in vocal sextet and an organo di legno celebrate Christmas music of the 16th century. The centerpiece is the Officium natalis Christi by the Munich court chapel master Orlando di Lasso. The program will be supplemented with Advent motets by his contemporaries Palestrina, Vittoria and others. Lasso’s Officium natalis Christi was originally notated in a single large choir book, from which all the singers read together. At 26. and December 27, there shall be a unique opportunity to experience the music again in this performance style. Since it is currently not possible to stand close around a choir book while singing, it is projected onto a large screen so that it can be read with sufficient distance. The audience, whether in the Barfüsserkirche or at home on the livestream, will enjoy not only hearing all the voices from the choir book, but also seeing them in the beautiful historical notation!
Ivo Haun – alto, tenor; conductor | Doron Schleifer – cantus, alto, sextus | Charlotte Nachtsheim – cantus | Matthieu Romanens – tenor, quintus | Rui Stähelin – tenor, quintus, bassus | Carlos Federico Sepúlveda – bassus | Aki Noda – organo di legno | Elizabeth Rumsey – organization | Oren Kirschenbaum – livestream
Officium natalis Christi (Communio) – Orlando di Lasso from Cantate!
27.12. 2020 Basel, Barfüsserkirche
Thomas Christ (TC): Great singers from Brazil are known to us from the music world, but we know little about the early music scene in South America. How did you find your way to Renaissance and Baroque music there?
Ivo Haun (IH): My path to early music was not a direct one. I first began my studies at university with classical guitar and started singing only two years later; at first as a minor subject, but gradually singing played an ever greater role in my life.
My teacher at the time thought that my voice was very suitable for baroque music and so I began to study more of this repertoire. At the same time I also sang in a choir and gradually the singing replaced the guitar. Not only did I enjoy singing more, but I also saw better prospects for my career.
TC: Is the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis known in your country of origin? How did you find your way to Basel?
IH: In Brazil there are some early music festivals and many teachers who studied in Basel or The Hague, for example. In this small environment, of course, the Schola is very famous. When I moved to São Paulo in 2009 to sing in the choir of the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra, I met Marília Vargas, a soprano who had studied at the Schola. She became my singing teacher and soon we realized that studying in Basel would be a very good idea.
TC: You have been associated with early Baroque music and also Baroque opera for a number of years and have also performed in prominent formations and ensembles, but the Baroque world is very different from the virtuoso vocal art of the Renaissance. Where does your love or preference for music of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance come from?
IH: Interestingly, I used to have very little contact with music before 1600 in Brazil. It was only during my studies in Basel that I discovered a fascination for earlier music. On the one hand, I am fascinated by the fact that this music demands great intellectual challenges from the performers and at the same time uses highly refined means of expression to touch the emotions of the listeners. I find the fact that Renaissance music is not yet so established in the music business and therefore offers more room for (re)discovery particularly exciting. For example, improvisational practice, which is not normally associated with “classical” music, is an important but little practiced aspect.
TC: In contrast to instrumental performance, singing and especially speech singing is closely connected with body language, with supporting gestures. Was rhetoric and also acting technique part of your training?
IH: Yes, I have had the opportunity to learn a little bit about historical acting technique during my studies and also afterwards, and I try to enrich my performance or my appearance as a musician with this knowledge as often as possible. The goal of any rhetorically driven artistic performance is to touch, teach, and entertain. In order for the content of our performance to have its full effect on the audience, the physical design plays a crucial role.
TC: For the music layman, the musical sources of early music are not very productive and probably only convertible for the insider with a lot of improvisation practice. Can you tell us something about the improvisation technique, which nevertheless tries to stay true to the original?
IH: I think that’s one of the most fascinating aspects of Renaissance music. Unlike the music of the 20. and 21st century, it was not the task of a Renaissance composer to write down precisely all aspects of musical performance. The notated music of this period is to be understood more like the tip of an iceberg (as the musicologist Nino Pirrota wrote a few decades ago). The music that is actually produced or performed requires performers to have highly virtuosic ornamentation skills as well as compositional skills. In other words, the notated music is to be understood as a sketch that the musician must enrich or even add other voices to, as in Gregorian chants (and other secular genres). This is what we call today Contrapunto alla Mente. “Staying true to the original” thus had a very different meaning back then.
TC: You brought your guitar from Brazil – do you now only accompany yourself with the Renaissance lute?
IH: Yes, after singing took the place of the guitar in my life many years ago, I found a perfect accompaniment in the Renaissance lute. In the coming years I plan to perform more often with the lute and the audience of ReRenaissance will also be able to experience me as a lutenist in September 2021.
TC: One last question I like to ask connoisseurs of medieval and Renaissance music: While Baroque music has found a wide audience in recent decades, Renaissance compositions still serve a niche market. Has something already changed in this regard – as is currently the case in Basel – or will something change?
IH: I have already experienced this development in my ten years in Basel (on myself and at the same time in my environment). In recent years, several students of the Schola have discovered an interest in Renaissance music and teachers such as Anne Smith and Federico Sepúlveda have given very important impulses in this direction. It’s a slow process, but we can already see results.
For 45 years I always celebrated Christmas in Manchester; but the corona virus makes a trip there impossible for us. On the other hand, it spares us the wretched Victorian music that the British seem to prefer for their Christmas celebrations. Instead, we may hear Advent music by Lassus, Palestrina, and other composers of the late 16th century. That comes out better.
And what makes it even more exciting: that we can sing along if we want to. I will definitely be there to take part in Basel’s Christmas festivities. As I write, the entire world seems to be celebrating the election of Joe Biden: all of a sudden, all channels are full of positive news after a long year of continuous gloomy news. I fully expect that we can look forward to a better 2021; and what better way to celebrate it than with songs?
(Translation: Marc Lewon)
1st Toccata del quinto tono – Andrea Gabrieli (1532/33-1585)
2nd Officium natalis Christi (Introit and Alleluia) – Orlando di Lasso (1530/32-1594)
Puer natus est nobis
Et Filius datus est nobis
Cantate Domino canticum novum
Quia mirabilia fecit
Gloria patri (Falsobordone by Giovanni Matteo Asola)
Puer natus est nobis
Et Filius datus est nobis (instr.)
3. Rex pacificus (Incipit)
4th Psalm 109: Dixit Dominus (Falsobordone) – Giovanni Matteo Asola (1532?-1609)
5. rex pacificus – Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (c1525-1594)
6th Toccata à 4 Voc. – Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562-1621)
7th Officium natalis Christi (Sequentia) – Orlando di Lasso
Natus ante saecula
Per quem fit machina
Per quem dies et horae labant
Quem angeli in arce poli
Hic corpus assumpserat fragile
Hoc praesens diecula loquitur
Nec nox vacat novi sideris luce
Nec gregum magistris
Gaude, Dei genetrix
Christe, Patris unice
Et quorum participem
Ut ipsos divinitatis tuae
8th Te maneat semper – Hermann Finck (1527-1558)
9th Magnificat primi toni (Primus versus) – Hans Leo Hassler (c1564-1612)
10. o magnum mysterium – Tomás Luis de Victoria (c1548-1611)
(Cantus diminutions by Ivo Haun after Giovanni B. Bovicelli)
11th Cantate Domino – Adam Gumpelzhaimer (1559-1625)
12. intonatione sesto tono – Andrea Gabrieli
13th Officium natalis Christi (Communio) – Orlando di Lasso
Omnes fines terrae
Italic = Gregorian chant
Historical Museum Basel