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Posts Tagged ‘Charles I

Composer Biography: Adam de la Halle (c1237-c1288)

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Also Adam e la Hale, and Adam le Bossu (the hunchback), and Adam d’Arras.

Adam de la Halle is probably the most famous of the French trouvère composers and poets. (For more on the difference between troubadours and trouvères, see Composer Biography: Marcabru.) He was one of the last of the trouvères, and one of the few to use polyphony. This is exciting, because it meant that secular music was being done in multiple parts rather than unison, finally following liturgical music’s lead—and being documented.

Adam’s literary and musical works include chansons and jeux-partis (poetic debates), polyphonic rondels, motets in much the same style as liturgical polyphony, and a musical play (Jeu de Robin et Marion), which is considered the earliest surviving secular French musical play. He was the first vernacular poet-composer whose works were collected into a single manuscript, which shows the great esteem in which he was held then and now.

Adam was born in Arras, in northern France along the Scarpe River. The nickname of “hunchback” was probably a family name, as Adam explains that he wasn’t a hunchback himself. De la Halle was a common name (people didn’t have family names yet, and it was usual to take the name of your hometown as a disambiguator). His father, Henri de la Halle (dates unavailable), was a well-known citizen of Arras, and the nickname Le Bossu distinguished his family from other La Halle families.

Adam studied grammar, theology, and music at the nearby Cistercian abbey. He was destined for the priesthood, but renounced his intention and, in 1262, married a woman named Marie (dates unavailable), who appears in many of his songs. Sadly, the marriage didn’t last, and Adam went off to be educated at the University of Paris.

He returned to Arras in about 1270, but Adam and his father soon had a public argument with other citizens of Arras and had to go live in Douai, about a day’s ride away, for a short while. They returned, and Adam became a prominent member of the Confrerie des jongleurs et bourgeois d’Arras, the guild of performers, and the puy, Arras’ literary fraternity.

In 1271, Adam entered the service of Robert II, Count of Artois (1250-1302), and accompanied him when he went to Naples in 1283. Robert II was bringing troops to reinforce the efforts of his uncle, Charles of Anjou (1226-1285), after the disaster of the Sicilian Vespers (a rebellion that broke out at Easter in 1282 and unseated Charles’ family from ruling there).

Charles of Anjou had become Charles I, King of France, when his brother (Louis IX) died in 1270. He’d set up a proper court in Naples with musicians and the like, so he hired Adam away from Robert II. Adam stayed in Naples until 1288, when some think that Adam died (more on that at the end of this post).

Some of Adam’s more important works were written and performed at the Naples court, including Jeu de Robin et Marion, the earliest known French musical play. There will be more about that in a moment.

Adam wasn’t particularly distinguished as a musician, but he was a lyric and epic poet and a dramatist.

The total of Adam’s known works include 36 chansons, 46 rondels de carole (somewhat like a round), 18 jeux-partis (political debate), 14 polyphonic rondeaux (most in three parts), seven motets (five in three parts), one virelai, one ballette, one dit d’amour (a love ditty), and one congè (a song of departure). Most of his works are in the conductus style (for more on conductus, see Composer Biography: Leonin) and he was the only Frenchman of his time to use the polyphonic settings for the rondeau, virelai, and the ballade. His work spans the forms fixes used by polyphonic secular music for the next two centuries.

Adam’s early work wasn’t musical. He wrote a nice piece of theater, Le jeu Adan, also called Le jeu de la Feuillee (the Play of the Greensward) sometime around 1262. In this satirical drama, he introduces himself, his father, and the citizens of Arras with all their various peculiarities; it was intended to amuse his friends as he was leaving for Paris to pursue his studies.

Later, he wrote Le conge (The Departure), expressing his sorrow at leaving his wife and Arras, and there’s an unfinished chanson de geste called Le roi de Sicile in honor of Charles I, which he began writing in 1282, three years before Charles died. Another short piece, Le jeu du pelerin, is sometimes attributed to him. This one mocks his friends for forgetting him after he left Arras.

His shorter poetic works are meant to be accompanied by music. Both his music and literary works encompass virtually all genres of the time, and he is one of the few medieval musicians credited with both monophonic (chant) and polyphonic music. There are monophonic chansons and jeux partis, polyphonic motets and rondeaux, and three plays with musical inserts. The monophonic works continue the older tradition of the courtly lyrics and chanson de geste, and the three-voice rondeaux and the dramatic works are more progressive.

Adam was among the few 13th century composers to apply polyphonic techniques to the various contemporary types of secular music: ballade, rondeau, and virelai. The pieces are very appealing and, in some ways, anticipate 14th century developments.

Like his contemporaries and fellow trouvères Colin Muset (c1210-c1270) and Rutebeuf (c1245-1285), Adam wrote numerous polyphonic rondeaux, ballades, and virelais. He wrote a set of three-part rondeaux in the latter part of the 13th century, but apart from their isolation, these charming works had little in common with most 14th century rondeaux. They were all written in conductus style, note against note, with all three voices singing the same text, none of which held true for the 14th century rondeaux.

The manuscript copy of his works gives the title of “Li Rondel Adan” to a group of 16 pieces that are among the first polyphonic settings of dance songs. Most are rondeaux, although the forms and rhyme schemes are not completely standardized. One of the pieces has the form of a virelai and another is a ballade with an opening refrain.

Adam wrote his most famous piece, Jeu de Robin et Marion, in 1284 or thereabout, and it’s the earliest known French musical play on a secular subject.

The pastoral tale tells, with a great deal of earthy humor, how the maiden Marion resisted a charming knight and remained faithful to her beloved, Robin the shepherd. It’s based on an old chanson, Robin m’aime, Robin m’a and consists of dialog interspersed with refrains from popular songs. The melodies are probably local folk music, and are more fun and melodious than the more elaborate music of Adam’s songs and motets. Robin et Marion is thought by some historians to be the predecessor of the genre of comic opera.

Nearly all of the music in the play is sung by the characters of Robin and Marion, although a little is given to the knight who vainly pursues Marion and to Robin’s cousin Gautier. The music is simple, as befits a bawdy country comedy. Modal rhythms, particularly the first mode (for more on this, see Musical Modes, Part 2: Rhythmic Modes), had been deeply rooted in the Western musical consciousness for centuries already, and so you’ll hear them predominating here too.

Jeu de Robin et Marion was likely welcome entertainment for Charles I and the dispirited French court. Charles died in 1285 and Adam’s dedicated his final work, Le Roi de Secile, to his memory.

A tribute written in 1288 refers to Adam’s death, but he was also reported to be in England in 1306, among musicians at the knighting of Edward, Prince of Wales (later Edward II, 1284-1327). It’s probable that Adam died in 1306 or thereabout, back in Naples, which is now part of Italy.

Renewed interest in medieval music in the 19th century led Edmond de Coussemaker (1805-1876), a pioneer in the study of medieval music, to publish Adam’s complete known works in 1872. Editions of other manuscripts and medieval song repertories followed in the 20th century. Recently, there’s been even more interest in medieval music, and the technology to disseminate it is now incredibly efficient.

Sources:

“A History of Western Music,” by J. Peter Burkholder, Donald Jay Grout, and Claude V. Palisca. W.W. Norton & Co., New York, 2010.

“The Norton/Grove Concise Encyclopedia of Music,” edited by Stanley Sadie. W.W. Norton & Co., New York, 1994.

“The Encyclopedia of Music,” by Max Wade-Matthews and Wendy Thompson. Anness Publishing, Ltd., Wigston, 2012.

“The Concise Oxford History of Music,” by Gerald Abraham. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1979.

“Harvard Concise Dictionary of Music,” by Don Michael Randel. Belknap Press of Harvard University, Cambridge, 1978.

“A Dictionary of Early Music, from the Troubadours to Monteverdi,” by Jerome and Elizabeth Roche. Oxford University Press, New York 1981.

“The Pelican History of Music, Volume 1: Ancient Forms to Polyphony,” edited by Denis Stevens and Alec Robertson. Penguin Books, Baltimore, 1960.

“Music in the Medieval World,” by Albert Seay. Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, 1965.

“Early Medieval Music up to 1300,” edited by Dom Anselm Hughes. Oxford University Press, London, 1954.

“Medieval Music,” by Richard Hoppin. W.W. Norton & Co., New York, 1998.

“Music in the Middle Ages,” by Gustave Reese. W.W. Norton & Co., New York, 1940.

“Companion to Medieval & Renaissance Music,” edited by Tess Knighton and David Fallows. University o California Press at Berkeley, Berkeley, 1997.

“Lyrics of the Troubadours and Trouvères, an Anthology and a History,” translations and introductions by Frederick Goldin. Peter Smith and Doubleday, Gloucester, 1983.

“Chanter M’Estuet, Songs of the Trouvères,” edited by Samuel N. Rosenberg. Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 1981.

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Composer Biography: Alfonso Ferrabosco the Elder (1543-1588)

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Although much of his life was spent as an ordinary court musician, Alfonso Ferrabosco the Elder had moments of notoriety that quietly upset the proverbial British teakettle. He came from a family of musicians and fathered another great family of musicians, and saw the Vatican from the choir loft, France from the home of the Duke of Savoy, and England from Queen Elizabeth I’s court. He also hung out with England’s most famous musicians, including William Byrd, Thomas Morley, and John Dowland.

Ferrabosco was born in Bologna, the son of Domenico Ferabosco (note spelling difference). Domenico (1513-1574) may be the same person who was dismissed from being maestro of the Papal choir at St. Petronio for being married and who later became maestro at a Roman church. That older Ferabosco published a volume of madrigals in 1542 and contributed others to anthologies. HIs song Io mi son giovinetta was especially popular and Giovanni Pieluigi da Palestrina (c1525-1594), probably the most famous musician and composer of the era, based a Mass on it.

Other composers in the family include Domenico’s cousin’s kids, Constantino (fl c1550-1600) who worked in Nuremburg and published a book of canzonettas, and Matthia (1550-1616) who was Kapellameiser in Graz and composed canzonettas and villanellas.

Alfonso spent part of his early life in Rome with his notorious father, surrounded by music and musicians. As a young adult, he also spent some time in Lorraine (France) as a court musician for Charles of Guise (1524-1574).

Alfonso went to England for the first time in 1562, probably with his uncle, and found employment in Elizabeth I’s court. There he stayed for the next 16 years. But a dark cloud seemed to follow him everywhere. He made frequent trips to Italy, but neither the pope nor the Inquisition approved of his time in England, which was actively at war with Roman Catholic countries. While in England, Alfonso lost his Italian inheritance, and later, when he returned to Italy, he was charged with crimes in England (in absentia), including robbing and killing another foreigner. He returned to clear his name successfully, but left England in 1578 and never returned.

While in England, Alfonso the Elder had a family. There’s no record of a marriage, so it’s possible that his children were illegitimate. One of these kids, Alfonso the Younger, was born in 1578 and lived in England until his death in 1628. He was a lutenist, viol player, and singer, and was employed at court from 1592. He (the Younger) became teacher to Princes Henry and Charles (later Charles I), and was granted a pension and annuity by James I in 1605. Under Charles I, Alfonso the Younger also became Composer of Music to the King. From 1605 until 1611, he worked on the music for seven masques, along with playwright Ben Jonson (c1572-1637) and architect Inigo Jones (1573-1652).

Some of Alfonso the Younger’s works were published in a book of Ayres (1609) along with more conventional lute songs. His vocal music was similar to his father’s music in both somberness and style. His fantasias and In Nomines (for more on this genre of music, see my blog on John Taverner) are distinctive among his instrumental music, which also includes dances for viols and pieces for lute. Alfonso the Younger had three sons who were also musicians, another Alfonso (c1610-1660), a viol and wind player who took over his father’s appointments; Henry (c1615-1658), a singer, wind player, and composer, who was a musician until 1645 and then went off on a military expedition to Jamaica, where he was killed in 1658; and John (1626-1682), who was an organist and composer at Ely Cathedral from 1662 and whose works include several services, anthems, and harpsichord dances.

At any rate, after founding a musical dynasty, Alfonso the Elder left for Rome in 1580. Elizabeth I tried to get him to come back to England so fervently that some sources suggest he was her spy, and that she was so anxious for his return because she needed information (after all, she had William Byrd and Thomas Tallis to write music for her). There isn’t much more than circumstantial evidence of this, though, and he refused to return to England.

Alfonso the Elder wrote “madrigalian” motets and simple Latin hymn settings in a style similar to those of William Byrd. This was a style that had appeared in England in the 1580s when the English mania for all things Italian reached its height. Examples of this mania can also be found in the poetry of Edmund Spenser (c1552-1599) and Philip Sidney (1554-1586).

Italian manuscript collections had reached England with Alfonso the Elder in 1562, but it took a while for tastes to turn to the new style. And although he’s only given tiny little biographies in the music history texts, his music was included in anthologies by the British, Italians, and Frenchmen. Not many can say that. And madrigals soon became the most prevalent type of composition in England. He has to get credit for bringing the madrigal to England.

Alfonso the Elder’s style was more conservative than famed Italian madrigalists Luca Marenzio (c1553-1599) or Luzzasco Luzzaschi (c1545-1607), but it suited the more uptight English tastes. Most of his madrigals were for five or six voices, were light in style, and they ignored the Italian musical developments, such as chromaticism and word painting. They were described by Thomas Morley (c1557-1602) as technically skillful when he published several of Ferrabosco’s works in 1598 (10 years after Ferrabosco’s death).

Alfonso also wrote sacred music, including motets, lamentations, and several anthems, all a capella (without instrumental accompaniment). He also wrote instrumental music, including fantasias, pavans, galliards, In Nomines, and passamezzos for a variety of instrumental combinations, including lute and viols.

While in England, he worked hard to interest English musicians in Italian music, and although his style was conservative, he is the composer most generously represented in Musica Transalpina, a compilation of Italian madrigals translated into English and collected by Nicolas Yonge and published in 1588 by Michael East (c1580-1648).

In total, Ferrabosco wrote more than 60 sacred works, mostly motets and lamentations for five and six voices. Technically, he was most influenced by Orlando de Lassus (c1532-1594, biography to come). In turn, he inspired William Byrd (1543-1623, biography to come) and other English composers. Most of the texts he chose are sad and his melodic lines reflect his preoccupation with plaintive and meditative subjects and emotions. Perhaps he homesick for Italy.

In the larger sense of music history, his work wasn’t as important as that of other Italian madrigalists, although he influenced them with what he’d learned from the English. It certainly also worked the other way, as he was the only Italian madrigalist in England at the time, and without his efforts, Byrd would have had no teacher in the style.

He published two books of five-part secular madrigals in 1587 and wrote 70 more in five or six voices. His style is simple compared to others of his time—he was admired for skill rather than for innovation.

Ferrabosco wrote a few chansons, Latin songs, fantasias, and dances for the lute, and some fantasias and In Nomines for viols.

In the last years of his life, Alfonso was court musician to the Duke of Savoy in Turin. He died in Bologna at the young age of 45.

 

Sources:

“The Norton/Grove Concise Encyclopedia of Music,” edited by Stanley Sadie. W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 1994.

“The Concise Oxford History of Music,” by Gerald Abraham. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1979.

“A Dictionary of Early Music; from the Troubadours to Monteverdi,” by Jerome & Elizabeth Roche. Oxford University Press, New York, 1981.

“Harvard Concise Dictionary of Music,” by Don Michael Randel. The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1978.

“The New Grove High Renaissance Masters,” by Gustave Reese, Jeremy Noble, Lewis Lockwood, Jessie Ann Owens, James Haar, Joseph Kerman, Robert Stevenson. W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 1984.