he friendship between Kettenacker and the House of Amerbach was the focus of the opening concert in June 2020. A good year later, this track into Basel’s musical heritage is taken up and followed up. In connection with Kettenacker, Bonifacius Amerbach’s affinity for music may have been literally in its infancy. This program is dedicated to his own collection that accompanied him into adulthood. He was responsible for the transmission of an extensive manuscript with music for keyboard instruments. The music of this concert offers a glimpse into the international sound world of humanism around Amerbach’s Basel tablatures for clavicytherium, Renaissance harpsichord and organ.
Corina Marti and Sofija Grgur – Clavicytherium, Renaissance harpsichord and Gothic organ | Co-conduction: Tabea Schwartz – Gothic organ by Walter Chinaglia, Como 2012
Corina Marti – specialist for the music of the Middle Ages and early keyboard instruments
Thomas Christ (TC): What are the paths to becoming a specialist in early music, through music history or through curiosity about unknown instruments?
Corina Marti (CM): I never wanted to be a specialist, but a musician, an artist – I wanted to play the recorder and harpsichord all my life. It was simply my curiosity that took me from the 18th century to the 11th century, then connected to that, of course, the instruments, and then I started teaching medieval/renaissance keyboard instruments 16 years ago.
Two years before, I already started teaching recorder for Middle Ages and Renaissance here in Basel at the Schola – there one quickly “grows up” and researches and learns and then probably becomes a specialist.
TC: The music of the Renaissance, and even more so that of the Middle Ages, often has to be assembled and reconstructed from fragments and minimal existing fragments in order to be revived – isn’t it similar with the early keyboard instruments? Can you tell us something about the forerunners of the harpsichord and their replicas? If building plans are missing, what is the role of late medieval painting?
CM: Painting plays a big role, of course, and you always have to be aware of whether it’s a good representation of the instrument or more of a fantasy. There is a construction plan from 1440 for the clavisimbalum – but even there you have to look and pay close attention to understand what makes sense and what does not. Another important role is played by the descriptions of these instruments – fortunately, there is quite a bit. Fortunately, for the Renaissance period we have original instruments that have come down to us, such as the clavicytherium from the late 15th century, which will be heard in the August concert.
TC: Our ReRenaissance series has focused in particular on English, French, Italian and German Renaissance music – you have worked extensively on Polish compositions of the period. Are there significant differences or does Poland belong musically to the Northern European canon in this period?
CM: I think there is always a special “taste” in music, it depends on the composers, no matter what century. For example, there are small special compositional techniques and then also ways in which something was intabulated that can differ and possibly give an idea of what is typically Italian, for example.
Poland, oh yes, unfortunately I have not been requested for Polish music* here at ReRen – but my duo partner here for this concert Sofija Grgur and I are already working on a next program that will rather take us back to the “East”. I played a lot of Polish music, thanks to my husband Michal Gondko. Together with me he leads the ensemble La Morra. Through him and through musicologist friends I became very familiar with Polish sources, or better actually with Central European ones – because this music is a European one, nothing else. We find, whether from the 14th, 15. or 16th century, in the Polish / Central European sources the music from Italy, France, Germany, etc.. Just what I love, the whole of Europe! Wonderful. There is no typical Polish style.
TC: Performers of early music, whether recorder or keyboard instruments are regularly virtuosos of improvisation. Could you imagine participating in so-called cross-over projects, i.e. having Renaissance pieces and Renaissance instruments perform in a jazz formation? Or should we refrain from such experiments?
CM: That’s something everyone has to decide for themselves. I’ve been in some productions that were some kind of “mixes” crossover – if the concept is good and the music is good, why not.
TC: The last question is somewhat aimed at early music audiences – baroque music, as you know, has been experiencing a gratifying boom in audiences for a few (few) decades, and baroque operas in particular are also in vogue throughout Europe. However, the rich treasures of music between 1400 and 1600 still lie largely hidden. What do you think is needed for a professional mediation of this early music?
CM: This does not apply to me and the ensemble La Morra, we have been playing around the globe for over 20 years – our programs have always been from the 14. or 15. or 16th century – if this music was not en vogue, we would not have traveled so much and would not have played so often, our numerous award-winning CDs also prove this. There is still a lot of music lying dormant that should be played again: yes, that’s true, but there is just as much music still lying dormant from the 18th century.
In my opinion, what hurts the business are people who think that medieval and Renaissance music is easier to perform, is less virtuosic. Then there are concerts that are simply technically on a low, unprofessional level, if possible still with costumes, so from the haze of medieval markets. THAT damages our industry and the music – I’d rather go to a baroque opera.
* Editor’s note: A program of music by Mikołaj Gomółka for the Polish Psalter scheduled for January 2021 has been postponed until June 2022.
Swiss libraries are particularly rich in 16th-century keyboard tablatures: from the extensive tablature of Fridolin Sicher in St. Gall to the smaller but surprisingly useful Clemens Hör tablature in Zurich and the various sources in Basel. In the course of my research, they have all given me surprises and delights over the years, although 16th century keyboard music has never been the direct focus of my studies. But the many dimensions of musicality evidenced by these manuscripts are astonishing; and, of course, I warmly welcome a concert devoted exclusively to the performance of these arrangements.
(Translation: Marc Lewon)
1st Harmonia in sol – Hans Kotter (1485-1541)
Basel, University Library, Ms. F IX 22
(“Tabulatur des Bonifacius Amerbach”), fol. 9r-10v
2. only nerrisch sinn is now in me – Sixt Dietrich (1494-1548)
St. Gall, Abbey Library, Ms. 462
(“Songbook of Johannes Heer of Glarus”), pp. 164-165.
3. o dulcis Maria – Hans Kotter
Tablature of Bonifacius Amerbach, fol. 55r-56r
4th Ami souffre que je vous aime – Pierre Moulu (c1484-1550)
Tablature of Bonifacius Amerbach, fol. 78r-78v
5th Praeludium in la – Hans Kotter
Tablature of Bonifacius Amerbach, fol. 56r-58r
6. in may that lusty seson – Hans Kotter
Tablature of Bonifacius Amerbach, fol. 59v-60v
7th Spaniel dance – Johannes Weck (c1495-1536)
Basel, University Library, Ms. F IX 58
(“Tabulatur des Hans Kotter”), fol. 1r-2r
8. praeambulum super d – anonymous
St. Gall, Ms. 530
(“Tabulatur des Fridolin Sicher”), fol. 80r
9. virgo prudentissima – [Josquin des Prez (c1450/55–1521)]
Tablature of Fridolin Sicher, fol. 80v-81r
10. another dance – Johannes Weck
Tablature of Hans Kotter, fol. 3v-4r
11. j’ai mis mon coeur – anonymous
Tablature of Hans Kotter, fol. 15r-15v
12. hopper dance – Johannes Weck
Tablature of Hans Kotter, fol. 2v-3r
13. according to will din – Paul Hofhaimer (1459-1537)
Tablature of Bonifacius Amerbach, fol. 82v-83r
14. tandernach uf dem rhin lag – Paul Hofhaimer
Tablature of Bonifacius Amerbach, fol. 24v-27v
15. the long’ Ave Maria – Josquin des Prez
Tablature of Fridolin Sicher, fol. 92v-93v
16. elslin dear elselin – Ludwig Senfl (c1490-1543)
Basel, University Library, Ms. F X 1-4
(“Liederbüchlein des Bonifacius Amerbach”) fol. 16r
17. lamorra – Henry Isaac (1450-1517)
Tablature of Fridolin Sicher, fol. 93v-94r
18. adieu mes amours – Josquin des Prez
Tablature of Bonifacius Amerbach, fol. 40r-41v
Historical Museum Basel