso and spirited pieces for an instrumental trio. In these arrangements of well-known madrigals, his very own “capricious” style of composition becomes apparent. The originally sung voice is quoted and forms the musical framework around which the other voices entwine in a modern “virtuoso manner”. In doing so, Ruffo integrates elements of dance music and resorts to bass models, which he lets wander across all voices. In doing so, he creates music that sounds catchy and surprising at the same time. A three-part recorder consort portrays Ruffo and the instrumental music from his environment in dialogue with keyboard and percussion instruments.
Mira Gloor – recorder | Rachel Heymans – recorder | Catalina Vicens – percussion, keyboard instruments | Tabea Schwartz – recorder; direction
Mira Gloor – recorder player
Thomas Christ (TC): Mira Gloor, you learned the recorder from an early age at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, the worldwide center for early music. Can you briefly tell us about your longtime loyalty to your instrument?
Mira Gloor (MG): Yes, the recorder has actually been with me almost all my life. I started playing the flute when I was four years old and since then my love for this versatile instrument has always grown.
Many had to learn the recorder in school in the past and therefore have a very ambivalent relationship to the instrument. Since I was never in this situation myself and always enjoyed great lessons with many different teachers, I had a happy start into the world of recorder music. And although I later also had violin lessons, the recorder was always my first priority. It was clear to me very early on that this instrument would accompany me throughout my life.
TC: You received your education primarily at the Schola Cantorum, but as a basiliensa you must have belonged to a vanishingly small minority at this school. How did you experience the international training competition, was it enriching or burdensome?
MG: I think that even today you can count the number of Basel students at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis on one hand. For me, this was a completely new experience at the beginning, since I had perceived the music school of the Schola during my childhood as a completely “normal” Basel music school and of course knew nothing else. It was only during my studies that I became aware of the exclusivity of this special place. The internationality of my fellow students was an enormous enrichment for me. The cultural diversity, the different languages and also the mixture of different age groups gave me a lot to take with me on my personal path. It is often said that the Schola is probably the worst place to learn German or even Swiss German. However, for me, besides all the musical experiences, it was also the best language school.
TC: Early music, and also modern compositions, as well as folklore, are in your repertoire, as far as I know. Are there clear preferences based on literature or do these different musical worlds complement each other in your musical life?
MG: It’s important to me to maintain a certain curiosity on the instrument, and that includes somewhat more unusual programs from time to time. The different styles help me to remain musically and technically flexible and, for example, to discover completely new sounds in contemporary music. With my two ensembles, I enjoy immersing myself in the different worlds of Renaissance consort music and early and high Baroque chamber music.
TC: The recorder is known to have failed to make the step into classical music, was it too quiet, too intimate, too delicate or simply too old-fashioned? Can you tell us something about the history of the instrument?
MG: The fact that the recorder fell more and more into the background from the second half of the 18th century certainly has to do, among other things, with its sound characteristics and also the range. The softness and sweetness of the “Flauto Dolce” was probably simply no longer in such demand, and the larger orchestras and concert halls demanded more powerful instruments. Without its slumber, however, the recorder would not have been able to celebrate a renaissance in the early 20th century. Thus, this breather was perhaps just a great fortune for the current recorder world, since since the 20th century until today many composers have again dealt with the instrument and numerous exciting works have been created.
TC: One last question that I always like to ask: Baroque music has enjoyed great popularity for several decades, while the music of the Middle Ages as well as the Renaissance still leads a niche existence with a growing but far smaller fan club. Can you imagine that our time is also ripe for a renaissance boom in music?
MG: It is nice to see that the music of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance is able to fascinate more and more listeners. Especially here in Basel there is already a great concert offer and also an interested audience. I think that this trend will certainly continue in the coming years and I am pleased to be able to contribute a small part to it myself.
Those familiar with the Abendmusiken concert series at the Predigerkirche, which (albeit for many years longer) runs parallel to the ReRenaissance concerts, know that a concert devoted to a single composer is usually more satisfying than one in which works by other composers are mixed in. I find that the same is true for earlier music: at first glance, one might think that a concert dedicated to the music of only one composer, say Ockeghem, might be a bit monotonous. However, I have repeatedly found that in the course of the event one comes much closer to the essence of the matter itself when nothing is added that could distract from it.
For this concert, the focus is not only on one composer, Vincenzo Ruffo, but even on just one collection, the Capricci of 1564. Ruffo was an immensely prolific composer of masses, motets, and especially madrigals. The Capricci are a collection of only 23 pieces for three instruments – the only instrumental music surviving from him. And we almost lost this book too: the only complete copy is in the Biblioteca Vaticana. It is, however, a wonderful collection of diverse pieces: Dances, abstract fantasies, paraphrases on Italian madrigals and French chansons; examples of what an instrumental ensemble would do with different originals. Needless to say, I have never heard a concerto before that focused on Ruffo or even his Capricci. But in anticipation of it, my mouth is already watering.
(Translation: Tabea Schwartz & Marc Lewon)
1st Il Capriccioso – Vicenzo Ruffo (c1508-1587)
Capricci in musica a tre voci, Milan (Francesco Moscheni) 1564, no. 8
2. trinitas in unitate – Vicenzo Ruffo
Capricci in musica, No. 20
3rd La Gamba in Tenore – Vicenzo Ruffo
Capricci in musica, No. 5
4. la gamba in basso, e canto – Vicenzo Ruffo
Capricci in musica, No. 13
5th Recercada […] del primo tono – Claudio Veggio (c1510-c1543)
Piacenza, Archivio della Chiesa Collegiata, Manuscript Castell’Arquato, fol. 18v-20v
6th O felici occhi miei – Jacob Arcadelt (c1507-1568)
Il primo libro di madrigali d’Archadelt a quatro, Venice (Antonio Gardano) 1539, fol. 47
Diminutions by Rachel Heymans and Catalina Vicens
7. o felici occhi miei – Vicenzo Ruffo
Capricci in musica, No. 7
8. quand’io pens’al martire – Vicenzo Ruffo
Capricci in musica, No. 2
9. vi’ [Villano] recercada – Claudio Veggio
MS Castell’Arquato, fol. 24v
10. quand’io pens’al martire – Jacob Arcadelt
Il primo libro di madrigali, fol. 54
Diminutions by Tabea Schwartz
11. dormend’un giorno – Philippe Verdelot (c1485-c1532)
Le dotte et eccellente compositioni, Venice (Girolamo Scotto) 1540, fol. 18
12. dormend’un giorno – Vicenzo Ruffo
Capricci in musica, No. 11
13. la danza – Vicenzo Ruffo
Capricci in musica, No. 15
14 Piva – Vicenzo Ruffo
Capricci in musica, No. 22
15. hor che il cielo – Cipriano de Rore (c1515-1565)
Di Cipriano Rore i madrigali a cinque voci, Venice (Girolamo Scotto) 1542, fol. 11
16. hor che il cielo – Vicenzo Ruffo
Capricci in musica, No. 14
Historical Museum Basel