Sweeter than Others

Sweeter than Others
An evening with A Golden Wire
January 25 | 8pm
Zürcher Gallery, 33 Bleecker Street

Nola Richardson, soprano
Arnie Tanimoto, viola da gamba
Parker Ramsay, harp

“Some Consorts of Instruments are sweeter than others, as the Harp and Base-Vial agree well.” Francis Bacon

When Arnie Tanimoto and I first worked together on a continuo gig in 2017, we were captivated by the sounds our two instruments produced in tandem. We ate up the the resonance, warmth, and sensitivity which seemed perfectly suited to approaching repertoire of the seventeenth century. What repertoire? Indeed, there arose an issue: there is no music – that is music written specifically for – our two instruments. And yet we know from paintings, letters and various testimonies that the two instruments were often played together, and apparently even pleasurably so.

And so, in absence of a musicological trail of breadcrumbs, we decided to do as musicians did in times of yore and go with what we know. The music of Marin Marais and Ste Colombe was our starting place, as it is home territory for Arnie’s virtuosic technique and his expertise in music of the French baroque. It was in this period in France where the viola da gamba came into its own as a soloistic and expressive instrument which Bach would come to use in the St Matthew Passion. As for me, I was interested in instrumental from the Tudor era, and exploring how it is plucked instruments were incorporated into repertoire normally thought to be only for viols or voice. My own training as an organist fed me a steady diet of Tallis, Byrd and their contemporaries, all of whom appear in delightful sources such as the Dow and Baldwin Partbooks. I was desperate to revisit them and see what could be done to bring them back to life as they might have been in age when they were written.

The middling territory is where things got fun, and remains our primary area of pursuit as various lines of inquiry came up: Whence the origin of the sumptuous colors of Marin Marais? How did instrumental and consort music proceed into the 17th Century? What of the English Civil War? What of the Restoration? What of the constant migration of musicians in and out of France and England? Tonight’s program is a product of just a few of these explorations.

The Dow Partbooks, much like the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, testify to the musical tastes and religious sympathies of those holding the pens. Recusant Roman Catholics such as Byrd, Parsons and Mundy, eager to preserve music of the Latin rite and maintain artistic connections with the Continent, left behind fascinating insights into the geographic networks from which music sprang. After all, over the course of the 17th Century, there were numerous Exoduses of musicians and artisans out of Britain to the continent. John Dowland is known for having spent time in France, Italy and Denmark, even performing acts of espionage on behalf of Sir Robert Cecil. And keyboardists such as John Bull and Peter Phillips are often cited as symbols of Catholic emigration, as they took refuge in the Spanish Netherlands to work but also confer with organists such as Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck and Girolamo Frescobaldi.

But less well known are the stories of those musicians who left England with viols on their backs to work in the courts of the Hapsburgs. Daniel Norcombe found himself in the Court of Denmark from 1599-1601 (around the same time as Dowland) and the court of Brussels from 1602 until his death in 1653. Henry Butler went to Spain in 1623, where worked in the Chapel of Ferdinand IV. William Young went to work at Imperial Court in Innsbruck, where he composed Sonatas but also brought music of his English colleagues and forbears. Manuscripts such as the Ludwig Partiturbuch contain mounds of Italian string repertoire, but wedged between appear division works by Norcombe and newer European division viol players (such as Christian Herwich) imitating the latest in imported style. It is not long before the style appears in France, where alongside free-composed curiosities for the viola da gamba, Ste Colombe also composed virtuosic couplets in an English style.

Back in England, music stayed its own course, drawing influence from sounds emanating from the courts of Louis XIII and Louis XIV. The brothers William and Henry Lawes, Nicholas Lanier and John Jenkins kept up with trends (even composing songs of their in Italian and French at times), testifying to musical networks which tethered England to the continent. Songbooks at Bodleian can be found where their names sit side by side with the great composers of airs de cour, such as Antoine Boësset and Christoph Ballard, tied together by style and subject matter, recounting tales of unrequited desire for Cloris and Celia in yonder woods. One such air that traveled the channel was Boësset’s Je voudrois bien ô Cloris, appearing in French and English by 1629 (see translation below).

The history of music is one of upheaval, exchange and cross-pollination. Modern definitions of national borders or regionalized musical style get muddier and muddier the more one looks at how it is music was compiled and performed. At points, one finds the ‘Aha!’ material, where the boundary between ‘English’ and ‘French’ appears to be non-existent, deliciously trampling on our preconceptions of music’s relationship to geography. To help guide us though, we’re extremely honored to have Nola Richardson joining us this evening, as her vocal abilities are matched only by her dedication to and passion for vocal repertoire from the 17th century. It’s our hope that A Golden Wire might foster the same spirit of communication and exchange that we enjoy each and every time we sit down with one or another beautiful vestiges of our musical inheritance.

Parker Ramsay

William Byrd (1540-1623) Though Amarillis daunce in green (Dow Partbooks)

Though Amarillis daunce in green,
like Fayrie Queene,
and sing full cleere,
Corina can with smiling cheer:
yet since their eyes make hart so sore,
hey ho, chill love no more.

My sheepe are lost for want of food,
and I so wood:
that all the day,
I sit and watch a heardmaid gaye:
who laughes to see mee sigh so sore,
hey ho, chill love no more.

Her loving lookes, her beautie bright,
is such delight:
that all in vaine,
I love to like, and lose my gaine:
for her that thanks mee not therefore,
hey ho, chill love no more.

Ah wanton eyes my friendly foes,
and cause of woes:
your sweet desire,
breedes flames of ice and freese in fire:
yee skorne to see mee weep so sore,
hey ho, chill love no more.

John Dowland (1563-1626) Time Stands Still

Time stands still with gazing on her face,
stand still and gaze for minutes, houres and yeares, to her give place:
All other things shall change, but shee remaines the same,
till heavens changed have their course & time hath lost his name.
Cupid doth hover up and downe blinded with her faire eyes,
and fortune captive at her feete contem’d and conquerd lies.

When fortune, love, and time attend on
Her with my fortunes, love, and time, I honour will alone,
If bloudlesse envie say, dutie hath no desert.
Dutie replies that envie knowes her selfe his faithfull heart,
My setled vowes and spotlesse faith no fortune can remove,
Courage shall shew my inward faith, and faith shall trie my love.

John Mundy (1555-1630) Fantasia (Fitzwilliam Virginal Book)

Robert Parsons (1530-1571) Ave Maria (Dow Partbooks)

Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum;
benedicta tu in mulieribus,
et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Jesus.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee;
blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

William Lawes (1602-1645) Amarilis tear thy hair

Amarillis tear thy hair,
Beat thy breast, sigh, weep, despair.
Cry, cry “Ay me, is Daphnis dead?”
I see a paleness on his brow
And his cheeks are drowned in snow.
Whither are those roses fled?

“O my heart, how cold he’s grown;
Sure his lips are turned to stone.
Thus then I offer up my blood,
And bathe my body in his shroud.
Since living accents cannot move,
Know Amarillis died for love.”

Daniel Norcombe (1576-1655) Tregian’s Grounde

Henry Lawes (1596-1662) Cloris when that you do intend

Cloris when that you do intend,
to venture at a bosom friend,
be sure you know your servant well,
before your liberty you sell:
For love’s a fever in young or old,
it’s sometimes hot and sometimes cold;
And men, you know, when e’re they please
can soon be sick of this disease.

John Jenkins (1592-1678) See, see the bright light shine

See, see the bright light shine
and day doth rise shot from my mistress’ eyes,
like Beams divine
her Glory doth appear
and view with purer light, stream from her Sight
when she shines clearly here.

But veil her leeds: Ah, then you’ll find
how night is hurled about the silent world,
and we left blind
that darkness seems to prove,
or ought we see, ‘tis only she
make night and day to move:

Then Shine fair Celia, lest our borrowed light
when your sun sets, perish in shades of Night.

Christian Herwich (1609-93) Divisions alla Ruggiero

Nicholas Lanier (1588-1666) Love’s Constancy

No more shall meads be deck’d with flow’rs,
Nor sweetness live in rosy bow’rs,
Nor greenest buds on branches spring,
Nor warbling birds delight to sing,
Nor April violets paint the grove,
When once I leave my Celia’s love.

The fish shall in the ocean burn,
And fountains sweet shall bitter turn;
The humble vale no floods shall know,
When floods shall highest hills o’erflow:
Black Lethe shall oblivion leave,
Before my Celia I deceive.

Love shall his bow and shafts lay by,
And Venus’ doves want wings to fly:
The sun refuse to show his light,
And day shall then be turned to night;
And in that night no star appear,
Whene’er I leave my Celia dear.

Love shall no more inhabit Earth,
Nor lovers more shall love for worth;
Nor joy above in Heaven dwell,
Nor pain torment poor souls in hell:
Grim Death no more shall horrid prove,
Whene’er I leave bright Celia’s love.

Christoph Ballard (1641-1715) J’avois crû qu’en vous aimant

J’avois crû qu’en vous aimant, la douceur seroit extrême.
J’aurois crû qu’en vous aimant, mon sort eût été charmant.
Mais, je me trompois, hélas! Dois-je le dire moy-même?
Vous savez que je vous aime, pourquoy ne m’aimez-vous pas?

Iris aime son Berger, qu’en n’en faites vous de même?
Iris aime son Berger, et ne veut point le changer.
Tous les jours pour vos appas, je souffre une peine extrême.
Vous savez que je vous aime, pourquoy ne m’aimez-vous pas?

I had thought that, loving you sweetness would be extreme.
I would have thought that loving you would have been charming.
But I was wrong, alas! Do I have to say it myself?
You know that I love you, so why do you not love me?

Iris loves her shepherd, but why don’t oyu do the same?.
Iris loves her shepherd, and doesn’t want to change.
Every day your charms cause me to suffer a great pain.
You know that I love you, so why do you not love me?

Monsieur de Ste-Colombe (c.1640-1700) Les couplets

Antoine Boësset (15870-1643) Je voudrois bien ô Cloris

Je voudrois bien ô Cloris que j’adore,
Entre vos bras faire plus long sejour :
Mais la voyci cette jalouse Aurore
A mon malheur qui rameine le jour.

Adieu Cloris il est temps que je meure,
La nuit s’en va, & l’ennuy me demeure.

Pourquoy si tost importune courriere
Viens tu troubler l’ayse de nos esprits ?
Arreste toy, retarde ta lumiere,
Suffit-il pas des beaux yeux qui m’ont pris ?
Adieu Cloris.

O douce nuit de qui les voilles sombres
Sont desployés en faveur des amants,
Ou t’en fuis-tu, sçays tu pas que tes ombres
Donnent la vie a mes contentements ?
Adieu Cloris.

Jusques à quand, ô Dieux, que j’importune
Le jour naissant mes plaisirs destruira,
Et les effets de ma bonne fortune
S’enfuiront-ils quand la nuit s’enfuira ?
Adieu Cloris.

Knowe, my deare Idoll Cloris! that, all zelous,
Heere at thine altar I would prostrate stay;
But common Morne, of eu’rie Louer jealous,
To my Disaster brings the Starre of day.

Cloris! farwell; Oh! let mee dying vanish:
Dalight is come my delight hence to banish.

Why, with such firie speed, incessant driuer!
Bringst thou a light that obscures Louers Skies?
Controll thy race; keepe backe thy beamie quiuer;
What needs more Day then shoots from these gray eies?

Trustie Night! that, in fauour of close Louers,
Friendly displayest thy securing vailes,
Fright back pale Morne; tell her thy shadie covers
Can light vs best to Loues secret assailes.

Can it then bee, yee Gods whom I importune,
That the Day’s birth should make Loves Morning die?
And, this first downe of my yet tender Fortune,
Must it make wing because fledg’d Night doth flie?

Marin Marais (1656-1728) Pièces de viole, Livre II

Suite en ré mineur
I. Prélude
II. Rondeau

Honoré d’Ambruys (1680-1710) Le doux silence de nos bois

Le doux silence de nos bois,
N’est plus troublé que de la voix
Des oiseaux que l’amour assemble.
Bergère qui fais mes désirs
Voici le mois charmant des fleurs et des zéphyrs
Et la saison qui te ressemble
Ne perdons pas un moment des beaux jours
C’est le temps des plaisirs et des tendres amours;

Songeons en voyant le printemps
Qu’il en est un dans nos beaux ans
Qu’on n’a qu’une fois en sa vie
Mais c’est peu que d’y songer
Il faut belle Philis le ménager.
Cette saison nous y convie
Ne perdons pas un moment des beaux jours
C’est le temps des plaisirs et des tendres amours.

The sweet silence in our woods
Is only disturbed by the song
Of the birds brought by Love.
My sheperdess, my desires,
Here is the charming time of flowers and zephyrs
And the season that is in your image
Let us not waste even an instant of the sweet spring days
It’s the time of pleasures and gentle loves;

When looking at the spring
Remember there is one in our young years
That we’ve got only once in our life
But thoughts are not much
We should, fair Philis,
We should enjoy this age.
This season invites us to
Let us not waste even an instant of the sweet spring days
It’s the time of pleasures and gentle loves.

1 thought on “Sweeter than Others”

  1. Parker, you are an amazement. I know that’s pretty lame, but everything you do, say, write, or perform is so richly informed that I often don’t even feel worthy of viewing it. But it’s all gorgeous, and it’s all you.


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