obald important events had to be given gravitas and prestige, the wind instrumentation came into its own in Renaissance Europe. Theoretically, this was also the purpose of the Ministriles, who played zincs, trombones, shawms and dulcians for the Duke of Lerma in the church. But even if their sound left the audience in awe, their repertoire, composed of the “greatest hits” from Josquin to Marenzio, did not always convey only the solemnity of the occasions for which they played. To the gentle Spanish Pange Lingua, the Ministriles added love songs that ranged from the noble to the bawdy, as well as rollicking dance music and even a Battaglia, complete with musical cannon shots and war cries!
Catherine Motuz – trombone, direction | Katharina Haun – zinc | Ann Allen – pommer | Susanna Defendi – trombone | Giovanni Graziadio – dulcian | Co-direction: Elizabeth Rumsey
Catherine Motuz – lecturer and specialist for early trombone
Thomas Christ (TC): How does one get from McGill University in Montreal to study early music in Basel?
Catherine Motuz (CM): The interpretation of early music can already look back on a lively tradition in the New World as well. Montreal has one of the most active scenes for historical performance practice, with about two dozen professional ensembles and high-profile programs at McGill University and the Université de Montréal. At McGill, a baroque opera is even performed once a year (usually alternating annually between Handel and Monteverdi). Many of the faculty who founded these courses and then taught in them had studied in Europe in the 1970s and 80s and then established new courses in North America.
In my case, there was a zinc and trombone ensemble at McGill University, directed by Douglas Kirk. Thanks to his knowledge of musical skill, musical repertoire, and performance practice, I first came to enjoy early music as a second-year bachelor’s student and was immediately hooked. Dr. Kirk is also the principal researcher for the repertoire of the upcoming ReRenaissance concert. He traveled to Lerma himself and has published his research findings on performance practice as well as the edition of the later of the two manuscripts from which we will play. After playing in his ensemble, I completed a master’s degree in early music with historical trombonist Dominique Lortie before joining the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis in 2004 for advanced studies with Charles Toet.
TC: We are familiar with the Baroque or natural trumpet from performances of early music works, but know little about the “sackbut,” the Renaissance trombone. Can you tell us something about the history of the origin of the slide trombone?
CM: The trombone was developed around the middle of the 15th century, about the time it became common to use voices in the bass register in vocal polyphony. Shortly before 1400, instrument makers learned how to bend a brass tube by filling it with lead and melting it out after bending. This allowed the construction of longer, i.e. lower brass instruments, and with the addition of a double slide, the trombone was born. Of all the early instruments, it has changed the least in the last 550 years. The basic design has remained the same. In the modern trombone, only the bell and bore have become larger, and additions such as a tuning slide and water key have been added. The biggest difference is in the mouthpiece: the old mouthpiece had sharp edges that trap the air and make the sound a bit more diffuse, so it blends better with strings and voices, and it’s also easier to vary timbre and articulation.
TC: In early drawings, trumpets and tines are less frequently depicted, but trombones and tines are more frequently depicted together – is there a specific reason for this?
CM: The cornett is essentially the soprano instrument of the trombone family because, like the trombone, it is able to imitate the human voice in its tone quality, articulations, and variations in dynamics and timbre, and of course because it is fully chromatic. The early trumpet was anything but chromatic and therefore could not duplicate vocal parts as the trombone and cornett could.
TC: More than the other instruments of early music, the trombone comes closest to the human voice – how do Renaissance compositions take this fact into account in sacred choral works or in the distribution of voices in instrumental works?
CM: During the Renaissance, the trombone was often mixed with voices in polyphonic contexts, either doubling a voice with a singer (what we call colla parte) or playing one voice alone while other voices were sung. In addition, most early sources that we know were played by trombones contain vocal music. An early example is the print of a short motet by Antoine Brumel from 1533, on which is written by hand: “Was guett auff Tromaunen ist”. Later sources such as the Copenhagen, Regensburg, and Lerma partbooks are full of vocal music that we know was also used instrumentally. The trombone is mentioned in the instrumentation information in the accompanying documents or on the pieces themselves. In the wake of a more modern style in the seventeenth century, the trombone began to be played in an increasingly instrumental idiom, but even here the diminutions and short ornaments are usually still oriented toward vocal techniques. From about 1620 on, a completely instrumental style develops in which the range of voices goes far beyond the octave or tenth, the frame in which vocal parts were usually set, and in which large leaps occur.
TC: Early music is considered more intimate and quiet in contrast to the compositions of later periods. Does this mean that the Renaissance trombone was used more on important festive occasions, outdoors, or in larger instrumental ensembles?
CM: The trombone is one of the few instruments that belongs to both loud and quiet ensembles. The “Alta Capella” is the loud ensemble – originally with shawms and trumpets (with and without slide), later with tines, trombones and often still with shawms or bassoons. These did play outdoors on important festive occasions, such as processions and from city and church towers, but these occasions made up only a small part of the trombonist’s work. Since its dynamic range extends even to the softest notes, the trombone could play in quiet ensembles, along with viols and plucked instruments played indoors. There is an interesting letter from a 17th century tine player named Luigi Zenobi who advises wind players to cultivate their soft playing more than their loud playing, because it is the soft playing that will be heard in the chambers of princes!
However, most of the repertoire for wind instruments dates back to the time when they were played in church. In Spain, where the manuscript on which our program is based was found, there is evidence of colla parte playing, but the winds also played in alternatim, that is, they alternated with the choir in playing the stanzas of a psalm, magnificat, or hymn. Instruments were mainly used on feast days, but this does not mean that they were rarely used: In 16th century Spain, there was on average about one church feast per week!
Over the years, I have written far too many encyclopedia articles and have therefore developed a special interest in “misentries,” especially those referring to non-existent composers. The earliest article of this kind in a music encyclopedia that I know of is in Robert Eitner’s famous QuellenLexikon (1900-1904), where he presents “Bergier, Ungay” as a composer of the 16th century. Although the article is very serious and factual, there can be no doubt that Eitner must have immediately recognized the title of Crequillon’s most famous piece, Un gay bergier (“a gay shepherd”). It will be good to hear the piece in this concert, although the source used here, the Lerma manuscript now in Utrecht, renders it as Un gay vergier (“a gay orchard”).
The name Lerma may not be familiar to many readers. Wikipedia helps us out with the fact that there are places called Lerma in Mexico, Italy and Argentina, as well as in Spain. The Spanish Lerma is also described there as a village, albeit as the place of origin of the famous Arlanza wine (which received the DOP quality seal in 2007). In the years around 1600, however, the village benefited enormously from the legal activities of the Duke of Lerma, the main political advisor to King Philip III, who had a huge ducal palace built and converted the local church of San Pedro into a well-equipped college – so well-equipped that it employed a large number of musicians, including many wind players.
So Lerma is a highly appreciated term for every modern shawm player, slide trumpeter or tine player, because two magnificent “choir books” were used in thiscollege. “Choral books” may be a strange word, for these codices were certainly not intended for choral singing: There is no text in either book, and they were clearly used by the wind players. But their layout corresponds to that of choir books, in which all the parts of a piece (between four and seven) are arranged on a single double-page spread. These books are a real treasure trove for our musicians, and we should take this opportunity to listen to a cross-section of their contents.
etzung: Marc Lewon)
1. [Cancion a5] – ? Phillipe Rogier (1560-1596), DK2, fol. 61v-62r
London, British Library Add. MS 31922, fol. 14v-15r
2. entre vous fille[s] – Clemens non Papa (c1510/15-1555/56),
DK1, fol. 36v-37r
3. un gai vergier – Thomas Crequillon (c1480/1500-1557),
DK1, fol. 50v-51r
Diminutions by Giovanni Bassano, 1551/52-1617
4. [Fanfare] – [Pavana] – La galera – La donsa – anonymous
Fanfare: Misericordie (Burgos Cathedral); DK1, fol. 60v and 63r
5. amor deh dimmi come – Giovanni Maria Nanino (1543/44-
1607), DK2, fol. 128v (incomplete)
6. [Questa si bianca neve] – Giovanni Maria Nanino,
DK2, fol. 127v-128r
7. [Cancion] A5 “De” – ? Phillipe Rogier DK2, fol. 52v-53r
8th Tantum Ergo (Pange Lingua) – Johannes Urreda (Wreede)
(active 2nd half of 15th century), DK2, fol. 22v-23r
9. pange lingua gloriosi – Francesco Guerrero (1528-1599),
DK2, fol. 23v-24r
10. pange lingua gloriosi – Francesco Guerrero, DK2, fol. 24v-25r
11. pange lingua gloriosi – Johannes Urreda, DK1, fol. 27v-28r
12. adieu mes amours – Josquin des Prez (c1450/55-1521),
Harmonice Musices Odhecaton A, Ottaviano Petrucci, Venice
1501. fol. 16v-17r
13. [Adios mi amor] – Francesco Guerrero, DK2, fol. 83v-83r
14. vous seulement (Adieu mes amours) – Simon Morea
(active 1555-1558), DK1, fol. 117v-118r
15. [Madonna mia pietà] – Orlandus Lassus (1532-1594),
DK1, fol. 66v-67r
16. la de las medias – La de las dames – La Francesca – anonymous,
DK1, fol. 67v-68r
17. cum jegunantes – Alonso Lobo (c1555-1617), DK2, fol. 37v-38r
18. tirsi morir volea – Freno Tirsi il desio – Cosi moriro – Luca
Marenzio (1553/54-1599), DK1, fol. 122v-125r
19. [Cancion] – ? Phillipe Rogier, DK2, fol. 63v-64r
20.pabana francesca – anonymous, DK1, fol. 56v-57r
21. [La Bataille] – Clement Janequin (c1485-1558) / Philippe Verdelot
(1470/80-before 1552), DK1, fol. 139v-141r
Sources of the program:
– Utrecht, Universiteitsbibliotheek, Hs. 3 L 16 “Lerma Codex” (DK1)
– Lerma, Archivo de San Pedro, Ms. Mus. 1 (DK2)
Historical Museum Basel